Switching tracks from some classic SF book reviews I
thought I would comment on some old movies. Many of the old early color or black and white films are great fun and great science fiction.
There are movies from back then such as: Them, Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and Forbidden Planet that, for me at least, hold as much or more magic and excitement as the latest, special-effects-laden offerings where the effects have
replaced both character and plot.
However this first one is not one of these and it is
proof that mere ageing does not improve everything as it does wine. TCM and DVR are a great combination and I pick up many an old film that I have not seen in forever, sometimes it is like being reacquainted with an old friend. However Queen of Outer Space was more like being reintroduced to an ex-girlfriend who caused you to change your phone number.
Here’s the official plot:
Capt. Patterson (Eric Fleming) and his space crew (Dave Willock,
Patrick Waltz, and Paul Birch) crash land on Venus and are captured. They learn the planet is under the dictatorship of cruel Queen Yllana (Laurie Mitchell),
a masked woman who has banished men from the planet. In the palace, the
astronauts are aided by a beautiful courtier named Talleah (Zsa Zsa Gabor)
and her friends (Lisa Davis, Barbara Darrow, and Marilyn Buferd). The women long for the love of men again and plot to overthrow the evil Queen. When Patterson has the opportunity to remove the Queen's mask, he discovers she has been horribly disfigured by radiation burns caused by men and their wars. In a fury, the Queen decides to destroy Earth and its warlike
peoples but she dies in the attempt. The Venusians are free again to enjoy the love of men.
This movie is so bad that it sits on its haunches and howls its awfulness at the universe, well maybe not that bad, but Lord it wasn’t good. Originally written as a satirical idea of a female dominated planet, it was done with so little self-awareness that it doesn’t work as satire if in fact that was the intention. Realizing that the movie was done in 1958 and that movies are a microcosm of their time and attitudes (Note that in the vastly superior Forbidden Planet the crew was not integrated as to race or gender- though the US military was) the sexism of the film is still enough to make someone not known for political correctness simply cringe.
“How could a bunch of dames come up with a weapon capable of destroying the Earth and how would they aim it? You know what women drivers are like...” Ouch!
Contrast this with the earlier, Them , where the female scientist, over the objections of her male colleagues, must lead the team into the giant ant mound to see if all of them are dead.
While still classically feminine and attractive she is intelligent and brave and the men’s attraction to her is genuine, respectful and not simply predatory. Ditto the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and the original Howard Hawks, The Thing. The women here are not Ripley or Xena but nor are they empty headed dolls. In short maybe being 1958 didn’t really excuse this one.
The only merit I could see to this film was if you were a fan of props. This movie
recycles the entire Forbidden Planet prop department. The men wear the uniforms of the C57D with their dress hats, the women of Venus use the blaster rifles and pistols from that movie.
The male crew from earth use German Mauser pistols spray-painted gold, forgivable George Lucas used the same weapon for Han Solo’s blaster.
You know you are an SF geek was as straight male you recognize the dress Anne Francis wore is now on a cute blond on Venus.
The spaceship Stardust is recycled from several others movies including an Abbot and Costello film which does this plot so much better. The giant spider attack thrown in is a duplicate of one in the superior World Without End.
The sets of this film are otherwise cardboard and cheesecake. While every lovely,
tall girl in Hollywood was given and blaster, miniskirt and heels and as delightful as that is to the eyes it can’t save this howler. Some of the other props look like they came out of a Macy’s toy store of the period.
I am very forgiving of a movie that I believe tried, even if they could not make it, by virtue of money or talent, to make a good movie. There is a true B movie called the Giant Heliah Monster for example that is chock full of decent professional performances by movie lot actors who were doing the best job they could. It didn’t make a good movie but it made a movie that was the sum of their best efforts and I can respect that.
So in sum, unless you want to fumigate your TV to get rid of all traces of this stinker, pass it by, there are so many better period movies.
Author Edward McKeown is a writer and editor