Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)

An entertaining sci-fi movie despite the low budget and ordinary special effects

The Amazing Colossal Man, an adaptation of the 1928 Homer Eon Flint short novel, The Nth Man, is a 1957 science fiction film, directed by Bert I. Gordon and starring Glenn Langan. The film involves a man who grows to over 60 feet tall due to an atomic explosion.

Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Written by Mark Hanna (screenplay); Bert I. Gordon (screenplay) & George Worthing Yates
Produced by Bert I. Gordon (producer); Samuel Z. Arkoff (executive producer); James H. Nicholson (executive producer)
Music by Albert Glasser
Cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc
Film Editing by Ronald Sinclair
Released by American International Pictures


Glenn Langan: Lt. Col. Glenn Manning
Cathy Downs: Carol Forrest
William Hudson: Dr. Paul Linstrom
Larry Thor: Maj. Eric Coulter, MD
James Seay: Col. Hallock
Frank Jenks: Truck Driver
Russ Bender: Richard Kingman
Hank Patterson: Henry
Jimmy Cross: Sergeant at reception desk
June Jocelyn: Nurse Wilson
Stanley Lachman: Lt. Cline
Harry Raybould: MP at Main Gate
Jean Moorhead: Woman in Bathtub
Scott Peters: Sgt. Lee Carter
Myron Cook: Capt. Thomas
Michael Harris: Police Lt. Keller
Bill Cassady: Lt. Peterson
Dick Nelson: Sgt. Hansen
Edmund Cobb: Dr. McDermott
Paul Hahn: Attendant
Diana Darrin : Hospital Receptionist
Lyn Osborn Sgt. Taylor
Jack Kosslyn: Lieutenant in briefing room
William Hughes: Bombsite Control Officer
Keith Hetherington: Newscaster
John Daheim: Soldier
Judd Holdren: Robert Allen
Harold Miller: Official



Time: 2.45 am
Place: Desert Rock Nevada
Event: Test of a new plutonium bomb
Purpose: Soldiers to experience an explosion “under simulated combat conditions.”

Spoilers follow below......

When the “chain reaction cycle did not complete as expected” Lt. Col. Glenn Manning is ordered to keep his men secure in the protective trench, as the bomb will still explode but its timing is unknown.

Suddenly a “light civilian plane” is spotted flying over the “restricted area” and it “appears to be in trouble.” With its spluttering engine in its final death throes, the little plane crash-lands near the bomb test site.

Despite the fact that the “bomb could go off at any second,” Glenn’s main concern is that “there’s a man in that plane.” Contrary to orders, Glenn leaps from the trench in a desperate bid to rescue the pilot. Once he enters the detonation area, the bomb goes off, and Glenn is caught in an atomic blast that bathes him in deadly radiation.

How ironic that an act of bravery is performed to save a life only to be seared and extinguished by an evil cataclysmic act of destruction! 

“Things like this just happen. There doesn’t have to be a reason.”

Barely clinging on to life with “third degree burns over almost 100% of his body,” Glenn Manning is treated by specialist, Dr. Paul Linstrom and military scientist, Dr. Eric Coulter at the base hospital. Glenn's fiancée, Carol Forrest waits anxiously while for the medical personnel behind the scenes, all indications seem to point to the likelihood that Glenn will not survive”:

“What kind of chance do you give a man who hasn’t a square inch of skin left on his body” and who “by all the rules…should be dead?”

God’s will? 
Will of the gods? 
God knows!

The next morning, a nurse discovers something unusual concerning Glenn’s condition. When Linstrom and Coulter are called in to see, they are gob-smacked when confronted by the sight of Glenn's miraculously healed burns.

Questions arise:

How did Manning manage to survive the explosion?
How to explain the presence of new skin and the absence of scarring?


“Plutonium may have some unknown quality that was responsible.”


Perhaps the process Manning went through could hold the key to some kind of “regenerative healing capacity.”


“Something out there is beyond the limits of our knowledge.”



By science the secret power of the gods is released 
And wielded by mere mortals with madness unleashed; 
While some look up in hope for future promise yet unknown, 
A deep despair descends with what they’re yet to be shown.

The oafish fist of officialdom crashes down upon Carol Forrest when minion security officer Lt. Cline informs her that she is prohibited from seeing Glenn again - for what else? “Security reasons!” And of course there is the good old Nuremburg-style defence: “I’m only carrying out orders.” Two statements that have done the most to rob great swathes of humanity of life and liberty throughout history!

Undeterred, Carol ventures to the hospital where instead of finding her husband, she discovers an empty room. Upon enquiring as to the whereabouts of her husband, Carol is told, “Sorry miss, I’ve never heard of a colonel Manning.”

At the reception desk Carol is met with yet another obstacle when she is informed that “There’s no Colonel Manning listed here.” Only by taking a peek at the register of names does she learn that her fiancé has been moved to another facility: the army “Nevada Rehabilitation and Research Centre” in Summit, Nevada.

“Washington gave strictest orders to keep the affair quiet.” 

The thickly layered cake of lies receives another tier of deception when Forrest drives out to the research centre and is met at the gate by a military guard who informs her that there haven’t been any patients there “since the war ended.” Carol is eventually admitted entry, and is soon informed by the desk sergeant that there is “no colonel Manning registered here.”

Wisely trusting no-one, least of all official denials, Carol ventures further into the facility and overhears Linstrom and Coulter discussing Glenn's condition. She learns that he has been breathing rapidly and has been “unconscious since the accident.” Carol then lets herself into Glenn's darkened room and faints in horror when confronted by the sight of a giant recumbent version of her fiancé.


Linstrom informs Carol that Manning’s condition may be the result of his being exposed to the plutonium blast which has caused his old cells to stop dying and his new cells to continue to multiply at an accelerated rate while replacing the damaged cells. With the process being out of balance and the “old cells refusing to die,” Manning will “continue to grow until he dies” at a rate of 8 feet per day!

Perchance to dream

In one of the most poignant scenes of the film, we enter into Glenn’s dreams as he sleeps. We see him with Carol having a picnic at a time when the Korean War has just begun. Carol says to Glenn “there’s no reason for you to volunteer.” Try telling that to a man who feels that he knows his duty and is not afraid to stick his neck out and plunge himself into the very maw of danger when the situation demands it of him.

The dream moves on to a battle during the war when a then Lieutenant Manning survived enemy fire whereas two of his comrades were killed. It was as if they were sacrificing their own lives so that he may live! Imagine the guilt and self-blame festering within Manning as his subconscious tries to resolve the unanswerable question of why he should survive while his fellow soldiers should die?

Had events and circumstances somehow conspired to lead Manning toward the very predicament he now finds himself in?


Glenn awakens after dreaming about the night he was injured in the plutonium blast. The realisation of what has happened to him gradually grows as he begins to discover the doll-house dimensions of the world he now inhabits. Shock and terror then find expression in a primal scream.

Even the comforting support of a good woman like Carol cannot break through the cumulous clouds of Manning’s despondency and cynicism. In response to Carol’s optimistic belief that “they’ll be able to help you,” all Manning can ask is;

“What sin could a man commit in a single life-time to bring this on himself?”

So philosophers, priests, therapists and counsellors, what say you all?

God’s will? 
Will of the gods? 


God knows! 


What is even harder to find an answer to is the truth! The government and the military have kept the truth of Manning’s condition from the media and the public.

One way of doing so is to make the truth itself appear to be so unbelievable and outlandish that it is easily discounted and not given any credence. Take for instance the 25 sides of beef that was delivered to the Research Centre. When the driver asks what it is for, the guard tells him, “It’s for him. The giant. The 30 foot one we’ve got living here.”

NEWS BULLETIN (excerpt) 

H WELLS presenter 

What happened to Colonel Manning? “To all accounts he should have died. What’s all the mystery for Washington?” 


As if to emphasize Manning’s predicament, Linstrom orders him moved to a tent as he has outgrown his room. It is as if he has now become some kind of circus freak sideshow performer or exhibit.

Linstrom later makes an almost callous-sounding but also rather idiotic comment that Manning “should be confined!” How can one confine something that is continually growing?

His rather insensitive nature reveals itself when he keeps insisting that Carol shouldn’t remain close to her fiancé. How could anyone expect a good woman like her to agree? She points out to Linstrom that Glenn is “all alone except for me.”

She understands that there is nothing in the world that is more difficult for a single individual than to bear the burden of a personal tragedy in total isolation without the support of friends and family.

Linstrom also reveals to Carol that Glenn's heart is growing at only half the rate of his body and soon will be unable to support his enormous size with the result that he will die in a matter of days: “All parts are enlarging at the same ratio, except the heart.” According to Linstrom, Glenn’s mind will go first and then “his heart will literally explode.”

All Carol can do is ask that age-old unanswerable question:


Linstrom can only reply with, “I wish I knew.”

God’s will? 
Will of the gods? 

God knows! 

We wish we knew…

When a sergeant brings Manning his dinner in the tent which is now his home, Manning’s mental and physical deterioration is now quite evident. Looking at the miniature newspaper headline, he asks, “They call this living?” before succumbing to a fit of coughing that suggests that all is not well with him.

The petrified and hapless sergeant desperately wants to be anywhere else but in the presence of this giant but he finds himself nailed to the spot by his orders and the force of that overpowering physical presence. Manning’s comments are directed at both the sergeant and the rest of humanity:

“Why don’t you ask me how it feels to be so big? .... That’s right sergeant, I am a circus freak...I think you’re the freak! … I’m not growing– you’re shrinking!”

Manning then succumbs to a paroxysm of coughing and clutches his chest in pain.

Later while talking with Carol, Glenn reveals just how bitter and angry he has become. He sees himself as being a monster and declares that the beating of his heart “keeps getting louder and louder.” Glenn goes on to recall his yearbook entry in which it was stated with almost cruel irony that he was considered to be “a man most likely to reach the top.” Before storming off, Glenn loudly shouts out an appeal to all creation:


In a world we have made for ourselves all of us have from time to time wished we could just yell out for things to stop – to stop moving so fast; to stop becoming so complicated; to stop changing so much; to stop growing bigger and bigger beyond our individual power to control.

Even Carol’s optimism and support is not strong enough to sustain Glenn. Back in his tent when Carol informs him that she is hopeful concerning the experiments that have been performed on animals, all Glenn can think of doing is wish for death to release him “from this curse.” According to him, he is just “a lost cause.” Even Carol’s appeal to him that she could never leave him “at a time like this” is met with an angry retort:


An individual suddenly has a problem foisted on him; a problem of such magnitude that it becomes too much for one person to deal with. Self-blame, frustration, anger, depression and despondency are all that seem to be left to deal with things. All thoughts are turned inward and become warped while pessimism and negativity are magnified and in fact almost define that individual’s entire universe as the individual becomes further alienated from everything and everyone else around them….

Can this only happen to a fictional film giant? 

The following morning Coulter reports to Linstrom that he may have found a solution to Manning’s growth: “…I’ve got the answer! … The answer is in the bone marrow!” In order to correct the body’s regenerative balance, they will need to “inject sulphur-hydro compounds into the bone marrow” together with high frequency stimulation of the pituitary gland to reduce Manning’s size. Hey, it’s scientific crap that sounds good, OK?

Height: 50 – 55 Feet 

“Sooner or later someone’s bound to see him” 

(ya’ think?!) 

In the meantime, a bigger problem has arisen with the disappearance of Glenn Manning. A 10-mile-wide search for Manning is soon organized involving helicopters, “Charlie Dog” & “William X-Ray” circling Boulder Dam and Las Vegas. The search fails to find any trace of the by now over 50-foot-tall giant Glenn.

Glenn has now been missing for 15 hours and there is mounting concern that his condition may be affecting his mind. A special syringe filled with a serum from Glenn's bone marrow has been created. It is hoped that it will stop his growth.

"Do you consider Manning dangerous?"

While considering the danger that Manning may pose, Carol states her belief that, “It’s not a wild beast you’re talking about. He’s a human being!” By contrast, Linstrom believes that Glenn should have been confined with chains and a fence. He tries once again to insist that Carol leaves: “Can’t you see the futility of the situation?” Carol tells Linstrom point blank, “I’m not leaving until I know.”


NEWS BULLETIN (excerpt) 

H WELLS presenter 

“Flying saucers of earth have a competitor….Two motorists almost collided with a 60 foot giant! ...” What have you got to top that one?” 

Not finding the giant and working out “what to do with him after he’s found” are problems that have to be dealt with. It isn’t surprising that recourse to a military option is soon settled on. The next morning Colonel Hallock armed with a pointer and a map outlines the operation to locate Manning with the customary “here, here and here” references. The assumption is that “the giant is potentially dangerous” and once he is located the troops are to “stay away from him.”

Lindstrom Carol and Coulter are in one of the helicopters searching for Manning. They have on board an outlandishly large syringe with which to inject the serum into Manning.

Manning is eventually spotted just outside of Las Vegas. He casually proceeds to wander along the Strip stopping off the Dunes Hotel; the Riviera; the Imperial Palace; the Silver Slipper (where he rips off a giant rotating high heel shoe marquee)......

........the Tropicana (where the police against orders open fire on him with their rifles.) Here Glenn retaliates by pulling up a palm tree and hurling it at the crowd.

Next stop is at the Sands where he picks up a convertible car and throws it, just before he smashes the sign. Lastly, Glenn breaks up the Pioneer Club Vegas Vic cowboy sign and throws pieces of it at the police. 

Manning leaves Vegas and makes his way towards Boulder Dam. Lindstrom’s helicopter manages to land close to Manning and they prepare to give Manning his injection. By this stage it is apparent that his mind has gone.

Linstrom and Coulter grab hold of the syringe and drive the needle into Manning's ankle. Manning pulls out the syringe, and spears Major Coulter through the body with it.

Manning then reaches down and picks up Carol and walks to Boulder Dam. Lindstrom pleads over his megaphone with Manning to put Carol down. As soon as he does so, he is struck with a barrage of gunfire followed by a bazooka blast. Manning falls off the top of the dam into the Colorado River to what seems to be his death.

Points of Interest

The Amazing Colossal Man unfortunately contains quite poorly-crafted and unconvincing special effects even for the time at which it was made. The giant manning character was just projected onto other film and superimposed with the result that he often looks transparent. On the other hand, the effect of the giant hypodermic needle impaling the major looked quite realistic, brutal and hilarious at the same time!

Another disappointing feature of the film was its very abrupt ending which may have been a result of its low budget or a deficit of ideas?

The strength of the film is centred around Colonel Glenn Manning's dilemma, the irony of which is never lost on him or the audience. His situation is almost a metaphor for much of the human condition when faced with the kinds of suffering that life has to throw at us.

The most powerful scene of The Amazing Colossal Man is the one in which the colonel wakes up from his coma for the first time after the plutonium bomb explosion accident. Alone in a dark room in the early hours of the morning, he gradually comes to realize that something is terribly wrong. As the scene fades to black, Manning wails uncontrollably into the darkness of the hell into which he has descended. His reaction is sudden, convincing and emotionally affecting. We cannot help but feel sympathy for this outcast who has now become a menace to society.

©Chris Christopoulos 2016

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