B Movie Challenge: The Wasp Woman

A long, long, long, long, long time ago (in a galaxy not too far from your local drive-in) the great Herodotus spoke of a mythical fountain that made the Macrobians live for a long, long, long, long, long time. Then sometime later, Juan Ponce De Leon was searching for this magic water fountain of youth and stumbled upon old people retiring to Ft. Lauderdale. It seems the secret to living a long, long, long, long, long life is never getting old (good luck running after your 30s), which is how I always feel when watching a Roger Corman creature feature classic like The Wasp Woman: no matter how the logic of science is ignored (buzz off Mr. Wizard), regardless of seeing the wasp mask slide off the actress’ face, and forgiving the long, long, long, long, long montage of driving around 1950s LA, (just like the character Susan Cabot plays) old time movies like these never get old!

Corman was a king at making a penny turn into a thousand dollars, and this is mostly due to his fast filming style (averaging two to six days max on some shoots) and excellent bravery of ballyhoo! For those who are unfamiliar with this affectionate style of the entertainment business, Ballyhoo is a sensational and flamboyant way to promote and market a film, and a typical example is creating a movie poster campaign before a single frame of footage is lensed! American International Pictures and Corman were simpatico with this method by the late 50s and The Wasp Woman was already in the black before Leo Gordan (an unsung movie icon who wrote and acted in hundreds of B westerns) even typed the title Insect Woman (og title). For a film beehived together, it has a lot going for it, from the incredible performance by (knock-off Elizabeth Taylor) Cabot to incredible modern 50s chic set design to a wildly experimental score by Fred Katz (who orchestrated Corman’s Ski Troop Attack and Creature from the Haunted Sea among many), but the unfortunate element which doesn’t work is the needless wasp/werewolf plotting the science doesn’t back up. This film does have a lot of mountain climbing (or honeycombing) to span out its short, short, short, short, short time, yet through it all, it is still a wild specimen in the 50s ‘insect beware’ creature features.

The plot begins when Dr. Zinthrop, freshly squeezed out of his previous job for experimenting with wasp aging serums, knows he can help cosmetic entrepreneur Cabot rebuild her beauty empire with his age-defying elixir. Stunned by his results, the aging Cabot cannot help but take the formula herself, and like every scientific experiment, she must be careful what she wishes for (wisdom before beauty). At first, her skin is ravishing, her clothes tighter, and she feels rejuvenated… until she turns now and then into a giant wasp ala The Nutty Professor (♪ “what’ll it bee, hmmm?” ♫). Like a good batch of honey on toast, pour on a little bit of murder, mayhem, and bad bug costumes and you have a rollicking ‘sooooo bad it is great’ schlock entertainment!

Adjusting its antenna at an ant size sixty-six minutes (cult director Jack Hill filmed a longer prologue for television broadcasts), Corman would only go on to make a few of these little quickies before turning to color and crayon blood for his classic Poe adaptations. You can find this little scavenger on most streaming platforms, but due to its cult status and certain copyright issues, you can find The Wasp Woman on a lot of Corman DVD sets or lampooned by many horror hosts. So stop rubbing on that wasp color nectar pigment balm, deep fry some beer-battered cockroaches, and have yourself a long, long, long, long, long youthful viewing experience in Corman-Wood.

About Ian Klink

As a filmmaker, writer, and artist, Ian Klink’s work includes the feature film Anybody’s Blues and short stories for Weren't Another Way to Be: Outlaw Fiction Inspired by Waylon Jennings, Negative Creep: A Nirvana-Inspired Anthology, A-Z of Horror: U is for Unexplained, The Creeps, Vampiress Carmilla, The Siren’s Call, and Chilling Tales For Dark Nights. Born and raised in Iowa, Klink lives with his family in Pennsylvania where he shares his talents as a teacher of multimedia studies.

View all posts by Ian Klink

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