It was on this day, May 19, 1958, a movie that spoke to every cultural anxiety of the time, from unease over post-atomic genetic mutation and the space race (Sputnik 3 was launched only four days prior to the film’s release), to proto-feminism and lax morals, was released. Made in less than two weeks for about $80,000, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman super-sized its audience’s fears and became a camp classic the second it was released.
The film is about female protagonist turned antagonist, Nancy Archer, a rich but crazy alcoholic, who accidentally encounters a crashed giant space alien and is transformed into a giantess. She wreaks revenge on her two-timing husband and his floozy, Honey Parker, and in the process destroys a city and creates widespread hysteria. The horror!
But what a stunning horror she was. This giantess was played by Allison Hayes; Hayes had won the title of Miss District of Columbia and went on to represent D.C. in the 1949 Miss America pageant. Here in a scene from the movie Hayes stands along side a power line transformer which is fired upon by the sheriff with a riot gun resulting in her ultimate demise.
Produced by Bernard Woolner for Allied Artists Pictures, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman was directed by Nathan H. Juran (credited as Nathan Hertz) from a screenplay by Mark Hanna. As well as starring Allison Hayes, it starred William Hudson as Harry Archer, the philandering husband and Yvette Vickers as Honey Parker, the floozy.
The film was a take on other movies of the time that had also featured size-changing humans, including The Amazing Colossal Man and The Incredible Shrinking Man, but in some ways the film’s cheapness fueled its ongoing success. Attack took the genre to even tackier heights, the figure of the giant woman continuing to grow as a cultural icon.
1906 – Bruce Bennett (Herman Brix) (actor: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Dark Passage, Angels in the Outfield; died Feb 24, 2007)
1931 – Stephen Young (Levy) (actor: Judd for the Defense, Patton, Scorned, Who’s Harry Crumb?, Deadline, Lifeguard, When Husbands Cheat, Strange Justice)
1935 – David Hartman (Emmy Award-winning TV host: Good Morning America; actor: Hello Dolly, Lucas Tanner, The Bold Ones)
1939 – James Fox (actor: Patriot Games, The Russia House, A Passage to India)
1939 – Nancy Kwan (actress: The World of Suzie Wong, Flower Drum Song, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story)
1956 – Steven (Meigs) Ford (actor: When Harry Met Sally, Body Count, Eraser, Contact, Armageddon; son of former U.S. President Gerald R. and Betty Ford)