Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Wasp Woman (1959)

Although I'm a big fan of B-movies in general, I'd rarely call one of them - especially one from the master of cheapness, Roger Corman - a 'good' film. And yet, The Wasp Woman (aka The Bee Girl or The Insect Woman) genuinely deserves that praise. Sure, it has the laughable monster makeup you expect of a movie with an Ed Wood level budget, but it has a good script (some scientific nonsense aside) and a fine lead in Susan Cabot.

The film introduces us to Dr Zinthrop, who is studying the use of royal wasp jelly (a substance that does not actually exist) as a youth serum. Fired from his job with a honey farm, he approaches Janice Starlin, the CEO and former 'face' of a cosmetics company. The corporation's sales are in a slump since the aging Janice stepped down as their spokesmodel in favour of younger women, but she is now too old for the role and sees everything she built beginning to crumble. Thus she eagerly seizes on Zinthrop's work as a chance to rebuild the fortunes of her ailing company. She offers to fund him, as long as he makes her his first human subject. Zinthrop is reluctant, but has no choice. Even then, he shows a pleasantly sensible approach to human experimentation, insisting on very limited dosages. Unfortunately, Janice is not above taking additional doses behind his back - doses that will soon have deadly side effects for those around her.

Eschewing the usual mad scientist schtick for Zinthop was a good call, and casting Susan Cabot in the lead was a better one. The script and her performance combine admirably to make her pursuit of youth understandable, if foolishly dangerous. The Wasp Woman is definitely a cut above the average 50s monster fare.

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