I have this rule where if something gets reviewed or suggested to me in more than one place, it's time to watch it. Given the giant backlog of music, movies, and television shows out there waiting for me, I figure it's a pretty good system. In this case, The Mike reviewed Attack of the 50 Foot Woman for Women in Horror month over at his blog, From Midnight With Love. A few weeks later, Enbrethiliel over at Shredded Cheddar threw down a challenge. She was actually challenging herself, but I couldn't resist joining in. The challenge is to watch a series of movies that provided inspiration for the characters in Monsters vs Aliens. And guess what movie inspired MvA's main character Ginormica? Yup, the time had come to watch the film.
At only one hour and five minutes, this is a much shorter film than what most of us are used to. It makes pretty efficient use of its time too, with an opening scene of a newscaster talking about UFO sightings, then heads straight into our titular character (still normal human size) Nancy running into the UFO out in the desert. A giant sized man comes out and makes a grab at her diamond necklace, but she makes a get away.
Nancy makes it back to town, but of course no one believes her. She's known as a drunk throughout the town and she once spent some time in a sanitarium. She's gotten her drinking under control, but everyone just assumes she's back on the sauce again. Her husband Harry is the only thing that keeps her sane, but unfortunately he's a lecherous jerk. He's seeing a woman named Honey behind her back and Honey keeps trying to get him to kill Nancy so they can take her considerable fortune. Harry makes some attempts but Nancy's butler keeps catching him and putting a stop to it. In the meanwhile Nancy is trying her best to convince everyone she is not a crazy drunk but no one believes her until she starts growing giant sized herself. Her doctors try to keep her sedated but there simply isn't enough morphine to keep her still and she breaks free and causes havoc on the town and gets her revenge on her cheating husband and his floozy of a girlfriend.
If you go into this movie waiting simply for the attack you might be disappointed. While this certainly counts as a monster film, Nancy's attack only happens in the last ten minutes. The giant man may possibly have more screen time, as he gets a few scenes of attacking various people, and in one hilarious bit picks up a car and shakes it before dropping it back down. According to Wikipedia the car he picks up and the one that he drops are not the same. I probably didn't notice because I was too busy laughing. If you love cheesy effects as much as I do, you'll enjoy this. When Nancy picks up Harry and shakes him, I think he is literally a rag doll. The UFO is nothing more than a large shiny ball. I think my favorite bit of cheesiness was when the butler and the sheriff go inside the spaceship. They see these large glass balls with gems hanging inside them. It's there so we realize the giant man wanted her necklace to power his spaceship. However what makes it so great is that the glass balls are between us and the actors, so we get multiple shots of them looking into the glass balls and their faces are magnified and warped. It's pointless and silly, but I love it.
Mixed in with the cheese and silliness, however, is actually a decent dramatic film. Since the attack happens so late, a lot of the time is spent showing us just what Nancy's life is like. It's been difficult for her, and you really start to sympathize with her. The only interest most people seem to have in her is her money. She has an almost unconditional love for Harry, but he only barely tolerates her. The only people who seem to care for her at all are her doctor and butler, and you almost have to wonder if they would still care if they weren't being paid. After seeing all this, you're rooting for Nancy as she gets her revenge. While I doubt this is the first movie that made us sympathize with the monster, it definitely has to be one of the early ones. I found myself cheering when Nancy crushed Honey under some rubble. It's clear that Nancy's growth in size is meant to represent her finding her courage and taking control of her life.
As such it's no surprise that the same thing happens to Ginormica in Monsters vs Aliens. Pre-growth all she cares about is getting married, and when she first reaches her ginormous height (technically 49 feet 11 inches here) she just wants to be normal again. It takes her a little longer to find her confidence, but the defeat of a large evil robot and saving people stuck on the Golden Gate Bridge at the time certainly do the trick. When she learns that her husband-to-be is too self centered to care about her in her new predicament, she's upset but it doesn't take long for her to realize he's not worth it. My favorite part for her is when she's on the spaceship of an alien who has plans to steal her power and take over the earth. She doesn't hesitate for a moment but instead chases after him ready to give him a good solid butt kicking. I've seen the movie twice now and that scene gets me charged every time.
Of course, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman has been referenced and parodied in countless other forms of media. It was also remade in 1993 with Daryl Hannah playing the title role. I just so happened to watch the Phineas and Ferb episode "Attack of the 50 Foot Sister" a few days before this. It's a great parody because Candace (their sister) takes a growth potion because she wants to be a "Flawless Girl" model, and according to the beauty line of the same name, you can only be so if you're 5'10. After she grows to 50 feet, both a freak show and the beauty agency both want her to help them make money. Candace quickly rejects them because she doesn't want to be used and learns that appearances aren't so important after all. Her size is resolved at the end of the episode by everything else in the world being hit by the growth formula so that she appears normal again.
E has done a live blog of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman over at Shredded Cheddar. Her live blogs are slightly a misnomer, but actually the better for it because you don't have to set aside a time to watch with her. She links videos right within the blog and adds her commentary to it, giving you the perfect chance to watch the movie if you haven't seen it yet. Apparently Youtube only has a poor quality rip of the film. If you're in the US, you may want to check out the movie via Netflix then read her post here.
In case you too would like to take on this challenge, or perhaps just have a movie marathon, here are the other films as presented by E for the challenge:
Creature from the Black Lagoon
The Invisible Man (he's only mentioned briefly, but he is there)
The Thing From Another World (technically not referenced in the movie from what I can tell, but it's an alien film, so..)
I plan to also view the remakes of The Blob, The Fly, and The Thing.
Technically, The Day The Earth Stood Still should also be included on this list, as the robot who attacks Earth is largely based on Gort. I'm going to be honest with you: I tried watching the original a while back but turned it off halfway through, bored. The remake I saw in the theater and it is pretty atrocious. About the only good things I can say are that Gort's special effects were pretty cool and Keanu's wooden performance is perfect for an alien who can't feel emotions. So I simply have no interest in revisiting either version for a more in depth review. But don't let that stop you from taking it on, as the original is pretty highly regarded and you may enjoy it more than I did.