Monday, March 18, 2013

The Wasp Woman (1959) Review

The Wasp Woman poster
Director: Roger Corman
Stars: Susan Cabot, Anthony Eisley, Barboura Morris
Genre: Horror, Science Fiction

A Roger Corman B-movie from the 1950s, released only a week or so after his fantastically classic A Bucket of Blood.

The film is about some scientist who invents a serum that can make people young again...or something like that. So a cosmetics company wants to sell this product and the owner of the company is so enthusiastic about it that she allows the serum to be tested on herself. It works and she becomes young again...but the big side effect is that she occasionally turns into a blood thirsty wasp.

The film obviously find its inspiration from The Fly (unfortunately it's nowhere near as good as it). The story is of course bogus and nonsensical, the characters and writing doubly so. 

The special effects I can't really call bad. They were pretty okay for a 50s horror flick. The wasp woman didn't look much worse than the fly did in The Fly. (Aside from some moments where you can see the white of her neck or wrists). The problem is we only see the wasp woman twice and for only a few seconds. So most of the film doesn't even have any special effects or cool make-up. Which actually makes the film pretty slow and boring despite its short running time.

There's not much camp value here either, which I suppose is partly due to the fact that the special effects are so infrequent. I'm sure it's a movie that can be giggled at, but there's nothing overly cheesy or ridiculous in here. Which, again, makes it pretty boring. 

Although you have to love the poster for this film. It shows a giant wasp with a woman's head, but the movie actually has a woman with a wasp's head. Oh, how I love you b-movies and your misrepresenting posters!

The Wasp Woman doesn't have much going for it; no camp value, no actual value, infrequent effects, and a slow and boring story. There is one thing I can compliment though, and that is the excellent musical score by Fred Katz. The score was originally used in A Bucket of Blood, and Corman used the same score for many of his later films as well. The story is that apparently every time Corman hired Katz to do score one of his films Katz gave him the same one and Corman never noticed. Nonetheless it's a pretty cool score and it's nice to hear in this.

The Wasp Woman monster

Susan Cabot, who played the lead role, has a bit of an interesting real-life story to her. This was the last film she made before she was beaten to death by her own son, a mentally troubled dwarf, with a weight lifting bar. It's a pretty odd way to die. There's supposedly a biopic in development about Cabot to be directed by Stephan Elliott and star Rose McGowan. Now that's something I'd like to see.

The film was originally 60 minutes long but Jack Hill later directed an extra ten minutes for the film in order for it to be shown on television. Some sources credit Monte Hellman as the one who directed the extra ten minutes of footage but others say it was Jack Hill. Not sure which is correct and if anyone can clear that up in the comments it would be much appreciated.

Susan Cabot in The Wasp Woman

It's a minor film for the king of b-movies Roger Corman. He has many better films and this is really only worth watching for big fans of his. Although it can be a good way to waste 70 minutes.

2/5 stars

Purchase The Wasp Woman on Amazon: DVD - Stream - Corman Collection

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