Movie Man Will Pfeifer's take on new DVD sets, one of which includes the mind-blowing "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman."
Last week, the American Film Institute released its updated list of the Top 100 American films.
And once again, “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” was nowhere to be found, shoved aside by such lesser cinematic efforts as “Casablanca,” “The Godfather” and “Citizen Kane.”
Fortunately, Warner Bros. has softened the blow of this cultural crime by finally releasing “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” as part of its Cult Camp Classics DVD collection, in stores today. Included in the “Sci-Fi Thrillers” set, it’s a stunning piece of work, even if — to be honest — it’s not even close to being good.
The title character, Nancy Archer (played with unhinged energy by Allison Hayes), is normal size as the movie begins, but she has other problems. She’s too rich, too drunk and her husband, Harry (William Hudson, sleaze personified), is cheating on her with town tramp Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers, delivering an even crazier performance than Hayes’). So it’s a good thing that Nancy drunkenly runs into an alien who — somehow — causes her to become a giant. (The movie isn’t very clear on this subject, or, for that matter, on any subject.) The rest of the movie is mostly Nancy rampaging around town, getting sweet, sweet revenge on Harry and that tramp Honey Parker. During many of these scenes, by the way, Nancy is played by a giant plaster hand, and Harry and Honey are played by dolls.
You’ve heard movies described as “so bad they’re good”? “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” is so bad it’s great.
Also included in the “Sci-Fi Thrillers” set is “The Queen of Outer Space,” which was released in 1958 just like “50 Foot Woman.” It had a much bigger budget (for one thing, it’s in color) but the same Neanderthal view of females. A crew of astronauts gets lost and winds up on Venus, which, instead of being a cloud-covered boiling hellhole as it is in real life, turns out to be an idyllic paradise ruled by beautiful babes in miniskirts. What’s amazing (and, frankly, pretty entertaining) about “Queen of Outer Space” is how all these guys take these shocks in stride and behave like typical ‘50s guys, using the hunky astronaut to seduce the queen so they can get back to Earth. Naturally, that goofy mask she wears hides a terrible secret (Hint: It’s not that she’s too beautiful to behold). So our heroes flee with the help of a rebellious, evening-gown-wearing scientist played by Zsa Zsa Gabor — yes, I said Zsa Zsa Gabor. It’s that sort of movie.
The third DVD in the set is 1959’s “The Giant Behemoth,” and I’m sorry to say it doesn’t reach the glorious depths of the others. For one thing, it’s actually not bad, using the special-effects genius of Willis O’Brien (animator of the original “King Kong”) to show what it would look like if a giant lizard stomped all over London. The beast is an irradiated dinosaur, so similarities to 1954’s “Gojira” (“Godzilla” here in the States) are obvious (they were both inspired by 1953’s “Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”), but O’Brien’s stop-motion animation has a certain cinematic beauty that a guy in a monster suit just can’t match.
If you enjoy these DVDs, you’ll be happy to know that Warner Bros. has released three more sets of Cult Camp Classics:
“Women in Peril” includes the prison flicks “The Big Cube” and “Caged,” plus “Trog,” which makes the most of Joan Crawford’s last screen appearance by pairing her with a caveman.
“Historical Epics” has Sergio Leone directing “The Colossus of Rhodes,” Howard Hawks directing “Land of the Pharoahs” and Lana Turner playing a pagan priestess in “The Prodigal.”
“Terrorized Travelers” has the thrillers “Hot Rods to Hell” and “Skyjacked,” plus “Zero Hour!,” the movie that inspired “Airplane!” (Same plot, much less funny.)
Contact Will Pfeifer at firstname.lastname@example.org.