Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) Is a Big Momma of a Movie

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman was—as far as I can recall, it’s been a long life—one of the first monster movie/creature feature/holy-crap-look-at-the-size-of-dat-dame films that I ever saw. Made for the tidy sum of $65,000 and raking in $480,000 in the USA alone, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman was an independent movie before that sort of thing was the norm and quite a successful one to boot. Produced by Woolner Bros. Pictures, directed by Nathan H. Juran, and written by Mark Hanna, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman left an endearing legacy on the whole giant monster kills everybody genre—one that would see a not-too-shabby remake in 1993—and an indelible mark on your very young (at the time) friendly neighbourhood horror movie writer. Which would explain my fascination with Amazonian-type ladies ever since.

Nancy Archer in full monster momma mode in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman
I’ve heard of a see-through dress, but this is ridiculous.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman starts with a news report of strange sightings of a UFO from all around the world. The news reporter—one of those guys who treat this sort of story with the respect it deserves and his tongue wedged so firmly in his cheek that it could burst through at any moment—predicts that its next stop will be in California. Y’know, if it exists, which of course it doesn’t. Enter Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes) who has stormed out of a local night spot after her husband and pet philanderer, Harry Archer (William Hudson), was making come-to-bed-eyes at town floozy Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers). Why he does this is beyond me. Nancy Archer is incredibly beautiful and has more money than the Bank of England—which in this current climate isn’t the best analogy I could’ve used, but you get the idea—whereas Honey Parker is the definition of poor-ass trailer trash that’d rip your arm off if you dropped a dollar on the floor and tried to pick it up. Maybe he has a thing for blondes?

That aside, we discover that Miss Archer has a history of mental problems, including drinking like a poet on payday and being confined to the local nuthouse, and all these things play a major part in the plot of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. Honey and Harry hatch a plan that would see him inherit all of her cashola by helping her with a swift nudge back to Crazy Town, but they’re not quite sure how to go about it until the strange UFO shows up and gives them the perfect play.

As Nancy drives wildly away from the bar, she finds herself on the backroads just in time for the giant ball of space machine to land in front of her. This bit is so funny that I feel I need to explain why. First off, the UFO is on strings. I mean, like really on strings. In such a way that Ed Wood would’ve looked at it and thought, “You know what, maybe we should try editing that a little better.” And secondly, when we get our first glimpse at the alien life form that causes the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, he’s some random bald-headed dude who’s about as threatening as a basket full of puppies. He also has a giant rubber hand that he uses to try and steal the diamond that nancy is wearing around her neck, making him an intergalactic tea-leaf—thief, for all you non-Brits out there—of epic proportions. Sufficiently spooked, Nancy runs back into town a-whooping and a-hollering about massive slaphead aliens trying to nick her sh*t but is met by a group of people who don’t believe a word she says and assume she’s fallen off the wagon.

When she returns home, she fights with Harry, then makes up with Harry, before falling asleep and allowing Harry to swipe her diamond to take to Honey. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman crams a lot of backstory into its run time for a movie that is only an hour and a bit long. All of which revolves around Harry and Honey trying to abscond with at least a small part of Nancy’s fortune. It’s obvious to every character in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman what’s going on, even Nancy herself, but for some reason, she doesn’t kick his mooching ass to the curb. Mark Hanna tries to explain this away by having Nancy tell Harry that it’s because she loves him, but come on, the guy is a grade-A douche canoe that no one in their right mind would let in their house without making sure anything of any value is locked away in an impenetrable safe, buried under 60 tons of sodding concrete. It’s not a major annoyance—and one that would mean that Attack of the 50 Foot Woman would’ve had zero plot and lasted about 10 minutes—but once you notice it, it stays noticed.

Eventually, Nancy convinces Harry to accompany her out into the desert in search of her translucent chrome dome from another planet, admitting that if they can’t find him that she really is crazy. After a very long search, they stumble across his space ship and in a moment of utter jubilation Nancy runs up to it and starts pounding on the walls. Not exactly how I’d have reacted to bumping into a big ass UFO on a dark night, but to each their own. Harry, actually being quite sensible for once, tries to pull her away but when the follically challenged alien gets out of his vessel, Harry empties a gun into him to little effect and buggers off sharpish, leaving Nancy to her fate.

It’s from here that Attack of the 50 Foot Woman really gets into the meat and potatoes of its story and feasts upon them with a healthy dose of monster sauce. Sorry, I’m hungry. The police get involved because as far as anyone can tell Nancy going missing probably means that Harry bumped her off and fed her to the local wildlife, but to everyone’s amazement she reappears on the roof of her pool house. She’s sedated and put to bed where Dr. Isaac Cushing (Roy Gordon) informs the attending nurse to give her a specific amount of knockout juice every hour or so, but no more as it will kill her.

This is a handy little plot device as Honey overhears the conversation and convinces Harry that this is their chance to bump Nancy off. Because nobody would’ve bothered to do an autopsy, discovered that she’d been deliberately overdosed, and not thought to blame Harry and Honey. When Harry tries to go through with this plan, he is followed into the room by the nurse who saw him skulking around the house looking all murdery, but when she turns on the light to say; “HA! Gotcha ya bastard!” she is stopped in her tracks at the sight of a gigantic Nancy laying in bed. How she is laying in bed is completely beyond me as all we see is a hand and part of an arm that nearly fills the room, but hey, willing suspension of disbelief and all that.

Not knowing what to do with a gigantic lady, Dr. Cushing and Dr. Heinrich Von Loeb (Otto Waldis)—who was flown in specially for this case, which I guess makes him a specialist in the field of massive dames?—decide the best thing to do is to chain her ass and other body parts up. The police decide to try and find the freak responsible for all this madness, and Harry gets the feck out of Dodge as quickly as he can. By which I mean, he moves in with Honey and proceeds to get drunk at the same bar he always does. So that’s going to work out really well for him then.

Nancy lays dead at the end of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman
After a hard day trashing towns, I like to have a little nap.

When Nancy finally comes to, she goes on a rampage. Destroying her house to get out of it —and in doing so bringing one of the most iconic monster movie scenes to life—she heads into town, breaking everything she comes across, because why the hell wouldn’t you if you were 50 bloody feet tall? Showing up at the bar (the most obvious place in the goddamn world for Harry and Honey to be hiding out because they’re idiots) she tears the place apart. She crushes Honey under a table with a ton of debris from the roof, before picking Harry up in her not-at-all-fake mitt and walking off. Sheriff Dubbitt (George Douglas) fires a shotgun at Nancy as she flees—though she has the top speed of a geriatric snail and is the size of an office block, so why she flees and where she’s fleeing to is anyone’s guess—which causes her to stumble into a power line, frying her like some delicious gigantic chicken. I really need to go have some breakfast when I’ve finished writing this. And with that, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman ends with both Nancy and Harry dead, which served him right for being a dill hole, but seems a tad harsh on Nancy.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a great film. Admittedly, the plot is nonsensical, and they never really explain why the visitor from another world pilfers diamonds, outside of saying, “Oh, he uses them to power his ship.” Nor do they explain why he turns Nancy into a gigantic monster. There are mumblings of atomic radiation and the like, but I just assumed that he took one look at Allison Hayes, got the 50 Foot horn, and decided that he’d make her his wife. The special effects aren’t that special either and would’ve looked a tad ropey even back then. In some shots, both Nancy and the alien are see-through, while in others they are solid, and don’t get me started on the rubber limbs.

Yet for all of its faults—or perhaps because of them—Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is rightly seen as a B-Movie classic. It’s camper than a row of tents at Glastonbury festival, has more schlock than you could shake a Roger Corman at, but underneath it all Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a big momma of a film that warns about the perils of…er…letting strange, see-through slapheads with big rubber hands try to feel you up, I guess. Whatever its message…atomic age bad?Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a drive-in classic and should be a stable part of any monster movie maniac’s diet.

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Written by Neil Gray

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