The atomic age not only brought the destructive power of the atomic bomb to the world it also unleashed the power of Hollywood’s ability to take anything new, and what it didn’t completely understand, and turn it into something it could make a quick buck out of, and this ingenuity would bring the world everything from radioactively awoken dinosaurs to giant ants roaming the L.A. basin. More importantly, for such enterprises, a big budget wasn’t even required to produce such stories and thus the likes of filmmaker Bert I. Gordon were able to envision “classics” like King Dinosaur as well as the sci-fi gem we will be looking at today, The Amazing Colossal Man.
During the test explosion of America’s first plutonium bomb, a civilian aircraft in distress enters the restricted airspace and crash-lands near the bomb site, where we find Lt. Colonel Glenn Manning (Glenn Langan) rushing out of his “protected” bunker to try and reach the pilot before the bomb detonates, sadly, he doesn’t quite make it. Glenn catches the full brunt of the radioactive blast but miraculously he survives, despite receiving third-degree burns over almost all of his body and losing enough bodily moisture to be fatal, yet by morning his burns are completely healed. Glenn’s fiancée, Carol Forrest (Cathy Downs), is told that she can’t visit him due to “security reasons” but when she goes to the hospital he’s no longer there and the staff denies having even heard of Colonel Manning. A little sleuthing later and Carol is able to track her wayward fiancée to the Nevada Rehabilitation and Research Center, where she discovers that her problems are larger than she could ever have imagined.
Dr. Paul Linstrom (William Hudson) explains to Carol that Glenn’s exposure to the plutonium blast caused his old cells to stop dying while his new cells started to multiply at an accelerated rate, resulting in his growing proportionately eight to ten feet in height in one day, which is one helluva growth spurt in anyone’s book. The concern here is that they have no idea as to how to arrest this rapid growth and if it continues at its current rate he will die in a matter of days. Poor Glenn soon outgrows his hospital room and they are forced to move him into a giant tent, just in case he wasn’t feeling like enough of a circus freak, but loyal Carol remains at his side to give him as much moral support as she can. Needless to say, as time passes Glenn becomes more angry and resentful as his inevitable doom approaches, made worse by the knowledge that his heart is not growing at the same rate as his body, and soon the dream of a happy future between Glenn and Carol seems next to impossible.
• Stationing soldiers near a plutonium bomb detonation, so that they can experience it under “simulated combat conditions,” seems like a good way to get dead soldiers.
• A man running out during the detonation of an experimental bomb, to save someone who has inadvertently entered the test field, is the exact same premise as Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk which was published five years after the release of this film.
• After finding Glenn completely healed one of the doctors states “When skin is burned to the degree it was on this man’s body, it just doesn’t grow back” in fact, skin doesn’t just grow back it heals over leaving behind scar tissue, yet the government morons chalk it up to luck. No wonder America lost the Vietnam War if that was the direction military intelligence was heading.
• It’s weird that his skin completely grew back yet his hair doesn’t, is plutonium a follicly challenged atomic power?
• When a passing motorist spots the Colossal Man, he tosses away his liquor bottle and slurs, “Not another drop! Not another drop as long as I live!” because even if you can’t afford sound special effects at least clichés are still free of charge.
• He spots the giant high-heeled logo of the Silver Slipper and gets this weird grin on his face as if this was just the thing he was looking for. Could he become the Amazing Colossal Drag Queen?
This film had an interesting premise but it didn’t have the budget to back it up, thus we have another clear case of movie ads overselling the product, while the poster showed the Colossal Man fending off fighter jets and the might of the American military, all we actually got in this film was him wandering down the Vegas Strip until eventually being killed by a soldier with a bazooka as he trundled across Boulder Dam. The film doesn’t even provide us with any decent levels of carnage as not only does this film fail to give us Glenn fending off fighter jets he doesn’t even smash through buildings or toss military vehicles around, the likes of King Kong and Godzilla would be embarrassed even to be seen with the Amazing Colossal Man.
This film was made with the hope of cashing in on the success of Jack Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man, which had been released six months earlier, and screenwriter Jack Griffith was hired to adapt the novel The Nth Man by Homer Eon Flint, a story about a guy who was 10 miles high, into a comedy, but that was when Roger Corman was attached and when he dropped out and Bert I. Gordon was hired and the film was steered back into the direction of your generic science fiction cheapie, one that was more soap opera than sci-fi actioner. And say what you will about Bert I. Gordon but he gives his all when he makes a movie as not only did he produce and direct The Amazing Colossal Man he also worked on the screenplay and was behind much of the film’s “special” effects, and that folks, is dedication. Overall, this little B-movie may not have been able to fully capitalize on its premise but it still has a good deal of charm and Glenn Langan delivered a decent performance as a good man tortured by his circumstances and is well worth checking out.
The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)
Movie Rank - 4.5/10
Bert I. Gordon’s The Amazing Colossal Man may be short on spectacle and even shorter on action, but the drama of the thing was well handled and both Glenn Langan and Cathy Downs did their best to ground what could have been a little sillier than it turned out to be, if only they could have afforded a little more wholesale destruction.