Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Critically Reviled Film, Part Two

Note: Due to scheduling conflicts, this week's edition has been published early.

Allison Hays as Nancy Archer: about to get all charged up in
Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman, 1958, Woolner Brothers Production Company, Director: Nathan Juran


[Fifty Foot Woman is on one level a late 50s sci-fi flicks that's so bad it's good.  But the character of Nancy Archer, refined and assayed by Allison Hays, became an icon of female empowerment and women's liberation in ways the Woolner Brothers Production Company probably never intended.  Nancy encounters a giant semi-transparent alien who looks like a bald Roman warrior.  This chance meeting in the Southern California desert transforms her into a towering babe of vengeance who ain't gonna be cheated on no more and who ain't gonna let her no good fortune-hunting husband get away with trying to kill her again, especially when he's publicly humiliating her by hooking up with barflies and floozies.  The Woolner Brothers, Larry and Bernie, got into the film producing business after they opened drive-in theaters in New Orleans and Memphis, respectively.  We can thank them for classic cinema such as Hercules and the Captive Women, Hillbillys in a Haunted House, and The Sin of Adam and Eve.]

Absolutely breathtaking special effects define Attack of the
50 Foot Woman

Plan 9 From Outer Space, 1959, Reynolds Pictures, Director: Ed Wood, Jr

Maila Nurmi as one of Plan 9's zombie dead,
resurrected by aliens bent on conquering Earth

[Wikipedia's biographical entry lists several characteristics that sum up Ed Wood as a film director fairly well: low-budget films notable for technical errors, unsophisticated special effects, large amounts of ill-fitting stock footage, idiosyncratic dialogue, eccentric casts and outlandish plot elements.  On a personal note, I attest to the fact his Orgy of the Dead cures insomnia at any time of the day despite the fact that most of the flick is devoted to fairly attractive strippers disrobing.  Many viewers lovingly refer to Plan 9 as the worst movie ever made.  This honor seems to have been first publicly bestowed on the film by critic Michael Medved and his younger brother Harry in their 1980 Golden Turkey Awards celebration of inane cinema.  It does not appear in Harry's collaboration with Randy Dreyfus, The Fifty Worst Films Of All Time, published two years earlier.]

Plan 9 From Outer Space: More special effects wizardry!

The Deadly Mantis, 1957, Universal International Pictures, Director: Nathan Juran


[Goldurn them dang South Seas volcanos!  One of them erupts.  Next thing you know, polar icecaps begin shifting and 200' praying mantises get released from their Arctic prison.  This means it's a bad thing to be military personnel assigned to remote radar outposts in northernmost Canada when a giant hungry bug flits past the neighborhood.  What eventually happens in situations like this is handsome (and single) Colonels get sent to investigate and pretty (and single) girl photographers from museums tag along.  And it don't take no genius to know that when handsome fellers and pretty gals has to fight off monsters, they gonna fall in love even if they been fightin' like cats and dogs for the previous 79 minutes of black and white photography.  Craig Stevens who played the handsome Colonel is best known to classic TV buffs as detective Peter Gunn.  The lovely Alix Talton who co-starred with Stevens in Mantis was a former Miss Georgia.]

Big Bug's on the loose in The Deadly Mantis

It Came from Outer Space, 1953, Universal International Pictures: Director: Jack Arnold

It Came From Outer Space: he comes in peace...

[It Came from Outer Space was the first Universal Pictures movie to be filmed in 3-D.  Director Jack Arnold (born Jack Arnold Waks) masterminded the making of some of the very best low budget sci-fi flicks of the 1950s-- It Came from Outer Space, Tarantula, Creature from The Black Lagoon, and The Incredible Shrinking Man.  Ray Bradbury provided the original screen treatment (and the then highly unusual notion alien visitors to Earth are not necessarily hostile to humans) for It Came from Outer Space. It boosted the career of Barbara Rush: her performance as school teacher Ellen Fields netted a 1954 Golden Globe Award.]

One suspects there are much better ways to spend a Friday night
with Barbara Rush than look for meteors and stray UFOs



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Note: All photographs for this essay were located through Google Images or Wikipedia, without authoritative source or ownership information except as noted: all images are still photographs from the films reviewed. 

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