‘A beautiful woman by day – A lusting queen wasp by night.’
The Wasp Woman is a 1959 American science fiction horror film produced and directed by Roger Corman from a screenplay written by Leo Gordon (The Terror; Tower of London; Attack of the Giant Leeches). The movie stars Susan Cabot, Anthony Eisley and Barboura Morris.
The Wasp Woman‘s musical score, written by Fred Katz, was originally composed for A Bucket of Blood. According to Mark Thomas McGee, author of Roger Corman: The Best of the Cheap Acts, each time Katz was called upon to write music for Corman, he sold the same score as if it were new music. The score was used in a total of seven films, including The Little Shop of Horrors and Creature from the Haunted Sea.
Corman remade the film for cable television in 1995.
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 ageing. Scientist Eric Zinthrop (Michael Mark) has been able to extract enzymes from the royal jelly of the queen wasp that can reverse the ageing process. Starlin 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 and injects herself with extra doses of the formula. Zinthrop becomes aware that some of the test creatures are becoming violent and goes to warn Janice but before he can reach anyone he gets into a car accident. Janice continues her clandestine use of the serum and sheds twenty years’ in a single weekend, but soon discovers that she is periodically transformed into a murderous queen wasp…
” …the cheesy special effects (if you can call a rubber mask and a couple of claws “special effects”) and lack of any kind of budget betray the good intentions. Typical of Corman, the supporting roles are well cast (including the stunning Lynn Cartwright as a Brooklyn-accented secretary) and an attempt to turn modern office life into a sort of Grand Guignol melodrama works at least part of the way.” All Movie
“… would certainly seem to offer little promise for those who expect more from a horror or science-fiction movie than a sh*tty monster suit and a woman in peril, but Corman and screenwriter Leo Gordon somehow managed to turn it into something startlingly serious and mature.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting
“The movie does pick up steam when Janice finally changes into a wasp, but by that time, I was already out of the story. The Wasp Woman may be the longest 72-minute film I’ve ever had to sit through.” 2,500 Movies Challenge
“Sure, it’s about as kitschy and cheesy as any late 50‘s/early 60‘s Roger Corman flick (one only needs to look at the dreadful movie poster to ascertain this), but with the benefit of hindsight we can look at the film now as a prescient satire on a society obsessed with appearance, beauty, and sexuality.” A Fistful of Cult
“While Janice Starlin’s angst over the loss of status and identity that accompanies her aging is quite well-realised, thanks almost entirely to Susan Cabot’s performance, not enough is made of this; while nothing at all is made of the story’s clear drug addiction subtext – although perhaps, in 1960, that would have been a bit too much to expect.” And You Call Yourself a Scientist!
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“The Wasp Woman is seen by some as Roger Corman’s heart-felt protest at how society undervalues women over the age of forty, as true today as ever. Others argue The Wasp Woman is evidence of Roger’s sincere belief that a shameless rip-off of The Fly (1958), a big money-earner for 20th Century Fox the previous year, would earn similar profits for him.” HNN
“A passably well-made B movie but there is nothing remarkable to it. Most of the action is static and talky and the film drags, even though it only has a 73-minute running time. Indeed, The Wasp Woman is surely the first monster movie where the action is entirely limited to the confines of an office.” Moria
“Clearly influenced by the massive success of 1958’s The Fly, one has to give Wasp Woman credit for attempted ingenuity. Corman could have easily gone for the “man mutates” formula that made the Al Hedison horror show a hit. Instead, this narrative goes gaga for entomology, providing us with a precursory prologue where the benefits of royal jelly and all other bug butt extracts are explored.” Pop Matters
“The makeup that Cabot wears when she transforms is wisely kept in the shadows, but we see enough to know that she’s in a bad way – but not as bad as her victims. Mention of the film Dr Cyclops by Janice’s secretary (Lynn Cartwright) alludes to the filmmakers’ ambitions, but The Wasp Woman is otherwise pretty limited all the way, both in effects and suspense.” The Spinning Image
“Even though this movie is about a woman who de-ages and transforms into a wasp-human hybrid, it’s surprisingly realistic, both in its portrayal of a sympathetic villain and in its understanding of how the beauty industry affects and pressures people. The performances are likewise compelling, and, despite the obvious camp of the script, the actors give it their all.” Syfy Wire
“Seriously, Cabot is quite good in this entertaining low budget drive-in effort that’s nicely directed by the King of the Quickies. Corman’s tight direction weaves a bit of realism into the wacky sci-fi material and enhances the overall effectiveness. It may be implausible, but it’s good old-fashioned matinee fun.” The Terror Trap
“While the acting’s of a fairly decent standard throughout the music is horrendous and the special effects are more or less non-existent. Don’t be fooled by the terrifying beast on the movie poster, the wasp costume in the actual movie is just that – a stupid furry mask with two furry gloves. On some scenes, when we see the waspified Janice from behind, we can see where her wasp mask ends and her very human neck begins.” That Was a Bit Mental
“The Wasp Woman suffers dreadfully from its obvious low budget and underdeveloped script. The creature itself is good for a laugh, but little else in the film is, and the lethargic pacing is hardly mitigated by Corman’s dull direction and the generally dreary and galling characters. The years have been kind to the movie, in any event, by intensifying its cheese factor…” A Wasted Life
Scream Factory released The Wasp Woman on Blu-ray on October 30, 2018.
Includes both the theatrical and television versions of the film in high definition
New 2K scan of an archival fine grain print of the theatrical version and the additional television footage
New Audio commentary with film historian and author Troy Howarth
New Audio commentary with film historians and authors Tom Weaver and Dr Robert J. Kiss
Cast and characters:
Susan Cabot … Janice Starlin – War of the Satellites
Anthony Eisley [as Fred Eisley] … Bill Lane – Evil Spirits; Deep Space; Monstroid; Dracula vs. Frankenstein; The Mighty Gorga; The Witchmaker; The Navy vs. the Night Monsters; et al
Barboura Morris … Mary Dennison
William Roerick … Arthur Cooper
Michael Mark … Doctor Eric Zinthrop
Frank Gerstle … Les Hellman
Bruno VeSota … Night Watchman
Roy Gordon … Paul Thompson
Carolyn Hughes … Jean Carson
Lynn Cartwright … Maureen Reardon
Frank Wolff … Delivery Man
Lani Mars … Secretary
Philip Barry … Delivery Man
Gene Corman … Mr Barker [uncredited]
Roger Corman … Doctor in the Hospital [uncredited]
Aron Kincaid … Beekeeper [uncredited]
In the USA, The Wasp Woman was originally released by Filmgroup on a double bill with Beast from Haunted Cave
How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A DimeHow I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime by Roger Corman with Jim Jerome, Da Capo Press, New York, USA, 1998
The Films of Roger Corman by Alan Frank, Batsford, London, UK, 1998