The American military are testing this new plutonium bomb out in the isolated deserts of Nevada, and everything is set to go with the soldiers on the ground placed in a trench to protect them from the anticipated blast. However, when the countdown has finished, nothing happens, the device does not go off, though the men are instructed to stay where they are until the problem can be worked out, or the bomb goes off by itself. Then, the unexpected happens: a light aircraft in trouble flies overhead and crashlands into the ground, concerning Lieutenant Colonel Glen Manning (Glenn Langan) so much that he leaps out of the trench and races towards the wreckage...
Big mistake, as that bomb is set off and our hero is caught in the blast, tearing the clothes from his body and covering him in radiation burns. He is rushed to hospital, his fiancée Carol Forrest (Cathy Downs) is called, and the prognosis is far from good - but this would be a short film if he expired, well, it's already fairly brief, but it was a B-movie, and Manning is found to have been miraculously cured because atomic radiation has magical powers, as we all know from watching nineteen-fifties science fiction. Although the plot here tried to keep its big reveal a secret, it was all there in the title: Manning is growing at the rate of a few feet a day! Soon he will be colossal!
The Amazing Colossal Man was probably director Bert I. Gordon's best-known film and was his most typical as far as his earlier output went - later he would branch out into sleazier material, as many fifties survivors of the realm of exploitation flicks would be forced to do. He became renowned for his giant monster movies, and as much as those his ambitious yet not terribly well-realised special effects he used to pull off his setpieces which he often crafted himself, something of a jack of all trades behind the camera. He could churn out these quickies with speed and efficiency, which is why he never seemed to lack a backer for his prodigious output for quite a few decades.
This particular item was inspired by the success of Jack Arnold's The Incredible Shrinking Man, as Arnold was sort of the Bert I. Gordon with better critical reception who made something special out of his science fiction plotting. Yet you had the impression even if Gordon was prompted to make a counterpart to the previous hit, he would probably have stumbled across this concept sooner rather than later, it was simply the way his brain was wired, and he had already dabbled in giant monster movies in his career. This time he was able to inject a little more humanity into the plight of Manning, as the implications of his torment were examined with unexpected sincerity, not what every creature feature would do, though he may have been inspired by the pathos of King Kong, the one that started it all.
If Manning is a right miseryguts once he is aware of his affliction, then at least we can sympathise he has a right to be, and although many arrive at The Amazing Colossal Man seeking camp and unintentional laughs, which were certainly present, the anguish of the titular colossus was played with a conviction that could be disarming. Don't get me wrong, this was still a ridiculous movie, with preposterous pseudo-scientific justification, but Gordon's tugging at the heartstrings as if Manning was suffering some form of terminal disease (and he more or less was) was a lot more resonant than some oversized reptile or insect's issues. What we were all waiting for was a rampage, and we got one in the final ten minutes where driven mad with his ever-growing state he heads to Las Vegas and starts ripping up the huge signs on the casinos as the Army gather their forces against him. This was the part that featured him injected with a large syringe, a rescue bid that could have gone better but has a highly entertaining punchline. Really, it was the effects that let this down, but that can be amusing too. Music by Albert Glasser.