review for The Amazing Colossal Man on AllMovie

The Amazing Colossal Man (1957)
by Bruce Eder review

Evidently inspired by Universal's release of Jack Arnold's The Incredible Shrinking Man, released six months or more earlier, Bert I. Gordon's The Amazing Colossal Man benefits from some mostly passable (though occasionally ludicrous) special effects and a good central performance by Glenn Langan in the title role. There's also solid supporting work by Cathy Downs, William Hudson, and Larry Thor, and the acting is even more impressive when one considers that all of these actors -- even Hudson, who spent years in uncredited bit roles, and only graduated to leads in pictures like this and his villainous turn in Attack of the 50-Foot Woman -- had, of course, seen better days at the major studios (or, in Thor's case, on radio). The fact that they worked as hard as they did here speaks well for them, and also the quality of the screenplay, co-authored by Mark Hanna and director Gordon. One actually feels sympathy for Langan in the role of the army lieutenant colonel doomed by his exposure to a plutonium bomb explosion. indeed, thinking about it now, one wonders if Stan Lee didn't have this movie in the back of his mind when he conceived and created his comic book character the Hulk in the early 1960s. The public obviously resonated to the movie on the basis of the competent acting and perhaps also the theme of the underlying plot, playing on peoples' intrinsic fear of atomic weapons and nuclear radiation -- the latter had been at the center of The Incredible Shrinking Man as well, but treated with a lot more subtlety (almost obliquely, in fact), whereas here it was presented right in the viewer's face. If the movie has any serious flaw other than its low budget, it's the slowing down of the action that takes place at the point where the giant disappears and a tiresome search begins, that eats up precious screen time with too many helicopter scenes that seem repetitive. But Gordon and the script just about make up for it with the shocking, painful denouement at Boulder Dam, where the military finally must take a hand. The film proved astonishingly popular on initial television showings and held its audience well into the 1970's, and even managed to become the basis for a Saturday Night Live sketch about the dangers of nuclear power, with Dan Aykroyd playing then-President Jimmy Carter in "The Amazing Colossal President."