Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

KRKR-TV News Bulletin: A strange glowing object is observed by many across the globe, which is now estimated to be approaching the California desert.  If one is to believe the various reports, that is.  Well, YOU BETTER because in that desert, along Route 66 a strange being (who looks eerily like David Carradine in “Kung Fu” if you look quickly) makes contact.  Cue music – TA DUUUM!

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LOOK-OUT for gigantic spoilers ahead!  It’s Attack of the 50 Foot Woman directed by Nathan Juran (as Nathan Hertz).

 

Poor, distressed Nancy Fowler Archer (Allison Hayes) is not having a good day.  Actually…her life sucks.   She’s been in and out of sanitariums for mental issues and has a proclivity toward alcoholism.  Nancy’s also the poster child for “money doesn’t buy happiness” because being heir to the Fowler fortune has brought her nothing but notoriety and a philandering low-life of a husband, Harry (William Hudson), who’s stayed with her for her money.  Harry’s such a low-life, in fact, that he doesn’t even try to hide the fact that he’s been canoodling with the local floozy, Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers).

Harry Archer and his floozie
Harry Archer and his floozy

Mrs. Archer returns from her drive along Route 66 scared witless.  And she has a right to be as she’s just encounter that 30-foot giant after having seen a glowing sphere, flying object thing.

Clearly this is the face of a woman who's seen an alien giant!
Clearly this is the face of a woman who’s seen an alien giant!

But no one believes Nancy’s story.  They all think she’s either drunk or crazy so all Nancy gets is condescension – from her husband, from the local authorities and even from the KRKR-TV newscaster guy reporting the evening news…

“And now, more news of high fliers. Nancy Archer, the former Nancy Fowler, heiress to the Fowler fortune and the fabulous Star of India diamond, has joined the ever-expanding international society of satellite seers. From the Archer’s palatial home away from home comes word that Mrs. Archer claims not only to be seeing a sociable satellite, but its inhabitant as well, a 30-foot giant. Is he pink with big ears and tusks? It seems that Mrs. Archer, who has been feuding with her husband, Handsome Harry, has finally found a man from out of this world, someone who will love her for herself.”

What an idiot!

The authorities – the condescending sheriff and a buffoon deputy – go along with Nancy to the desert to search for the supposed giant only because she’s rich and pays most of the town’s taxes.   The excursion yields no sighting, however, so Nancy has to go home and resort to drink and having yet another argument with her husband.  While Nancy is regular size she’s quite the damsel in distress going as far as blaming herself for his philandering and even admitting she needs him no matter what.

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“I need you no matter what”
Henry Archer decides to play good husband until he can figure out how to get Nancy out of the way.
Henry Archer decides to play good husband until he can figure out how to get Nancy out of the way.

After hearing the news report Nancy is determined to prove she’s not losing her marbles so she makes her husband drive out to the desert in search of the massive satellite and its inhabitant.  And you’d never guess it, but they run into the thing…

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The Kung Fu-looking alien (played by Michael Ross who also got a bit part as the bartender in the local hot spot. 

And Nancy’s so relieved she’s not going crazy that she runs right up to the glowing ball…er…satellite and starts pounding on it.  Soon the giant appears and sort of grabs Nancy and while she’s on the ground calling for Harry’s help her husband drives off to run away with the loot and into Honey’s arms.

Well, eventually they find Nancy and she seems no worse for wear.  Well…except for some scratches on her throat, being unconscious and generally messed up.  Oh, and there’s evidence of some kind of radiation.  But Nancy’s in good hands with a full-time nurse watching her like a hawk – until the nurse falls asleep and Harry tries to overdose Nancy with the sleeping serum…and when he goes up to do the deed he finds a HUGE problem on his hands…or a huge hand on his problem.  Wait…that doesn’t sound right.

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A big hand for the little lady (Couldn’t help that!)

And the nurse has never seen anything like this…

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After much discussion the doctors come to a conclusion…

PROGNOSIS:  Somewhere between radiation and a pituitary problem.  But none of that matters because Mrs. Archer will soon be uncontrollable and headed for Harry and Honey.  The damsel is dormant and a new woman has awakened.

The anti-damsel…

When Nancy comes to – now in her 50-foot frame – she destroys the house and has but one thing in mind…

Dr. Isaac Cushing: “She will tear up the whole town until she finds Harry.”

Deputy Charlie: “And then she’ll tear up Harry.”

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Well…Ms. Nancy goes on a rampage when she finally reaches the bar/hangout until she finds Harry the scoundrel.  Trying to escape with Harry in the palm of her hand – literally –  she’s taken down by a power line, which blows up when the sheriff fires riot guns at her and misses.  But she had Harry in her grip and…let’s just say he won’t be canoodling with anyone ever again.

 ◊

This post on Nancy Fowler Archer and her life as an anti-damsel is my submission to the Anti-Damsel Blogathon hosted by Joey at The Last Drive-In who will host on Saturday, August 15 with Fritzi at Movies, Silently taking the reigns on Sunday, August 16.  Be sure to visit their fantastic blogs and read all of the entries!

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Now, I admit that making a case for Mrs. Archer as an anti-damsel is not an easy task.  To start she has a serious obsession with her cheating husband and to some extent her self worth is tied up with his love for her.  But she does have some heroic qualities that make her a (somewhat) worthy candidate well beyond her impressive 50-foot frame.  For instance, she’s quite the role model with regards to not flaunting her wealth.  Although she goes around with one of the world’s rarest diamonds around her neck her house is rather modest, Nancy has only one (extremely loyal) butler and the town she lives in is in the middle of nowhere.  Also, Nancy could have easily decided to retreat into the wild blue yonder never to be heard from again upon coming to with a completely new look.  Or she could have decided to leave with the Carradine-looking alien guy, but she must have been keen on the fact he was only after the huge diamond, which we later learn powers his glowing ball…er…satellite.  But no.  Instead of retreating, ashamed she may stick out like a sore thumb Nancy Fowler decides to get a bit of her own back and make everyone who belittled her pay.  And she does so while not yet having a good sense of her size as close-ups show her huge hands are not quite steady.  In addition we learn quite a bit about sudden growth from this lady.  Actually, as the Doctor refers to it her condition is called “Astounding growth.”  I just want to be clear.

Important lessons to be learned from an overpowering woman…

On the up side it looks like when you suddenly find yourself taller by approximately 45 feet your hair do and hair color change automatically…

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From a conservative, dark do…
...to a perfectly-coiffed, blonde, long bob
…to a perfectly coiffed, blonde, free-wheeling, long bob

You also (mysteriously) have clothes that fit, albeit a little skimpy and sexy.  This could be due to a slight hole in the story, however, that fails to show the scene where someone in town makes a mad dash to the big and tall shop.

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You also get to be featured in a kick-ass movie poster, which was voted #8 of “The 25 Best Movie Posters Ever” by Premiere magazine.  According to IMDB the ad for the film was designed by Roger Corman, which in itself is quite the honor.  I don’t think Mr. Corman would have bothered if Nancy was a regular, run-of-the-mill damsel!

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There are some rather negative things related to being 50 feet tall, however.  Like…

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I don’t need to go into details because the above image speaks for itself – if you happen to like manicures good luck finding someone who can help you out with that!  Also toiletries would cost a fortune!  Even Nancy’s $50 million bank account would be strained over the span of her life.  And I imagine you’d also have a hell of a time finding a date, much less a life partner who’s willing to listen to your troubles and offer honest opinions!  And perhaps worst of all – how do you go to the movies??  I SHIVER AT THE THOUGHT!

 

All joking aside Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a must-see, awful movie that’s fantastic!  It’s on the low-end of low-budget produced by Bernard Woolner for Allied Artists Pictures for $89,000 and was shot in just eight days.  The idea was to capitalize on the popularity of its size-sensitive predecessors The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957).   Despite the movie’s awfulness, however, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman remains a cult favorite that manages to seep into all forms of media to this day…

And there you have it – my ode to Nancy Fowler Archer, a memorable anti-damsel whose big shoes are not easily filled.

attackofthe50footwoman1958_678x380_02272013031419

And by the way – since we never learn what happens to the David Carradine-impersonating alien you might want to stay away from deserts along Route 66!

25 thoughts

  1. Excellent post! And you know… I’ve seen this film dozens of times since the 70’s and I just now noticed on that poster, the big pile up of cars is right under Nancy’s makeshift skirt. Eyes on the road next time, guys! I’d bet Corman did that on purpose to be a tiny bit subversive.

  2. HARRY! Geez, what’s a gal gotta do to get some attention? I never would have thought of poor Nancy as an anti-damsel, but this article will certainly inform my next viewing – and we all know how hard it is to stay away from a movie with that title and poster.

  3. Physical size in general and upper-body strength in particular are always points of comparison that favor males, so I would think she counts as an anti-damsel simply by virtue of the tongue-in-cheek subversion of that idea! Look out, cheaters!

  4. Great post, Aurora! I really enjoyed your approach, and the burning questions raised (e.g. where can a 50′ woman get a manicure, etc).

    As for the Anti-Damsel aspect…as far as I’m concerned, a 50′ woman can be in any blogathon she wants.

  5. I needed a good laugh, Aurora, and boy did you give me one! (Just reading “canoodling with the local floozy” was enough to make me fall over. (I love the word canoodling … you just don’t get enough opportunities to use that!) I loved seeing Nancy go from swooning, alcoholic rich wife to a big woman in search of revenge! My favorite thing in this movie is the sound of her large-woman baritone shouting “H-A-R-R-Y!!!” Nice piece, and lots of fun, Aurora!

  6. This was the first in a long (or should that be tall?) line of lofty lady movies. The following year, Dorothy Provine — who had played Bonnie Parker in an obscure 1958 second feature — reached new neights as the title character in the silly comedy “The 30-Foot Bride of Candy Rock,” better known as Lou Costello’s only movie without Bud Abbott (and his last overall). A substance called “goo” causes four teen girls (and four teen guys) to grow six times their size in 1965’s “Village of the Giants.” There was the 1993 HBO remake of “50-Foot Woman,” reimagined as a feminist comedy with Daryl Hannah, as well as the 1995 exploitation flick “Attack of the 60-Foot Centerfold.” And a few years back, Roger Corman produced his own giant-woman movie, “Attack of the 50-Foot Cheerleader,” where a naive girl and her snooty sorority rival both literally get too big for their britches (though for some inexplicable reason, there are two giant cheerleader mannequins — complete with outfits — in front of the college fieldhouse for the gargantuan gals).

  7. That poster is so iconic that it has eclipsed the movie in a lot of ways—far more people have seen it than have seen the film. Thanks for illuminating this schlock classic.

  8. Good stuff, Aurora. “A big hand for the little lady” — oooh. I have always wondered about the clothes we see on people who grow suddenly. Heck, I remember people who sprang up 3 or 4 inches in school whose clothes didn’t fit again till September. How do you spring up to 50 feet and still preserve your modesty? Must be great stretch fabric. I won’t even talk about movies where people get small.

  9. Thank you for a wonderful take on one of my favorites in this genre. Alison and Yvette gave excellent performances; I also enjoy the music score, which is on the CD “Not of This Earth! The Film Music of Ronald Stein”.

  10. Aurora, I could never stay away from the desert around Route 66. Some of the best photos I have ever taken are from the small, now deserted and decaying towns, that used to dot the highway. And I loved this review. I always liked the poster but never saw the movie. Unfortunately, it does not seem to be available thrrugh Netflix!

    1. Thanks, Emilio. Had fun doing this one. I’m dying to drive Route 66! I’m a road trip geek and that’s a def. goal!! I’m pretty sure it’s available on Amazon prime. My only problem with Netflix is not enough classics! Hope you can get your hands on it soon. It’s a hoot!

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