I had great hopes for Wasp Woman (1959). The title seemed to promise a monster. I knew they might slough me off with a big bunch of insects, but I was willing to take that chance. When I saw Roger Corman’s name in the credits, I felt certain I had made a wise decision.
Spoiler Alert! I will give away some plot developments, but not all. Still, more than I would want to know, so I warn you.
The movie opens with predators of a different kind, in a corporate board room. A hard-nosed businesswoman is putting her board through the wringer on declining sales. A good-looking young man jumps up and in arrogant leading-man fashion blames her. It is a cosmetics company, you see, and she has always been its “face.” Now that the face has changed, customers do not trust it.
Snap! Why didn’t you just say, “It’s your fault, because you got so old and ugly!” Incidentally, she’s neither. She’s not young and chipper, but I should look so good in my 40s (I’m still in my 40s for at least another month, so shut up!). Obviously the movie is setting her up to take extreme measures to look young and beautiful. Naturally this will lead to trouble.
I can’t help noticing that the quest to keep a woman young and beautiful forms the catalyst for a number of horror movies. I like best the ones where they have to kill authentically young and beautiful women to do it. Oh dear, that didn’t sound very nice. I only meant that those were the most horrifying and in general the cheesiest. I think woman’s quest for beauty and man’s role in aiding and abetting is a ripe topic for some serious commentary, if I was that sort of a blogger. Being the sort of blogger I am, I may mine the topic for some half-baked philosophy one Lame Post Friday.
Where was I? Ah yes, with Cosmetic CEO ready to fund some highly risky experiments involving wasps. They provide some background on what terrible creatures wasps are, especially the queen, and the supposed scientific basis for the experiments. I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention. You know in these pictures the science is going to be spurious; I say just get on to the creature.
It takes a while for the Wasp Woman to show up, and she’s a pretty good movie monster. I wish she had gotten more screen time. Before the creature shows up we have to go through the mad scientist (he is actually a rather sweet old man) convincing CEO to fund him, then watch him work, progressing too slowly to suit CEO. Of course she experiments by giving herself extra injections.
She doesn’t see a kitten, previously rejuvenated from an old tabby, go crazy and attack the mad scientist. He gets hit by a car and goes into a coma before he can either perfect the formula or warn anybody about what happened to the cat (he kills the cat, by the way; it might have been fun to have several wasp-infused creatures running around but I guess that’s just me, always wanting more).
The hero — remember, arrogant guy from scene 1? — and his love interest — CEO’s secretary — are, not surprisingly, pretty boring. There’s another guy who always has a pipe in his mouth and gets to have a little more character. My favorites were the two brassy secretaries. I was a little worried over who would end up being wasp food, but the body count wasn’t too high (which could be a good or a bad thing, depending).
It’s a pretty fun movie. I recommend it. If you watch it and have a discussion on the feminist implications, please let me know what conclusions you draw.