The original "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" film was released in 1958. It was promoted with one of the most iconic film posters ever. The artwork shows a beautiful giantess, wearing only a bikini top and miniskirt, standing astride a flyover. She is crushing a car in one hand and below is the beginnings of a pile-up as other cars crash into her giant feet. It's really a terrific poster. I have a copy hanging above my fireplace, and I wanted to see the film that inspired it.
Director: Nathan Juran
Writer: Mark Hanna
Allison Hayes as Nancy Archer
William Hudson as Harry Archer
Yvette Vickers as Honey Parker
George Douglas as Sheriff Dubbit
Ken Terrell as Jess Stout
Mike Ross as Tony the bartender / Space Giant
Frank Chase as Deputy Charlie
Synopsis (no spoilers)
After an encounter with a giant alien, a woman grows to gigantic proportions and goes on a rampage to find and punish her cheating husband.
That really is the only thing of interest that happens in the film. Unfortunately, the first 90% of the movie is filler, and then we get to the rampaging giant just before the audience demand their money back.
The story (full of spoilers)
"Spoilers" as in "I am going to relate the entire plot of the film."
Nancy Archer, millionairess, is out on the town with her worthless husband Harry, and spots him eyeing up Honey, his bit-on-the-side, across the bar.
Furious, she storms out and drives away home on her own. Out of nowhere, on route 66, she encounters a mysterious alien spaceship. She screeches the car to a halt, and then sticks her head out of the window and screeches at the spaceship. It's possible she is supposed to be screaming in terror, but it does rather look like she's trying to face the thing down.
Anyway, that fails, so, whimpering, she tries to restart her car. Here we get our first "special effect", as an enormous hand reaches into the frame towards her. She screeches some more, and then abandons the car and runs for her life.
Meanwhile, Harry and Honey are plotting. They want to get rid of Nancy somehow so that the two of them can live off her vast fortune. Oooh, Harry is evil, we don't like him. Honey is evil too but she's pretty cute so we don't really mind.
By this point, Nancy has made it back to town and is babbling to anyone who'll listen about the giant spaceman that tried to grab her. She also goes on about the "satellite" she saw. (Throughout the film, people say "satellite" when they mean "spaceship" or possibly "UFO". It seems it was written around about the time of the Sputnik launch so the word was in vogue but, apparently, not actually understood.) Of course, they all assume she's been on the sauce and humour her politely, and then ignore her. Harry puts her to bed and then goes back out to see Honey and do a bit more evil plotting.
The next day, Harry arranges for the doctor to come and see his wife. She's still rambling about giant spacemen so the doctor is forced to conclude she's a bit wonky in the head, and prescribes rest. After the doctor leaves, though, Nancy throws a hissy fit and demands that Harry go out driving with her so she can find the "satellite" again and prove that she's not crazy. Reluctantly, Harry agrees, and they set off.
Eventually they do find the satellite, and Nancy completely loses it. "It's real, it's real!" she screams, leaping out of the car and running towards the thing. Harry may be evil, but he isn't stupid, so he tries to stop her. It's no good, though, she is determined to actually stroke the satellite, whilst yelling "It's real, I'm not crazy!", even though her actions at the time suggest otherwise.
Her stroking, or her screeching, manages to wake up the satellite's giant occupant. A bald man reaches towards the camera, and then we cut to see the GIANT HAND from before, again reaching for Nancy. Rather than running away, Nancy chooses to spend her energy screeching "Harry, Harry, help me, Harry!". Harry fires a few shots from a revolver, but they have no effect, and then he remembers that he is EVIL and jumps in the car and drives off, leaving her to die.
Harry has decided to get while the getting's good, it seems. First, he rushes back home to pick up a few things. Jess, the loyal butler, sees Harry return without Nancy and demands to know what has happened to her. Harry isn't really the imaginative type, so, rather than lying, he throws Jess down the stairs, and legs it. As Harry leaves, Jess struggles to a phone and calls the police.
Harry's next stop is the sleazy hotel where he has Honey stashed. He's just about to drag her off to the car and head for Mexico when the police catch up with the two of them, and they are forced instead to stay in town until Nancy is found.
Luckily for them, Nancy is found quickly enough - she is, it seems, "on top of the pool house." At this point the police are content to let Harry and Honey go, with no apparent regard for the whole "throwing Jess down the stairs" incident. Maybe abusing one's servants was allowed back in those days.
Harry heads home, where his wife is now being tended in bed by a private nurse. He wants to go and check on her, possibly just for appearance's sake, but the doctor warns him off. "I wouldn't go up there if I were you, Harry. It's possible she's been contaminated. There's evidence of some kind of radiation." We all know what radiation does to people in SF movies, don't we? Anything the plot requires.
Harry goes out to see Honey again and they, as usual, get on with a bit more plotting. Honey (the brains of the operation) convinces Harry that a good way to finally do away with Nancy would be to give her an overdose of the medication the nurse was giving her. Honey really is pretty cute and Harry wants to impress her, so he heads back into the house, steeling himself against the "radiation". Well, possibly he doesn't steel himself, he might have just forgotten all about it. Anyway, his plan comes to naught, because when he sneaks into the room ready to administer the lethal dose, he sees that Nancy has turned into a GIANT HAND!
Yes, the same giant hand prop from before is now all we see of Nancy, who has now, we must assume, grown to gigantic proportions. The nurse turns up in time to do some good old fashioned screaming, and the doctor follows her in to say, in an awed tone, "Astounding growth!", just in case we, the audience, haven't cottoned onto the whole "giant hand" thing.
The next day, the local German scientist is recruited and he and the doctor sit around for a bit, puffing on pipes, and agree that, yes indeed, she has grown awfully large. The nurse remains poised in case any more screaming is required. Harry and Honey have gone off together so they can get up to some more nasty, dirty, hardcore plotting.
In the mean time, the sheriff and his idiot deputy are doing a fairly poor comedy double act, during which they accidentally manage to perform some investigation, and find some gigantic footsteps near the pool house where Nancy was found. Jess the butler shows up to offer them some drinks, and so the sheriff, a fine judge of character, takes the butler with him to investigate the footprints and leaves the moronic deputy behind.
Out on route 66 again, the sheriff and Jess manage to find the satellite without too much trouble. They head inside and are untroubled to find that the interior decor of the spacecraft resembles nothing so much as a public toilet. Inside, they find diamonds, including the enormous diamond that Nancy was wearing around her neck when she disappeared. Jess the butler announces from nowhere that "they must be used to power this thing." The sheriff is too polite to draw any attention to this awful bit of exposition and merely nods silently in agreement.
Suddenly, something off-screen puts the wind up our two intrepid heroes and they decide to run for it. Once they make it outside, we see that they are pursued by the gigantic bald alien from before. (The special effects here deserve to be noted since the filmmakers pointlessly overlay the giant against a distant backdrop, but don't trouble to even shoot him from below. Because the backdrop is far away, the overlaying doesn't make him look any bigger, but we do suffer the slight transparency from the overlaying technique. It's really hard to see what they thought they were going to achieve - he doesn't look giant at all, he just looks a bit ghostly.)
Jess and the sheriff fire a few pointless rounds at the giant before hiding behind their car, whereupon the giant elects to pick up the vehicle with his, oh no, GIANT HAND! We are treated once more to the giant hand, which by this time is developing a personality of its own and perhaps deserves to be in the credits. Alas, we only see the giant hand for a second and then we cut to the actor playing the giant, with a model car, which he hurls to the ground. He then gets back into his ship, which accelerates away, sounding much more like a moped than you might expect.
Back to the doctors. They are still puffing away and rambling tediously. Back to Harry and Honey, who are still plotting. We, the audience, look at our watches. We are now 55 minutes into a 65 minute film which we were led to believe was about a giant woman in a miniskirt. So far we have seen a giant bald man (not in a miniskirt) and a GIANT HAND. Fortunately, we are just about to enter...
Nancy has apparently become as tired as we are of the whole thing. She has also, like us, begun to wonder how on earth she is able to fit into an ordinary sized bedroom when her GIANT HAND alone is about six foot long. "Harry!" she yells. The nurse screams! She's been waiting to scream for some time so she lets it all out. Nancy is gigantic now though, and is more than capable of drowning her out. "I know where my husband is! He's with that woman!" cries Nancy. She has finally cracked, it seems, and has decided that the only reasonable course now is to go on a rampage of destruction and murder.
We finally get some half decent special effects as the "50 foot woman" attacks at last. Nancy bursts out of her house, dressed, inexplicably, in a giant miniskirt and bikini top. The house disintegrates impressively around her, and she sets off down the road. She comes across an electricity pylon and grabs at it. The town lights flicker. She bends down and peers through the hotel window. She tears the "HOTEL" sign off the side of the building. This is all good stuff. Then we are back to the GIANT HAND as she reaches into the hotel room and smashes it up as best she is able with a giant inanimate hand.
Harry's not in the hotel but she finds the bar he's in and reaches in there with the GIANT HAND. Harry fires off a few shots at the hand, so she instead decides to tear the roof off the building. She hurls some masonry down into the bar and kills Honey, rather unceremoniously. Then the HAND is back and she grabs Harry. (This includes a shot of her holding a really, really bad Harry-prop doll. It looks like they put a teddy bear in a suit.)
With Harry in hand, she heads back out of the bar and decides to stand next to the electricity pylon. The sheriff is shooting at her with his shotgun, and he hits the pylon. Naturally the pylon EXPLODES, and poor Nancy crashes to the ground, stone dead. Harry is crushed in the fall.
"She finally got Harry all to herself," intones the doctor.
Well, it's pretty bad, really. The final ten minutes are quite fun but you have to sit through a lot of pretty tedious stuff to get there. Also, she never does stand aside a flyover and smash the passing traffic as depicted on the poster.
I would like to know why she grew 50 feet tall. That's never really explained. She encounters a giant alien. He steals her diamond necklace, and makes her giant too. Why? Maybe he wanted her as a bride? Perhaps in the sequel he was going to come back for her.
The film lacks any kind of meaning. Good science fiction tends to have some kind of point to it. This film doesn't. I could believe they came up with the poster first.
I completely missed it myself, being of the modern era and all, but spiregrain points out that the subtext of the film is to do with the (then) increasing power of women within society. Even as a millionairess, Nancy is pretty much ignored, until she becomes a giant and starts smashing stuff up and killing people. It would render the traditional monster-movie ending rather more disturbing, if the thing is supposed to be some kind of metaphor for the increasing power of women (and the appropriate response) but I think that would be giving the film more credit than it deserves. It's not a metaphor, it's just a cheap way of preying on a subconscious fear that the audience (of the time) already have.
If you want to see an old black-and-white giant scenery-stomping film, the original Japanese "Godzilla" (or "Gojira") is pretty good. That's proper, thoughtful SF and you get to see a giant lizard stomping on Tokyo.
In conclusion: the poster is much better than this film. See the poster. Then see Gojira.