The Wasp Woman


Year 1959

Susan Cabot   as  Janice Starlin
Anthony Eisley as Bill Lane
Barboura Morris as Mary Dennison
Michael Mark as Eric Zinthrop
Frank Gerstle as Les Hellman
 
Director - Roger Corman
Screenwriter - Leo Gordon
Story - Kinta Zertuche  

The Wasp Women is better than average B-movie fare from the 1950s. It's black and white, has horrendous "special effects", a beatnik/jazz score with lots of straining horns, a ludicrous premise, and an abrupt ending. Not too promising. But it does have a coherent plot and there aren't many scenes added just to pad the running time. The acting isn't bad, either.

A research scientist (Or maybe he's a doctor. Who knows? He's got test tubes and one syringe.) can reverse aging using royal jelly from a wasp nest. I doubt such a thing exists. Bees have royal jelly and any young bee fed it will turn into a queen. Wasps are either female or not. There is no worker to queen path to promotion in a wasp nest.

The only wasp jelly I could find a reference to was a type of jelly where wasps are embedded. It's like fly paper only it's wasp jelly and it's to kill wasps. So why did the writer make up something called wasp jelly? I'm thinking that The Wasp Women sounded better than, oh, The Bee Babe.

Things are going well for the age reduction plan. Rabbits become kits. (Yes, that's what baby rabbits are called. I can't find any young animal named "caboodle" though.) Rats become pups. (Who knew?) Guinea pigs become...baby guinea pigs. And cats become kittens. Then... (dun-dun-dun!)

Janice Starlin (Cabot), the head of a cosmetics company, decides that she's not becoming young quickly enough for her liking. So, she injects the concentrated form of the wasp jelly enzyme. Little does she know about the adverse effects like having to wear fuzzy gloves and a small ugly mask.

At some point, she becomes a wasp for a minute or so at a time. Then, she has to kill and eat her victim. All of the victim. Not a drop of blood left anywhere when she's finished. Even the clothes are gone. Yet Starlin doesn't gain an inch around her middle even after she polishes off a man who is easily three times her weight. Wasp waisted, I guess.

There's a scene where Roger Corman plays a doctor. Nothing much to say about it other than it's the director. But speaking of the director, this movie suffers a bit from the Roger Corman Pause. Too often there's a lapse between the time one character recites their lines and the time the next words are uttered. I'm sure that it's for editing reasons, but it does detract from any steady mood or pace.

On a side note, this movie is a good example why children can never tell the age of adults. Susan Cabot, who at best looks thirty-something in this movie, is at one point told that she looks twenty-two. Now when you're a child watching something like this, you're apt to believe that this is what a twenty-two year old looks like. It's no wonder that, seeing something like this when you're eight or nine, twenty-two is old.

The reason that this isn't rated lower is that it kept going. It was ridiculous in places, like someone on the first floor of a skyscraper hearing a scream from the fortieth floor. But, the movie soldiered on so you didn't have time to dwell on that or folding beds being setup so that they could be ignored.

There's one scene where moving men bring a folding bed to Starlin's office. On the way the men encounter a snotty secretary. They needle her until she threatens to hit them with her phone. It was amusing but didn't advance the story.

There is one scene that elevates this movie above the bottom dwellers. I can't say if it was the acting, or the directing, or the way the characters were written. But I can say that when Starlin went into the lab to get her first self-administered dose of the concoction, I found myself getting anxious for her. I started mumbling things like, "Don't do it. Don't be a dope." (Injection? Dope? Forget it.) Because I actually felt something for one of the characters, I elevated this to the Torn and Frayed category.

I guess the movie is supposed to be a statement on beauty being transient. One thing that I took away was that when a woman turns into a wasp, she'd better remember her wings. Otherwise, a fall out of a thirtieth floor window is deadly.

No nudity or blasphemy. Nothing thought provoking. But not too bad if you don't mind a 50's "don't mess with Mother Nature" flick and you're forgiving of people making up all kinds of nonsensical terms like "wasp jelly"


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