For all the pansies in the audience who are afraid to go to their doctor for a shot, The Amazing Colossal Man is quite possibly the scariest movie ever made. With an oversized needle being rammed into the ankle of the 60 foot tall lunatic roaming around the Nevada desert, the expression of anguish shown by Colossal Man only serves to confirm their worst fears about being inoculated against diseases like measles, whooping cough, or in this case, plutonium-induced gigantism. For normal folks though, it’s just a movie whose big climax involves a guy getting a shot.
Glenn Manning is just a normal soldier in postwar Atomic Age America. For instance, he’s got the sensibly named fiancee Carol who doesn’t understand why he has to volunteer to fight in Korea instead of just hanging around going on picnics with her. But killing Commies and watching his best friend get stabbed in the back ultimately pays off as once he’s back stateside, he’s got the plum assignment of sitting on a test range for the fancy new plutonium bomb the military is testing.
But as anyone who has ever read an Incredible Hulk comic book knows, people and bomb tests don’t mix and so it is that Glenn disobeys orders, running out in the middle of the range to attempt a rescue of a pilot who crashed right where the bomb is going to be tested. Caught in the blast, Glenn is burned to a crisp but survives and appears to make a miraculous recovery when he grows new skin overnight!
But the initial joy of his apparent recovery soon gives way to alarming side affects and the even more alarming science mumbo jumbo the movie insists on repeatedly highlighting.
While the plutonium bomb caused new cells to grow it also caused the old cells not to die! And even worse, new cells keep growing! Except for his heart which means Colossal Man sometimes coughs. And except for his hair which gives him that oversized Kojak look that probably played a great part in him going crazy. (Mysteriously, despite turning bald, his eyebrows were intact. The science on this is sketchy but one can surmise it likely had something to do with actor Glenn Langan not wanting to shave his eyebrows for such a low budget affair.)
I’m sure most of us have fantasized about all the awesome stuff we’d do if we were 60 feet tall (drink beer straight from the tanker truck, dominate the NBA, step on our boss, etc.), so it was a bit of a let down that Colossal Man spent most of his time acting more like Colossal Mope.
Alternating between holding colossal pity parties for himself and laughing maniacally at his condition, he reaches the nadir of giant monster history when two motorists encounter him just sitting in the middle of the road sniffling! Somewhere Godzilla, King Kong and Tarantula are voting his blubbering ass out of the club!
Colossal Man isn’t helped by a script that gives him very little to do. He eats cattle off-screen and his rampage consists of throwing a palm tree and toy car, breaking a sign and a window and tearing off an oversized shoe from the top of a building. He does exactly one awesome thing in the whole movie (ok two if you count Colossal Man’s discussion of the expandable sarong the Army devised for him to wear) and that’s when he kills a guy using the oversized needle as a javelin.
Of course that also eliminates any sympathy you might have for the bawling behemoth and telegraphs the tragic ending of the film. The tragic special effects that end the film are a bit of a surprise even taking into account the relatively primitive effects strewn throughout the film like so many Colossal Man-sized dung piles.
Things are also hampered by how much talking goes on. Is anyone really watching a movie called The Amazing Colossal Man to see scientists make presentations on plutonium or cell growth? Do we really need to see a guy explain the movie’s absurd premise to Carol in tedious detail? And with all the talk about the effect this bomb had on Colossal Man, no one ever mentions the obvious concerns about him dying of radiation or heavy metal poisoning?
Even dumber, an Army scientist somehow discovers the ability to shrink a camel and elephant in about two days and immediately knew how it applied to a guy who was irradiated with plutonium. (This was especially dumb because the movie would have been so much more entertaining if it focused on this guy’s tiny zoo!)
It’s a bit surprising that things are so sluggish here as Director Bert I. Gordon is the acknowledged expert in the “stuff grows really big” genre of trashy movies, having dealt with giant grasshoppers, ants, rats and spiders in such films Beginning of the End, Earth vs. The Spider, The Food of the Gods and Empire of the Ants. Each of those movies were entertaining in their own deranged way and weren’t bogged down by excessive chatter.
But weep not for Colossal Man and the supersized boring tale of his life and times! For while some complain that what amounts to a diaper-clad cry baby never had a chance to be anything other than lame, I not only defend Colossal Man’s right to wear what he wants (aren’t we lucky he’s wearing anything at all?), I also urge you not to give up on Colossal Man himself quite yet. You see, he gets a 2.0 release just one year later as the Colossal Beast complete with half rotted face and a increased dose of crazy in the far superior (and wisely shorter) sequel War of the Colossal Beast.
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