Attack of the 50-Foot Woman and Touch of Evil :: His and Hers Drive-In Double Feature (1958)

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His and Hers Drive-In Double Feature :: Attack of the 50-Foot Woman and Touch of Evil

A new weekly movie feature has arrived here at Lyriquediscorde: His and Hers Drive-In Double Feature. An idea spawned from our weekly horror movie endeavor, my husband and I have decided to co-write a weekly movie review, of sorts, featuring year-by-year movies. Each of us will pick one movie to view together from the year, watch them during the span of two days, and offer our at times differing views on each film. My husband, Charles, will be donning the style and structure of the infamous drive-in movie reviewer, Joe Bob Briggs, including borrowing his 3-B’s rating system of Breasts, Beasts and Blood, which he will include in his reviews. No, he is not a redneck misogynist (though he did grow up around them, so he knows how to play one well), he just sarcastically plays at it here on Drive-In Double Feature. I will take a slightly different style, reacting to the art form itself, as well as any societal messaging, both positive and negative, that may permeate the film. I will most likely discuss the music, as well, where applicable. We are excited to add this to our weekly routine, and hope you enjoy the feature.

We start with movies from 1958. The year itself chosen by Charles as he deems it the year movies began to be made with drive-in consumption in mind. Our films for this week are Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, Nathan H. Juran (credited as Nathan Hertz) and Touch of Evil, written and directed by Orson Welles.

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Keep Art Alive :: Movie Poster Art by Reynold Brown

Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (1958)

Trailer

Brief history: 

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a 1958 American science fiction feature film produced by Bernard Woolner for Allied Artists Pictures. It was directed by Nathan H. Juran (credited as Nathan Hertz) from a screenplay by Mark Hanna, and starred Allison Hayes, William Hudson and Yvette Vickers. The original music score was composed by Ronald Stein. The film was a take on other movies that had also featured size-changing humans, namely The Amazing Colossal Man and The Incredible Shrinking Man, but substituting a woman as the protagonist instead of a man. The story concerns the plight of a wealthy heiress whose close encounter with an enormous alien being causes her to grow into a giantess.

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His take: 

The first film to feature “breast augmentation” in a town where it seems like every single male is a douche bag and where it is absolutely okay to institutionalize and/or murder your wife, plotting to do just that while in cahoots with your much younger girlfriend BUT if you happen to be exposed to “satellite” radiation from a unicorn dress wearing alien and grow exponentially (say 50-feet) and seek revenge on your rotten, cheating husband and plotting girlfriend you get shot at, while everyone in town rallies around to save said husband and girlfriend.

Also, Playtex is miraculously able to create a triple Z bra overnight to fit a 50-foot woman. The film features a mysterious small town which boasts one bar and one hotel, yet they possess great shipping capabilities, especially for rope and elephant sized syringes.

In the film we encounter aliens who have come to earth to steal our diamonds and precious jewels in order to power their glowing orb shaped satellites. There are”boobs galore” represented in the satellite’s shape, the alien’s shaped head, and with Nancy’s scantily clad body when giant-sized. Oh, there is also the references of putting Nancy in the “booby hatch“.

This film is not to be confused by The 30-Foot Bride of Candy Rock, which came out the following year.

The lesson we learn in this film from the Fifties is it don’t pay to be a rich, empowered broad because the minute you start to seize your power you get shot down.

His Rating:

3 B rating (1 point given for Boobs, Beasts and Blood):  2 1/2 B’s for – 1 2/2 for Boobs and Boob-references and Beasts (well, sort of), no Blood in this one.

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Her Take: 

Oh my, this is certainly not what I was expecting. This is my first time watching, though I have certainly heard about this film before. I think I imagined there to be more about the woman in her “Atomic age” giant size. I was hoping for some of her reaction about her physical change, and more story whilst she was in this larger state other than wandering to town in a very translucent state, to tear apart the Hotel in order to either find her husband, or seek revenge on him, I was never completely sure on her actual intent.

I think I wanted to care about Nancy (played by strikingly beautiful Allison Hayes – seriously, she is gorgeous in this) more than I did, or at least be able to sympathize with her character. But, every time I felt any trace of sympathy she would do something that was distasteful, such as mistreating the seemingly only kind person in town (her valet, Jess) or begging her philandering, horrid husband to love her and stay with her.

Cinematically, it was low on the special effects range of good to bad. The biggest issue I had was not with the odd, satellite orb (side note: odd to not hear it referred to as a UFO or space ship) or the giant-sized people, but with proportion between objects and people. They never quite get the dimensions right. The size her paper mache super-size hand in that bedroom literally takes up nearly the entire bedroom, where exactly is the rest of her then? It is not until she grows again that we see the house come a’tumbling down. I also question the translucent nature of both alien and infected Nancy, though I’ve been told it has to do with the overlaying of the negative of the film (thanks, Charles) to give the illusion of their different size.

I’ll put that all aside, though, in the name of enjoying a movie for movie’s sake. Now let’s talk plot? Again, I wanted more of super-sized Nancy. I also wanted to understand the Satellite Alien’s nature, and more of an explanation then the flimsy “I’m here for your jewels” reasoning. If I could take the pen to this script I would have rather seen him after Nancy herself, taking her for his own, and gifting her the empowered size to stand up to her louse of  a husband and send him on his way. Is it too romantic to think that? That the Alien was of an evolved nature to want a partner of equal standing (pun intended)?

As for the societal implications in this film? Well, there was certainly quite a bit of shaming of mental disorders, addiction and depression. Just the term “booby hatch” and all the mocking of Nancy (even on the nightly news!!??) and her possible mental instability was hard to watch, though true of the time, I suppose. The behavior of all the men in town, sans Jess, was a bitter pill to swallow, as well. They all covered for the philandering husband, they all bought into the mob mentality of making Nancy first crazy (even when they witnessed the Satellite and Alien for themselves) and then as monster. The monster she became, when she kills both Harry (William Hudson) and Honey (Yvette Vickers), ends up feeling justified solely because of how awful everyone behaved.

Again, though, I return to the fact that I never did like Nancy all that much either. Though she was still miles above the wretched duo of Harry the cowardly cheater and his gold-digging, sociopath of a girlfriend, Honey (how many times did she just casually suggest killing Nancy? Three? Four? More?)

I did get a kick out of the Alien’s outfit though (was that a unicorn on the back of his tunic?), and some of the dialogue was priceless (“Now you pulled a boner tonight and you know it!” “Astounding growth!” “What do you want me to do, put salt on her tail?” and “Meat hooks, four lengths of chain, forty gallons of plasma, and an elephant syringe.”)

Her Rating:

Out of 5 stars: I’d say 2; points mostly for the dialogue, the commentary enjoyed between Charles and I, and for the stunning Allison Haynes.

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A Touch Of Evil (1958)

Trailer

Brief history: 

Touch of Evil is a 1958 American crime thriller film, written, directed by, and co-starring Orson Welles. The screenplay was loosely based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson. Along with Welles, the cast includes Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, and Marlene Dietrich. The original music score was composed by Henry Mancini.

There are two stories as to how Welles ended up directing Touch of Evil. Charlton Heston recalled that Welles was originally hired to act in the film only, not to direct or write. Universal was keen to secure Heston for the lead, but he wanted the studio to confirm the director before he signed on. After learning that Welles was in the cast, Heston expressed his greater interest in starring if Welles were directing.

The other story is that Welles had recently worked with producer Albert Zugsmith, known as the “King of the B’s“, on a film called Man in the Shadow and was interested in directing something for him. Zugsmith offered him a pile of scripts, of which Welles asked for the worst to prove he could make a great film out of a bad script. At the time, the script was called Badge of Evil, after a Whit Masterson novel on which it was based. Welles did a rewrite and took it into production. After a decade in Europe during which he completed only a few films, Welles was eager to direct for Hollywood again, so he agreed to take only an acting fee for the role of Quinlan.

Welles’s rough cut as submitted to Universal no longer exists. That cut was worked on and trimmed down by Universal staff, and in late 1957 Universal decided to perform some reshoots. Welles claimed these were done without his knowledge, but Universal claimed that Welles ignored the studio’s requests to return and undertake further work. It was at this point that Keller came aboard: some of his material was entirely new, others replaced Welles scenes. Welles screened the new cut and wrote a 58-page memo to Universal’s head of production, Edward Muhl, detailing what he thought needed to be done to make the film work. However, many of his suggestions went unheeded and Touch of Evil was eventually released in a version running 93 minutes.

In the mid-1970’s, Universal discovered that it held a 108-minute print of Touch of Evil in its archives. Aware that there was a growing audience of cineastes with a strong interest in Welles’ work, the studio released this version to cinemas in 1976 and later issued it on video, billing it as “complete, uncut and restored.” In fact, this print was not a restoration at all, but a preview version which post-dated the Welles memo but pre-dated the release version. While it did feature some vital Welles scenes that Universal cut from the release version, the preview version also featured more of Keller’s material than the release version.

For this viewing, we are watching the version released by Universal, in 1976.

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His take: 

This movie was a cow in a dress.

I went into this film expecting high-faalootin’ art and came out with probably one of the best examples of “drive-in” cinema. You had a lot of little stories not bogged down by any over-arching story-arc. Great for these OCD times, with so many conversations and mini-storylines going on you really don’t have to remember much to make it to the end of this film.

 

Props goes to Charlton Heston for being the most mis-matched ethnic portrayal since John Wayne’s Genghis Khan.

 

I did not know who to dislike more in this film, Charlton Heston as one of the world’s worst husbands, or Orson Welles as the world’s slowest corrupt cop who needs a cane to walk, but yet conveniently leaves it behind to incriminate himself in the end Perhaps maybe it was Joseph Calleia, the sycophant partner of Welles’ Quinlan, more hopelessly devoted than Sandy in Grease,  or the “Mexican Marlon Brando” hooligan who always had the same expression on his face, and who was not averse to psychologically tormenting, gang-raping and drugging the only real “innocent” in the film, Janet Leigh’s abandoned wife, Susan. Then again there was Susan, who would walk off with any stranger she meets in an unfamiliar town (where murder has just happened, I might add) when given just a postcard as provocation. Or, maybe it was the worst criminal master-mind since “The Bookworm” on Batman, “Uncle Joe Grandi”, who looked like a Hispanic Zero Mostel (best known as Max in The Producers).

 

Honestly, I was left so confused, that the assortment of unlikable characters was about all I could retain after watching the film. Like the aforementioned “cow in a dress“, sure it looks “purty“, but in the end you are very, very confused.

 

His Rating:

3 B rating (1 point given for Boobs, Beasts and Blood):

11/2  B for “torpedo boobs” (including the daughter of the murder victim who was in the film so briefly, only long enough to notice her “torpedo” cut dress with such precarious angles there appeared to be stains where the points shot out) and 1/2 point given in the “Beasts” category for Marlene Dietrich’s creepy mannequin eyes.

 

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Her Take: 

 

Oh, where do I start with this? I suppose it is best to say that my expectations were high when I chose this film to watch. I had actually never seen it before, despite years and years of intent to do so. I had seen it mentioned on many “best film” lists, and heard and read it lauded highly from many of my film-centric friends, especially the Orson Welles fans. I was locked and loaded in my readiness to love this movie, and was left feeling disappointed and confused at how much I did not. Honestly, I am not certain I could say I even liked it.

 

Consequently, I floundered in a heavy haze of both questioning my cinematic palette, as well as wondering if there was something I missed. Film Noir, border town plots, thrillers and detective/crime stories are on my list of genres I enjoy, in film, television, and books, so why did this movie fail to turn that side of me on? Was it more Pulp than Film Noir, is that where my issues lay? Is that a genre I have yet to fully acquaint myself with?

 

And the biggest question of all, why did I feel more confused, than intrigued, the entire time I was watching it?

 

Let me start by saying that from the start I was caught off-guard by the fact that Charlton Heston was cast as a Mexican. I think somewhere I knew this, whether it be from the mention of it in the Tim Burton film, Ed Wood, or in movie conversations with friends, but somehow I had forgotten. Could he have at least tried for an accent? I have to admit it was terribly distracting, and I never could quite get past it.

 

Visually, I found the film stunning, Definitive Welles in use of shadows, angles and cinematic flourishes. There were moments that were unforgettable in that regard, especially in the shadow and light moments between Welles’ Quinlan and Dietrich’s Tana. It was actually their scenes that I liked the most in the film.I found their friendship and connection complex and interesting to watch unfold.

 

Overall, though, I felt continuously lost in the convoluted telling of the story. I felt like most scenes were over-stuffed with characters and dialogue that seemed to go in too many directions at once. The actual story itself was a simple one, but the way it was brought to life felt both overwhelmingly and unnecessarily huge, while at the same time confining and claustrophobic.

 

Janet Leigh’s Susan was difficult to watch. I wavered between mocking her character once again ending up in a motel out in the middle of nowhere awaiting the bad things you know are going to happen, rolling my eyes at some of the ridiculous choices she made, and cringing at the horrible (not just bad) things that we are to believe did happen to her. Her character was treated as an afterthought, a weapon, and a tool to exact ruin and revenge on someone else with. At the start of the film she had some moments of strength, especially in her altercation with Uncle Joe Grandi, at the start, but that strength and spirit did not seem to continue, especially when dealing with her husband. Like the movie itself, I wanted to like her, but I did not.

 

It comforts me to read all of the drama and chaos surrounding the making of, editing of, and eventual release of the film. It helps to make it more understandable how the final product seemed so convoluted, chaotic and confusing to watch. In some ways, I suppose, it is a consolation to not feel like such a cinema fan reject, and that perhaps I was not just missing something, it really was a mess to watch. Stunning cinematically, despite everything, and there were moments, but still a convoluted mess.

 

This may make me unpopular with all my movie lover friends, but I did not care for the film.

Her Rating:

Out of 5 stars:

2, once again, given for breathtaking cinematic visuals and for the relationship between Quinlan and Tana.

 

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