It’s hard not to like ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN. Sure the premise is ridiculous, the script’s way over-the-top, the acting’s hammy, the direction’s practically non-existent, and the special effects flat-out stink. Yet the movie has an endearing, ragged charm in its unintentionally funny way that, like PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE , sucks the viewer right into its bizzaro world. Plus, it’s got two of the 1950’s hottest sci-fi/horror babes, Allison Hayes and Yvette Vickers!
A giant space ball lands smack in the middle of Route 66 in the California desert. Heiress Nancy Archer swerves to avoid it, and next thing you know a giant hand grabs her! Meanwhile at Tony’s Bar & Grill, her louse of a husband Harry is living it up with local floozie Honey Parker. No one believes Nancy’s wild tale, as she’s known for being a boozer and has spent time in a sanitarium. Sheriff Dubbitt and his dopey deputy Charlie go with Nancy to the scene of the giant groping. They find no evidence, pissing Nancy off even more than usual.
Harry doesn’t believe her either, and tries to calm her nerves by slowly undressing her onscreen and giving her some sleeping pills. Then the shit grabs her Star of India diamond (“the most famous diamond in the world”) and hightails it back to Tony’s so he can suck face with Honey some more. Dr. Cushing (no relation to Peter) is called in the next day and states Nancy’s on the verge of her 19th nervous breakdown. His prognosis is for her to get plenty of rest, but restless Nancy trods downstairs to hit the bottle. When she watches the local TV newsman mocking her story, she reacts by whipping the bottle at the TV screen. Good thing she’s filthy rich!
Tired of everyone’s crap, Nancy drives with Harry back out to Route 66 to look for the space ball, and finds it once again! “It’s real!” I’m not crazy!”, she gloats, just as the giant paws at her again, grabbing her and the Star of India. Harry shoots at the damn thing with no success, so like any good hubby he skedaddles back home, packs a bag (after fighting Nancy’s loyal butler Jess), and makes a beeline to Honey’s hotel room. The lovers are stopped by Deputy Dopey and brought to HQ, where they discover Nancy’s been found… on the roof of her pool house!
Dr. Cushing and Dr. Lee, I mean Dr. Von Loeb, suspect Nancy may be contaminated with space radiation, and to keep her sedated load her up with morphine. Sleazy Honey thinks this is a good way to get rid of Nancy, and talks Harry into giving her an overdose. When the creep creeps back inside, he’s in for a shock, because Nancy’s grown to gigantic proportions! The Sheriff and Jess invade the giant space ball, discovering a room filled with jewels, which obviously are used to fuel the UFO. They’re attacked by the giant alien, in a medieval costume straight of out Hollywood’s Western Costuming Company, and get their asses kicked and car totaled for their troubles.
Nancy wakes up chained to the bed and begins screaming for “HAARRY!” She busts loose and tears the roof off her home, determined to find her miserable wretch of a husband. “I know where he is”, she bellows, “He’s with that woman! I’ll find him!” Like any irate wife, she heads to Tony’s Bar & Grill (must be the only joint in town), and tears the roof off it, grabbing for Harry. Honey’s killed under a pile of debris and Nancy clutches Harry (or rather a doll substituting for Harry) to her ample bosoms. The Sheriff blasts some electrical wires with an assault weapon, causing Nancy to go down in a heap. “She finally got Harry all to herself”, intones Dr. Cushing as our saga comes to an end.
Producer Bernard Woolner (and his brothers ) were famous (or is it infamous) for low-budget schlock like this. They ran a string of drive-ins across the South to play their fare in, and financed a few of Roger Corman’s early efforts. Director Nathan Hertz was better known by his nom de cinema Nathan Juran, winning an Oscar for art direction on John Ford’s HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (bet you didn’t think Ford’s name would pop up in this post, did you!). His directing credits are uneven to say the least, with some good genre flicks (20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD) and some clunkers (THE DEADLY MANTIS, BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS) among them.
Allison Hayes was a gorgeous woman who projected an icy presence onscreen, but adds some pepper here as Big Nancy. Horror fans fondly remember her for ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU, THE UNEARTHLY, THE UNDEAD, THE DISEMBODIED, and THE HYPONOTIC EYE. Yvette Vickers plays the slutty Honey, as she played the slutty Liz Baby in ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES. Blonde Miss Vickers also lit up the screen in the classic teensploitation REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS, and was a Playmate of the Month in a pictorial by none other than Russ Meyer. Later in life she became a favorite on the horror convention circuit. In 2011, her body was found in her Hollywood home, and it’s said she’d been dead a year before anyone knew it. Yvette Vickers, fantasy of many an adolescent horror fan, died old and alone at age 81.
Despite all its flaws, and there are many, ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN is thoroughly enjoyable. It was remade in 1993 as an HBO movie directed by Christopher Guest, played mainly for laughs. The laughs in the original are completely unintentional, but I really believe it was made with a wink and a nod by all concerned parties. They just had to know the whole thing was goofy, yet played it totally straight. It’s a perfect movie to watch with a bowl of popcorn and some snarky, like-minded friends this Halloween season.