The Wasp Woman (1959) – Roger Corman and Jack Hill

Office drama in a cosmetics company meets terror when I delve into the next title in DK Canada’s highly enjoyable Monsters in the Movies book, and settle in for the next mad scientist picture.

A wasp obsessed scientist, Zinthrop (Micheal Mark) is recruited by a cosmetics company run by Janice Starlin (Susan Cabot). Starlin has been running the country for eighteen years, since she first started it at the age of twenty-three. Now she’s afraid she’s lost her looks and grown old, Zinthrop may be able to help her with all that.

It seems he has a theory about using wasp enzymes to rejuvenate one’s youth, and Starlin wants to be the human guinea pig.

Surprise, surprise, there are side effects, and it seems Starlin is more of a threat in the film than the ‘mad scientist.’ She is obsessed with reclaiming her ‘lost’ youth, and completely disregards Zinthrop’s warnings.

Of course, Zinthrop was quite happy to start human experimentation before he’d even seen the results from his early forays.  Although, after he recovers from an accident, he tries to warn Starlin about the results of one of his experiments, a poor kitty, that first regresses in age, and then becomes very dangerous.

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At least the poor fella doesn’t end up looking like Starlin when she transforms. She gets a weird face and claw like hands (reminiscent of The Fly) and has an affectation for tearing out her victim’s throats, which is weird as you’d thing there would be something involving a stinger.

Interspersed with this, despite the film’s short length, is some office drama and romance. Still there isn’t a lot here to shout about, and it’s just typically early Corman fare that barely works. It’s not a very engaging film, and the themes at work in the film are given their due justice, in fact they are barely explored.

And poor Zinthrop, if he could have just been left alone with his bees and wasps, he may  have been happy, But of course, then we wouldn’t have been able to have this film.

None of the characters are particularly likable, the secretaries are catty, there’s an office romance that no one seems to care about, and you can’t particularly sympathize with Starlin. She’s well off, has a fantastic company, she just suffers from a crappy pair of glasses (and a desire to be forever young).

But these old classics are great to watch, even if it’s to learn how not to make a movie, and the creature effects can be fun. So check this one out, or pick up a copy of DK Books’ Monsters in the Movies and find something macabre to watch tonight!

wasp

 

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