Attack of the 50 Foot Woman Blu-ray Review: Maybe If She Were a Little Taller This Would Be Good

The 1950s were an incredibly fertile period for science fiction at the cinema. The invention of the atomic bomb and humans’ first forays into space ignited the public’s imagination toward what was possible. Movies took advantage of this in both amazing and schlocky ways. You could divide science fiction films of the era into two broad categories: space aliens and monsters created by atomic radiation. My favorite type of 1950s science fiction is when they combined the two with radiation from space aliens creating monsters.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman does exactly that and despite it having a most excellent idea for a film, and despite it being one of the more famous 1950s science fiction movies, I’m sad to say the film is pretty much garbage. Fun garbage, if you are in an MST3K kind of mood, but garbage nonetheless. It takes entirely too long to get to the 50-foot woman. She barely attacks anything when she does appear. And the special effects involved in making the poor actress appear 50 feet tall are so shoddy all one can do is laugh at it.

I’d blame it all on the incredibly low budget (Wikipedia says it was between $65,000 and $85,000; for comparison, The Incredible Shrinking Man which was made a year earlier had a budget of about $700,000), but the story is weak, the acting is mostly bad, and the direction lackluster.

Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes) is a very wealthy woman in a very small town. She’s prone to wearing an oversized diamond and drinking to excess. Her husband Harry (William Hudson) is a grade-A louse. He spends most of his time openly making out with Honey Chambers (Yvette Vickers) in the local watering hole. One night when Nancy catches Harry with Honey, she takes off in her car down a dark desert highway. There she discovers (by almost crashing into) a gigantic sphere in the middle of the road. The big ball opens and a giant hand reaches out to grab her.

Nancy screams and runs back to town where she informs Sheriff Dubbitt (George Douglas) and practically the entire town of what just happened. Nobody believes her. Mostly because of the aforementioned drinking problem but also because she did a stint inside a mental institution. What’s weird is that right at the start of the film we get a big news report about how a giant sphere from outer space has been circling the globe and was headed right towards this section of California. I guess no one in that little town watches the news. And all those scientists tracking the sphere didn’t notice that it landed. Or the writer forgot he put that newscast into the beginning of his film because it is never mentioned again.

Harry hopes that this new outburst by Nancy will send her back to the institution while Honey urges him to just kill her and get it over with. Both of them would really like to have free reign of her fortune. There is a lot of nonsense with doctors and Nancy needing rest, and Harry and Nancy plotting against her. It all amounts to not a lot and meanwhile, we’re all waiting for that 50 ft. woman to show up and possibly attack.

I was betting on Honey being the one that got turned into the giant woman, but no, it is poor Nancy. She forces Harry to take her back out into the desert to find that giant sphere. After wandering around all night, they find it. Then they find the owner of that giant hand. It is some giant, shimmering dude dressed like he’s in some other movie, possibly wandering in from some low-budget Medieval romance. Harry shoots at it but when the giant reaches for Nancy he takes off like a bat out of hell and never looks back. What better way to get rid of your wife than to leave her with a 50-foot-tall spaceman?

The giant spaceman doesn’t kill her but simply takes her back to her home. Also, he imbues her with his giant powers, possibly accidentally. The film isn’t big on details like explaining who the alien is or what he wants.

Finally, after nearly an hour, we get to the 50-foot woman. Or at least her hand. The movie didn’t have the budget to make 50-foot props except for one giant rubber hand so we get a lot of action with just it. Eventually, the poor gal breaks through the roof and starts to rampage. At least a little bit. The budget was too small for her to do much more than stand around.

The images alternate between the actress being superimposed on regular-sized sets, and that dumb, giant, rubber hand doing stuff. When superimposed, she looks sort-of shimmery in these shots like she’s a ghost, or the filmmakers didn’t do a very good job of overlaying her image onto the backgrounds. Very little of it looks good.

After no more than a few minutes of this, the movie ends. That’s it. A whole lot of boring build-up, some bad special effects, and roll credits. I’m so surprised this movie has the reputation that it does. I mean its reputation isn’t that of a great movie, but out of all the schlocky 1950s science fiction out there, I don’t know why this one is one of the more popular ones. It definitely has camp appeal. With some good (and hopefully funny) friends and a few beers, this movie would be a laugh riot. But watching it alone in my bedroom I found it mostly a chore.

The Warner Archive Collection presents Attack of the 50 Foot Woman in Blu-ray with a 4K scan of the original camera negative. Extras include the original trailer and a really fun commentary from film historian Tom Weaver and actress Yvette Vickers.

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Mat Brewster

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