Friday, April 15, 2016

Boston Sci-fi Film Festival 2016.06: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

Putting my thoughts about this pretty crappy movie down, I couldn't help but think that if someone like local filmmaker Izzy Lee said she wanted to remake it, I would hit the appropriate crowd-finding site kind of hard; as much as she's much more of a horror person, doing something like this in a way that was funny and sexy around a core of righteous feminist anger seems like it would be right up her alley. Give her a horror rampage than the original, and she'd be right set.

That's a nicer thought than what a core it was to watch this movie. I've gone on about how the video projection in this room was pretty terrible when it was coming off a disc or laptop - you either can't plug those things into the serious professional model that the theater uses for regular programming (or Ian and Dave weren't letting the festival crew touch that equipment), so there was pretty terrible banding and artifacting on the image of everything that wasn't on a DCP. But this was billed as "Attack of the Warner Archive", and I was sure at one point that the Web site mentioned, if not 35mm prints, then new restorations.

No. From the menu screen that came up, it was the same sort of DVD-R that is manufactured when you buy the Warmer Archive edition on Amazon, and while that quality may be acceptable enough when watching at home, a compressed 480p image does not look great even on one of the smaller screens at the Somerville. It was a stunningly bad, "how dare you charge people money for this" presentation, and it certainly can't fave helped my appreciation for the movie at all.

It was part of a double feature, but given that I probably could have gotten better quality streaming the film of Amazon, I decided not to stock around for The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Maybe that was a mistake; I see that one is actually available on Blu-ray, but it feels kind of good to cut your losses sometimes.

Note that this should not be taken as any sort of reason to skip the next event at The Somerville Theatre presented with the Sci-Fi Film Festival and Warner Archive; they'll be showing Forbidden Planet and The Searchers on Thursday 21 April 2016, and those will be in the big room on 35mm film. You should be all over that.

Next up: Skipping over Thursday (covered back here) for a pretty decent pair from Friday night.

Attack of the 50-Foot Woman

* ½ (out of four)
Seen 10 February 2016 in Somerville Theatre #2 (Boston Sci-fi Film Festival, DVD-R)

There is the germ of a great idea in Attack of the 50-Foot Woman that could have let it be fun, effective satire wrapped up in trashy pulp if anybody involved had felt like making a good movie was worth the effort. But, as is too often the case with the sci-fi B movies of the 1950s, this one seems to have been slapped together for an audience that the producers figured didn't care about quality, and that it remains reasonably well-known today says more about the power of an evocative title than the film itself.

There's potential in the idea of Nancy Fowler Archer (Allison Hayes) growing to nearly ten times her normal height and going on a rampage after an encounter with an alien craft while driving in the desert. According to some, she's already got outsize reach and a nervous disposition; she's an heiress, and local law enforcement humors her crazy story with a cursory search as a result. On the other hand, her husband Henry (William Hudson) is being none too subtle about his affair with young redhead Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers), to the point where Nancy is starting to feel like a long-term inconvenience. If the filmmakers play their cards right, it's a potent way to say that this is what may be coming when women who have treated like fools, told that their worth is in their looks and then tossed aside for younger models, and otherwise marginalized achieve the statue and power where they can neither be ignored nor slapped down.

It's a bit unfair to criticize Attack for not being that sort of movie; some folks just want the twin pleasures of a good-looking woman growing an order of magnitude too big for her clothes and a town being pulverized as by a giant monster - it doesn't need to be a feminist metaphor (or, I suppose, a cautionary tale about letting women get too much power if you're a neanderthal who identifies with Henry). But having that underpinning and really committing to it would add extra heft to the film without having to cut those visceral pleasures back, giving future audiences something to get from it when its special effects no longer impress.

Full review on EFC.

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