The cult that has grown up around Nathan Hertz Juran’s Attack of the 50-Foot Woman has kept this infamous sci-fi B-movie from the 1950s alive and well.
The Production: 2.5/5
In a sci-fi heavy decade when filmmakers were enthusiastically fashioning tales of giant ants, a monstrous tarantula, a deadly giant mantis, and oversized grasshoppers, Nathan Hertz’s Attack of the 50-Foot Woman seems to fit right into the mix. Not as accomplished as any of those other mutant-enhanced features, Attack of the 50-Foot Woman was made on a shoestring in little more than a week, and it shows, and yet for all of its artistic lapses, there is some merit here, and the film has survived the decades since its original release as a clear cult favorite with a devoted following.
Fabulously wealthy but emotionally disturbed heiress Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes) is ready to write off her philandering husband Harry (William Hudson) completely when she has an upsetting encounter with an alien craft and the giant contained inside who is fascinated with her Star of India diamond necklace. Nancy needs Harry’s emotional support when the rest of the town assumes she’s ready for the sanitarium once they hear her wild alien abduction story, but Harry sees it as a way he and his gold-digging girl friend Honey (Yvette Vickers) can have her declared insane and finally get control of her millions. Searching the desert for the spacecraft to prove her story, Nancy is scratched across the neck by the alien and begins to grow enormously herself, all the better to finally gain revenge on her cheating spouse and the townspeople who had been laughing at her fantastic claims.
Mark Hanna’s screenplay offers basically a formulaic triangle conflict between the spouses and the interloping girl friend (and you’ll go a long way before you’ll find two more despicable people than Harry Archer and his floozy Honey) with the enraged, rapidly enlarging wife seeking vengeance against them. Nancy only rampages about for the film’s last ten minutes or so (contrary to those other giant mutant insect pictures where the creatures are present for most of the movie), the remainder of the time setting up the triangle and the mysterious alien satellite that has various members of the town at first skeptical and then firm believers. The special effects, of course, are howlingly bad, with double exposures for the giants ineptly applied and an obvious papier-mache hand standing in for the enlarged Nancy chained to her bed. Director Nathan Hertz [Juran], who had previously won an Oscar as the art director of How Green Was My Valley, does achieve a couple of memorable visuals, particularly during the exploration of the alien vessel when a face looking through a glass structure makes an eerie, distorted image that fills the screen. He tries a couple of jump scares that don’t work, but most of the film’s brief 66-minute run time just doesn’t squeeze out the amount of suspense one would associate with the genre.
But the director has cast his B-movie with highly competent actors, all of them fully committed to the characters they’re playing and all offering good performances. Allison Hayes, William Hudson, and Yvette Vickers are all fine in the leading roles, but some very entertaining work is turned in by Frank Chase (brother of Barrie Chase, one of Fred Astaire’s favorite dance partners) as an amiable town deputy, and Kenneth Terrell as Nancy’s butler Jessup is steadfast and loyalty personified. Good, too, are George Douglas as Sheriff Dubbitt and Roy Gordon as Doctor Cushing. Even Eileene Stevens as a trusty nurse has a great couple of screams once she discovers Nancy’s enlarging torso.
3D Rating: NA
The movie is framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Even though made for less than $100K, the image quality is first-rate here, just as we have come to expect of all of the Warner Archive releases. Images are sharp and precise, and the grayscale is excellent with rich black levels and clean whites. No age-related problems are present at all. The movie has been divided into 18 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix points up the movie’s strongest aspect, its notably catchy score by Ronald Stein. That has been mixed with the dialogue and the sound effects into a professional aural package. All instances of hiss, crackle, pops, and flutter have been removed.
Special Features: 2/5
Audio Commentary: film historian Tom Weaver and actress Yvette Vickers have a most amiable conversation about the making of the film and about her career in movies, on television, and on the stage with only a few extended silent passages.
Theatrical Trailer (1:53, HD)
The cult that has grown up around Nathan Hertz Juran’s Attack of the 50-Foot Woman has kept this infamous sci-fi B-movie from the 1950s alive and well, and now that cult might become even stronger with this pristine Blu-ray edition released by Warner Archive.
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