Direction: Bert I. Gordon
Screenplay: Mark Hanna and Bert I. Gordon
Special Effects: Bert I. Gordon
Music: Albert Glasser
Producer: Bert I. Gordon
Call him the Mr. Clean of
the giant set if you must, but despite its many defects, The Amazing
Colossal Man is a fairly diverting example of cost conscious 1950’s Grade-B
sci-fi – at least for baby-boomers.
A plutonium bomb explosion transforms Colonel Glenn Manning into a bald giant who grows by leaps and
bounds each day. If his growth continues, a sage scientist tells us, his heart
– which isn’t expanding along with the rest of his body – will give out. But
the real problem isn’t his heart, it’s his head, for as less blood flows to his
noggin, the more trouble he has holding onto his sanity. Eventually the
sixty-foot Colonel Manning goes nutsoid in a big way (pun intended). At that
point, our resident psychotic giant goes on a low-budget rampage of Las Vegas.
Over the years, this movie has received more than its share of gleeful mocking, especially from the MST3K
crowd. And the film’s flaws do glare like a sustained chain reaction.
For example, producer-director Bert I. Gordon’s special effects often falter. At times, the Colossal Man seems
almost transparent, and the matte lines during his Las Vegas pillage often appear to have been
drawn by a heavy black marker. In addition, the story wavers, as does the dialogue.
Likewise, Albert Glasser’s music score is just too sappy during scenes meant to
convey poignancy, said scenes instead generating capacity volumes of cinematic
Nevertheless, as a whole, the movie works, even after all these years. On the plus side, director Gordon
keeps the pace moving, and some of the film’s set pieces are effective;
perhaps the best sequence is the intense opening, in which a civilian plane
crash-lands in the detonation area, causing Colonel Manning to rush out of the observation
trench to see if the pilot is still alive – only to find himself caught in the
plutonium bomb’s delayed blast.
Also, Glenn Langan’s performance as the hapless title character triumphs over the sometimes mediocre
melodramatics, bringing a touch of much-needed pathos to the ever-growing
giant’s predicament. Colonel Manning’s mantra “I don’t want to grow any more”
seems genuine. Bitter and resentful, at times the giant soldier appears menacing
even before he goes nuts, such as when he receives food and a newspaper from a
In addition, some of the effects prove memorable, in particular the shot in which the bomb blast
seemingly sears the skin from Colonel Manning’s torso. And who could forget
the unintentionally surreal six-foot hypodermic needle?
For the record, producer-director Bert I. Gordon was responsible for a number of low-budget
giant monster movies during the fifties – indeed, his fans call him “Mr.
B.I.G.” (And because this is a family-friendly review, I won’t tell you what
his critics call him.)
Along with The Amazing Colossal Man, Gordon’s modestly priced productions include King
Dinosaur (1955), The Cyclops (1957), Beginning of The End
(1957), Earth vs. The Spider (1958), and War of the Colossal Beast
(1958). In the sixties he gave us 1962’s The Magic Sword
(featuring a giant ogre and a two-headed, fire-breathing dragon) and 1965’s Village
of the Giants (an attempt to combine 1960’s “teen theme” movies with
sci-fi giantism). And during the seventies, Gordon produced two final big
beastie flicks – The Food of the Gods (1976) and Empire of the Ants
(1977), both allegedly based on H.G. Wells’ tales.
Incredibly, the aforementioned Village of the Giants is also supposed to be based on
Wells’ Food of the Gods. Undeniably Gordon’s worst film, it stars,
among others, Ron Howard (!) and Beau Bridges (!!) in a vapid story of teenagers who grow to gigantic
proportions and implausibly take over a small town. Parts of the movie are
particularly cringe-worthy, such as a scene in which the giant teenagers gyrate
to the movie’s faux-rock soundtrack while a crowd of people just stand and
stare, as though transfixed by the almost cosmic ineptness of it all.
While none of Gordon’s films compare favorably to the best of Japanese giant monster epics, some of
Mr. B.I.G.’s movies are moderately entertaining. The Amazing Colossal Man
is one of his best, a baby-boomer favorite even as we enter a new century.
It’s also notable as the only fifties AIP monster epic to warrant a sequel – 1958’s
War of the Colossal Beast.