Warner Home Video presents
Cult Camp Classics 1: Sci-Fi Thrillers (The Giant Behemoth/Queen Of Outer Space/Attack Of The 50-Foot Woman) (1958-1959)
"Harry! I need you, all to myself!"- Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes)
Stars: Allison Hayes, William Hudson, Yvette Vickers, Gene Evans, Andre Morell, John Turner, Laurie Mitchell, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eric Fleming
Other Stars: Roy Gordon, George Douglas, Leigh Madison, Dave Willock, Michael Ross
Director: Nathan Juran, Eugène Lourié, Edward Bernds, Douglas Hickox
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 03h:46m:30s
Release Date: 2007-06-26
DVD ReviewWarner Bros. is doing their best to speak directly to the serious B-movie geek with a new series of budget-priced boxsets that they refer to as "Cult Camp Classics." Other volumes feature a set of three like-minded films focusing on Terrorized Travelers, Historical Epics, and Women In Peril, while this collection addresses the all-important sci-fi genre. Gathered here are a trio of wildly disparate titles, all made between 1958 and 1959, that each address a sub-genre of the period, such as the mutated human (Attack Of The 50 Ft. Woman), the oversized creature (The Giant Behemoth), and the distant planet adventure (Queen Of Outer Space).
Attack Of The 50 Ft. Woman (1958)
Directed by Nathan Hertz
In the 1960s, this one was every young boy's fantasy come true—or at least mine—thanks to director Nathan Hertz (The Deadly Mantis, First Men in the Moon). Starring a pair of sexy competing sirens—one ultimately oversized (Allison Hayes), one normal-sized (former Playmate Yvette Vickers)—this cautionary love triangle involves an alien orb, financial greed, and a metabolism gone wonky as the slightly unhinged Nancy (Hayes) starts a major growth spurt after encountering what looks like an oversized ping-pong ball on a lonely desert road one night. Nancy's two-timing husband Harry (William Hudson) has been making woo with lusty Honey Parker (Vickers), and when Nancy begins a-growing it can only mean a somewhat one-sided encounter will eventually take place.
I don't know where to begin with my unrepentant love of this one, and the fact that Hertz stocked it with two crazy, attractive women is probably its biggest selling point for me. The sex appeal quotient is pretty high, especially for the late 1950s, and the vision of a towering, rampaging, bleached-out Allison Hayes—full of busty craziness—is so ridiculously fun that she literally rips the roof off the joint on her mission to find Harry. This is the shortest film in the set, barely topping the one-hour mark, but in that brief time it etched more indelible images and thoughts in my young brain than just about any other film of its time.
The Giant Behemoth (1959)
Directed by Eugène Lourié, Douglas Hickox
We all know that radioactivity was never a good thing in a 1950s B-movie monster flick, and in The Giant Behemoth (aka Behemoth the Sea Monster) a big long-necked dino-like creature wreaks all sorts of havoc in the U.K. Director Eugène Lourié seemed to enjoy dabbling with big lizards (Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Gorgo) and here is more of the same, with a film about a creature seemingly impervious to anything man can fire off at it. There are concerned scientists, a futile military, and scores of innocent victims as the mutant beast eventually runs amok in the final act.
Obvious Godzilla parallels would seem proper and justified, and this is easily the most "serious" of the three films in this set, with the stop-motion visual effects from King Kong's Willis O'Brien and Pete Peterson lending a certain legitimacy to the whole thing. The creature effects still hold up pretty well and don't diminish the ominous tone Lourié works to maintain throughout. Scenes like a ferryboat attack and the big stomp through London are played for genuine thrills, and as a kid these they me cowering under a blanket while secretly pining for the lovely Leigh Madison. This one is hardly indicative of the "camp" banner.
Queen Of Outer Space (1958)
Directed by Edward Bernds
Directed by Edward Bernds (The Return Of The Fly), this is probably the best example of pure, unadulterated camp in this collection, and it's tough to believe the screenplay came from the reliable Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone, 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, Burn, Witch, Burn!). The gloriously tacky cheesefest features a spaceship full of square-jawed men (lead by perpetually rugged Eric Fleming) crash landing on a conveniently lush planet where not only have males been outlawed, but the women parade around in high heels and short dresses.
With the evil, glitter-masked alien Queen (Laurie Mitchell) hell-bent on destroying Earth with her trusty Beta Disintegrator, it's up to the likes of Zsa Zsa Gabor as a turncoat scientist to lead the evening-gown-adorned rebel charge to save the day. With costumes literally borrowed from The Forbidden Planet and laughably brilliant dialogue ("Hi ya, dolls. Glad to have you on our side!"), Queen Of Outer Space is a grand cornucopia of silliness, so incredibly bad, it's good. Make that great. For all of the cheapo sets and stilted line reads, there is a secret thrill about imagining a distant planet populated by beautiful women in tiny dresses and tall heels who haven't seen men in a loooong time.
Cult camp classics? Man, these are just classics.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A-
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Image Transfer Review: Attack Of The 50 Ft. Woman is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and overall the print shows some minor specking and dirt, but given its vintage, this isn't a wholly awful transfer. There is a fair amount of fine grain throughout, and black levels during some of the night shots leaves a little to be desired.
The Giant Behemoth is also anamorphic widescreen, retaining the black-and-white film's original 1.66:1 aspect ratio, though it has some of the same type of issues found on Attack. In general, a decent print, with a few instances of debris or nicks, but a noticeably stronger set of black levels, which make details within the nighttime shadows slightly more defined.
Queen Of Outer Space is the only color feature in this set, and is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Unfortunately there is a predominate color flicker throughout, with a tendency for fleshtones to be the most problematic, often appearing too warm. Some minor specking and frequent grain are also consistently evident.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: All three features have been issued with solid, ordinary Dolby Digital mono audio tracks. No major complaints, though none of these are especially full-bodied, and carry the typical tinniness found on most B-movie features of the era.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 62 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by Yvette Vickers, Tom Weaver, Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett, Laurie Mitchell
Packaging: Box Set
Extras Review: Each disc is in its own Amaray case inside of a rather flimsy side-opened box.
Attack Of The 50 Ft. Woman
Film historian Tom Weaver provides a commentary track with actress Yvette Vickers, and if you've ever heard Weaver before you know he appeals to the movie geek in all of us. Teaming him with Vickers is a treat, and of three commentaries in this set, this one is by far the strongest. Vickers is chatty and amicable, and Weaver can always be counted on to offer up detailed information on even the most secondary of cast members. Neither treat this like it is Citizen Kane, though Weaver properly admits to being frightened by this one as a youngster.
The back cover mentions a theatrical trailer, but there's none here. The disc is cut into 17 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or French.
The Giant Behemoth
Special effects legends Dennis Muren (Star Wars, Terminator 2: Judgment Day) and Phil Tippett (Star Wars, Robocop) serve up a commentary track here, and on paper it probably sounded like a good idea. There's a lot of tech talk, ostensibly about the visual effects and the miniatures used, but most of it is personal speculation or their attempt at mocking humor. A few dead spots here and there, as well.
Also included is the film's original theatrical trailer. The disc is cut into 21 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or French.
Queen Of Outer Space
Another fine Tom Weaver-driven commentary for Queen Of Outer Space, this time teamed with actress Laurie "Queen Yllana" Mitchell. Weaver's ebullient geek love of the material ("There's a clip from an Arabian nights movie representing Venus!") is equally matched by Mitchell's extensively detailed recollections of the shoot. Funny, informative, and worth a listen.
Also included is the film's original theatrical trailer. The disc is cut into 24 chapters, with optional subtitles in English or French.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsIt's tough to beat a set of three sci-fi B-movie classics for $20, and the inclusion of a pair of enjoyable Tom Weaver-managed commentaries should only reinforce the fact.
Silly, dumb, and highly recommended.
Rich Rosell 2007-06-25