Creature Features revisited – There be Giants !
A look back at the golden age of sci-fi, the 1950‘s. Our subject today…
Giants – (as in giant people) –
My Top 3 picks
Attack of the 50 ft. Woman (1958)
Allison Hayes plays Nancy, a young woman in a strained marriage. Her husband, Harry, (William Hudson) is a two-timer and seems to have only stayed married to her for money. When Harry leaves on one of his many “business meetings,” an upset Nancy drives out into the desert where she has a close encounter with a alien spacecraft. Escaping the clutches of some alien being, she gets back to town, ranting about her encounter. Her husband knows her crazy rant will help escort her to an asylum, and then he would be in control of the $50 million in her nest-egg. Harry tries to overdose her with medication but discovers she has grown to enormous proportions. The doctors sedate her and Harry heads to town for a meeting with his fling, Honey Parker, (Yvette Vickers). Nancy awakes and discovers her husband gone. She heads to town, knocks down power-lines and attacks the local ‘bar & grill’ in pursuit of Harry. In the end, Harry can not escape the clutches of marriage or a woman scorned, not even in death. This is one of the better American, 1950’s giant movies. The masking techniques look better than most, aside from a few spots where the image gets ghostly. The obviously papier-mâché looking giant-hand is not-so-great but I like the scenes anyway. The sound effects are well done including, Nancy’s constant calls, “Harry,” which are played several octaves lower when she becomes a giant. (Remakes: Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman -1980 w/Darryl Hanna, Attack of the 60 ft. Centerfold, Attack of the 50 ft. Cheerleader)
War of the Colossal Beast (1958)
Sequel to The Amazing Colossal Man, this is my favorite of the three radioactive giant man movies (The Amazing…, War of…, and The Cyclops). Joyce, the sister of the Colossal Man hears about food truck deliveries being robbed across the Mexican border and is convinced her brother is still alive. Along with an Army officer and a scientist, they go to investigate the incidents. They find Glenn Manning, but he is now a beast with aggressive nature and a torn up, zombie-like face. They capture him and bring him to a Los Angeles Hanger, hoping to find a remedy to his affliction. He escapes and rampages through LA. When cornered he picks up a bus and threatens to kill everyone inside. It is here that Joyce gets though to him saying he has hurt a lot of people and that is not the man she knew. Seeming to understand what she has said, he goes to the nearby power lines, purposely grabs the wires and electrocutes himself, so that his ordeal will finally be over. I like this film the best, mostly because of the make-up effects on the giant’s face and the night scenes which make it creepier to have this giant zombie-like creature walking around. The scene of him holding the bus over his head with the search lights trained on him is the highlight of the film.
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
I was debating about putting this in here because it would probably fit better in my Top Mythology Movies post (at a future date). The film is not just about the giant Cyclops, but is a fantasy adventure film, and also, it is in color and not what you would envision for a Creature Feature film. But, you can not deny that the horned Cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad is perhaps the best rendition of a giant anywhere in film. Harryhausen’s work on this film began a new series of mythology movies in his partnership with Schneer, garnering larger budgets than previous films and enabling them to go color in 1958. The Cyclops is a masterpiece of effects work and modeling. It is the standard that all other mythological Cyclops in film are now compared to and none have been able to touch this iconic figure. Ask anyone to think of what a Cyclops looks like and they will most likely picture the one from this movie first and foremost. Cyclops even made an appearance in the Xena: Warrior Princess, video game (my daughters game, I swear!).
The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)
Masking techniques make for some interesting scenes in this sci-fi movie but the film is mostly about the tragedy of the man who is afflicted with this radioactive gigantism. Growing to such a size his heart can‘t pump blood to his brain fast enough and he goes insane. Scientists try to give him a drug to stop his growth but he takes the giant needle and impales the scientist – a shocking scene in the 1950‘s! Then, he grabs his girlfriend and tramples through Las Vegas, knocking over a few signs and throwing cars. He is cornered at Boulder Dam. They shoot him down and you think he is dead, until one year later…. War of the Colossal Beast.
The Cyclops (1957)
Susan Winter (Gloria Talbot) looks for her fiancé, Bruce, a pilot of a small plane that went down in the countryside of Mexico. She forms a search party and they land in the uncharted area finding rich deposits of Uranium. Marty (Lon Chaney Jr.) wants to cash in on the find, but scientist, Russ, (James Craig) warns that the radioactivity is too high and could possibly have irreversible effects. As they search for Bruce, they run into several giant animals. Then, they are chased and locked in a cave by a mutant 25 ft man, with a twisted, “melted cheese” face and only one eye. The man grunts aggressively at them until he sees Susan. Could this mutant man be Bruce? This film has many similarities to ‘War of the Colossal Beast‘. In the end The Cyclops attempts to stop the search party from taking off and is stabbed in the eye by one of the men with a tree branch. The only reason I would pick this over, The Amazing Colossal Man or War of the Colossal Beast is because the acting is a notch better and the characters are more defined.
The 1960’s had a few giant films worth mentioning, too:
The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961)
Ex-wrestler, Tor Johnson, plays a Russian scientist defecting from his country. He accidentally runs into the nuclear test area at Yucca Flats. Barely a giant movie, because Tor was so big, I guess the filmmakers didn’t think they needed any effects to make him look like a giant – he just looks like the big guy that he is. The film is famous for the wacky narration by an unseen narrator speaking through much of the film. Lines like – “nothing bothers some people, not even flying saucers” and “touch a button, things happen, a scientist becomes a beast.” and my favorite, “flag on the moon, how did it get there?” – make the film worth seeing for its (unintentional) comedic aspects. Perhaps, a worse film than, Plan 9…?
Village of the Giants (1965)
A bunch of party-hungry teenagers become giants and take over a small town. No more adult rules in this town, daddy-o! It’s a fun spirited, drive-in flick. Ron Howard stars as a young boy, a prodigy scientist who accidently creates the goop that makes living things Giant. The film is famous for its psychadelic, slo-mo dance party- a flight of teenage abandonment -watched with horror by the adult town folk. (talk about some bad dancing!)
Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965)
A giant Frankenstein monster battles dino’s and rips up Japan in this Ishiro Honda classic. This is one of my fave Toho films, so I will do a more in-depth review at a later date.