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Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Wasp Woman (1960)

I enjoy movies that subtly include social issues in the story, and use social fears as the basis for the plot.  "The Wasp Woman" by Roger Corman does this.

Janice Starlin is desperate to save her cosmetic company, whose sales have dropped since customers have noticed that she's aging.  How far would she go to regain her youthful appearance... and at what cost?

Roger Corman's "The Wasp Woman" is not one of his better films.  There is the obvious influence of the classic movie, "The Fly", which only came out two years before.  While the concept isn't original, the story takes a different route, and offers up a lot of potential to include social commentary on the cosmetics industry, and humanity's fear of aging as well as its need to be beautiful.  While those are touched on (the fear of aging more so than the others), this movie misses some nice opportunities to bring even more depth to the story- and the characters at the same time.

While, most of the characters are rather flat, the character of Janice is a nicely complex and interesting character.  It is through her, that society's fear of aging and loss of beauty is explored.  Dr. Zinthrop offered up a great chance to also touch on the topic of animal testing in the cosmetic industry as well, but I felt that he was more of a plot device than a real character.  Once again, there was potential for some really good characterization that was passed up.

The best acting was done by Susan Cabot as Janice, and Michael Mark as Dr. Zinthrop.  The other actors seemed to just kinda walk through the movie, going through the motions.  Cabot was beautiful, while also having a look that reflected the more calculating and cold side of the character.  A great choice for the role.

The wasp woman make up was pretty much just a mask and fake hands.  Due to an accident on set involving liquid smoke, a part of the mask had to be removed to enable Cabot to breath.  Unfortunately, the mask also took of a bit of her skin.  You don't get to see much of the mask, as it's mostly kept in shadows- which is a bit of a shame.

The camera work for "The Wasp Woman" is pretty standard, and simply done.  There isn't really anything fancy to it, though there are some nice shots using shadows to good effect.  Still not up to Roger Corman's usual standard, unfortunately.

If you're a fan of Roger Corman's films, you'd probably really enjoy this one.  If you're a fan of B-movies, you'd probably like this one too.  Despite that, it's not a movie I'd watch more than once a year, so I'm putting "The Wasp Woman" in "The Bad".

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