A few years back, my friend Amelia Rosner, on a business trip to Chicago, called me on her cell phone.
"Matt? I'm in a print shop and they have this poster. It's from a movie called Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman. Have you ever seen it? Should I pick you up a copy?"
"There is no need." I replied. "This is an artifact well known to My People."
The poster for Attack of the Fifity Foot Woman is the most recognizable icon in pop culture dealing with giant women. The poster is one of the best selling movie posters of all time, even though the movie itself pretty much sucks.
Let me repeat that: The movie sucks. This is largely the view of My People as well.
There were many Giant Menace movies in the 1950's. Giant bugs, giant shrews, giant gila monsters, whatever. There were also two famous human size changing movies, The Incredible Shrinking Man and The Amazing Colossal Man. Both were significantly better than Fifty Foot Woman, whose budget was next to nothing and special effects were sad, sad, sad. In the film's defense, Allison Hayes, who plays the giantess, and Yvette Vickers, who plays the little tramp girlfriend of the giantess' creepy husband, are both nothing but fine, fine fine. But the attack itself happens only for the last five minutes or so of a 65 minute film that feels much longer because it is such a dull thing. Moreover, the "attack" has no scene in it that even remotely resembles the poster. Such a scene would require money and strong special effects, two things in very short supply on this film.
It's really a soap opera with a sci-fi ending tacked on. From what I hear, TV soap operas have been getting goofier and goofier nowadays, but back in the 1950's, soaps didn't add in aliens from outer space into the plots, now matter how bad the ratings got.
Still, the poster is famous. I've seen the heads of other women who are supposed to be powerful and scary photoshopped onto this poster. Right wingers put Hillary's head on that torso. Left wingers glued on Ann Coulter's head. I found both of the efforts unconvincing. That torso does not belong to either woman, even if it were just five and a half feet tall. (It's even a little more va-va-voomy than Allison Hayes was, but only a little.)
The poster is so famous, and the movie so weak, that it was remade. HBO put up the cash for a new version in the 1990's starring Darryl Hannah. It still has a soap opera like plot, they added the role of a domineering father (William Windom) and a sympathetic psychiatrist (Frances Fisher), but it's still pretty much the story of Nancy Archer (Hannah), her scumbag husband Harry (Daniel Baldwin) and the town tramp Honey (Cristi Conaway). [You might remember when I talked about Lana Clarkson and balked at her description as a "struggling actress". Go to imdb.com and look at Cristi Conaway's list of roles. She's a lovely woman, but THAT'S what the career of a struggling actress looks like, when you don't even get a role as good as star of Barbarian Queen.]
The HBO version is better than the original, in my opinion. There are actual intentional laughs and the special effects are much better. When it was shown on HBO fourteen years ago, it was the highest rated premiere movie they had ever had on the network. This was before HBO decided to make the high quality series, mini-series and movies, but still, a record is a record.
I could have made this post entirely about the poster for the original film, which as I said is the most famous icon for giant women in our culture, but I decided to bring up the remake for one more blog related reason. The Darryl Hannah version of Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman is directed by none other than the talented and lovely Christopher Guest. A few actors who also have shown up in his improv classics have roles in this film, including a large supporting role for Paul Benedict and a cameo for Lewis Arquette.
And so I fulfill my contractual obligation for giant woman content this month. If there are more mentions of giant women in the month of November, it will be entirely pro bono. (Or is it pro se?)
Now playing: Elvis Costello - My Science Fiction Twin