Director: Roger Corman
Writer: Leo Gordon
Cast: Susan Cabot, Fred Eisley, Barboura Morris, William Roerick, Michael Mark, Frank Gerstle, Bruno Ve Sota, Roy Gordon, Carolyn Hughes, Lynn Cartwright, Frank Wolff, Lani Mars, and Phillip Barry
Composer: Fred Katz
Release Date: 10/30/1959
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Desperate to regain her youthful visage, cosmetics firm owner Janice Starlin (Susan Cabot) injects herself with the untested formula of Dr. Eric Zinthrop (Michael Mark)—fired from his honey-farming job for experimenting with wasps. As a result, Starlin succeeds in reversing the aging process—with an unanticipated side effect.
The Wasp Woman is a mediocre science fiction horror movie. Despite providing a clever twist on the premise of The Fly, this film is marred by pacing issues, unconvincing make-up effects, and weak performances from supporting cast members.
Though quite bizarre, The Wasp Woman maintains an air of credibility due to Susan Cabot’s portrayal of Janice Starlin. Primarily worth noting is the main character’s transformation from a cold, stuffy corporate executive to a pleasant and carefree young woman, preparing the viewer for Starlin’s more extreme “makeover” later in the story.
By featuring a superfluous amount of exposition, especially on the topic of Dr. Zinthrop’s new procedure, this offering struggles to build suspense around the titular wasp woman, who, due to the film’s languid pacing and tedious dialogue, fails to make an appearance until the final act. The original version of The Fly, in contrast, generates a sense of wonder, terror, and excitement from the concept of a human being turning into a horrible insect monster. (The Wasp Woman does, however, benefit from a gory, captivating climax, partially compensating for the dull sequences that precede it.)
The Wasp Woman contains a worthwhile message on the importance of accepting old age in a graceful, dignified manner. Specifically, by refusing to let a younger woman promote her products, the protagonist forces herself to uphold an unrealistic standard of beauty—the main cause of her eventual predicament.
Combining body horror tropes with B-movie madness, The Wasp Woman earns its reputation as a cult classic. Nevertheless, this film should be criticized for its insufferable narrative progression.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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