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, 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 it's triggered, and Glenn gets caught in the blast when he races to rescue the pilot of a plane that crashes in the test area. It seems to be enough of a miracle for him to be found alive with severe third degree burns, but... well, this is how The Incredible Hulk got started.

Sure enough, his burns are miraculously healed the next day; and soon after that Glenn's fiancee learns he's been spirited away from his original hospital to an abandoned medical facility in the desert. Traveling there, she does eventually learn that exposure to the bomb has caused Glenn's body to grow out of control and he's become a giant. And, he's continuing to grow at an alarming rate. Even worse, since his heart's a single cell, it's not keeping up with the rest of him, causing fainting spells, chest pain, the risk of eventual death... oh, and mental trauma on top of the obvious problems of being fifty feet tall.


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

The film spent quite a bit of time justifying tropes like I Love Nuclear Power audiences now take for granted. It also went into detail about Glenn's growing angst and insanity caused by his condition.

A sequel, War of the Colossal Beast, was released by AIP in 1958 with Attack of the Puppet People. In this installment, Glenn is found alive in Mexico after the events of the first film, scarred, mindless, and hunting bread trucks to survive; his ever-devoted fiancee sister finds him and leads the U.S. military to bring him back to Los Angeles. They can't restore Glenn's memory, and he inevitably goes on another rampage. Glenn's sister talks the Beast into freeing a bus of students he held captive, and Glenn, suddenly regaining his humanity, commits suicide by electrical power lines, somehow both disintegrating himself and turning the film from black-and-white to color for the last minute.


Contrast with The Incredible Shrinking Man.

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

The Amazing Colossal Man and War of the Colossal Beast contain examples of:

  • The Adjectival Superhero: Okay, not really a hero, but it follows the naming pattern.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Yes, many 1950's atom bomb tests had soldiers walking towards Ground Zero after the nuke exploded, For Science! And yes, many lawsuits ensued decades later.
  • 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 its cells are not separated by membranes.
    • The official explanation for Glenn's growth; apparently instead of cellular division, "old cells" are replaced by "new cells" and in Glenn's case the "old cells" are "refusing to die". There's another word for that: cancer.
  • Artistic License – Cars: Or, more specifically, school buses. The school bus of terrified kids picked up by Glenn in the sequel has an extremely low ceiling so none of the kids can possibly stand up. There's no way a real school bus would have an interior like that.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: The soldier in charge of the team waiting to be exposed to the fallout of the bomb (don't you just 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." Clearly 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 actually growing to that size would be as well as how scary and frightening the experience is.
  • Downer Ending: Both movies.
  • Fate Worse than Death
    Glenn: [reading newspaper] "Man Lives Through Plutonium Blast" [laughs cynically] That's a great joke, isn't it sargeant? They call THIS living?
  • Giant Medical Syringe: The heroic scientists use a giant syringe to inject phlebotinum into the bone marrow of a fifty-foot-tall giant, in order to stop his growth. The giant 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 shown to work, giving us a hope that Glenn can be returned to normal size. Unfortunately, he's so far gone he kills Major Coulter with the syringe, and the Army has no choice but to open fire to end his rampage.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: How Glenn got so darn big.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Major Coulter has a giant-sized syringe thrown through him.
  • Large Ham: Glenn once Sanity Slippage starts to kick 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!"
  • Monumental Battle:
    • The climax of the first film happens atop Hoover Dam. Glenn also destroys a few famous (circa 1950s) pieces of the Vegas Strip along the way.
    • The climax of the second film takes place at Griffith Observatory.
  • No More for Me: What a drunk says when he sees Glenn.
    "Not another drop. Not another drop as long as I live, so help me."
  • Sarcastic Confession: A truck driver keeps badgering the gate sentries on the reason he's delivering all this food. Eventually a military policeman tells him that it's for the thirty-foot giant they have 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 the "heart as a single cell" bit was probably meant 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 go over this again. Glenn runs into the test site of an experimental new bomb, shortly after the bomb has been triggered but has not detonated yet, against the direct orders of his superior officer AND any and all common sense, to try to rescue a downed airplane pilot who didn't respond to radio, has given no indication or clue that he is alive (or, thanks to Bert I. Gordon's classic off-camera style, even exists), and is most likely dead by now. Well, he had good intentions...
  • 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 they were vaporized.

War of the Colossal Beast has examples of:

Alternative Title(s): War Of The Colossal Beast