Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958): Revisiting Low-Budget Sci-Fi Horror that became Cult Movie

From Our Vaults: How Low-Budget B-Movie became Cult Classic

Nathan H. Juran (credited as Nathan Hertz) directed Attack of the 50 Foot Woman a low-budget sci-fi horror, starring Allison Hayes, William Hudson and Yvette Vickers, which went on to become a cult picture.

Produced by Bernard Woolner, it was scripted by Mark Hanna, and composed by Ronald Stein.

The film was distributed by Allied Artists as a double feature with War of the Satellites.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman
Poster art. A giant woman clad in a white bikini straddles an elevated, 4-lane highway. She has an angry expression, and she's holding one smoking car in her left hand as if it were a toy. She is reaching down to grab another. There are several car crashes on the highway, and people are fleeing from her as if they were small insects.

Theatrical release poster

The Allied Artists TV version runs 75 minutes instead of 66, including long crawl at the beginning and end, repeated sequences, and hold-frames designed to  lengthen the running time.

The film depicts the plight of wealthy heiress whose close encounter with  enormous alien in his spacecraft causes her to grow into a giant, complicating her marriage, already troubled by philandering husband.

Sub-Genre: Size-Changing Humans

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is a variation on 1950s sci-fi films about  size-changing humans, such as The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), its sequel War of the Colossal Beast (1958), and The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). But in this case, a woman is the protagonist.

Narrative Structure

A television announcer reports on a red fireball around the world, suggesting facetiously that it heads to California.

Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes), a wealthy but  troubled woman with a history of emotional instability and immoderate drinking, is driving, when a glowing sphere settles on the deserted highway, causing her to veer off the road. When she gets out of her car, a huge creature exits and reaches for her.

Nancy escapes and runs back to town, but nobody believes her story due to her drinking problem and mental institution history. Philandering husband Harry Archer (William Hudson) seems more interested in his girlfriend, town floozy Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers). He pretends to be good husband, hoping for Nancy to return to the “booby hatch,” leaving him her $50 million estate.

Nancy asks him to search the desert with her for the “flying satellite,” agreeing to a voluntary return to the sanatorium if they find nothing. As night falls, they find the spacecraft and the alien creature emerges, revealed as an enormous male human. Harry fires his pistol at the giant, but the gunfire has no effect. Harry flees, leaving Nancy behind.

She is later discovered on the roof of her pool house in a delirious state and must be sedated by her family physician, Dr. Cushing (Roy Gordon). The doctor comments on scratches he finds on Nancy’s neck, and theorizes that she was exposed to radiation. Egged on by his mistress Honey, Harry plans to inject Nancy with a lethal dose of her sedative, but when he sneaks up to her room, he discovers that she has grown to giant size. In a scene paralleling Nancy’s first alien encounter, only an enormous hand is seen as Harry reacts in horror.

Cushing and Dr. Von Loeb, a specialist brought in by Cushing, are at a loss on how to treat their giant patient. They keep her in a morphine-induced coma and restrain her with chains while waiting for the authorities to arrive. The sheriff and Jess (Ken Terrell), Nancy’s faithful butler, track enormous footprints leading away from the estate to the alien sphere. Inside the sphere, they find Nancy’s diamond necklace (containing the largest diamond in the world) and other large diamonds, each in a clear orb. They speculate that the jewels are being used as a power source for the alien ship. The huge human reappears, and the sheriff and Jess flee.

Awakened and breaking free of restraints, Nancy tears off her mansion’s roof and, clothed in a bikini of bed linens, heads to avenge herself on her unfaithful husband. Ripping the roof off the bar, she spots Honey and drops a ceiling beam killing her rival. Harry panics, grabs Deputy Charlie’s pistol, and begins shooting, but she picks up Harry and walks away; the gunshots have no effect on her. The sheriff fires a shotgun at her, causing nearby power line transformer to blow up, killing her.

The last, ironic and iconic, image shows Harry lying dead in her hand.

Mainstream culture often viewed exceptional height in women as intimidating to men, sort of a disorder (abnormality) that needed special treatment.

A synthetic estrogen treatment for “managing” growth of tall girls was developed by physicians in the mid-1940s, they weren’t the first hormone injections for treating women for things that didn’t quite need to be treated; the norm for adult women’s height was five foot nine.

All societies have a conception of the monstrous-feminine,” wrote Barbara Creed, “of what it is about woman that is shocking, terrifying, horrific, abject.” The concept of “body horror” as subgenre was based on “the fear of one’s own body, of how one controls and relates to it,” feminists critics wondered, “What if a big body weren’t a punishment at all? Why do loud women always have to die?

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman was commercial enough to generate a sequel. According to exec producer and cinematographer Jacques Marquette, the sequel was to have bigger budget and in color, a script was written, but the project never materialized.

The film was remade in 1993 by HBO as Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman, directed by Christopher Guest, with a script by Thirtysomething writer Joseph Dougherty. Daryl Hannah produced and starred in the title role.

In 1995, Fred Olen Ray produced a parody entitled Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold, starring J.J. North and Tammy Parks. Its plot concerns the side effects of a beauty-enhancing formula on two models. Made on low budget, the size difference was achieved by forced perspective, unlike earlier films which used composite imaging.

Roger Corman produced a 3D film, Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader, on August 25, 2012. It was written by Mike MacLean (who also wrote Sharktopus) and was directed by Kevin O’Neill. The film stars Jena Sims (former Miss Georgia Teen USA) in the title role as Cassie Stratford and Olivia Alexander, who co-plays Sims’s rival, Brittany Andrews.

Attack of the 50 Foot Woman was released June 26, 2007 by Warner on DVD.


Allison Hayes as Nancy Fowler Archer
William Hudson as Harry Archer
Yvette Vickers as Honey Parker
Roy Gordon as Dr. Isaac Cushing
George Douglas as Sheriff Dubbitt
Ken Terrell as Jess Stout, Nancy’s butler
Otto Waldis as Dr. Heinrich Von Loeb
Eileen Stevens as nurse
Frank Chase as Deputy Charlie
Michael Ross as Tony the bartender/the giant alien


Directed by Nathan Hertz
Produced by Bernard Woolner
Written by Mark Hanna
Music by Ronald Stein
Cinematography Jacques R. Marquette
Edited by Edward Mann

Production company: Woolner Bros. Pictures

Distributed by Allied Artists Pictures Corporation

Release date: May 19, 1958

Running time: 66 minutes
Budget: about $90,000
Box office $480,000