Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN


THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN (1957). Director: Bert I. Gordon. Written by Gordon and Mark Hanna.

AIP rushed out Gordon's Amazing Colossal Man to take advantage of the success of the superior Incredible Shrinking Man, but on its own terms, Colossal is a creditable effort. Glenn Langan plays Colonel Glen Manning, who is observing a plutonium bomb test from a safe distance when a small plane crashes in the vicinity. Manning bravely rushes in to see if the pilot is alive, and gets caught in the full force of the blast. [Stan Lee essentially lifted this sequence to create an origin for The Hulk.] This makes his cells go out of whack – he heals with great rapidity but his cells keep on growing, until he becomes a literal giant. Eventually he loses his mind, rampages through downtown Las Vegas, and is (presumably) killed near Boulder Dam. Despite some ludicrous detours, this is an “intelligent” B movie with excellent performances from Langan and Cathy Downs as his heartsick fiancee. Langan had played romantic leads and second-leads in such films as Dragonwyck with Vincent Price and Margie but his career was on the downslide (he didn't make a film for eight years after Colossal and had to go to Italy to do so), and it isn't improbable to wonder if he used his anguish over faded career opportunities to empower his performance as the tormented Manning. [“What sin could a man commit in a single lifetime to bring this upon himself?” Manning wonders.] Unlike those who are crippled or disfigured, Manning couldn't possibly reenter society in any realistic manner. Gordon's low-rent FX work features a see-through colossus, but there is an effective moment involving a giant hypodermic needle.

NOTE: Continued in the review of the sequel, War of the Colossal Beast.

Verdict: Not bad at all. ***.

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