Review of “War of the Colossal Beast” (1958)

from YouTube

This week’s Saturday pizza and bad movie offering is a sequel to 1957’s The Amazing Colossal Man. It’s worth a second glass of wine to dull the pain.

Plot:

The dramatic over-the-top opening score with piccolos and tympani lets the viewer know within a few frames that this movie will be chock full of melodrama. The first scene shows a young man (Robert Hernandez) speeding along a desert road in a delivery truck—a flatbed with removable sides—looking over his shoulder. What is he running from? He’s clearly terrified. He runs the truck into a pond where it gets stuck. The young man bails from the truck, but falls into the mud of the river and flounders, screaming.

The next scene opens in the fictional sleepy little pueblo of Guavos, Mexico, where the viewer sees burros loaded down with firewood (?). An American car pulls up in front of the police station. An irate American, John Swanson (George Becwar), wants to report the theft of a dark green stake bed truck, loaded with groceries, California license plates. He doesn’t know exactly where it was stolen. It was supposed to deliver supplies to his gun club back in the hills. He hired “a kid” to drive it.

When Sgt. Luis Murillo (Rico Alaniz) asks if he remembers the driver’s name, Swanson hesitates. “Miguel something or other,” he says.

Yeah, that ought to narrow the search.

“Fifteen—sixteen years old, dark, thin about so high.” Swanson holds up his hand.

“Would you know him if you saw him?” the sergeant asks.

Swanson says he would.

They go then to the hospital, which is right across the road. The same young man seen earlier is in bed, in shock. He is no help.

Now, north of the border, in the Beverly Hilton, Joyce Manning (Sally Fraser) watches a fluff piece about a guy in Mexico who can’t collect his insurance because his grocery truck can’t be found.

Joyce has an idea. Her brother, Colonel Glen Manning (Duncan “Dean” Parkin), suffered a dose of radiation from an exploded plutonium bomb some years earlier. He grew to sixty feet tall. It was believed that he died after being shot with bazookas and falling off the Hoover Dam (… a reasonable conclusion), although his body was never found. Joyce thinks he is still alive. She contacts both the Army and Swanson.

The Army sends one Maj. Mark Baird (Roger Pace) to meet with her. Later, she, Baird, and a Dr. Carmichael (Russ Bender) head to Guavos. By this time, Miguel something-or-other is able to say that he was attacked by “big man, like an ogre.”

The Major, Dr. Carmichael, and Joyce go to the place where Miguel was found. They find tire tracks that seem to end, but nothing else, until they realize a large depression in the mud is really a huge… footprint.

This leads to one of the many goofy exchanges in the movie:

Dr. Carmichael: The foot that made that print is about ten times the size of a normal man’s. That would make him about sixty feet tall.

Joyce Manning: Glenn was sixty feet tall!

Big guy, big appetite. Could he be, you know, stealing whole grocery trucks for grub?

Thoughts:

This comes from the Cold War fear of atomic radiation, and as such, the notion of a man made into a giant by exposure to radiation could have made for an entertaining movie. This does not. The dialogue is clunky and seldom believable. Toward the end, at Griffith Park Observatory outside Los Angeles, the Colossus goes on his last rampage, lifting a school bus full of children on a field trip. Outside the perimeter set by the military, one forlorn mother shrieks, realizing her daughter is on that bus. She holds her daughter’s coat.

The last few moments of the movie are in color, as if to say there’s a new world, and they all lived happily ever after.

If you saw the earlier movie, a good chunk of this one will look familiar. When Glen Manning’s story is told in flashback, they reuse footage from the first movie because of course they do.

It was like those making this movie weren’t even trying.

One bright spot was the character of Sgt. Luis Murillo, who, while remaining infinitely polite to blowhard John Swanson, lets the viewer know that he thinks he’s an idiot. Swanson is in the habit of interjecting, “Get the picture?” every thirty seconds or so.

For a newsman covering events at the big end, they use an actual newsman, Stan Chambers (1923-2015), a longtime reporter in Los Angeles.

This could have been a lot of fun, but it was a disappointment.

For the curious, this is available on YouTube here.



Title: War of the Colossal Beast (1958)

Director
Bert I. Gordon

Writers
Bert I. Gordon (story)
George Worthing Yates (screenplay)

Cast:
Sally Fraser as Joyce Manning
Roger Pace as Maj. Mark Baird
Duncan “Dean” Parkin as Col. Glenn Manning
Russ Bender as Dr. Carmichael
 Rico Alaniz as Sgt. Luis Murillo
George Becwar as John Swanson

Released: 1958
Length: 1 hour, 9 minutes
Rating: TV-PG

Published by 9siduri

I have written book and movie reviews for the late and lamented sites Epinions and Examiner. I have book of reviews of speculative fiction from before 1900, and short works in publications such Mobius, Protea Poetry Journal, and, most recently, Wisconsin Review and Drunken Pen Writing. I'm busily working away on a book of reviews pulp science fiction stories from the 1930s-1960s. It's a lot of fun. I am the author of the short story "Always Coming Home," a chapbook of poetry titled "Sotto Voce," and a collection of reviews of pre-1900 speculative fiction, "By Firelight."

4 thoughts on “Review of “War of the Colossal Beast” (1958)

  1. what a hoot! how did I ever miss this? laughable nowadays; from the same period I saw on an old black & white TV a much superior horror film ‘Creature From the Black Lagoon’; but this one here is good fun 🙂

    1. “Creature from the Black Lagoon” is much better. Though I always felt sorry for the poor critter. Just minding his own business, swimming around in his own lagoon, and the next thing he knows, chained to the bottom of a fish tank with people staring at him. No wonder he got a little out of sorts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: