What a lovely day. Second day of our October Overlook Madness, and we jump from the American remakes to the American Trash Classics. This movie comes to us through Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness video for today, which brings forward the conversation regarding what we consider a bad film, and the context in which we see them and what do they mean, and it’s quite an insightful video! You can watch it here, and after you do that, you can read the words that I’ll write now about this particular 1959 movie.
Roger Corman had a few very productive years, and 1959 was one of them. Sadly, that also meant a decrease in quality as these films were mostly hurriedly shot and edited for their immediate release, without much attention to the quality of the project, the acting, the directing or the decency of presenting certain creatures to the viewer. I remember that one year I featured ‘Attack of the Giant Leeches’ (1959), also directed by Roger Corman, and featuring one of the most boring and incredibly fake looking creatures that don’t even scare the viewer, and honestly, the only way to achieve any kind of pleasure of a movie like that one is watching the MST3K version, which might sound like heresy to some, but for me it’s an adequate way of experiencing film if you know you’re getting what you’re getting. This film, on the other hand, comes close, but can be watched on its own as something that passes, as something that happens in the background and you can’t fully comprehend as to why it’s doing what it’s doing, but it’s happening, and while the makeup of the monster towards the end is hokey and fake and not really that good, it has a certain eerie quality that makes it memorable inside its own awfulness, the makeup of the wasp woman is one that may haunt your dreams as the quality doesn’t assert to the viciousness in those moments of genuine horror and acting that do ring true in a moment or two, the despair of a creature that only wants to survive, and that you can tell in its dead eyes.
‘The Wasp Woman’ (1959) directed by Roger Corman (and silently co-directed by Jack Hill, making his debut in the directing chair for certain scenes) is a bad movie that has survived because it’s the example of a promise that cannot be fulfilled, as the technology available at the time and the budgets that Corman counted on can’t possibly come near to the idea of a wasp woman movie. What we get is an attempt at having a theme or potent discourse regarding the abuse of beauty products by the female crowd, and it is a very misogynistic film where the men don’t take seriously the women with who they work, and they try to dethrone the only woman that seems to be in command of the situation, our protagonist that due to her looks has been decreasing the sales of the beauty products she sells (or so it’s implicitly told), and so she finds herself desperate for a solution, a new product that would boost the sales, but that she inadvertently wants for herself: a rejuvenator serum that when injected to test animals makes them younger, and also tests on herself. She becomes instantly younger, or so we are led to believe, as the filmmaking techniques can’t bring much to the change, where we only really see that she no longer needs any glasses and that she suddenly starts using more makeup, making her prettier, for sure, but because she was made ugly for us through the glasses and her posture.
At 72 minutes the film doesn’t even come close to justifying its length, being mostly filled with… well, filler scenes where characters talk about stuff that doesn’t matter to the main plot, and just powers on the woman-hating issues that I presented at the start, where the women are barely looked on as objects that need to be maintained pretty by the cosmetics and the impossibility of being relevant if they aren’t pretty. Profound discourses could be spoken about what this film does wrong, but I think that the most disappointing feature about this film is the under-use of the creature itself, that does have certain qualities even though it’s ridiculous, sadly it’s one of those monster movies where the monster is seen for under 5 minutes of the film. A shame.