Queen of Schlock! Wasp Woman of the 1950s and Today.

During COVID we’ve been watching a lot of television shows and movies from the 1950s, especially horror and sci-fi. Though entertaining and revisiting a simpler time of no computers or cell phones is nice, there is a certain way of life that is a consistent thread/trend throughout each of these shows/movies and one that is very, very apparent in The Wasp Woman. Now don’t be silly, I’m not going to give it all away in the first paragraph. Read on dear human. Read on!

The Wasp Woman (a.k.a. The Bee Girl and Insect Woman) is a 1959, independently made, American black-and-white science fiction-horror film, produced and directed by Roger Corman, that stars Susan CabotAnthony EisleyMichael Mark, and Barboura Morris. The film was originally released by Filmgroup as a double feature with Beast from Haunted Cave.[1][2] To pad out the film’s running time when it was released to television two years later, a new prologue was added by director Jack Hill.

The founder and owner of a large cosmetics company, Janice Starlin (Susan Cabot), is disturbed when her firm’s sales begin to drop after it becomes apparent to her customer base that she is aging. Zinthrop has been able to extract enzymes from the royal jelly of the queen wasp that can reverse the aging process. Janice agrees to fund further research, at great cost, provided she can serve as his human subject. Displeased with the slowness of the results, she breaks into the scientist’s laboratory after hours and injects herself with extra doses of the formula. {source Wikipedia} This is where the true horror begins!

I love this movie for so many reasons. My number one reason usually isn’t the script, it’s the monster and in this case the Wasp Woman. The make-up department did an amazing job making her look horrifying (head and hands of a wasp). I, myself have a phobia with wasps and hornets and was uncomfortable not only watching the scenes where they showed real wasps but by the actual wasp woman costuming. The things that scare you the most, right?

What audience was this movie meant for? According to Tim Dirks, The Wasp Woman was one of a wave of “cheap teen movies” released for the drive-in market. They consisted of “exploitative, cheap fare created especially for them [teens] in a newly-established teen/drive-in genre”. {source Wikipedia} Now that drive-in theatres have become popular again due to COVID, I’m hoping one of them does 1950s b-movies and the original double bill of The Wasp Woman and Beast From the Haunted Cave.

I think one of my favourite things about Roger Corman is many of his movies touch on the dark side of humanity. The Wasp Woman is definitely one of them. Another of my favourite things is he is able to make a movie for as little money as possible. The film was made for an estimated budget of $50,000. We are considering making our own b-movies and Roger Corman continues to inspire us. You will also notice that musical score from this movie was used in several other Corman movies including Little Shop of Horrors. The Wasp Woman‘s musical score, written by Fred Katz.

Star Susan Cabot, who I loved in this movie and many others, had a tragic end to her life. In the 1980s, she was suffering from severe mental illness, including depression and suicidal thoughts. On December 10, 1986, Cabot’s only child, 22-year-old Timothy Roman, bludgeoned her to death in their Los Angeles home after Cabot awoke in a panicked state and attacked him. It was a heart-breaking end to Susan’s life.

Someone did an amazing job cleaning up the quality of this version. Give it a watch before it vanishes from YouTube!

Oh yes, the trend I was speaking of. The one where women aren’t allowed to age gracefully, get old and definitely shouldn’t get gray hair or wrinkles. Ya that one. Sadly, not much has changed over the decades. Society still hasn’t learned to stop bullying women about their appearance and continue to set ridiculous standards. Many women still inject themselves with poison and unknown substances just to appear thin and youthful. When it comes to that part of the movie, 2020 is no different than in 1959.

Each month I run a b-movie night called Killer B Cinema. Join Lizzie Violet & Zoltan Du Lac for a monthly evening of b-moves from the 1950s to 1990s! There will also be trivia with prizes & much more! Please follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

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