Monday, March 11, 2013

Better Late Than Never

The old saying is that March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb.

Except here at the Third Row where, admittedly, March kind of took its sweet time getting off the ground.  In all fairness, after some of the spread last month, a breather seemed like a pretty good idea.

With that, we're back, and just on the tail-end of another holiday-appropriate review (somewhat.)

This last Friday marked International Women's Day.  Upon learning about this, I have to admit, I was struck with a challenge of what to do for it review-wise.  The fact is, there's a lot of obvious answers I could have gone with...but then, where would the fun be in that (Editor's note: One day you will review 'Showgirls'. ONE DAY).  Combined with the fact I already spent my other ace in the deck last month for Valentine's Day, and so I was initially stumped as to what I could run for this day that would be fitting, yet still unexpected.  Like so many of the finds on this site, this one was a pretty lucky accident - I had had the film in my collection for a while because of a pack of films and had almost forgotten it could be relevant...and the odds most people would remember this one for a day like this were slim.  Reading the plot, I got the feeling we were on to something.

On watching it, I have to say, Nathan Juran's Attack of the 50 Foot Woman actually proved an interesting pick for this holiday.  On the one hand, I'm not sure I can necessarily say it's a profound film with a bold statement to make on gender relations. However, for the age of the film and what it explores, it actually makes for an interesting piece about a woman who gets a chance to get back at her scheming husband and his conniving turning into a giant and going on a rampage.

In all fairness though, she had pretty good reason on this one.

Look, I told you this one wasn't that profound, but bear with me.

The one thing that really surprised me about this film is that despite its very 'giant monster' style of advertising, the science fiction elements are almost secondary to the human storyline playing out: Allison Hayes plays the titular woman, Nancy Archer, who has had a history of mental illness and problems with alcoholism.  Somewhat unknown to her, her husband Harry (William Hudson) is only still staying with her because of her money and is plotting with his mistress (Yvette Vickers) to get rid of her and inherit the lot.  Suffice it to say, Nancy has enough on her plate as is before she runs afoul of a roaming alien satellite (which serves as the first herald of the film's rather low-budget special effects.)  Naturally, no one believes Nancy at first, until a second encounter where Harry leaves her behind (leading to suspicions that he killed her.)  In the midst of this, Nancy is returned and all seems well-until she starts growing.

Which, for a while there, is largely just everyone being stunned by the giant hand.  Kind of makes them look like jerks when they won't even look her in the eye.

As with many B-movies of the day, the story itself isn't really the high point here.  That said, as far as this movie goes, it's not a bad one.  While the actual science fiction angle itself feels somewhat underdeveloped, and the alien who is the source of Nancy's growth ultimately just walks out of the movie, the human plotline actually manages to carry more of the movie on its own strengths anyway.

Strangely, I think a big part of what keeps this movie's head above the water is the acting and direction.  Yeah, not the things you traditionally expect to hear spoken well of in a B-movie, but they do actually pay off here.  In the case of the former, it's the fact that much of the cast actually make the effort and take the project with, oddly enough, sincerity (alongside Hayes, the other standout here is Ken Terrell as her butler, and one of her only supports at the start of the film.)  Despite the low-budget effects, the somewhat erratic pacing (the titular attack isn't actually until the last 10-15 minutes of the movie), and the fact that the story itself is somewhat basic in its layout, the director and cast still make a good effort of making the most of the material.  As a result, the performances, while nothing award-winning, are solid, and the film becomes enjoyable despite its lower budget trappings.  In some cases, those low budget elements actually add to the charm in a way.  They're cheap, something the director even owned up to with some degree of regret years later, but at the same time, they aren't completely distracting, with perhaps one exception in the film's climax.  To their credit in this last one, they do try to shoot it so it's less apparent at least.

I omitted that one out of minor spoiler courtesy.  In the same vein, I will go on record as saying, the giant hand was a pretty regular fallback for this one effects-wise.

It feels a bit odd talking about this film, really - on the one hand, it does have its flaws as I've outlined above.  On the other hand, they seem determined not to let them slow down the movie, and that actually manages to make the film a fun watch despite it.  When the film's climax comes around, any irritation at the corny effects starts to take a backseat to the enjoyment that you're about to see Harry get what he's had coming to him for the past 50 minutes (it was 1958, films could be shorter back then.)  Even now, as I try and recount some of the bigger drawbacks, there's still a part of me that has to admit, even as failings, they still work out well in the overall scheme of the film.  It's a kind of bizarre charm that makes it understandable that this film has since gained a cult status of sorts years later.

While we're on the subject of this and other cult movies, I just have to wonder...
Between this and
Plan 9 From Outer Space was there an unwritten rule about aliens recycling medieval tunics?  Or was it just two those two movies that did it?
Also, the bull on the back of the alien's tunic kills me in the best sense of the word.

So all in all, perhaps not the quintessential movie for the day, but still a rather interesting take on the old "Hell hath no fury" message, and one that actually handled its human dynamic in a fairly believable manner (...or as believable as you'll get from a woman getting turned into a giant by a giant alien who's been flying around the globe in a giant sphere.)  If you're curious, or have any interest in that wonderfully bizarre period of low-budget sci-fi/horror from the 1950s, this one's got enough going for it to be worth your time.  Just remember what you're getting into when you go so you then won't come beating down my door when this isn't a best picture winner.

Seriously.  After all of these FX shots I'm showing you, if you expect a masterpiece on all fronts, you have no one to blame but yourselves.

Well, a bit of a basic film for the first of the month, but all in all, not a bad discussion piece.  Will be back fairly sooner next time and with some projects lined up in the next few months alongside regular reviews, things should get interesting.

Till then!

No comments:

Post a Comment