This is what I do when I’m supposed to be working…
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) is basically Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? with gigantism. There’s a roadhouse and everything. Superb. Made specifically for drive-in audiences; a classic example of “form follows function.”
The Austria-born Juran studied architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before heading to California with the sole intention of staying warm. During World War II, he was assigned to director John Ford’s unit and used his skills as a draftsman to determine the dimensions of enemy structures in captured photographs for the Office of Strategic Services. Juran’s drafting skills translated well to work with the art departments at 20th Century Fox and Universal…
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman had to make do with primitive special effects, resulting in an intergalactic spacecraft constructed from pegboard, a giant hand that would not pass muster in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the climactic transformation of heroine Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes) into the most unjolly of giants accomplished via an obvious double exposure that renders her ghostly when she should be larger and in charge. Happily, Juran’s handling of the actors is assured and playful, while Marquette’s camerawork is surprisingly expressionistic throughout and Ronald Stein’s jazzy score a toe tapping success.
Shot in only eight days, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman was brought in under-budget at $89,000 – and luckily, with no injuries.
Another favorite of mine about one of my hobbyhorses: The Wasp Woman (1959)
However low budget and campy the special effects are in The Wasp Woman, Corman is applauded by many contemporary scholars for his modern female characters whose misadventures often reflect feminist issues or concerns. Just how deliberately political his intentions were is open to debate, but The Wasp Woman does feature some interesting themes and subtexts regarding powerful women in modern society.
Janice Starlin is a cool-headed businesswoman in charge of her own major cosmetics company, and yet her bottom line is directly connected to her age and beauty. With Janice visibly aging, the company’s success and profits are plummeting, which makes viewers sympathetic to the Wasp Woman’s motives and provokes us to realize that this would not be the case if a man were in charge.
Plus, her reason for risking her health in order to look younger is not to attract the attention of men but to ensure the success of her company and retain her power as CEO. Typically, women are motivated to commit dark deeds for love, while men are motivated by success and power. In The Wasp Woman, the reverse is true.
TCM has finally updated their “Underground” page to promote this week’s film, Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), which I chose as one of my examplars of Seventies cinema at PJMedia last week.
Sean Axmaker writes:
Austin Stoker plays the newly-promoted Police Lieutenant Ethan Bishop, who suddenly finds himself taking command during what is essentially a siege, and Darwin Joston is Napoleon Wilson, a convicted killer being transferred to Death Row who ends up taking refuge in the station and teams up with Bishop to hold off the assault. Where Bishop is the committed man in an impossible situation who rises to the challenge, Wilson is the good bad man with a dry sense of humor, the first draft of a character that will return in more confident and engaging form in Escape from New York (1981) as Snake Plissken. (…)
Carpenter kept much of the violence and spectacle off screen, suggested in fragments or hidden in shadow or simply described by the characters hiding out in the station, and saved his budget for a few complicated, carefully choreographed action sequences. But the seriousness of the threat is established early on with the gruesome massacre and the startling murder of a child and the film was threatened with an X-rating by the MPAA unless he removed the latter scene. Carpenter confessed years later that he got around the issue by cutting the scene on the print screened for the ratings board and then leaving it in the release prints.