B Movie Challenge: Womaneater

If a tree falls in the middle of a luscious forest, where no one is around, will you still hear the juvenile chuckles of those who hear the title of this film? You could have called the film Voodo Tree, Death Fern, Brown Leafy Lady People Muncher, or anything that would have been better than what the producers planted on this British cheapo shlocker from the late 1950s. The petiole of these types of movies branch from the success of the British Quartermass series (The Quartemass Experiment, Quartermass and the Pit, etc.) that were very popular then. Oscar Wilde said it best that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Although this certainly can be true for some films, I wish the producers had imitated some better films (or at least imitated Jim Henson or Jeff Dunham for way better puppetry than the deadwood floater here)!

It was reported that mere days before shooting this pine-DULL classic a random fire broke out which engulfed the original tree monster (talk about a bark that bites!), leaving the filmmakers a few days to rebuild before principal photography commenced. Ideally, this would have been an amazing time to… I don’t know. Maybe review the script? Do some heavy rewrites for the plot ot make sense (for those who didn’t do this, what saps)! The main issue with these “Vegetarian Goes Nutty” jobs is why they need to feed the tree humans to begin with. Most of these stories (which have been done so many times you could have planted a rain forest with all the paper these scripts were made of) have their roots back to Nathanial Hawthorn’s horrific short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter” and although the filmmakers do try to shake our branches of fear, it timbers our expectations so much one cannot simply fall for the movie or its hard-working cast. 

The rootstock of the film’s plot hangs in the hands of Dr. Moran, an evil guy who will stop at nothing to cure the world of all sickness (except, of course, his very own). Nearly dying on a journey deep in the wooded jungles, he finds a drum-beating tribe who sacrifices innocent (well, maybe some of them are pretty naughty) woman to their carnivorous giant ficus! Like most mad scientists (“We all go a little mad sometimes… especially getting our PhDs”) Dr. Moran has a bit of an agenda and wants to use the nectar of the ravenous cucumber to keep his loved ones alive. The only catch is he needs to give the tree what it craves: The blood of woman (“Feed Me, senorita! Feed me!”)! Will Dr. Moran stop killing the woman or will the tree break from form the grounds of Hell and make everyone stop to smell the roses? Double-dig a group of confused policemen, sheer off some extra footage that probably helped the plot make sense, and allow the inexperienced actors to blossom as they are eaten by a wildly weird tree puppet and you have a cult classic of cinematic compost that will soil your taste for quality films!

Fertilizing your way at a shorn seventy minutes, and directed by Charles Saunders (who would go on to lens classics like Nudist Paradise and Naked Fury), the film does have the district reputation (and that’s extending the olive branch pretty far) of being the first feature role for popular nude model Marie Devereux (ooo-la-la). You can find this film, which was sponsored by Columbia Pictures in the USA, on most streaming services like Tubi and such. So when you are asked to watch the 1950s mind (and wind) blowing deep-rooted shlocker Womaneater (right before you deep fry that organic, non-tilled hummus) just remember not to laugh when the monster topiary is hardening off in the middle of the theatre!

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.

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