The Wasp Woman (1959)

This joint is all about style.  It is a movie about a cosmetics company after all.

Genre fans have at least heard of this film, if not actually seen it.  It’s one of those.  You see it playing on the late night creature feature.  Directed by Roger Corman (who also appears, uncredited, as a doctor) and written by Leo Gordon; two very prolific industry mavens.

The movie is a classic horror story.  The wonders of SCIENCE! gone horribly off the rails.  Driven, of course, by the selfishness and obsessiveness that leads one on a search for eternal youth.  To have what nobody should.  What ego.

Enter Janice Starlin.  The head of Starlin Cosmetics, which is in financial decline and desperate for corporate rejuvenation.  Obviously, in cosmetics (that word is Greek in origin…I suspect tragicomedy in the near future), the best way to gain a sales boost is to create actual rejuvenating products.  How could this end poorly?

I’ll tell you how.  Wasp enzymes.

Aging tycoon.  Business in decline.  Forty-year-old cosmetics magnate Janice Starlin is a has been.  There’s nothing for it but some seriously drastic action.

1.2.3.  Quick as can be.  You know what happens next.  Mysterious stranger (Zinthrop) arrives with a miracle cure.  Starlin is eager to test it out.  People disappear.

What’s that annoying buzzing sound?

Oh, Janice!  What have you done?  How many people must suffer for your beauty?

This is success?  Rejuvenation, sure.  Beautification, definitely not.  Unless you find antennae sexy.  Cooper sure didn’t when that Wasp Woman was gnawing on his face.

All of us have seen these monster clashes play out.  Good wins out in the end.  Or does it?  Who doesn’t love a little open-ended parting shot at the end?  (Those looked like  bees to me, but what do I know.)

The real greatness in this film; however, is in its mere existence.  A great historical record of early hipsters, 1960s style.  Like looking at cave paintings of mod skirts and bouffants.

Starlin casually pulling a pristine, rolled cigarette out of an elegant case in her office.  The resident company scientist who would rather be caught pants-less than without his trusty pipe, tucked in his jetted jacket pocket.

Starlin’s top aide, the All-American gal (Mary), is referred to as “bright eyes” by a possible beau.  The sultry, smoldering phone girl Maureen lays it on thick like any quality phone sex operator, but can’t hide her barbed tongue, earning her a shot from a co-worker, who dubs her the Duchess of Flatbush.

Where else are you going to get dialogue like this?

“What are you two Sherlocks going to do about it.”

Rolling under all of this 1960’s culture is a great score.  Appropriately jazzy and hip, turning angry, buzzing and frenetic when WaspStarlin starts to get out of hand.  This can convincingly be called Angry Hive Muzak.

Original music created by Fred Katz (‘sup, Brooklyn!)  Man, Fred got around.  Didn’t he?  He was the music director for the 7th Army Headquarters, artists-and-repertoire director for Decca Records, and was a professor of ethnic music at the University of San Fernando, among other things.

Here’s a bit of Fred jammin’ out.



Go watch the damn movie.  It’s short.  It’s even on YouTube.




This was Susan Cabot‘s final movie.  This woman is something else.  She didn’t even need that wasp enzyme shit.  King Hussein swung and missed on this one.  If they ever get around to doing her biopic, I’ll watch it.

Curious as to how angry queen wasps really are, I did some digging.  I discovered that in certain fairly common species of wasps, the queens are not noticeably larger than the drones.

“All female wasps are potentially capable of becoming a colony’s queen and this process is often determined by which female successfully lays eggs first and begins construction of the nest. Evidence suggests that females compete amongst each other by eating the eggs of other rival females. The queen may, in some cases, simply be the female that can eat the largest volume of eggs while ensuring that her own eggs survive (often achieved by laying the most). This process theoretically determines the strongest and most reproductively capable female and selects her as the queen. Once the first eggs have hatched, the subordinate females stop laying eggs and instead forage for the new queen and feed the young; that is, the competition largely ends, with the losers becoming workers”

Yikes!  I’m thinking that a remake of this movie, involving serious binge eating of some Shiseido brand infants could be in order.  Somebody get on that.

During our introduction to the enzyme’s capabilities, there is an animal testing scene.  What’s a little cosmetics animal testing between friends?  What I thought at first was a rabbit or the largest rat I have ever seen, was actually a guinea pig.  How fitting!

Even better?  The drug made it younger.  It also turned into a normal rat.  That’s not a film snafu.  This enzyme really is a miracle.

Zinthrop is run over by a car.  He walked out in front of that car on purpose.  Say what you will.  The evidence is in the film.

The location of the Starlin Cosmetics building is given as 946 W. 73rd Street, Manhattan.

Nice view.

Kind of makes you want to open up that high-rise window, spread your newly developed wasp wings and soar, don’t it?


About I.M. Pangs

digital verbal smog creator
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