Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) is a nuclear-age gender exploitation science fiction cheapo horror and melodrama tale from the high period of fun fifties sci-fi shockers.

Better still, with its high drama in every scene and the sensibility-laden dark pasts of its characters  Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) has a film noir sense to it, mildly reminiscent of some of the mightier classics of the form as recently best exemplified in Kiss Me Deadly (1955).

In a twist reminiscent of The Incredible Shrinking Man, the shrink n grow trope of the era as super-excited by the atomic atoms in the airbflips the script by featuring a character zapped with a growth ray set to "Grow" instead of "Shrink." However, this newfound size comes with enormous challenges for the protagonists to overcome.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, a 1958 American black-and-white Science Fiction film directed by Nathan Juran (credited as Nathan Hertz), stands as a Distaff Counterpart to The Amazing Colossal Man, carving its place as a classic B-Movie. Known for its outlandish premise and ample Fanservice, it was remade for HBO in 1993 under the direction of Christopher Guest.

The storyline follows Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes), a wealthy Californian grappling with alcoholism and a cheating spouse, Harry (William Hudson).

Nancy's life takes a bizarre turn when she encounters aliens while driving in the desert. Despite her attempts to convince Harry of her experience, he abandons her when the aliens reappear. Later, Nancy is discovered, having grown into a giant during her slumber. Awakening to her newfound size, she embarks on a Kaiju-style rampage, seeking revenge on her husband. 

Along the way, she inadvertently kills another woman (Yvette Vickers) and kidnaps Harry, reminiscent of King Kong's iconic scene, yes there is some giant hand trope and action herein. The climax sees Nancy meeting her demise alongside Harry, killed by an exploding power line transformer. She is giant, and a giant.

The 1993 remake, starring Daryl Hannah, Daniel Baldwin, and William Windom, amplifies the unsympathetic portrayal of Nancy's husband, creating a tongue-in-cheek version of an immensely serious bikini-device flick. Interestingly the bikini-device that Nancy wears in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) has a kind of cavewoman movie feel, it is a comfortable  combination of wear, and apt given the giant's silent status as a non-speaking weird from the large.

Giant Nancy wears a makeshift bra and skirt fashioned from her bed sheets after her growth, although how she dons them remains unclear.

In the newer version, every male character is depicted as despicable or ineffectual, while the female characters, including Harry's mistress, receive sympathetic portrayals and happier resolutions.

In a not very surprising turn from Hollywood, on February 1, 2024, plans for a second remake were announced. Tim Burton is set to direct, with Gillian Flynn, renowned for her work on Gone Girl, penning the script. 

This remake promises to breathe moronic political swamp gas into the iconic tale, blending the 21st accelerationist-style obsession with remaking every last split second of the 20th Century in HD 4D AI CGI with Burton's distinctive twentieth century old time style with Flynn's ideologically impure and beratingly silly storytelling style making a mockery of the craft, of politics, and of cinema itself

The alien responsible for transforming Nancy into a giantess serves as the primary antagonist. And yes those movie posters don't half lie. The iconic poster depicts Nancy attacking a highway overpass in a city, despite the film primarily taking place in a small desert town with no paved roads.

Nancy inadvertently kills Honey by dropping a roof beam on her, while Harry meets his demise either by Nancy squeezing him or during the transformer explosion. They are all after Nancy however, and the cinema is an evilly good place for revenge lovers, delivered in so many different ways, here 30 feet high, as they occasionally say in the film. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) does not ever mention the actual height of 50 feet.

And so the melodramatic noirish heights of Nancy's reckoning lead to one very interesting fact indeed — that Nancy is worth $50 million — an incredible fact today but in 1958 it's still incroyable — a tall sum indeed about half a billion in today's money — one of these sequels or reboots should be about what happens to Nancy's fortune after the town electrocuted her.

The movie boasts one of the most iconic posters in cinema history, surpassing the film's recognition. This film is considered to be the originating and trope codifier movie for films featuring a giant female protagonist.

Harry resorts to hitting Jess with an empty bottle during their altercation. The spacecraft is often referred to as a 'satellite,' capitalizing on the science buzz surrounding Sputnik 1.

The stark contrast between Nancy as the virtuous Madonna and Honey as the promiscuous party girl characterizes this complex.

Recycled scenes of giant Nancy walking and the appearance of the alien in medieval attire contribute to the film's low-budget aesthetic. A classic scenario unfolds as a young couple making out in their car encounters the giant Nancy.

Nancy's Sanity Slippage is highlighted when a newsreader taunts her about her husband's infidelity. Giant Nancy's size appears inconsistent throughout the film, adding to the campy nature of the narrative.

Typically, the victim of a science fiction growth spurt is a pet, wild animal, infant, or another character lacking fully developed moral sensibilities, inadvertently wreaking havoc on downtown skyscrapers. Should the victim be a regular person, the growth process often fries their synapses or prompts a power trip with delusions of grandeur, necessitating the hero's intervention to restore normalcy. In the case of this being a woman, the tropes stack fast and hard.

Expect the convenient appearance of magic pants to preserve modesty, sparing audiences from a giant, naked spectacle that would be more realistic.

Distinguishing itself from shapeshifting, this trope typically sees characters enlarging into colossal versions of themselves, though pet monkeys and lizards may inexplicably transform into King Kong or Godzilla lookalikes. Episodes often pay homage to "King Kong," featuring a towering creature scaling a tower with a damsel in distress, swatting at airplanes like bothersome insects.

In the hero's quest to combat the colossal threat, they may resort to scaling the creature or launching aerial assaults, risking a cinematic spectacle reminiscent of a "Colossus Climb" or "Helicopter Flyswatter."

While commonly found in animated shows, live-action adaptations struggle to execute this trope convincingly, though B-movies have capitalized on its appeal. Despite the biological improbability, advancements in special effects have preserved its allure, ensuring its status remains intact.

While not film noir in any sense of the term, noir sensibility is yet a filter with which to treat of the movie. Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is not noir but as a piece of science fiction or even worse, horror, it is dim take on any genre.

Down the local cop shop in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

For all the fun of analysis and pigeon holing, this is a 1950s B-movie that spins a tale of Nancy Archer, a wealthy woman with personal demons, who encounters a giant alien after witnessing a mysterious fireball. Despite her troubled life and the infidelity of her husband, Harry, Nancy’s encounter with the alien leads to a bizarre series of events. 

The alien, after stealing her necklace, inadvertently gives her the power to become a giantess. As Nancy grows to an enormous size, she seeks revenge on those who wronged her, particularly her cheating husband and his mistress. The film serves as a commentary on gender relations and societal attitudes towards women, wrapped in a campy science fiction narrative that culminates in Nancy’s towering rampage.

So poor Nancy, nobody believes her because of her drinking problem and the fact she has recently been in a mental institution.

With its low budget of around $88,000, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman made enough money to prompt discussion of a sequel. According to executive producer and cinematographer Jacques Marquette, the sequel was to be produced at a higher budget and in color. A script was written, but the project never advanced beyond the discussion phase.

In early 1979, Dimension Pictures announced that producer Steve Krantz was developing a 5-million-dollar remake with director Paul Morrissey. It never came to fruition.

In the mid-1980s, filmmaker Jim Wynorski considered doing a remake with Sybil Danning in the title role. Wynorski made it as far as shooting a photo session with Danning dressed as the 50-foot woman. The project never materialized because Wynorski opted instead to film Not of This Earth (1988), a remake of Roger Corman's 1957 film of the same name.

The film was remade in 1993 by HBO under the same title Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman. It was directed by Christopher Guest, with a script by Thirtysomething writer Joseph Dougherty. Daryl Hannah produced the film and starred in the title role.

Monstrous tall visuals in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

Within the socio-political context of the 1950s, the portrayal of women in science fiction films of that era, and the feminist undertones embedded within the narrative of the film, lots to say and enjoy. 

The 1950s was marked by rigid gender roles and conservative values, with women expected to adhere to traditional roles as homemakers and caregivers. The era was characterized by Cold War paranoia and McCarthyism, which reinforced gender norms and stifled dissent. These societal norms and values set the stage for the portrayal of women in science fiction films of the time.

Female monstrosity in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

In 1950s science fiction cinema, women were often depicted in stereotypical roles as passive love interests or damsels in distress. These representations reflected societal expectations and anxieties about female empowerment and independence. Female characters were rarely given agency or autonomy, reinforcing patriarchal power dynamics.

Despite its campy exterior, Attack of the 50-Foot Woman can be interpreted as a subversive commentary on gender dynamics and female oppression. The protagonist, Nancy Archer, symbolizes the frustrations of women in a male-dominated society. Her transformation into a giantess serves as a metaphor for the overwhelming power and agency that women could wield if liberated from societal constraints. The film critiques patriarchal authority and highlights the threat posed by female autonomy.

Initially dismissed as a low-budget B-movie, Attack of the 50-Foot Woman has garnered critical reappraisal for its social commentary and feminist themes. Critics have praised its subversive portrayal of female empowerment and its critique of male-dominated society. The film challenges audiences to look beyond its campy surface and consider its significance within the context of gender politics.

The film remains relevant to contemporary feminist discourse, resonating with audiences as a reflection of enduring gender inequalities and the ongoing struggle for women's rights. Its themes of female oppression, empowerment, and resistance prompt discussions about the representation of women in media and the need for greater gender equality. 

Attack of the 50-Foot Woman serves as a reminder of the progress made in challenging traditional gender roles while highlighting the work that remains to be done.

How about a giant woman? This twist on the classic monster trope adds an intriguing dynamic to your story. Let's explore the possibilities:

Instead of the typical giant bug or lizard, a giant woman brings a fresh twist to the monster genre. It defies expectations and offers a new perspective on the concept of a rampaging behemoth.

A giant woman can be portrayed as a Ms. Fanservice or Cute Monster Girl, adding layers of complexity to her character. Despite her immense size, her attractiveness may draw some people to her, leading to thrilling or terrifying encounters.

This concept flips the classic Damsel in Distress trope on its head. Instead of a helpless woman being kidnapped by a monster, the giant woman becomes the rampaging force, potentially capturing men or even smaller creatures like apes or monkeys in a nod to King Kong.

Including a reference to the iconic "highway-straddling" Attack of the 50 Foot Woman poster adds a nostalgic touch to your film. It pays homage to classic monster movie imagery while putting a contemporary spin on the concept.

Unlike most giant monsters, the giant woman often survives her rampage without facing consequences for her actions. This unconventional ending adds a twist to the typical monster movie formula and leaves audiences questioning the morality of her character.

For some audiences, the giant woman trope may tap into the realm of macrophilia, a sexual fetish centered around size differences. While this theme may not be suitable for all audiences, it adds an additional layer of complexity to the narrative.

Revenge of the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

Incorporating a giant woman into your monster movie offers a unique twist on a classic trope. It subverts expectations, challenges traditional gender roles, and provides opportunities for intriguing character dynamics and plot developments. Whether she's portrayed as a menacing force of destruction or a captivating enigma, the giant woman brings a fresh perspective to the monster genre.

Whatever we like it can always still be an exploration of gender dynamics and societal norms through the lens of science fiction cinema. By examining the film within its historical context and considering its reception and critical interpretations, we gain insight into its significance as both a product of its time and a timeless commentary on gender politics.

The 1958 movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is packed with various tropes and elements that contribute to its campy charm and memorable moments. The doctors acquire the necessary supplies to sedate and restrain giant Nancy from Acme Medical Supplies, including chains and meat hooks.

In the 1950s, horror fiction and films underwent a significant shift in their settings, moving away from the traditional Gothic landscapes of castles and isolated villages to embrace urban and suburban environments. 

This transition reflected a cultural shift towards modernity and an increased focus on the anxieties and tensions of contemporary American society. For example, films like The Thing from Another World (1951) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) depicted terrifying scenarios unfolding in familiar settings such as laboratories, small towns, and suburban neighborhoods. 

By situating horror narratives in these everyday locations, filmmakers and authors were able to tap into the collective fears and uncertainties of postwar America, exploring themes of alienation, conformity, and the erosion of individuality in the face of modernization and technological advancement.

The shift in setting allowed horror stories to resonate more deeply with audiences, as they could now envision themselves as protagonists facing monstrous threats in their own communities, rather than distant and exotic locales.

Some of these are "invasion narratives," examining how films like "The Thing from Another World" (1951) and "The War of the Worlds" (1953) portrayed external threats encroaching upon American soil, symbolizing anxieties about conformity and totalitarianism. 

Others are "outsider narratives," exploring works by authors like Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, as well as films like "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957), which interrogated notions of normalcy and masculinity through the lens of alienation and otherness. 

Others classify and explore "psychological horror," analysing texts such as "Psycho" (1960) and "The Haunting of Hill House" to uncover deeper insights into gender roles and familial dynamics in 1950s America. 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers addresses themes of conformity and totalitarianism through its portrayal of alien infiltration and loss of individual identity.

The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) shares unwittingly a further depiction of gender dynamics, particularly in the interactions between the female lead and the creature.

Then these movies highlight the pervasive influence of Fordism and rationalization on postwar American society, particularly in the realm of horror fiction and film. He contends that the rise of scientific-technical rationality during the late 1940s and 1950s led to widespread fears regarding the homogenization and conformity of American life. 

This new system of organization, characterized by its application of scientific principles to social, economic, and cultural domains, was perceived by many as inherently totalitarian, stifling individuality and promoting rigid conformity. Through his examination of invasion narratives and outsider narratives in horror, we can see with such clarity and fun-filled ease how these fears of rationalization manifested in popular culture, with alien invaders and monstrous outsiders serving as symbolic representations of the threats posed by Fordist ideology. 

By contextualizing 1950s horror within the broader socio-political landscape of the time, we achieve an instant and a deeper understanding of the cultural anxieties that permeated post-war America. One factor that is often overlooked is how minimal and poor the science fiction of the 1950s was, and although this is no fault of the medium and the era, it is largely because the genre and its styles were so new

Now we can also challenge traditional interpretations that view these stories solely as reflections of fears related to Soviet aggression. Instead, invasion narratives serve as allegorical expressions of anxieties surrounding the consequences of scientific rationalism and Fordist organizational structures on American society.

By reframing the narrative lens, we consider invasion stories such as "The Thing from Another World" (1951) and "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) through the broader thematic context of rationalization and conformity. 

Now we see in this new and glowing light of cinema that the alien invaders in these narratives symbolize not only external threats but also internal anxieties regarding the erosion of individuality and the imposition of rigid societal norms. 

Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman (1958)

Directed by Nathan Juran

Genres - Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller, Action, Adventure, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Alien Film, Creature Film  |   Release Date - May 19, 1958 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 66 min. 

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