Film

Don’t Open That Door! #55: 'Attack of the 50 Foot Woman' (1959)

Welcome to our ongoing field guide to 1950s horror and sci-fi movies and the creatures that inhabit them. This week: Allison Hayes gives new meaning to the term "full figured" in Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.


Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Director: Nathan Juran
Cast: Allison Hayes, William Hudson, Yvette Vickers
US release date: 1958-05-19

Alternate titles: Excuse me, Do You Have This Pink Lacy One in a 86-ZZZ?

POSITIVES:

Charismatic actors give scenery-chewing performances.

Much unintentionally funny dialogue.

Crisp 66 minutes keep moving right along.

NEGATIVES:

Special effects are miserable—and there aren't enough of them

SYNOPSIS: Hard-livin' Nancy Archer has a late-night run-in with a spherical spaceship—and a giant hand—that leaves her bug-eyed and wacky. Unfortunately for Nancy, this is her default setting anyway, and even more unfortunately, Nancy is married to smooth-talkin', two-timin' Harry Archer, who's got his roving eye fixed on an eyelash-battin', hip-swangin' local gal named Honey. When heavy-drinkin' Nancy reports her close encounter to the local sheriff, he tries to believe her, but ends up thinking poor old Nancy has been hitting the sauce again. The fact that she's fresh from the mental asylum that doesn't help her case much either.

Nancy must be fresh out of the mental asylum, because she's still ga-ga over sweet-talkin', heart-breakin' Harry; she tells him, "I love you, Harry… What's wrong with us, Harry?" Harry doesn't bother answering, but we in the audience have a hard time not screaming at the top of our lungs: "What's wrong is that he's a no-good dirty rat, Nancy! Wake up! He only wants your money!" Oh yes—Nancy has 50 mil tucked away somewhere, which should explain why Harry keeps sniffing around (and Honey keeps sniffing around Harry).

Tear-spewin' Nancy convinces jaw-clenchin', booze-guzzlin' Harry to accompany her to the desert to look for that spaceship—and unexpectedly, they find it. Not so unexpectedly, ownself-savin' Harry jumps in the car and flees, leaving bosom-heavin' Nancy to cope. Before you can say, "What kind of self-respecting space alien needs a diamond necklace to power his spaceship, anyway?" Nancy reappears, unconscious but alive, on the roof of the pool house. She's found by the neighbors, tucked into bed and given a shot--and then expands to fifty feet in height. Hey! How'd that happen?

Frankly,we don't care. There's about ten minutes left in this movie, and we finally get what we paid to see: a rip-snortin' Nancy on the rampage. Unfortunately, the movie really breaks down here, as this is about the lamest "rampage" in the history of film. Nancy swans into town, moving in a dreamy slow-motion, and scares a couple teenagers; rips down a motel sign (ooh) and breaks a window (ooh!) before making her way to the bar where heavy-gropin' Harry and heavy-breathin' Honey are sharin' spit. Nancy proceeds to raise the roof, literally. Mayhem ensues, in less-than-fifty-foot doses.

Best lines of dialogue: "Once she's in the booby hatch, throw the key away. That'll put you in the driver's seat.” (Yep, that's three clichés in just two sentences.)

What gets attacked beyond repair: A car; a house; a hotel; a bar; a small-town hussy; a no-good lowdown two-timin' bum; a devoted wife.

What gets saved: Unclear. Certainly not the idea of holy matrimony. (But as someone once said: "Marriage is an institution. And who wants to live in an institution?")

Moral of the Story: Don't believe a word he tells ya, darlin.

This reminds me of… …the 1993 HBO remake with starring Darryl Hannah, which was so-so at best, despite direction from Christopher Guest, star of This is Spinal Tap, which remains one of the funniest movies in the universe.

Did you know? Oddly compelling co-star Yvette Vickers (Honey) appeared nude in the July 1959 edition of Playboy magazine, lying on her stomach so as to maximize her considerable assets. Not that you’re going to Google her, or anything.

Did you notice? When Nancy grows to 50 feet, she still, um, seems to fit in her bed okay. And even if the bed is too small, she still fits in her room okay. A fifty-foot bedroom? That's a big house.

Somehow their careers survived: Allison Hayes (Nancy) possessed considerable endowments—hey, I mean her acting ability—that failed to translate into mainstream success. She is still fondly remembered for this movie and others such as The Unearthly, The Undead, and Zombies of Mora Tau (all 1957). William Hudson (Harry) featured in The Amazing Colossal Man, The Man Who Turned to Ston and The She-Creature (all 1957), while Yvette Vickers (Honey) appeared in such fine product as Reform School Girl (1957) and Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959). Director Nathan Juran was also responsible for The Brain From Planet Arous, The Deadly Mantis, and 20 Million Miles to Earth (all 1957), as well as The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and The First Men in the Moon (1964). For this movie and Arous, though, he went by the phony name "Nathan Hertz." I wonder why?

BOTTOM LINE: It's a hoot, occasionally. Best seen with a group of like-minded individuals.

NEXT TIME: Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957)

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If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Nonetheless, there are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. There are singers tackling deep, universal matters of the heart and mind. Artists continuing to mess around with a genre that can sometimes seem fixed, but never really is. Musicians and singers have been experimenting within the genre forever, and continue to. As Charlie Worsham sings, "let's try something new / for old time's sake." - Dave Heaton

10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton



9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton



8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge



7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge



6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


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Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

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