director Nathan H. Juran
The movie poster for Attack of the 50 Foot Woman was one of the most common images in throwback pop culture junk memorabilia back in the 1980’s. Which is understandable: it’s a great image. And it’s an image that carries with it some very easily intuited feminism or female empowerment. You could buy this on fridge magnets, postcards, posters, coffee mugs… Heck, you probably still can.
The movie itself comes from director Nathan H. Juran who also brought such 1950’s sci-fi/fantasy fare as The Deadly Mantis (1957), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), and The Brain from Planet Arous (1958).
And no low-budget movie will actually live up to such an iconic movie poster (most of the time). Because low budget it is, though still quite good in its way.
The female empowerment is certainly there for the intuiting if probably not there with the level of intentionality one might see in its more post-modern incarnations. It’s the story of unhappy heiress Nancy Fowler Archer, played by Allison Hayes, a rich woman with a philandering husband. Nancy runs afoul of an alien satellite (a bit orb) on the backroads and is doused with some form of radiation that eventually turns her into a giantess. She’s not your quintessentially oppressed 1950’s housewife, but she’s had some bad turns by her man (Williams Hudson) dancing it up with his little squeeze (Yvette Vickers). He’d like to have her put away in an institution (if not killed off).
The very cheap effects are held to a minimum and so it’s only in the film’s last 12 minutes that the 50 foot woman of the title actually “attacks”. Interestingly, perhaps an intentional, though relative, play on the ending of the original King Kong (1933), the commentary after she is shot down is “She finally got Harry all to herself.”
It’s not just the iconic poster that has given this film such legs in continuing cultural consciousness (it was re-made in 1993 by Christopher Guest with Darryl Hannah playing the woman and has been re-made in reference a number of times in such films as Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold (1995) and Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader (2011)). Actually, the cultural references are legion.
Yes, at 50 feet in stature, the film has legs. Long legs. And while those legs may have camp in their soul (mixing my metaphors here rather freely), the subtext is there for the taking.