Movie Reviews 272 – The Wasp Woman (1959)

The Wasp Woman

I was overdue for watching a schlocky B-Movie so I turned to the master himself and picked Roger Corman’s The Wasp Woman off my shelves.

Bee researcher Dr. Zinthrop (Michael Mark) has just been fired for researching wasp enzymes and how the can be used to rejuvenate rats and other small animals instead of ways of making Honey Bees more productive for his employers who run hives. At just about the same time, aging makeup magnate Janice Starlin‘s (Susan Cabot) company finds itself in the doldrums with declining sales which coincided with her decision to take her portrait off of their merchandise. The company’s descent is just one more worry on top of her burgeoning fear of  aging and no longer capable of being model face for her own company. So when Zinthrop, desperate for a job shows Janice some of his lab marvels she immediately hires him and gives him carte-blanche to continue his research.

Zinthrop finally completes his research and Janice insists she be the first recipient for the concoction. It takes a while but when the rejuvenation effects finally kick in they are nothing short of miraculous. With her own employees marveling at her transition she is not only flying on cloud nine with her looks, but puts the company on a path that will revolutionize the makeup industry and will make Starlin enterprises a fortune.

But this is not a soap opera we’re watching but a horror movie called the The Wasp Woman so something’s gotta give. For starters, one of Zinthrop’s test animals, a cat, has suddenly grown oversized tumours on it’s back and has gone feral, attacking him in the lab. Still reeling and in a bit of panic he rushes out the building but gets struck down by a car on the street. He survives, but is in a bad shape. As he groggily regains consciousness he vaguely recalls that he has some important message to deliver but for the life in him can’t remember what it was.

Too bad, since Janice was not only taking the small doses Zinthrop was administering her, but she’s gotten a bit impatient with the slow progress and has been secretly boosting herself. The predictable result is that she occasionally turns into a BEM (Bug Eyed Monster) and starts sucking victims dead around the office.

The effects are cheesy to say the least and Janice’s ‘Wasp’ look is hoot.albeit nothing like to enticing movie banner. However the movie does have its charms. The drama unfolds largely from the point of view of Janice’s aide Mary (Barboura Morris), her boyfriend Bill (Fred Eisley) the firm’s marketing man, and pipe smoking board member Arthur Cooper (William Roerick) who tries to figure out Zintrhop’s game from the very start. Their water cooler sleuthing is all quite silly but nothing like to flighty banter we get to enjoy from two girls in the secretarial pool who seem to just sit around and talk all day.

Look of for a short cameo appearance by Corman himself who looks incredibly young as a doctor checking out Zinthrop after his accident. I just wonder if Corman was taking some sort of rejuvenating serum. Hmm.…

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