Archive for Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman

PAROXYSM

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2018 by dcairns

Renfield Lane, Glasgow, named after Dwight Frye’s most famous character. And, when the image of Joe Dante appeared on the screen inside The Old Hairdressers, he had a picture of Dwight Frye on the wall behind him. Synchronicity, or just good planning?

To Glasgow, to Scalarama’s presentation of Joe Dante’s THE MOVIE ORGY, in its five-hour form. This is essentially a mash-up/collage of footage from movies, TV shows, commercials, trailers and other ephemera, with appearances by Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling, Richard Nixon, Abbot & Costello, Ann-Margret, Elisha Cook Jr, Conway Twitty, and future Dante players Christopher Lee and Peter Graves, among many, many others.

I wouldn’t have attempted photography if I hadn’t sat at the back (near the bar) but sitting at the back meant my photographs were crummy.

This was — maybe — the first time the movie has screened without Dante in attendance — which is the least exciting world’s first I can imagine — except it’s such a rarity it still felt like an EVENT — and the auteurless showing did have a prerecorded intro from the Great Man which set up the circumstances of the film/thing’s original creation and its campus screenings, the sociopolitical circumstances, and the fact that baby boomers got a nostalgic kick out of re-seeing TV commercials and kids’ shows of their youth (in that era, such stuff screened briefly and then vanished into oblivion). The movie plays somewhat differently to a modern audience, who have no history with much of this material, but the extracts are so well-selected that pretty much everything is funny in and of itself AND in the way it’s juxtaposed with the clip before and the clip after…

I was present in my combined role of critic and disease vector, distributing cold germs free of charge to the people of Glasgow. My physical discomfort, developing into a horrible attack of dyspepsia after I had one pint of the beer on tap (nothing wrong with the beer, just my body), did not prevent me enjoying the thing hugely. There are moments in there that resemble my own modest movie trailer mash-ups, but devised by Dante when I was around a year old.

I recognized ATTACK OF THE FIFTY FOOT WOMAN and THE GIANT GILA MONSTER and EARTH VERSUS THE FLYING SAUCERS and THE BEGINNING OF THE END which are dismembered and redistributed throughout the film/experience in serial form, but I’d never seen (or heard of) SPEED CRAZY (William J. Hole Jr), COLLEGE CONFIDENTIAL (Albert Zugsmith) and though I thought I knew what TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE was, I now realize I’d been confusing it with INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN, somehow, and I have to see the whole thing.

SPEED CRAZY is a sort of hot rod crime flick in which the maniac anti-hero snarls “Don’t crowd me, Joe!” in literally every scene. Bigger laughs each time.

That’s probably possible, but getting hold of TV show Andy’s Gang, in which a senescent Andy Devine drones hymns at bored kids, accompanied by a cat and mouse strapped into exoskeletal harness costumes which force them to play musical instruments, may prove trickier.

Oh wait, we have YouTube!

Happy nightmares!

Dante described the film/organism as a kind of Rosetta stone of his future work, and indeed numerous points of connection can be drawn, but the real link is THE MOVIE ORGY’s very postmodernity, its vision of a great ocean of pop culture in which all this stuff floats and intermingles, so that Chuck Jones and Roger Corman are artists, but they’re also sources, pumping out raw material that flows into this great Solaris/Matmos, which surrounds us but also penetrates us, and binds the universe together.

There are also several things in the film which can be enjoyed sort-of unironically, like the above Abbot & Costello routine, from IN SOCIETY. I dimly remember seeing this as a kid and finding it funny but also baffling and disturbing, which is exactly how I responded seeing it again. It’s a variation on the more famous “Slowly I turned” routine, in which someone is crazy but only Lou (the fat one) sees it. Only here, Bud (the thin one), also sees it, but just kind of refuses to acknowledge it. And it’s not one crazy person  the whole population is crazy. It really has the quality of a nightmare and what makes it more upsetting is that it doesn’t have any logic or justification other than using repetition as a structure. It’s really a bad dream, but a funny one.

Also also, more mysteriously, there are some more lewd and scurrilously satirical sketches, in the movie/event, which might be Robert Downey Sr. skits or something, I’m not sure. Like the smoking surgeon in the clip above. And an amazing epic heaven sequence with the camera craning over a limitless cloudscape of harpists — really impressive kitsch visuals, and what the hell is that from, Joe?

“Now it’s time to say good-bye…”

Oh, and one more thing. Don’t crowd me, Joe!

Advertisements

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

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2015 by dcairns

This is a guest piece by loyal Shadowplayer Chris Schneider.

vlcsnap-2015-01-17-00h10m15s157

“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.

vlcsnap-145596

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.

vlcsnap-2015-01-17-00h11m31s159

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