Tag Archives: roger corman

[Sep. 15, 1962] Communist Defector (Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond the Sun)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]

by Gideon Marcus

Roger Corman, the Savant of Schlock is back with a most unusual motion picture.  With incredible puissance, Corman stretches a dime such that he makes “A” quality out of “B” films (q.v. House of Usher, Little Shop of Horrors, Panic in Year Zero, etc.) But Corman takes a different tack with his latest flick, Battle Beyond the Sun.  From what I’ve read, it was originally a Soviet film, which Corman then redubbed and edited for American consumption.  The result is…interesting, and not an unrewarding experience.

The film begins with a somewhat non sequitur narrated sequence displaying a host of spacecraft models.  These are of current and futuristic design.  While a pretty sequence, it is better suited to one of the NASA documentary films you see on TV.  The rather ponderous narration continues as the setting is introduced: in the near future, an atomic war devastates the planet and erases political boundaries.  Once the Earth recovers, it is divided into two rival states: North Hemis and South Hemis.  Interestingly, the former includes what was once the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.  The latter comprises latin Europe, South America, Africa, and most of Asia.

Now it is 1997, and both nations are on the verge of sending a manned mission to Mars.  The South Hemis spaceship Mercury, docked at the orbiting station, Angkor, is undergoing final preparations when a distress call is received.  It is a North Hemis spacecraft, the Typhoon, in need of repair.  The Angkor personnel, apolitical in their devotion to science, open their airlocks to their distressed adversaries. 

But when the North Hemisians learn of the Mercury’s impending flight, they foolhardily depart with their half-fixed vessel in an attempt to reach the Red Planet first.  They run afoul of the sun’s magnetic field along the way, crippling the ship and leaving it in a helpless spiral toward extinction. 

Of course, the self-sacrificing and noble South Hemisians cannot let the Typhoon‘s crew die, no matter their treachery.  So begins an exciting adventure as the Mercury sails off to rescue the Typhoon, finds itself in need of saving, too, ultimate success resting in the hands of a third, prototype spaceship.  Will they make it to Mars?  Can they get back?  You’ll have to watch and find out.

The most striking aspects of this film stem from its Soviet provenance.  I recently reviewed the volume, More Soviet Science Fiction, and I note Battle shares the same grand stateliness with the first story of that collection.  Everything is larger than life.  The Director of Spaceflight sits virtually alone in an enormous control room, her voice echoing in the chamber.  Launchpads are giant, austere things.  The final scene is a sweeping pageant of clamoring humanity. 

There is, of course, the lackluster dubbing (par for the course if you’ve watched Japanese imports), and I imagine we lose a bit of the original plot.  But I was impressed with the lack of political bias.  Battle is a tale of the community of science winning out over personal or national ambition.  It was clearly a high budget film, with excellent use of matting, fine modelwork, and stunning costumes.

Technologically, it’s a big of a mixed bag.  I liked the fact that ships had to turn over to decelerate, and I was impressed with the way the astronauts’ couches reclined to always be perpendicular to the direction of thrust.  The filmmakers were obviously impressed with this effect, too — it gets shown a lot

In the demerits department, we have the fact that ships sail across the solar system in what appears to be a matter of hours.  With engines that powerful, one wonders how it’s taken so long to get a person to Mars.  Also, the superfluous mid-movie fight between purple space monsters, advertised heavily in the trailers, is both nonsensical and was clearly created in post-production as a way to jazz up the film.

But the movie doesn’t need it.  I fully expected Battle to be a ponderous mess, but it actually moves along quite nicely.  It was certainly much better than the Italian flick, Assignment: Outer Space

Three stars, and a keen desire to someday see the original.

by Lorelei Marcus

Strap in and recline your seats, because we’re going on a space adventure! This week me and my father watched, “Battle Beyond the Sun,” a Soviet science fiction film brought to the U.S. I didn’t have very high hopes going into this movie, but my dad promised purple space monsters, so, reluctantly, I agreed.

Surprisingly, the movie wasn’t bad! It was actually quite interesting to compare a Soviet film to the (mostly) American films we’ve watched so far. The cinematography was different, but still quite good, and the space suits looked cool and realistic. The voice actors who did the overdub for the movie were sub-par to say the least, but it didn’t take away from the movie too much. I noticed throughout the movie that all the actors had a certain ‘closeness:’ they were all simply closer together: Their faces were closer when talking, they had hands on each others’ shoulders, etc. That’s certainly different from the wide personal bubble we Americans prefer.

The story, on the other hand, wasn’t too far off from what I would expect in a science fiction film. The movie was about the two halves of the globe, North Hemis and South Hemis, and their race to Mars. The South Hemis ship gets stranded on an asteroid orbiting mars, after rescuing the North Hemis ship. Then there’s the odd and unnecessary scene of the purple space monsters fighting each other, which apparently wasn’t added in until it made it to the U.S. It was really unnecessary, but I suppose it did get me to the watch the movie!

For most of the movie me and my dad thought that the U.S. And Soviet Union were in different nations. It wasn’t until after the movie that we realized it was actually the opposite: Soviet Union and America in the North, and basically everyone else in the South. It struck me that they had purposefully done this to avoid labeling political sides, which was not something I would expect the Soviet Union would do!

Overall this was a pretty good movie. The effects were cool and the story was passable. The foreign influence also added a unique feel to the movie. I give this movie 3/5 stars and 1/5 purple space monsters (this movie either needed more or fewer purple space monsters.) I still recommend you watch this movie yourself, as it is an interesting contrast to the other science fiction movies I’ve seen so far.

Until next time…this is the Young Traveler, signing off.

[July 14, 1962] Cause for Alarm (Panic in Year Zero – a surprise summer hit film!)

[if you’re new to the Journey, reference this summary article to see what we’re all about.]

by Gideon Marcus

The specter of atomic destruction has been with us for more than a decade, ever since the Soviets detonated their first A-bomb in 1949.  Both the US and USSR have developed vast bomber squadrons and now missile and submarine fleets rendering every place on Earth vulnerable.  Not surprisingly, a new genre of fiction has been spawned – the post-apocalyptic story. Books like Alas, Babylon and movies such as On the Beach (originally a novel). 

The latest example is a tiny-budgeted film by schlockhouse American Independent Pictures, Panic in Year Zero.  The Young Traveler and I saw Panic at opening night, July 5.  There was a big promotional event headlined by Frankie Avalon, and I understand the picture made back its budget in just the evening L.A. showings!  The film has already generated some positive buzz, and I suspect it’ll be the surprise hit of the summer.

Produced by the master of the independents, Roger Corman, Panic opens with a literal bang: a typical Angelino family out on a drive toward a camping vacation sees a bright flash as their home town of Los Angeles is wiped out by Soviet bombs.  It soon becomes clear that the attack is widespread and civilization is about to deteriorate.  Our viewpoint family must brave its way to safety, securing adequate supplies and a defensible shelter, before the walls of society collapse.

The father, to all appearances a moral and decent man, has his principles rocked to the core.  After all, at what juncture is it right to abandon civilization and fight solely for your family?  When is that point of inflection where it is okay to abandon the sinking ship, at the same time hastening its capsize?  There are several points in the film where Milland undertakes actions that, while they ensure his survival, likely cause the death of countless others.  Compared to modern-day folk, his acts are evil.  But contrasted to the depravity they meet, they are the “good guys.”  It’s fascinating and effective.

Panic stars a pair of actors in the Autumn of their career: Ray Milland (who also directs) and Jean Hagen as the parents.  Teen idol Frankie Avalon is the son, while Joan Freeman, of whom I’d never heard, is the daughter.  Despite the utter lack of funds, or perhaps because of it, the acting, writing, and pacing are all tight and surprisingly realistic and gritty.  Les Baxter contributes an original score that consists largely of snappy jazz music.  It is at once appropriate and jarring.  All in all, it’s a solid movie, well worth your time – particularly if this genre is your bag.

Four stars.

[And now for the Young Traveler’s take…]

by Lorelei Marcus

Death is a scary topic for pretty much everyone. I think what’s scary about it is it’s so unexpected. You don’t know when you’re going to die. You could die tomorrow! Our chances of death seem to have increased since the Cold War began as well. All it takes is one push of a button and you and everything you love is obliterated in seconds. That’s a truly terrifying thought. However, what if you survived? What would living through the aftermath be like? Luckily, the new movie, Panic in Year Zero! has the answer!

Panic in Year Zero! is the latest summer blockbuster, taking the U.S. by storm. It goes into the life of a traditional suburban family trying to survive the aftermath of a mass bombing. All the major cities, as well as our allies have been nuked. The family, specifically the father and son, have to face harsh moral decisions centered around their family’s survival. It portrays beautifully the panic and breakdown of society, and how this family deals with that. When law and order falls, do you try and restore society, or survive?

I believe the acting was very good. The emotions felt real. The story was also fantastic. It managed to tackle very dark issues while also being entertaining and hopeful. The pacing was great as well; everything in the movie played in real-time in a convincing way. The events all felt very natural and beautifully laid out. This movie did a superb job considering its tiny budget, especially when it came to the special effects. It is thought-provoking, very well done, and a very good watch.

I give this movie 4.5 stars. I highly recommend you see this movie.

(P.S. Don’t miss the second Galactic Journey Tele-Conference, July 29th at 11 a.m.!  We’ll be talking Panic and other films!)

[Sep. 24, 1960] Mood for a Day (Roger Corman’s House of Usher)

We are pleased to present noted scholar Rosemary Benton’s thoughts on Roger Corman’s House of Usher, the cinemafication of Poe’s classic about a cursed family doomed to madness through the ages.  Special kudos must be awarded since Ms.  Benton lives in rural New England, where the movie houses are not all air conditioned…

It’s been a particularly hot summer this year, but a deep love of movies compelled me to visit my local theater nonetheless.  This time it was to enjoy a film that has been making quite a stir since it’s release in June: House of Usher

Buzz about the movie claims that it was shot in only 15 days, and apparently a forest fire in the Hollywood Hills served as the perfect filming location for the opening shots of the movie.  On the one hand, I had to wonder how good a film that was shot in such a rush could possibly be.  On the other hand, Roger Corman’s dedication to effect can hardly be questioned when he drags his crew out into the ruin of a forest fire all for the glory of atmosphere.  And with the positive reception that another of Mr.  Corman’s recent pictures has been getting, The Little Shop of Horrors, I couldn’t justify missing out on an opportunity to see some more of his work. 

What atmosphere there is in House of Usher.  Silence is allowed at times, just to hear the creaking of the house in the dead of night.  When music does occur strains of the orchestra’s violin section and the hypnotic vocals utilized in the film’s peaks make for a memorable score by veteran composer, Les Baxter.  Music, or lack thereof, is key to what makes House of Usher so very creepy.  The vocals are employed to great effect about half an hour into the movie when our protagonist wanders into the mansion’s chapel.  It comes as a great relief that soothes the fear the audience was experiencing just moments before.  Here is a place that, in the honeycombed labyrinth of the Usher mansion, offers comfort and protection.  Then, with a cascade of violins, the scene transforms into a shock that the audience didn’t predict.  It’s a turn that, in lesser films, would have been achieved only by a shot of the shocked face of the actor, followed by a quick cut to the object of the shock.  Or perhaps a panning shot would shows the audience what the actor will be scared by moments before they themselves see it.  In House of Usher the visuals, acting, and music all unite in many memorable moments throughout the film. 

There is a distinct lack of exposition which I found to be very refreshing.  The audience is allowed to draw their own conclusion on the mental states of characters, and are left on the edge of their seats wondering what twists and turns will come next.  This kind of horror film could not be more anticipated given the many low grade double feature horror movies, sequels, and franchises of recent years.  This glut of horror movies has shown a strain on the formula that made the careers of Bella Lugosi and Boris Karloff. 

Headlining actor Vincent Price’s telltale drawl, soft line delivery and affected mannerisms have type-cast him to such a point that nearly his entire early career has been built upon television spots as villainous rogues.  The characters he portrayed for many years were sadly only as deep as a few establishing shots allowed.  There is a renaissance afoot in Mr.  Price’s career, however.  Oddly enough, this maturation was brought on by a satirical horror film with the most ridiculous premise.  The Tingler showed Mr.  Price playing a morally ambiguous mortician/scientist who wavered on a thin line between antagonist and antihero, someone goofy yet menacing.  Now, as the titular master of the Usher household, he has been given the freedom to waver between madman and protector, a person who believes so profoundly in the existence of evil that he is willing to stamp it out even at the cost of his own life and the family line.  It is my firm belief that actors like him, with directors like Richard Corman, will carry horror films on to something greater. 

[September 15, 1960] You can lead a horticulture… (Roger Corman’s Little Shop of Horrors)

The motion picture industry has been in decline for fifteen years, leaving movie houses owners pondering this humdinger:

“How do we get more folks through our doors?” 

One way has been to aim for the pocketbook.  Offer two movies for the price of one, the so-called “double feature.”  Only, it hasn’t worked out so well, and the practice seems to be dying out. 

The issue seems to be one of quality.  What good does it do to get a second movie for free if it’s not worth the time spent to endure it?  Especially now that the allure of the theater is diminished by the spread of home air conditioning and television?  This is why Hollywood is now turning to true spectacles to pack the seats: Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments.  the upcoming Spartacus.  These are epics for which the small screen just won’t cut it.  They may be what saves the industry.

This is not to say that B-movies, the second bananas in a double-bill, are history.  In fact, my family and I just went to the cinema to watch what can only be described as a Double B feature: a pairing of The Last Woman on Earth and Little Shop of Horrors.  I suppose that makes one of them a C-movie!  Both are by Roger Corman, renowned for making low-budget schlock.  He has a talent for squeezing the most out of a tiny purse, and much of what he produces has surprising merit.

I talked about The Last Woman on Earth in my last piece.  This time around, let’s look at Little Shop of Horrors.

It’s a simple, shocking story on the face of it.  Seymour Krelbourne is a dim-witted assistant in the shop of Gravis Mushnick, a florist on Skid Row in Los Angeles.  On the verge of losing his job due to his incompetence, Seymour wins his boss over with a peculiar homegrown hybrid that turns out to be a hit with the customers.  Seymour names it Audrey Junior after his adorable, if dotty, co-worker, and thus wins her over, too.  Happy story, no?

No.  As it turns out, Audrey Junior is a sentient Venus Fly Trap with a taste for meat…human meat.  It uses Seymour as a patsy to conduct a series of grisly murders and feed its insatiable appetite.  Ultimately, the beast is stopped, but at a high price.

Sounds like a typical low-grade horror movie, doesn’t it?  Don’t be fooled.  The plot is simply a vehicle to deliver a non-stop series of character gags, physical humor, malaprop jokes, and general farce.  It’s a genuinely funny film that feels like a cross between The Twilight Zone and a Borscht Belt stand-up routine.  Standout characters include Mel Welles as Mushnick, sporting a convincing Turkish Jewish accent; Wally Campo and Jack Warford as a pair of police investigators doing a spot-on parody of the duo from Dragnet; John Shaner as a sadistic dentist; Jack Nicholson as a masochistic patient; and Corman-film perennial, Dick Miller, as a flosiverous (flower-eating) customer. 

Little Shop of Horrors is hardly cinematic gold, but it is good-naturedly gruesome and a lot of fun.  I suspect this odd little comedy may well become a cult film, remembered as one of Corman’s better pieces.  Watch it while it’s still in theaters!

[September 13, 1960] On the beach… again (The Last Woman on Earth)

from here

I understand that the movie-house biz isn’t doing so well.  Looking through my trade magazines, I found some pretty alarming statistics.  During the War, Americans spent about a quarter of their recreation budget on movies.  Now, we spend just 5% in the cinemas.  Movie revenues are down a third, from $1.4 billion to $950 million.  Only half as many films are coming out this year as did during the War–200 versus 400.

The causes of film’s decline aren’t too hard to discern.  Television is free and constant.  More homes have air conditioning.  Going to the movies isn’t such an event anymore. 

Not that the film parlors haven’t tried.  Cinescope.  Cinerama.  Aroma-rama!  Double features.  Drive-in viewing.  Nothing’s working.

Well, never let it be said that the Journey shirks its civic duty.  Thus it was that the Traveller and his family all went to see the Roger Corman double-feature at the local movie palace.

Yes, you heard right.  They billed a Corman B-movie with…another Corman B-movie!  Boy are we gluttons for punishment.  Actually, the experience wasn’t so bad.  We’d heard that his Little Shop of Horrors was a clever little comedy, and we weren’t disappointed. 

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves, for Shop was the second feature on the billing.  Number one was:

The Last Woman on Earth

This is a post-apocalyptic film, a genre that is booming these days.  In Woman, some sort of bomb or act of God momentarily destroys all free oxygen in the atmosphere, killing humanity and most of Earth’s animal life. A crooked billionaire, his beautiful and disillusioned wife, and his nebbishy young attorney manage to survive the end of the world thanks to some timely scuba diving off the coast of Puerto Rico. 

In the first 15 minutes of the movie, we get to meet the three protagonists as they are in the civilized world.  Harold is a rich cynic who takes nothing very seriously, including his wife.  He spends much of his life drinking, gambling, and making his fortunes.  Martin is Harold’s lawyer.  His defining trait seems to be caution.  And then we have the lovely Evelyn, who is tired of being ignored, tired of being kept at arm’s length from her new husband.  She makes a pass at Martin in just the second scene, though it’s hard to see what the attraction is, other than convenience.

Then comes the disaster.  The characters emerge from the water and take in lungfuls of air that do not satisfy.  Matches don’t light.  Engines don’t catch.  When the trio gets back to town, everyone is suffocated.  It’s really quite nicely done.

The three take refuge at a swank residence with enough food and booze to last months, if not years.  Sounds idyllic… except Harold is a rolling stone, a man of action.  He worries about disease and wants to look for other survivors.  What made him venal and dirty in the old world makes him a natural leader in the new one.  One can’t help but like him.

Except Martin doesn’t much like him.  Under the new conditions, Martin sees no reason to follow the driven Harold..  And Evelyn sees the catastrophe as a sort of liberation, a chance to start anew.  With Martin.

Martin and Evelyn consumate an affair, and Harold exiles his attorney from their little paradise.  Martin leaves…with Evelyn, and the pair plan to steal Harold’s yacht and make for Florida.  But Martin is not really a rebel–more of a depressive.  His basic pessimism and lassitude become evident when he rejects Evelyn’s suggestion that they start a family, and she starts to have second thoughts about their relationship. 

Then Harold shows up, and we are treated to a long chase and fight scene in which Harold mortally wounds Martin.  This leaves Harold and Evelyn a couple by default, if a rather shaky one.

I like dramas in a bottle, and I like post apocalyptic stories.  This one had its issues, however.  It’s not so much bad as it is disappointing. The film sort of fizzles out halfway and never does much with its material.  It doesn’t help that two of the three characters aren’t very likable, and the fellow who plays Martin isn’t much of an actor.  The ending is a letdown, too; I think it would have been more compelling if Harold had let the others go, with Evelyn ultimately returning to her husband. 

Of course, the real issue is that this movie has been done before, and better: The World, The Flesh, and The Devil

But, if nothing else, it is a lovely film.  Corman makes expert use of the local scenery: beaches, forest, a coastal fort.  I can only imagine that he had other business on the island.  There’s no way he’d have the budget to head out there otherwise! 

Stay tuned for Little Shop of Horrors in a couple of days…

[June 25, 1960] Sting in its Tale (The Wasp Woman)

Necessity is the mother of invention.  What is a review writer to do when all the literary science fiction material to review has dried up?

Why, it’s time to head to the drive-in and sample the visual science fiction material!

Now, I’ve been dreading this avenue because the Summer blockbuster line-up hasn’t hit the silver screen yet, and all the schlock-houses are filled with, well, schlock.  Like 12 to the Moon.  Moreover, my daughter is away at camp, so I don’t have my usual date for the movies.

Still, I have a duty to provide entertaining reading and listening material for my fans, now that you number over ten.  It wouldn’t do to take a week hiatus just because my queue is empty.  So I scoured the listing in the local paper and found a cinema in Oceanside that still had The Wasp Woman (paired with another film, in which I had no interest) and resigned myself to a lonely, miserable evening with naught but Roger Corman and a bag of popcorn. 

Imagine my surprise when my wife, who normally has an allergic aversion to sci-fi drek, offered to come along! 

As it turns out, the movie was surprisingly decent (and very short–about an hour), and we never got to emulate our parked neighbors by engaging in a proper bout of necking.  Here is what we got for our troubles:

Africanized Honey Wasps

I was expecting one of those rural numbers where a bunch of badly acted cops chase after a rubber-suited monster, the kind that feasts on young couples in lover’s lane.  The sort of thing that Ed Wood is (in)famous for.

Instead, Wasp Woman takes place almost entirely within the board room and offices of the Starling Cosmetics Company, a business with an 18-year history of success that is currently suffering a precipitous downturn.  Why?  The ad execs (not all of whom are men!) and the company executive (a woman!) are in agreement that the lag in sales occurred when the owner of the company, Janice Starlin, stopped supporting the product lines with her own face.  Ms. Starlin believes that a 40-year old, no matter how lovely, cannot be a convincing glamour girl.

Absolutely hideous

This sets up a plausible motivation for Starlin’s next actions.  She has recently received a letter from a Mr. Zinthrop, an eccentric old scientist who claims to have found the secret to eternal youth: enzyme extracted from the wasp royal jelly.  She is skeptical, at first, but he convinces her by reverting a cat to a kitten and a guinea pig to… a rat.  Well, I suppose it was meant to be a guinea piglet.  Starlin then requests that Zinthrop test the product on her.  He is reluctant to begin human trials so soon, but he ultimately gives in.

Sherlock Holmes: The Later Years

Starlin gives Zinthrop carte blanche, and he proceeds to produce enough enzyme to restore Starlin’s youth. 

Job title?  Er… how about ‘mad scientist’?

Over the course of several weeks, the elixir begins to work, but its progress is not quick enough for Starlin, who feels (perhaps justifiably) that her company is teetering on the brink, and only her face can bring it back.  After Zinthrop mentions off-handedly that he is working on a stronger version of the formula for use in topical creams, Starlin sneaks a dose.

Heroin is good for the skin, you know

The new concoction works a miracle, restoring Starlin to her early 20s.  She announces that, not only will she be launching the new line of Starlin cosmetics, but she intends to market this astounding new product. 

But all is not well in mad science land.  One of the cats injected with the new formula grows vestigial wasp wings and attacks Zinthrop.  He survives, but he is crestfallen.  Unusually, he’s got a conscience, and he wants to tell Starlin as soon as possible, but he is involved in an automobile accident before he can convey the message.

Starlin, desperate to retain her youth (it’s never stated that multiple doses are necessary, but perhaps she’s just become addicted to the formula), quickly runs through the rest of Zinthrop’s injections, unaware of the danger to herself… and others.

Meanwhile, Starlin’s staff continue to worry for their bosses’ physical and mental health.  At first, they are concerned that Zinthrop is a simple confidence man.  Then they become convinced he is a quack, and that his promises will do irrepairable harm to Starlin’s psyche.  When Starlin rejuvenates, their worries allay briefly, but then she begins suffering from piercing headaches.

“She retracted her support for Kennedy right after she started taking wasp extract…”

The oldest of the execs decides to snoop around in the laboratory and see what’s up.  There, he is attacked by a hideous wasp woman, who beats him unconscious and devours him completely.  This effect is as low-budget as one might expect from a movie with a $50,000 bankroll.  Still, the transformed Starlin does look sufficiently creepy, and Corman wisely keeps her in the shadows.

The New Face of Starlin Cosmetics!

After the susbsequent grisly death of the company’s night watchman, concern rises.  Zinthrop is found and taken to the company building, but he can’t remember what he was going to tell Starlin.  She pleads with him to help her, but he cannot. 

“Blink twice if I should stop taking wasp extract and killing innocent people.”

Agitated, she turns into a wasp woman again and kills Zinthrop’s nurse.  Starlin’s secretary and her boyfriend show up shortly thereafter.  Starlin bites and drags off the secretary, but the wasp woman is stopped by a combination of carbolic acid and a velocitious defenestration before she can kill again.

Cue credits.

This is such an odd movie.  I’ve said many times that my favorite part of a horror film is the first twenty minutes when it seems that things will be hunky dory for all concerned.  The stronger extract isn’t even introduced until halfway through the movie’s running time, and the wasp woman doesn’t make her debut until the last 20 minutes. 

As a result, what you really have is an interesting sort of character drama.  Aging cosmetics company queen must cope with an increasingly desperate situation.  What sells this drama is Ms. Susan Cabot (originally Harriet Shapiro).  Yes, the Ms. Cabot who was the paramour of the young King Hussein of Jordan last year before he found out she was Jewish.  She takes the role seriously, and I found myself caring less about seeing the wasp monster and more about her dilemma.  In fact, the whole thing feels a bit like an episode of The Twilight Zone: a personal crisis with a detour into the surreal. 

It’s hardly perfect, of course.  It’s a clear filching of The Fly, even down to the utterance of “Heeeelp me!”  The frenetic jazz soundtrack, a hallmark of a lot of movies these days, will either be your cup of tea or it won’t.  While Cabot is generally good, the rest of the cast has its uneven moments, though rarely distractingly so.

On the other hand, the film’s watchability is aided by its rather progressive attitude.  The cast is balanced quite evenly, gender-wise, and there is very little of the sexism that characterizes our culture these days.  Starlin is a quite sympathetic character, with the sort of strength and poise one would expect of a corporate head.

Add to that the not-unsuccessful moralizing (an anti-drug message, an anti-reckless science message), and you’ve got a thoroughly enjoyable hour of entertainment.  Of course, it’s just that.  It’s not art for the ages.  But as we saw in I married a Monster from Outer Space, one can find quality in the oddest of places.