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July 17, 2007

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman


Nathan Juran - 1958 (signed as Nathan Hertz)
Warner Brothers Region 1 DVD

Does anyone know if Pedro Almodovar saw Attack of the 50 Foot Woman? The poster from the original film has an erotic promise of an ordinary sized man with the giant, beautiful Allison Hayes. This promise is even discussed in Christopher Guest's 1993 remake, an offer made by the giant sized Daryl Hannah. In Amodovar's film Talk to Her there is the depiction of that erotic fantasy at its most graphic. When looking at the 1958 poster, I have to wonder how many of those tiny men are actually running away from the giant Allison Hayes, and if any took the chance to peak under her very short skirt.

Rewatching the first Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, it seems that there was always a self-knowing sense of humor in Mark Hanna's screenplay. What has helped elevate the film to cult status is Nathan Juran's craftsmanship, with better cinematography and lighting used creatively to disguise the limited budget. While the double exposures showing an almost transluscent giant as big as his spaceship betrays the cheap special effects, the scene inside the spaceship with the faces of two men distorted against glass globes is a triumph of imagination with limited funds.

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I hadn't intended on seeing the HBO remake, but the rental company twice sent me that version in an envelope describing the first version. The second version gives the story a feminist slant as well as playing up the comic possibilities of the first film. Even so, the first version remains the funnier, and more entertaining film. Unlike the remake which attempts to be both a spoof of Fifties sci-fi movies and a social critique, the first film clearly articulates its theme of unfulfilled, and impossible sexual desire. This theme is both stated verbally when a one of the doctors treating the giant Allison Hayes describes her irrational love of unfaithful husband William Hudson as similar to that of a middle aged man "longing for a twenty year old girl". More eloquent is the distaff parody of King Kong with Hayes peering through a window in search of the two-timing lout.

Fifties bad girl and Playboy Playmate, Yvette Vickers, provides a commentary track with film historian Tom Weaver. Laughing her way through the film, Vickers discusses the making of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman as well as her own career. Clearly enjoying the recognition received from a film her agent assured her "no one would see", the voice belies a woman who will be seventy-one in August. The best special effect of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is the sight of Vickers, wearing one of her form fitting dresses, doing her rock and roll tribute to Rita Hayworth as Gilda.

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Posted by peter at July 17, 2007 10:50 AM