A Useful Line from ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (1958)

This is a guest piece by loyal Shadowplayer Chris Schneider.

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“There’s nothing out there, just emptiness.”

~ William Hudson as Harry the louse husband, having accompanied his wife to search for a flying saucer and a 30-foot giant.

Writes Joan Didion, at one point in SLOUCHING TOWARD BETHLEHEM, “I just can’t get that monster out of my mind. It is a useful line, and one that frequently occurs to me when I catch the tone in which a great many people write or talk about Hollywood.” She describes, but doesn’t name the monster movie — THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK (1958) — in which she discovered that line.

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COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK.

In a similar way, you could say that the 50 FOOT WOMAN line quoted above, which I heard while watching the film on TCM today, is “useful.”  It has a certain existential ping! to it, which is easier on a producer’s pockets than the creation of actual decent special effects. There are some crisp and contrast-y b&w images to 50 FOOT WOMAN, which was shown in a nice print, but the special effects are execrable. Even by 1958 standards. How do you make a creature look glow-y and alien in a b&w movie, we ask photographer and co-producer Jacques Marquette? Make it slightly out-of-focus and seemingly unconnected with the rest of the image, or so it seems.

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The script was written by Mark Hanna, who also wrote THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN (1957) and was clearly drawn to stories of gigantism.  The direction was by “Nathan Hertz,” a name used by Nathan Juran on this film and on THE BRAIN FROM PLANET AROUS (1957). Both 50 FOOT and AROUS are low-budget, low-expectation science-fiction tales never too far away from comedy in their depiction of sleazy and venal behavior.

©Chris Schneider, 2015

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8 Responses to “A Useful Line from ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (1958)”

  1. “I just can’t get that monster out of my mind” is from Rodan as well.

  2. “I’m going to wash that monster right out of my hair,” does not appear anywhere, but should.

  3. If Carl Stalling had had access to the Rodgers & Hammerstein song book, I bet it would have appeared here, around the 4 minute mark…

  4. One that still annoys me in B movies:

    “This is all that remains of our once-mighty civilization”, or some variation of it, followed by pointing out a window or at a view screen. Then either a borrowed still image or an embarrassing miniature. The rest of the film takes place in a couple of small, cheap sets. I always felt like I showed up too late for the real movie.

    Worse is when the high priestess / alien / supervillain says they CURRENTLY have a mighty civilization or astro-base, we see the image, and the rest of the film STILL takes place in a couple of small, cheap sets.

  5. The visualisation of that idea in This Island Earth is kind of impressive, but the feeling of being too late is exacerbated by the fact that having been brought to Metaluna, the protagonists do nothing except escape and go home as the planet is finally destroyed.

    “Our once-mighty civilization is now fit only for B-movie fodder!”

  6. Love these old sci-fi movies, a staple fixture of my childhood weekends.
    “This is all that remains of a once-mighty civilization” a favorite line that pops up more than once in practically every Science Fiction TV series ever made and most archeology documentaries.

  7. chris schneider Says:

    David E, don’t let’s forget Bugs the swish beautician telling the furry thing “Monsters are such *in*-teresting people!”

    The last time I saw COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK I waited in vain for that line. My suspicion is that Didion saw ’em both at approximately the same time, assigning the line to the wrong picture because of memory slips and/or it “wrote better” that way.

  8. Ahah, a phantom line like “Play it again, Sam.” I’m scared to watch The Asphyx again in case it doesn’t feature the fondly remembered “Was the smudge trying to warn Clive of danger?” surely the greatest sentence Robert Stephens was ever called on to utter. I’ve already been let down by the original Phantom of the Opera not, as I recalled, including an intertitle “Heat! Sudden, intense heat!”

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