Sci-Fi With A Stinger On It
Corman's Filmgroup Does The Wasp Woman (1959)
Roger Corman takes initiative to do his own sci-fi cheapies outside Jim/Sam oversee. He was a maverick that way, tried same again with one of the Poes (Premature Burial), but got outflanked by wily Arkoff. All these guys kept steely eye on the purse, w/ aesthetics in a back seat. That may be what made pictures better, or at least gave them nervous energy. The Wasp Woman was allegedly done in five days for $50K, and for all I know, that's a high guess. Actors always spoke of Corman thrift in awed terms. He evidently made PRC look like a plush sofa by comparison. Just how cheap? Well, by not copyrighting any of his Filmgroup indies for a start, not so bad a bungle where it's disposable tissue like The Wasp Woman, but 1963's The Terror could have enhanced groceries right to a present day. Instead, both these and other Filmgroups enrich scavengers who labored none of (at least) eighteen-hour days Roger put in.
I submit that The Wasp Woman could be nicely remade with CGI. The concept, if not execution in 1959, has real value. If the movie's PD, couldn't someone update Kinta Kertuche's story and cash checks from there? Scripting was Leo Gordon, who I could never picture at a typewriter. He was toughest guy or menace in a hundred films, then played the part at autograph fairs in the 90's. I was frankly too afraid to approach him. The man fairly growled at fans. Who did he think he was --- Leo Gordon? The Wasp Woman tackles femme issues as would year-later The Leech Woman, these exploitable now as then. Will Susan Cabot's age and loss of looks cost her a career in cosmetics? She'll try a doubtful serum to turn back clocks, always a mistake in movies (I wish for once it would work, and make everyone, including viewers, happy). Cabot makes far-fetch believable, a good actress bringing expertise from a seven-year U-I contract to bear on Corman's speed-the-plow. How she real-life perished is a bone-chiller (murdered by her dwarfism-beset son, details horrific).
The Wasp Woman was sold on the top-end of a dualler with Beast From Haunted Cave, latter by most accounts a real stinker. 1959 was late to be fobbing off black-and-white combos. There had been too many ... and too few giving value for money. Even kids were now wary. Shocker money derived better from color (Horrors Of The Black Museum) or chillers more saleable (House On Haunted Hill with sure-thing Vincent Price). Roger Corman was wise enough to see dips ahead and so cast lot with AIP to do Price-in-color House Of Usher, a goose to the genre that would garner profits way ahead of B/W cheaters. How to promote The Wasp Woman other than with sarcasm? Cartoon ads looked like corner of pages from The New Yorker, flattering suckers that they were above such silliness, but come and let us take your money anyway. The device had been used by Bill Castle on behalf of Macabre (a big hit for such undeserving product) and House On Haunted Hill, then