Follow TV Tropes


Film / The Amazing Colossal Man

Go To

"What sin could a man commit in a single lifetime to bring this upon himself?"
Lt. Colonel Glenn Manning

The Amazing Colossal Man is a giant monster movie made in 1957, directed and produced by Bert I. Gordon and released by American International Pictures as a double feature with Cat Girl; it's also a Trope Codifier for "Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever".

Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Manning, a Korean War veteran, is one of the lucky soldiers sitting in the trenches waiting to witness the test of a new nuclear weapon, a "plutonium bomb." The bomb doesn't go off when triggered, and Glenn gets caught in the blast when he races to save the pilot of a plane that crashes in the test area. It seems fortunate that Glenn is found alive with severe third-degree burns, but this is how The Incredible Hulk got started.

Sure enough, his burns miraculously heal overnight. Soon after, Glenn's fiancee Carol Forrest learns the Army moved Glenn from the hospital to an abandoned medical facility in the desert. Traveling there, she discovers that exposure to the bomb has made Glenn's body grow out of control; he's become a giant, and he's still growing at an alarming rate of 8 to 10 ft a day. Even worse, since the heart's a single cell, it's not keeping up with the rest of him, causing fainting spells, chest pains, the risk of eventual death... oh, and mental trauma besides the obvious problems of being 60 ft tall.

Eventually, Glenn goes insane, rampages through Las Vegas, kills one of the doctors trying to cure his growth, and kidnaps his fiancee before the Army takes him down.

The film spends some time justifying tropes that audiences now take for granted, like Nuclear Mutant. It also explores Glenn's growing angst and insanity caused by his condition.

The sequel, War of the Colossal Beast, was released by AIP in 1958 with Attack of the Puppet People. Glenn is found alive in Mexico sometime after the first film's events, scarred, mindless, and hunting bread trucks to survive. His ever-devoted sister Joyce Manning finds him and leads the U.S. military to bring him back to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, they can't restore Glenn's memory, and he inevitably breaks free and goes on another rampage. Joyce talks Glenn into freeing a bus of students he holds captive. Suddenly regaining his humanity, Glenn commits suicide by electrical power lines, somehow disintegrating himself and turning the film from black-and-white to color for the last few seconds.

Contrast with The Incredible Shrinking Man.

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 versions of these films, please see the following episode recaps:

Both films have examples of:

  • Downer Ending
  • Monumental Battle:
    • The first film's climax happens atop Hoover Dam. First, Glenn destroys a few famous (circa the 1950s) pieces of the Vegas Strip.
    • The second film's climax takes place at Griffith Observatory.
  • Your Size May Vary: Glenn's size varies from scene to scene, from being as little as around 20 feet tall to about 500 ft in others and all points in between.

The Amazing Colossal Man contains examples of:

  • The Adjectival Superhero: Okay, not a hero, but it follows the naming pattern.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • The heart is but a single cell? They probably got the "single cell" thing from the fact that heart muscle is syncytial, which means that membranes do not separate its cells. It's incredibly dumb considering how they already had an excellent explanation to go with - say that the square-cube law means his heart isn't getting big enough to handle his new body size.
    • The official reason for Glenn's growth. Instead of cellular division, "new cells" replace the "old cells," and in Glenn's case, the "old cells" are "refusing to die." There's another word for that: cancer.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: The soldier in charge of the team waiting to get exposed to the bomb fallout (don't you love the Fifties' callous disregard for safety?) explains that they can't tell when the bomb will explode because they have to "wait for the nuclear reaction to cool off." The writers had no concept of critical mass.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Unbuilt Trope. Most of the first film is about how painful growing to that size would be and how scary the experience is.
  • Damsel in Distress: Glenn grabs Carol and starts across the Hoover Dam with her captive until she and Dr. Lindstrom get through to Glenn, and he puts Carol down.
  • Faint in Shock: Carol screams and faints upon seeing giant Glenn for the first time.
  • Fate Worse than Death
    Glenn: [reading newspaper] "Man Lives Through Plutonium Blast" [laughs cynically] That's a great joke, isn't it, Sergeant? They call THIS living?
  • Giant Medical Syringe: The heroic scientists use a giant syringe to inject sulfhydryl compounds into a 60 ft Glenn's bone marrow to stop his growth. Glenn inevitably pulls the syringe out, looks at it (a real normal-size syringe in the actor's hand) with increasing disgust, and flings it down at the scientists, impaling one of them.
    Tom Servo: Ooh! This is exactly why lawn darts were taken off the market.
  • Hope Spot: The serum is proven to work, giving us hope that the heroes can return Glenn to regular size. Unfortunately, he's so far gone that he kills Major Coulter with the syringe, and the Army has no choice but to open fire to end his rampage.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Major Coulter gets a giant-sized syringe thrown through him.
  • Large Ham: Glenn, once Sanity Slippage starts kicking in.
  • Magic Pants: Averted (or at least lampshaded) for once.
    "Who else but a clown would have an expandable sarong like this? You know, it's adjustable. I can grow to be a hundred feet tall, and I don't need a change of wardrobe. Army ingenuity!"
  • No More for Me: What a drunk says after seeing giant Glenn on the road.
    "Not another drop. Not another drop as long as I live, so help me."
  • Sanity Slippage: Glenn becomes increasingly depressed and cynical as he grows, believing there's no hope for him. Compared to the pleasant guy he is in flashbacks, Glenn becomes an unrecognizable and hostile person toward others from misery and his thinking that everyone, even Carol, now thinks he's a freak. By the end, Glenn has seemingly regressed to a childlike mentality, reacting to everything curiously and becoming violent when threatened. He also apparently loses the ability to talk and recognize his allies, though he sometimes seems to regain his senses briefly. For some reason, the film never explains Glenn's loss of sanity; Dr. Lindstrom tells Carol that Glenn would lose his mind before dying, but how he knows this goes unanswered. One theory suggests that it's due to Glenn's smaller heart causing reduced blood flow to his brain.
  • Sarcastic Confession: A truck driver keeps badgering the gate sentries on why he's delivering all this food. Eventually, a military policeman tells him it's for the 30 ft giant they've got in the circus tent over there. The driver retorts, "Sure, you have!" and drives off.
  • Shrunken Organ: Glenn's heart.
  • Square-Cube Law: Played straight, although someone probably meant the "heart as a single cell" bit to be in the same spirit as an aversion.
  • Tagline: Several, such as:
    Growing...! Growing...! Growing...! To a Giant! To a Monster! When Will It Stop!
  • Title Drop
    Glenn: Why don't you make me up a sign saying, "See the Amazing Colossal Man"?
  • Too Dumb to Live: Let's review this again. Glenn runs into a new experimental bomb test site, shortly after the bomb has been triggered but hasn't detonated yet, against his superior officer's direct orders AND all common sense, to try to save a downed airplane pilot who didn't respond to radio. The pilot also hasn't indicated that he is alive or (thanks to Bert I. Gordon's classic off-camera style) even exists, and he's most likely dead by now. Well, Glenn had good intentions...
  • Traumatic Haircut: Besides giving Glenn severe burns and later mutating him, the bomb explosion also burns off his hair, leaving him bald.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The audience never DID learn where that doomed pilot (the one Glenn was trying to rescue) came from in the first place, though one character speculates the pilot got vaporized.

War of the Colossal Beast has examples of:

Alternative Title(s): War Of The Colossal Beast