90 Minute Movies: Attack of the 50ft Woman

attack2Attack of the 50 foot Woman (1958) is a cult classic, and has more than at first glance, which is great fodder for my tastes.  This movie is your typical 50s monster movie, where something freakish happens to people or a weird monster attacks people.  In this case, something weird happens to a woman and she attacks people, so we get the best of both worlds in this one.  The plot revolves around a jilted woman annoying by her cheating husband, who is not a redeeming character whatsoever.   This is also the only movie I can remember that relies so heavily on paper mache.   Art is not a concern here, folks.

Nancy Archer is a crazy and overdramatic character, but her husband is worse.  Both of these characters have a LOT of flaws.  Who do we root for in this movie?  I guess nobody.  You can root for the woman to kill the husband, because he spends most of his time with another woman and ignoring his crazy wife.  New drinking game: Take a drink every time Nancy yells her husband’s name.  You might be going to the hospital.

Still, Nancy is not your typical 50s housewife, like June Cleaver.  She’s motivated by a lot of things, but mostly she wants a stable family life and a husband who trusts her.  The husband has a monologue early on about his motivations, so we’re clear that he’s a jerk only out for himself and money.  Nancy has this huge friggin diamond necklace her husband wants.  His mistress suggest he do something about that <wink wink, nudge nudge>.  He doesn’t have the guts though, because he’s mostly a coward, which sorta contrasting 50s style male main characters.

attack1Nancy is played by Allison Hayes, TV regular and model.  She’s so fractured by her horrible family life, she drinks, smokes, and develops a reputation for being a real whacko.  So nobody believes her when she sees a 30 foot tall alien in a metallic ball in the middle of the road.  Typical, right?

Nancy goes on and on, whining and complaining that nobody believes her about the tall alien.  She drags her husband out into the desert to look for the alien.  “Keep driving!!!” she yells, “Wait, there it is!”

attack6 The alien attacks Nancy, so her husband takes off like a scared cat.  He drives off and leaves her there.  She later turns up sobbing and complaining of a headache, which leaves the husband with a lot of explaining to do.  They never get around to that though, because Nancy starts growing in size.  No, it’s not too much cheesecake.  They chain her up for some reason.  Paper mache hands stand in for Nancy’s oversized limbs.  Pretty silly.  

At this point, the movie isn’t very impressive.  They’ve spent most of the time on the social drama and left the special effects to a minimum, which is a good thing, because all of them are awful.  Maybe awful in a ‘so good it’s bad’ sort of way, but the movie is just campy and silly at the end of the day.  Still, it’s got an awesome poster and it has a legacy to this day.

I am curious about the purpose of this movie.  Is it to satirize the plight of women, empower them, or what?  Perhaps the director thought the only power a woman in 1950 had was to become 50 feet tall.  It’s easy to dismiss this movie as trash, but it has a multi-layered script and characters who seem shallow and whiney, but are progressive for 1958.  It’s definitely a B-Movie and quick fun at under 90 minutes.

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