Friday, February 22, 2019

Amazing Colossal Man, The (1957)

... aka: Amazing Nth Man, The
... aka: Der Koloss (The Colossus)
... aka: El asombroso hombre creciente (The Amazing Growing Man)
... aka: El gigante ataca (The Giant Attacks)
... aka: I giganti invadono la Terra (Giants Invade the Earth)
... aka: Monstret från Nevada (Monster from Nevada)

Directed by:
Bert I. Gordon

In Desert Rock, Nevada, a plutonium bomb is about to be detonated to see the effects on a small group of soldiers under simulated combat conditions. The soldiers are placed in a shallow bunker and given protective eye wear i.e sunglasses (what great protections!) but, after the countdown finishes, the bomb doesn't go off right away as the chain reaction hasn't completed its cycle as previously calculated. While the soldiers wait, a civilian airplane goes down in the test area. No one can figure out whether the pilot and crew have survived the impact or not. Despite being warned not to leave their position and to keep their glasses on, Col. Glenn Manning (Glenn Langan) both leaves the bunker and removes his glasses. As he's running toward the plane, the bomb finally detonates. Glenn is covered with radiation, suffers third degree burns on nearly 100 percent of his body and falls into a coma.

At the hospital, doctors do what they can with penicillin, cortisone and bandages, but they predict he won't make it through the night due to infection and shock. Dr. Paul Linstrom (William Hudson) must then break the news to Glenn's devastated fiancee, Carol Forrest (Cathy Downs). However, the following morning Glenn seems to have made a miraculous recovery. He has somehow grown new tissue that shows no scarring at all. In fact, there's no sign whatsoever that he was even burned to begin with. Dr. Linstrom immediately calls in key members of the military to see if there could possibility be some kind of regenerative, healing quality to plutonium (ha!) that he's unaware of.

Next thing Carol knows, an officer is showing up at her home and telling her she's forbidden from seeing Glenn by military order. She sneaks over to the hospital only to learn that he's been moved somewhere else and no one at the hospital seems to know where. Snooping through papers on the receptionist's desk, she gets a clue that she should go to the Army Rehabilitation and Research Center. The guard there tells her the center no longer houses patients and hasn't since the last war. Still, a sergeant agrees to talk with her, which gets her inside the facility. She snoops around some more and finally finds Glenn. Only he's now about 20 feet tall! Carol learns that he's now growing at the rate of 8 to 10 feet per day. Why? Well, it has something to do with rapid cellular growth. Or something. You're best off not thinking about it too much.

Glenn eventually snaps out of his coma (after having a Korean War flashback where he shoots an enemy soldier in the face) and outgrows his room, so they have to bring a circus tent in from Florida and move him outside. As for food, they bring in 25 sides of beef at a time and serve up whole turkeys as a snack. Linstrom and his colleague, Dr. Eric Coulter (Larry Thor), hope to come up with a cure to halt the growing. Actually, they have to, and quickly, or else Glenn will die. His heart isn't keeping pace with the rest of the growth and will explode if nothing is done. The heart issue and the resulting chest pains, labored breathing and lack of circulation to the brain that come along with it, are also taking a psychological toll as Glenn becomes increasingly more angry, bitter and insane as the minutes tick by.

After experiments work on miniaturizing an elephant and a camel, an antidote is created but by that point the moody Glenn has taken off. And if you thought spotting a 60-foot-tall, 18,000 pound giant would be easy... well, you're right, it probably should be... you haven't met these bozos yet. Somehow it takes a long time to track Glenn down and, by that point, he's already visited / terrorized Las Vegas and is on his way toward the Boulder (Hoover) Dam. Our heroes hop aboard a helicopter and try to hunt down the giant so they can administer the antidote via giant syringe.

While certainly good for some undemanding fun and the occasional chuckle, Colossal Man is one of those movies where you go in pretty much knowing what to expect and get precisely that... but nothing more. There are plenty of cheap fx and some fun props but it's mostly just stilted actors delivering leaden dialogue on cheap sets. The shoddy science is never an issue for me as I don't really care (it was the 50s after all!), but my biggest issue was them not giving the giant enough to do. Most disappointingly, he only spends a couple of minutes in Las Vegas, where his "rampage" involves peaking in a window, destroying a couple of signs and picking up and throwing a car and a palm tree before he's on his not-so-merry way. He does eventually get to impale someone with the giant needle and snatch up the leading lady King Kong-style, so at least that was kind of fun.

The best thing here is probably Langan's animated acting and his (sometimes hilariously) moody / anguished facial expressions, which really stand out in comparison to his mostly wooden co-stars. A miscast Russ Bender shows up briefly as the genius who created the plutonium bomb yet thinks there's nothing out of the ordinary about a man with a full body burn completely healing in less than 24 hours. The woman surprised in the bubble bath is Jean Moorhead, a 1955 Playboy Playmate, who had starred in the (very funny) Ed Wood-scripted juvenile delinquent film The Violent Years (1956). The cast also includes James Seay as a colonel and Scott Peters. Interestingly, Hudson would also star in the gender switch alternate ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (1958) the following year.

This AIP release, "presented by" uncredited executive producers James H. Nicholson and Samuel Z. Arkoff, was made to cash in on the success of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and was released on a double bill with Cat Girl (1957). Gordon also co-wrote the screenplay (with Mark Hanna), produced and did the fx (assisted by his wife, Flora M. Gordon). The basis for the movie was a 1928 novel called The Nth Man by Homer Eon Flint, who receives no screen credit. This became a minor hit and was followed by the sequel WAR OF THE COLOSSAL BEAST (1958).

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