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What sin could a man commit in a single lifetime to bring this upon himself?—Lt. Colonel Glenn Manning
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.
1958 saw the release of a sequel: War of the Colossal Beast. 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.
The Amazing Colossal Man and War of the Colossal Beast contain examples of:
- The Adjectival Superhero
- Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever
- The Danza: Glenn Langan as Glenn Manning.
- Dying as Yourself: Glenn finally remembers who he is and who Joyce is before being Driven to Suicide.
- "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Attempted to restore Glenn's memory in the sequel.
- I Love Nuclear Power
- 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 happens atop Hoover Dam, Glenn also destroys a few famous (circa 1950s) pieces of the Vegas Strip along the way.
- No Body Left Behind: Glenn in the sequel.
- No More for Me: What a drunk says when he sees Glenn.
- Sarcastic Confession: When a truck driver asks what all the food he's delivering is really for, the sentry says it's for the giant living in the circus tent over there.
- 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.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Glenn's devoted and loyal sister Joyce who never appeared in the original film is a lot like Carol, his devoted and loyal fiancee who never appeared in the sequel.
- Tagline: Several, such as:
Growing...! Growing...! Growing...! To a Giant! To a Monster! When will it Stop!
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.
- Two-Faced: In War of the Colossal Beast, half of Glenn's face has been left as exposed bone with an empty eye socket.
- The Other Darrin: This was a perfect excuse to cast another actor as Glenn.
- You Fail Biology Forever: The heart is but a single cell? I just... I need to go lie down for a while.
- 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.
- 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. In fact, he was never mentioned again past that.
- He was vaporized.