The Wasp Woman (1959)

Not Rated   |    |  Horror, Sci-Fi


The Wasp Woman (1959) Poster

The head of a major cosmetics company experiments on herself with a youth formula made from royal jelly extracted from wasps, but the formula's side effects have deadly consequences.


4.7/10
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7 January 2012 | hitchcockthelegend
5
| This Queen plans to stay young.
The Wasp Woman is directed by Jack Hill and Roger Corman and written by Leo Gordon and Kinta Zertuche. A Roger Corman production, it stars Susan Cabot, Anthony Eisley, Michael Mark and Barboura Morris. Music is by Fred Katz and photography by Harry Neumann.

Janice Starlin (Cabot) is the owner of a large cosmetics company, once a successful operation, the company is starting to lose customers who can see that Starlin is beginning to show her aged years. But hope may be at hand form scientist Eric Zinthrop (Mark), who has been experimenting with the royal jelly from a queen wasp, creating a serum that reverses the aging process. She strikes a deal with Zinthrop to fund his research as long as she can be his first human subject...

Schlockmeister Corman obviously took notice of the success of Kurt Neumann's The Fly from the previous year, for here he tries to bring us the female variant on the sci-fi mix up movie for half the budget. It marks the last time that Susan Cabot would appear in film, this also being the last of six films she made with Corman. For a low budget schlocker it's not half bad, the berserker insect/human science is good fun and there's potent thematics within involving the search for eternal youth, drug addiction and the cautionary warning about man pushing science too far. Even the effects, whilst cheap and rightly kept in the shadows for the most part, have an antiquated charm about them. If only the film wasn't so static, so ordinary, for two thirds of its relatively short running time, then this would be talked about as one of Corman's better offerings, especially since the cast are actually fine, particularly the pretty and stoic Cabot.

Most of the film is played out from the offices of a high-rise office complex, this is unusual but gives the film a little uniqueness, with Neumann and his directors managing to set the ambiance at uneasy. But it's mostly talky stuff, meaning mood is built up to the point that when the picture does shift into creature feature gear-budget restrictions mean expectations can't possibly be met; even if what little horror is in the picture is actually pretty spicy: though the makers do miss a trick because it's explained to us early in the piece that the Queen Wasp eats her mate! But Janice has no love interest here, shame that! Fred Katz's music is deliciously mad, at times sounding like Wacky Races on LSD, at others some gentle jazz beat fusion, it's in the right movie, just not used at the right times! The accompanying buzzing sound affect for a Wasp Woman attack, though, is most agreeable. Corman would use the score again for Little Shop of Horrors the following year.

Nobody, you would like to think, would be viewing The Wasp Woman expecting a sci-fi classic, but it's a frustrating watch in many ways, even to the fans of cheapo B movie schlockers. 5/10

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