KLAATU YOU (14)
April 1, 2020
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite pre-Star Wars science fiction movies.
ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | d. NATHAN HERTZ | 1958
Harry Archer is a man with problems. His sugarmama wife, Nancy, is on to his shenanigans with Honey, the town trollop. Honey is pushing him to leave Nancy, by any means necessary. And now Nancy is claiming she’s seen a satellite, powered by diamonds, along with its flabby giant occupant. Is it time for her to go for another stint in the “booby hatch”? Before Harry and Honey can act on their nefarious scheme to have Nancy put away, Nancy surprises everybody by growing into the 50-foot woman of the title. Despite an “elephant syringe” filled with morphine, she escapes her chains and goes looking for her mate. “Harry!” she calls. “Harry!” Her louse of a husband is too busy getting crocked with Honey at the local tavern, conveniently located next door to the sheriff’s office, to hear her.
Size disturbance has been a popular theme since at least 1865, when Lewis Carroll’s Alice first reached for that cake labeled “Eat Me.” In fact, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman was one of several late-1950s B-movies that featured men or humanoids who shrink or grow to outrageous proportions. A series of mid-to-late 1940s ads for Johnson & Johnson baby products featured adult-sized babies menacing their baby-sized mothers, confining them to playpens, leaving them in baskets on doorsteps. Charles Bukowski’s 1970 short story, “Six Inches,” features a man shrunk to that size by a dominating woman who uses him as a dildo. These size switcheroos were clearly meant to play on anxieties, be they atomic, maternal, or misogynistic.
Could 50-foot Nancy similarly be read as a metaphor for women’s anger — seemingly outsized to the man who is its focus? Perhaps. Both Harry the philanderer and other woman Honey wind up dead as a result of Nancy’s rampage. But Honey’s death is an accident, the result of a beam falling as Nancy pulls off the tavern’s roof. And it’s unclear whether Nancy kills Harry on purpose or by mistake, squishing him like a banana in an enthusiastic toddler’s fist, as she herself collapses after running into a power tower.
Not that Attack of the 50 Foot Woman carries some kind of hidden feminist message. Nancy and Honey were portrayed by actresses (Allison Hayes and Yvette Vickers, respectively) whose outrageous proportions were enhanced by bullet bras and tightly cinched waists. Grown to her full height, Nancy wears what looks like an enormous toga-kini. Where this comes from, along with what the townspeople will do with Nancy’s 50-foot carcass, are but two of the questions viewers are left to ponder.
KLAATU YOU: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Matthew De Abaitua on ZARDOZ | Miranda Mellis on METROPOLIS | Rob Wringham on THE INVISIBLE MAN | Michael Grasso on THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN | Gordon Dahlquist on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | Erik Davis on DARK STAR | Carlo Rotella on THE OMEGA MAN | Madeline Ashby on KISS ME DEADLY | Adam McGovern on SILENT RUNNING | Michael Lewy on THIS ISLAND EARTH | Josh Glenn on WILD IN THE STREETS | Mimi Lipson on BARBARELLA vs. SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | Vanessa Berry on THE FLY | Lynn Peril on ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN | Peggy Nelson on SOLARIS | Adrienne Crew on LOGAN’S RUN | Ramona Lyons on THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH | Kio Stark on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Dan Fox on FANTASTIC PLANET | Chris Lanier on IKARIE XB-1 | Devin McKinney on IDAHO TRANSFER | Mark Kingwell on THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO | Luc Sante on THE TENTH VICTIM | William Nericcio on DEATH RACE 2000 | Rob Walker on CAPRICORN ONE | Gary Panter on ANGRY RED PLANET | David Levine on THE STEPFORD WIVES | Karinne Keithley Syers on ALPHAVILLE | Carolyn Kellogg on IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE | Sara Ryan on ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN | Lisa Jane Persky on PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE | Adam Harrison Levy on BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES | Gerald Peary on CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON | Susannah Breslin on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE | Seth on WAR OF THE WORLDS | James Hannaham on GOJIRA/GODZILLA | Lydia Millet on VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED | Matthew Daniel on FANTASTIC VOYAGE | Shawn Wolfe on ROLLERBALL | Erin M. Routson on WESTWORLD | Marc Weidenbaum on COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN PROJECT | Neil LaBute on 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA | Vicente Lozano on DAY OF THE DOLPHIN | Tom Roston on SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE | Katya Apekina on A BOY AND HIS DOG | Chelsey Johnson on THE BLOB | Heather Kapplow on SPACE IS THE PLACE | Brian Berger on THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS | Anthony Miller on THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL.
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