Attack of the 50 Foot Woman Considered Artful

We watched Attack of the 50 Foot Woman yesterday, which was one of those instances in which you watch something purely for its pop-cultural value. As a movie it left a lot to be desired, let’s say. Rampant sexism, unbelievably horrible plotting, and some really quite shitty acting.

And yet, it was definitely a great experience. Partly this was for the pop-culture experience it provided – the act of “seeing Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” has its own special life-semiotic value which made it worthwhile. Having only really encountered the classic poster, seeing the movie that brought the poster into existence was great – now we know what it’s like.

But it also did certain things really quite surprisingly well. Although the leading lady was kind of pathetic, I thought her representation of the 50 Foot Woman was quite great, in terms of the booming voice constantly crying out for her husband. Sure it’s dumb, but there was just a hint of something soulful in the image – largely imagined – of this big creature filled with so much anxiety.

Additionally, while a lot of the effects were horrible (the semi-transparent people in the composite shots were so bad I was kind of amazed they bothered), some of them were remarkable. The image for this post is a good example. It’s just a woman and a model of a power pole, obviously, but somehow it managed to look really quite brilliant. They did some similar stuff with the outside of a bar, and of her looking through a window into a hotel. Those moments really did capture the notion of a giant woman rummaging around a town in a way I hadn’t expected in such an old (1958) movie.

It could be that it was just a relief to see a moderately plausible effect in the midst of all the horrible composites and atrocious “big rubbery hand models” and so on, but I think that there was more to it than that. Some of it was perhaps in the expression of leading lady Allison Hayes – she tended to wear a strangely disassociated look that really seemed to fit the scale, even as she also boomed her voice, calling, “Harry! Harry!”

I don’t think I’d recommend you see this movie, but in amongst the shittiness, it does have some brilliant. Maybe it’s got a… 50 foot heart? Right? Am I right? Or am I right?

Ha ha.

5 September 2010
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