By Steve D. Stones
Howco International Studios produced a number of low-budget,drive-in movie faire in the mid to late 1950s. Two of their most beloved titles were The Brain From Planet Arous (1957) and the more famous and notorious for being laughable- Attack of The 50 Foot Woman (1958).
Director Nathan Hertz (AKA Nathan Juran) was at the helm of directing both pictures. Attack of The 50 Foot Woman stars buxom brunette beauty Allison Hayes and Playboy Magazine’s Miss July 1959 – Yvette Vickers.
Both women serve as rich eye candy for the male drive-in audience, which is part of the appeal of the film, if not the only appeal. Much has been written over the years as to whether or not Attack of The 50 Foot Woman is a ridiculous, kitsch-laden film with no redeeming social value, or a pure feminist work of art that makes a bold political statement about the breakdown of male-female relationships and angst female power. In a time when women stayed at home cooking and cleaning in poodleskirts, it certainly serves a message that was well ahead of its time.
Hayes plays a wealthy socialite who drives directly into a satellite from outer space in the desert after an evening of heavy drinking. She becomes terrified as a giant alien, who looks a bit like President Eisenhower, leaves the satellite and chases after her. Her two timing husband refuses to believe her story when she returns home. He even suggests that she go back to a sanitarium for psychological treatment, after having already spent some time there.
Meanwhile, Hayes’ husband Harry, played by William Hudson, is running around town and drinking heavily with a local harlot named Honey, played by Yvette Vickers. The two have plans to put Hayes into a crazy state of mind to drive her back to the local booby-hatch in order to take over all her wealth.
After several attempts to convince Harry that she is not crazy,the two decide to drive out into the desert to find the satellite and giant alien. Hayes expresses her disgust and awareness of Harry going around with the town tramp. Sure enough, the two encounter the giant alien, and Harry quickly drives away, leaving Hayes behind.
Hayes later returns home, although it is never fully established in the film how or why she was able to get back. We learn that she is growing at a fast pace,and must be administered drugs to slow down the growing process. One hilarious scene shows a nurse entering Hayes’ room with a giant rubbery hand chained to the bedside as the nurse administers a drug to her. This is likely the same hand that was used in an earlier scene in which the giant alien picks up the sheriff’s car and throws it, only this time it does not have hair painted on the knuckles. By all appearances of the fake hand, her body would be much too large to fit into the entire bedroom. Talk about cheap,unconvincing special effects. This is down-right hilarious!
Hayes eventually breaks out of her bedside shackles, tears down her own house, and goes on the prowl for Harry. Now she has grown 50 feet tall, is dressed in a low cut bikini skirt and blouse, sporting eye-popping cleavage. We don’t know whether to be scared of her, or to stop and look up her giant skirt for an eyeful. She is sexy, mad as hell, and ready to tear Harry apart, just like the house she left in shambles.
As she walks around town in unconvincing rear projected photography superimposed over shots of town environments, she continually yells out Harry’s name. She tears through the roof of the town saloon to grab Harry. Here we see another unconvincing shot, only this time it actually is Hayes carrying a doll instead of the actual Harry. Enough gunshots are put into Hayes to bring her down, with the dead Harry in her hand.
It is safe to say that Attack of The 50 Foot Woman serves as an early feminist tale of women who want to have a sense of independence and power in a 1950s male-dominated society. No longer are women content with staying home, cooking and cleaning all day for their men. Director Nathan Juran and screenwriter Mark Hanna may not have had this in mind at the time Attack of The 50 Foot Woman was filmed, but viewers of today certainly view the film this way.
Sadly, actress Yvette Vickers was found dead in her Benedict Canyon Drive home in Beverly Hills in April 2011. After not hearing from Vickers for several months, a neighbor crawled through a house window to find the mummified remains of the 50s sex symbol. It is speculated that she had been dead for over six months before the neighbor found her. A sad ending to a once-promising young woman who appeared in the pages of Playboy. She was 82. Fans can also see Vickers in the 1959 film Attack of The Giant Leeches (AKA The Giant Leeches), once again cast as a town harlot.
Attack of The 50 Foot Woman was remade in 1993, with Daryl Hannah in the lead role. This film does not have the enjoyable, feminist, camp quality that is apparent in the original. Happy Viewing!