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Cheesy Queen

I thought I might have found a cheesy movie when I saw the title Queen of Outer Space (1958) on the TCM schedule. When I saw that Zsa Zsa Gabor starred, I was even more hopeful. My hopes were confirmed with Ben Mankiewicz’s pre-movie commentary. A typical ’50s sci fi flick: low budget, cheesy special effects and a lot of fun. I will say: not the most fun movie I could think of, but considering the cheese shortage I have been experiencing lately, it’ll do.

Spoiler alert: I’m going to give a lot away. I don’t think I’m spoiling much, though, because it’s the sort of movie where you pretty much see everything coming.

My first disappointment was that Zsa Zsa was not the queen. I learned that during the pre-movie commentary. My next disappointment was that the movie takes forever to get started.

The plot concerns that staple of cheesy movies, a civilization of all women. This one is on, what a surprise, Venus. But of course we can’t start out actually on Venus tussling with the ladies. We must start out on Earth, learning the mission of the three astronauts and their important passenger blah blah blah. Important takeaway: these guys are tops in astronauting but the mission is supposed to be a milk run.

I did not notice what year the movie is supposed to take place in — the future of 1958 anyways — but space travel has certainly advanced. The astronauts are taking Important Guy to a space station, which one astronaut refers to as a bus depot.

A word about the three astronauts. They are a captain and two lieutenants. I think they were supposed to have distinct personalities. The stalwart leader, the ladies man and the wise cracker. However, they seemed pretty much interchangeable to me.

Take off is slightly delayed when Ladies Man (I think) pauses on the tarmac to kiss a beautiful blond good-bye.

“Space ships are dangerous,” she squeaks in the approved airhead voice. “What if you get lost?”

As things turn out she should be more worried about his wandering eye than any wandering the ship might do, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Then again, this blond is not seen, mentioned nor thought of again, so I guess the whole movie is hard luck on her.

Stalwart Leader looks out the window (!) at them, then gets on the loudspeaker (!) and tells Ladies Man to get on board. After a few more smooches, he does.

The movie is further delayed when they feel the need to let us hear the whole countdown. Couldn’t they at least have started on five? In your better movies, during the countdown a character is trying frantically to get something done or a villain perpetrates some nefarious act. This movie just flashes on the spaceship, the blond looking worried, and the guys strapping themselves into beds. Apparently space travel has become very relaxing in whatever year this is supposed to be.

It’s gotten pretty hands-off as well. After the space station is blown to smithereens before their eyes and they are under attack themselves, Stalwart Leader puts it on autopilot and they strap themselves back into the beds.

“Who’s flying the ship?” I asked.

Flash to some of those cheesy special effects: either a model or a cardboard cut-out of the ship moves shakily across the screen while fake-looking flames squiggle below.

As is often the case in science fiction, the gravity and atmosphere on another planet are nothing to worry about. As a nod to reality, one of the astronauts says to Important Guy that he thought the atmosphere on Venus was too heavy from… something.

“I used to subscribe to that theory,” Important Guy says importantly.

“But my subscription ran out and I didn’t renew it,” I interjected and thought I was pretty clever for making Steven laugh.

The men disembark from their disabled but not totaled spacecraft and are soon captured by women with some pretty tough firearms. They speak English because, as one explains scornfully, they have been intercepting Earth’s radio transmissions.

I must say I was pretty glad to see the women show up. Who knew single gender movies could be so dull? Naturally the women wear low-cut, form fitting mini- dresses. I expected something like that. I have to ask myself: is it feminist or anti-feminist that with no men around to impress or entice, movie women just naturally pick the sexiest way to dress?

Another thing I wonder about thee all-female societies is the age distribution. It seems the entire population is in the 18 to 29-year-old range (Zsa Zsa might be a little older, but we’ll let that slide). Where are the little girls and the old ladies? Some mention is made about how the men are sequestered somewhere in a “breeding colony.” I wondered if they had figured out a way to make the men be pregnant, because I didn’t see any baby bumps either.

You know I don’t pay too much attention to these things, especially the boring parts like explanations. As near as I could figure out, the women, led by the one who is now queen, kicked out all the men, because the women were tired of war. They promptly built the super-duper weapon that destroyed the space station and now plan to destroy the Earth as well, for reasons unspecified. It is either a profound statement on absolute power corrupting absolutely, some kind of feminist or anti-feminist propaganda, or a typical B movie “Waaaait a minute” plot development.

However, one lets these considerations slide when enjoying a cheesy sci-fi flick. I’m afraid it was not an hour and a half on unalloyed enjoyment, but for an evening’s entertainment and the subject of a blog post, it was OK.