Attack of the 50-Foot Woman
Nathan Juran's Attack of the 50-Foot Woman (1958) is one of the few movies of its genre, period, and budget that actually made it to laserdisc, back in the late 1980's; but good as that release looked, it's nowhere in the league of the Warner Home Video DVD of the movie. The film-to-video transfer here brings out whatever good there is, to the lighting and the simple (but occasionally suitably eerie) special effects on the ultra-low-budget shoot. But the real treat here -- beyond the movie itself -- is the audio commentary track, a discussion between author Tom Weaver and co-star Yvette Vickers. Long a cult-movie icon, Vickers proves a lively interview subject, funny, smart, and perceptive, and the little bits of information that she and Weaver provide about the movie significantly enhance the viewing experience. On the other hand, one wishes that Weaver could have structured the track and the discussion a little bit better -- he leaves out any mention of actors George Douglas and Otto Waldis, the latter a veteran of European cinema going back to Fritz Lang in the early 1930's. (It's doubly ironic that Weaver never mentions the two, because one of the appealing elements of the movie is its odd convergence of talents from across several decades and traditions in this unusual low-budget production -- and here are veteran western actor Douglas and expressionist cinema denizen Waldis in the same cast). The chaptering is generous and the audio mastering is the best this movie is ever likely to receive -- the volume is low, but with a boost it reveals details in Ronald Stein's score that are a delight to the ear. There's one suspenseful sequence in this the music underscoring is richly vivid -- the solo oboe is joined by the bassoon and then the cellos and basses come in, until the moment of a startling visual revelation when the brass rises up in a sting that leads to a powerful musical resolution. The image is presented in its proper non-anamorphic letterboxed aspect ratio (1.85-to-1) and the detail is amazingly crisp. Oh, and this is the theatrical edit of the movie, rather than the television version -- for the latter, in order to stretch the 66-minute running time to a more acceptable 72 minutes, a introduction was added with a statement about how scientists have suggested the possibility of a race of giants evolving on a planet with a different gravitational pull; and the scene inside the spaceship was "previewed"; for those who grew up with the movie on television, none of that introduction is here. But it's still great fun, and Weaver and Vickers' commentary enhance the enjoyment of the picture in the spirit in which it was made, each in their way defending the success of the special effects as they exist in the low-budget production.