Sunday, September 28, 2008

Madonna of the Wasps

You could hear the wheels turning. In 1958, the movie The Fly was a big hit; audiences in the 1950s couldn’t get enough of human/insect mutants. Legions of writers, producers, and directors throughout Hollywood began brainstorming other species of insects they could merge with humans. Ants? Termites? Gnats? Mosquitoes? Monarch butterflies? Grasshoppers? And then it hit them...wasps! A human/wasp hybrid! It’s just so crazy, it...just...might...work. What director was brave enough to take up the challenge? Why, Roger Corman, of course. So, in 1959, every expense was spared to bring The Wasp Woman to the silver (or at the very least zinc) screen.

Welcome to this week's Silly Sci-Fi Summary. Previous entries in this series are:
The Horrors of Spider Island
The Atomic Brain
The Amazing Transparent Man
She Gods of Shark Reef
Moon of the Wolf
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Queen of the Amazons
The Incredible Petrified World
The Wasp Woman (1959)

Auteur/Perpetrator: Roger Corman
Star of Shame: Susan Cabot (who?)
Monster(s): Half-woman (bottom half)/half-wasp (top half); some day, I’d like to see a human/animal mutant divided lengthwise

The Wasp Woman is a Roger Corman film, so you know several things going into it: it will have been produced extremely cheaply, using community theater-quality sets, carpet remnants and black pipe cleaners that are meant to be the head of the wasp woman, and stock footage that only gives a vague sense of place. All that said, I actually kind of liked this one, but then after last week’s Horrors of Spider Island, perhaps even Plan 9 from Outer Space would seem like Citizen Kane. But it has that certain je ne sais quois that embodies really bad but fun cheesy movies.

By the way, last month Wasp Woman was released as part of Joel Hodgson’s Cinematic Titanic, a Mystery Science Theater 3000-like direct-to-DVD project that reunites MST3K alums Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu (Dr. Forrester/Crow), Frank Conniff (TV’s Frank), Josh Weinstein (Dr. Erhard/original voice of Tom Servo), and Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester). Cinematic Titanic is every bit as funny as prime MST3K, I hasten to add. Highly recommended.

Anyway, on to The Wasp Woman.

I suppose it would be picayune of me to point out right off the bat that under the main titles we see a swarm of bees, not wasps. But I’ll keep my peace...

It’s a Corman movie so you know there will be long walking scenes, and, sure enough, we start right off the bat with several minutes of Dr. Eric Zinthrop walking slowly across a pasture. He is dressed in what is either a beekeeping outfit or a short-lived fashion craze that was even more freakish than most other fashion crazes. It was a bold choice by the sound recordist to put the microphone inside his overalls. He climbs up a tree and puffs some of that anesthetic beekeeping smoke at what I guess is supposed to be a wasp’s nest but looks like a clumsy pizza chef tossed the dough a little too high and it draped itself over a tree branch. Zinthrop then starts talking to the insects; “No need to get nasty. Your poppy [?] isn’t going to hurt you.” He then snaps the branch off, climbs down, and stashes the wasps’ nest in a suitcase. (I always end up behind this guy at airport security.) He then starts shambling back from whence he came.

Cut to Beekeeping Central, where a lone beekeeper is pulling out those wooden honeycomb things. They are covered with bees, and the guy is not wearing any gloves whatsoever. Maybe you just get numb to bee stings after a while.

Dr. Zinthrop walks up. “I brought some new friends,” he proclaims. He’s a lonely man. “Wasps?” says the other guy. “They can sting a man to death.” Unlike bees, which are as gentle as kittens. “They know who their friend is,” says Zinthrop. “They can tell.” Sure they can.

Zinthrop ambles off, and a pickup truck pulls in. It is Mr. Barker, from the head office. Funny, everyone wears gloves to shake hands with him, but not to handle live bees. Well, he is from management, so perhaps that’s wise. “How are things at the front office?” asks Renfro. “Smooth as honey,” says Barker. Ha ha ha. Hopefully not as sticky. Barker says that they just turned in 1,000 pounds of orange blossom honey last month. Wow; that’s quite an operation they’ve got going, especially when you consider that it’s basically three guys in a field. It also looks like the bees are kept in those cardboard file boxes you get at Staples. Barker congratulates him, and Renfro expresses his thanks, adding, “I try to take my inspiration from the bees: always busy, busy, busy.” Memo to Renfro: end your conversations one sentence sooner. Barker looks at him oddly, as you can well imagine. Barker then says, “What about this guy Zinthrop?” To which Renfro responds: “What a nut. Him and his bees.” Oh, unlike Renfro who just said that he modeled his entire life on bee behavior. Zinthrop is apparently being paid to conduct research on royal jelly, and Barker is concerned that there has not been a progress report in some time. He then heads towards Zinthrop’s “lab.”

While walking through the field, he sees a wasp. “Wasps! How did this happen?” Um, it’s an open field. It’s kind of hard to cordon it off from other insects (trust me). I guess they can’t read the “No Wasps” sign that was posted. Zinthrop is fingered as the guy behind the wasps.

And we go to Zinthrop’s lab. Interesting that a major honey company’s R&D lab is a rundown wooden shack. “What’s all this nonsense about wasps?” barks Barker. Zinthrop has apparently been experimenting with extracting royal jelly from the queen wasp. “According to my figures, you’re better at extracting funds from the company.” Ba-bing. Zinthrop points out that he has learned how to slow down the process of aging, although it’s apparent that he has not used it on himself (or if he has, I shudder to think what he originally looked like). He then points to two dogs, one of which is a puppy. Or looks like one. Zinthrop says that both dogs are exactly the same age, the puppyish one having been treated with his wasp extract. Barker then fires Zinthrop. Zinthrop commiserates with his wasps. Cuckoo! Cuckoo!

Cut to stock footage of New York City; why is there a Packard stopped at a traffic light? Is it the 1930s? Inside Janice Starlin Enterprises, we cut to a board meeting. This was a time before PowerPoint (i.e., the “good old days”) so we see a close up of a bar chart mounted to an easel. It’s not labeled in any coherent way, but it apparently indicates that sales of the company’s cosmetics have been dropping. The meeting is led by Janice Starlin herself, and she asks for suggestions as to how to boost sales. The head of Public Relation, who looks like the guy from the Monopoly game board after falling on hard times (or after the past couple of weeks), is clueless. Bill Lane, obviously unconcerned with his job, has the answer. He somehow twists the sales chart data to prove that the decline in sales is because as of last February, Janice Starlin became too old to be an effective image for the company. She had been advertising her own products for 16 years and now her face has officially gone over to the dark side. Funny how he could easily date that to February. Mr. Monopoly, who is easily 800 years older than her, is conspicuously silent on the ravages of age.
Arthur Cooper, who has a bigger obsession with a pipe than Captain Black, applauds. Janice is chagrined, but admits, “Not even Janice Starlin could remain a glamour girl forever.” Got the premise? Good.

Janice’s secretary announces that a Mr. Zinthrop is there to see her, and that she has an appointment with him. Ah, I think I can see where this is going. Rather than retain an ad agency which will rebrand the company and perhaps hire a professional cosmetics model to be the public face of the company, she will instead turn to a nutty scientist with a wasp obsession. Funny how this case study always seems to be missing from marketing textbooks.

But first, Janice asks Captain Black into her office, which is lavishly decorated (well, lavishly for a Corman picture). I like the fireplace. Wait— Fireplace? How do you put a fireplace in an office building in midtown Manhattan? We never get a clear idea of what it is that Captain Black does for the company aside from smoke a pipe and look fey, but she asks him if he has ever done work on royal jelly. Does royal Jell-O count? He points out that no two people react to royal jelly in the same way, but queen bees like it. (I’m guessing this guy’s an expert on queens, all right.) She mentions royal jelly from queen wasps. (Actually, there is no such thing as royal jelly from wasps.) Captain Black wryly points out that the queen wasp is on a par with the black widow spider. “They’re both carnivorous, they paralyze their victims, and they take their time devouring them alive. They kill their mates in the same way, too. Strictly a one-sided romance.” He sounds jealous. He tells her to forget the whole business, and puts his lit pipe in his breast pocket. Is that a good idea?

Out in the reception area, kooky wasp guy is ushered into her office. As he passes the receptionist, she answers the phone with a voice that is supposed to be sexy, I guess, but sounds like she is speaking while stifling a yawn. Zinthrop is carrying a blanket-covered cage. He tells Janice, “It is I who give you time. I give you 10, 15 years I will.” Why does he sound like Yoda all of a sudden? Zinthrop had written her a letter outlining the results of his research on a youth potion derived from wasp enzymes. She demands proof. He pulls out his cage and says he will provide it.
They go to the company’s lab, and he pulls the blanket off the cage to reveal two guinea pigs. “They look terrible,” Janice says. Oh, you’re one to talk, Miss Getting-Too-Old-And-Dragging-The-Company-Down. Jeesh. Anyway, Zinthrop pulls out a hypodermic needle, fills it from a vial, and reaches down and grabs a guinea pig.

Okay, just a little pinprick. There’ll be no more “Ahhh!” but you may feel a little sick. Can you stand up (stand up...stand up...stand up)? I do believe it’s working; good. That’ll keep you going through the show. Come on, it’s time to go. The guinea pig has become comfortably numb.

Anyway, we cut to a close up of Janice’s face as she looks into the cage and the music conveys a transformation. We cut back out and the guinea pig has now become a small white mouse. Zinthrop is a little too eager to repeat the demonstration on the other guinea pig. Janice is convinced that he’s on to something, and she asks for his terms. She says she’ll have the legal department draw up the contract. There’s a document I’d like to see. He says he doesn’t need an official contract. I guess when you command armies of wasps to do your bidding, what do you need a lousy piece of paper for? He then points out that he has not tested his formula on human beings yet. She volunteers herself to be the next guinea pig. He doesn’t try too hard to dissuade her.

She then introduces Zinthrop to the company’s board, but does not go into details. There is then a montage, mostly of various people smoking and casting awkward glances at each other, as well as Zinthrop poking guinea pigs with long needles.

That over, Bill Lane is sitting next to Mary the secretary’s desk. They have some kind of budding romance going. Or something. Anyway, they are suspicious of Zinthrop. “Women!” says Bill, apropos of nothing. “Men!” responds Mary. Zing! “Every time you search for an answer, you always come up with ‘women’.” Bill then mention’s “male intuition.” Is there such a thing? “The only thing that’s missing is a genie with a lamp.” Ah, so the answer would be, no. They then go out to dinner. Captain Black intercepts them in the hall and thinks Zinthrop is a dangerous. He then laboriously describes the difference between a con man and a quack, and how Zinthrop likely falls into the latter camp. There’s no chance he could be both?

The next day, Maureen the receptionist is talking to another woman, complaining about her husband Irving, which she pronounces as “Oyving.” Oy vay. The phone rings, and she answers so incredibly not sexily, try as she might. “I got two words for you,” she says over the phone. “Drop day-ed...twice.” It was Oyving. “Calling to tell me Dr. Cyclops is on Channel 9 tonight.” God, I hope that isn’t a euphemism for anything. “I’ve see it twice already.” Boing.

Zinthrop shows up looking for Janice. He leers upsettingly at the women, and they heap shame on him behind his back. “What a charactah. A regulah two-eyed Dawktah Cyclops.” That’s supposed to be some kind of Brooklyn accent. It so isn’t. “He’s a real weirdy.” Weirdy?

Meanwhile, Zinthrop is in the lab, or actually out on the lab’s terrace (?), tending to a colony of wasps. Oddly, he has it placed right under a large hanging plant, so there is no way he can stand up without banging his head on the plant. There had to be a better place to put that. Janice comes by, and Zinthrop shows her a kitten that he reminds her she had seen as an adult cat a week earlier. When you’re a busy executive, it’s difficult to keep track of the cats you see. She is gaga over this. “Do you see what that means?” she asks the kitten. “You’re a kitten again. Your whole life to live over.” What a horrifying thought. Zinthrop then gives Janice her first injection. She sits down and rolls up her sleeve. On the wall behind her is a framed college degree. Huh? It certainly can’t be his. Whose is it?

Some time later, Janice receives a phone call from Accounting, and she stresses that Zinthrop can order whatever he wants and the company will pay for it. Mary is listening in. She calls Bill and tells him, giggling, that Zinthrop paid $2,300 for enzyme extract. I guess she knows where he could have gotten it cheaper; maybe Duane Reade was having a sale.

Three weeks later, Zinthrop is poking at Janice’s face. There is only a small amount of change. “Why is it taking so long?” “There’s more to you than a little kitten,” he responds. I would like to think there would be. She suggests upping the dosage. He says no. He muses that the product they create would be better as a lotion. Yeah, intravenously administered cosmetics may not go over all that well. “Janice Starling Enterprises will be world famous!” he pronounces. I thought they already were?

Meanwhile, Mary is going through Janice’s desk and finds the letter Zinthrop originally wrote. She takes it and calls Bill. She, Bill, and Captain Black go out to lunch and they read the letter. Captain Black wryly says, “He claims he can stimulate the rejuvenation process using enzymes extracted from wahsps.” Well, tah. “Janice Starlin[g] had built her whole career on youth and beauty and now that she’s losing them she’s scared to death.” Well, we have the theme of the movie.

Now, wait a minute. She runs a cosmetics company. Cosmetics, as I understand them, are designed to make people look more attractive. So if she herself can’t make herself look attractive using her own cosmetics, then doesn’t that imply that her company’s products, um, suck? But I digress... And why do characters sometimes pronounce her name “Starling?” Is she for the birds?

Bill and Captain Black wonder what they can do to get rid of Zinthrop. What do these guys actually do for the company, anyway? Captain Black takes the letter and will try to see if Zinthrop has some kind of record. “Come on, young lovers,” he adds wryly. Huh?

Nighttime in the Big Apple. Janice is alone in her office, smoking. (Man, this movie has got a two-pack-a-day habit.) All the lights in the rest of the building are out. She goes into the elevator, which is so not an elevator (in the wide shots you can see that there is no gap between the elevator car and the floor it is parked on). The elevator doors look like Star Trek doors. Too bad they don’t go shhh when they open and close. Anyway, Janice sneaks down to the abandoned lab and fixes herself a dose of the wasp enzyme. A big dose. A dose that looks like it’s about two pints. She doesn’t use a hypodermic needle so much as a turkey baster. Is that really wise? And surely Zinthrop will notice that so much liquid is missing. As she leaves, there is an ominous close up of the cat which has some strange lumps on its back.

The next morning, Maureen the receptionist is filing her nails and Janice walks in. She looks about 20 years younger. Well, I should say, she removed all the thick makeup she had been wearing. At the board meeting, everyone is agog. Mr. Monopoly is drooling over her like he had two hotels on Park Place and she just landed on it. Captain Black can barely puff his pipe. Alone with Mary, Janice asks her to tell her how old she looks. “23, maybe 22.” “That’s how old I was when I started Janice Starling Enterprises....I’m back where I started, 18 years ago.” I thought it was 16? Well, when you reach the ancient, decrepit age of 40, I guess it’s hard to keep these things straight.

Zinthrop walks into his lab, changes into his smock, then checks on all his animals. Uh oh: the cat is missing; he hears a strange, buzzing meowing noise, but can’t figure out where it is coming from. Ah, there it is! Directly in front of him. It is the cat, with some odd tufts of fur attached to its back, and looking quite feral. It leaps on him and tries to bite him. He strangles it and then dumps the body in some kind of oven. I’d skip lunch in the office cafeteria for a few days.

Meanwhile, in a restaurant (the same one they were in before) Captain Black is telling Bill and Mary, “Years ago, quacks were treating people with monkey glands.” They were? “Then deterioration set in.” Captain Black wants to break into the lab and find out what specifically Zinthrop is using. He again puts his lit pipe in his breast pocket.

After disposing of the cat, Zinthrop absentmindedly ambles out of the lab and into the non-elevator. Captain Black is suddenly there, hiding in the shadows. If you’re going to sneak around without anyone knowing you’re there, is it helpful to be puffing on a pipe? Or was everyone numb to the smell of tobacco in the 1950s? He notices the lab door open and walks inside. He closes the door. Note that there is no lock on the inside of the door. Captain Black looks into the wasp colony, then breaks into a locked desk. He finds what is supposed to be Zinthrop’s lab journal, but it looks more like his passport. And it only has about three pages, so I guess he wasn’t big on documenting his experiments.

There is a knock at the door. It is Janice. The door is apparently locked—but how? Granted, the knocking gives Captain Black a chance to hide out on the terrace. Janice is desperately searching for Zinthrop, but gives up after walking two feet into the room and calling his name twice. Well, that was thorough! She leaves, obviously not detecting the smell of pipe smoke.

Outside, we see a close up of a curb, and feet stepping into the street and waking off-camera. There is the sound of screeching brakes, a thud, and Zinthrop’s bloody body rolls back into the frame. Corman!

In Janice’s office, she is concerned about Zinthrop having gone missing, and a police inspector reassures her that he will find him. “Sooner or later, we find them all.” They do? What about Judge Crater? Or D.B. Cooper? He points out that she has absolutely no information about Zinthrop, such as a home address or a telephone number. “Mr. Zinthrop wasn’t a conventional employee,” she says. You got that right. I guess mad scientists rarely go through HR. Then she remembers the letter he had sent...but which Mary had taken. Doh! Janice realizes it was Mary who took it. Janice will call Mary. “It might be better if I busted in on her cold,” says the inspector. Huh? Did he previously work for the East German Stasi? Jeepers, I didn’t know New York City was such a police state in the 1950s. Giuliani wasn’t mayor then.

Before long, Mary is in Janice’s office. “I made a duplicate copy of Zinthrop’s letter. I was going to take that to Mr. Lane and Mr. Cooper,” but then I guess she remembered that the copying machine wouldn’t come on the market until the mid-1960s.

The inspector then instructs his minion to search the city for Zinthrop. It’s no wonder they don’t find him, as the streets they are driving on are not in New York. The officer heading up the search must be really new at it; the first two places he goes to look for a 75-year-old scientist are a root beer stand and a beauty parlor. It is only as a last resort that he checks the hospital (maybe it’s just me, but I probably would have started there)—and even then it is just to use the phone. But, serendipity has paid off: Zinthrop has been found, in a coma with a head injury. The inspector and Janice head to the hospital.

Sure enough, Zinthrop is lying unconscious, although the emergency room gave him some really festive-looking pajamas. “There’s definite brain damage. Just how much, we can’t tell yet,” says the doctor. I wonder how much was caused by the accident.

Three days later, Zinthrop is still in a coma. Captain Black wants to carry on...doing something. Janice says if Zinthrop doesn’t recover in another four days, Captain Black can take over the laboratory. Oh.

Later on, Janice is injecting another turkey baster full of wasp extract. At the same time, Captain Black is sitting...someplace (his office? the lab?) reading the thin pamphlet that was supposed to be Zinthrop’s lab journal. “Right under our noses....Incredible....he can’t have used it all...If I could run a qualitative analysis...” He is so flummoxed he leaves his pipe on the desk. Gasp!

Captain Black is breaking into the locked lab using a tire iron. A tire iron? Are there many of those lying around the offices of a mid-Manhattan cosmetics company? Captain Black prowls around the lab and retrieves a set of vials from the refrigerator, and begins examining them. Janice charges in from the terrace, and she now has the head of a wasp—or I guess that’s what it’s supposed to be. She is fashionable to the last; the chain around her neck nicely sets off the bent pipe cleaners jutting out of her head—er, I mean her antennae. Captain Black gazes longingly at the pipe cleaners, but brandishes the tire iron as the wasp woman charges at him. She grabs him around the neck with her hairy paws (say what?) and pulls him to the ground. As they tussle, she squeezes a packet of ketchup over his neck (oh, that’s supposed to be blood coming out of his neck), then digs in. You know, wasps actually paralyze their prey using stingers located at the end of their abdomens. Think about that, and how much goofier this movie would have been if the wasp woman attacked her prey in a similar fashion.

Their struggling does not attract the attention of the night watchman (I guess that’s what he’s supposed to be), played by the very large, porcine Bruno Ve Sota, a frequent member of Corman’s regular troupe, whose appearance is accompanied by whimsical circus music.

In the lab, Janice has dewasped after getting her injection. Wait—why does she turn into a wasp after the wasp enzyme wears off, but then turns back to a human when she injects more of it? Maybe logic isn’t the best thing to be searching for here. But I do wonder where Captain Black’s body went. Did she eat the entire thing? Is it hidden somewhere? Does she now smell like pipe smoke?

The next day, Janice unveils their new advertising slogan to the board—that is, for the new youth medicine. Mr. Monopoly points out that they need to be careful: cosmetics are one thing, medications another. They might end up going directly to jail, without passing Go and not collecting $200. Janice gets a headache, and she’s cranky. “I don’t intend to be stopped by the timidity of my own staff.” Well, that and the FDA.

Some time later, out in the reception area, the Algonquin round table of receptionists is comparing their atrocious Brooklyn accents. “This is Mawreen yaw’re tawkin’ to.” Shudder. They are musing about the fact that Captain Black missed the board meeting. My first guess would be that he put his lit pipe in his pocket one too many times and set himself on fire. That he was eaten by a human/wasp mutant would be my second guess.

The non-elevator opens and two deliverymen enter wheeling a fold-up bed. “Hey, pretty puss,” one says to Mawreen. Pretty puss? Were people actually like this in the 50s? He asks where Miss Starlin’s office is. “Suite number one,” she replies. This rankles the deliveryman more than it really should. “Well la-di-da. The Duchess of Flatbush herself.” What? “How would you like to have this phone wrapped around your ear? Wise guy.” Mawreen responds. “That’s more like it, sister.” He seems mollified. They wheel the bed into Janice’s office without further ado. What the heck was that all about?

Mary is in with Janice. Apparently, Zinthrop is being transferred to a room in the building, and Janice will be sleeping in her office. Hmm. Logically, she should be chewing off bits of her wooden desk and using her saliva to pulp the bits of wood into paper to fashion a nest. I mean, if she were really a wasp. “Oh, Mary, before you go see if you can work that...thing.” She points to the bed that was just wheeled in. She doesn’t know what a bed is? “Oh, sure. I’ve seen lots of these,” says Mary. Were beds a novelty in the 1950s? She unfolds it in about two seconds. “Oh, that was simple,” says Janice. Was she expecting it to be complicated?

In a short while, Zinthrop is wheeled in. He is conscious, and still wearing the festive pajamas. He is accompanied by a nurse who resembles Lilith from Cheers. He struggles to remember something “important.” Something about a feral cat that was turning into a wasp? I mean, that’s pretty easy to forget, even without a head injury.

Back in reception, Bill says, “Sure is funny about old Coop.” (That would be Captain Black.) Yeah, getting eaten by a half-human, half-wasp. Hilarious when you think about it. Janice wanders in; speak of the devil. Bill points out that no one has heard from Captain Black all day. “I wouldn’t worry about that. Mr. Cooper has been here a long time.” Where is “here”? In her stomach? Then Bill starts leering at the young-looking Janice. “You think Zinthrop would give you any of those treatments?” he says to Mary, his girlfriend. Aw, he always knows just the right thing to say. She hits him, but not nearly hard enough.

That night, Bruno Ve Sota is back on the job and is futzing with a transistor radio. He hears a weird noise coming from inside the lab. Oh, man, if Janice eats him, she’d better mix in a lot of Lipitor with her wasp enzyme. He draws his gun and enters...

In Zinthrop’s room, he and Lilith the nurse hear Bruno Ve Sota scream from several floors away.

The next morning, Mary is discussing the missing security guard with Janice. So, again, what happened to the body? Did she eat all of it? If she keeps this up, age and beauty are going to be the least of her worries as she gains 900 pounds. And if she didn’t eat him, where is the body? How do you hide Bruno Ve Sota’s body anywhere?

That night, Bill and Mary are out at dinner...in, again, the same restaurant, at the same table. What is this, Seinfeld? “There’s something going on in that building,” says Bill. He plans to snoop around, starting with “Cooper’s lab.” Cooper had a lab? Sure enough, Mary and Bill are breaking into Captain Black’s desk.

In Zinthrop’s room, Janice is trying to get him to explain what is happening to her. Back in Captain Black’s office, Bill and Mary find the skimpy lab journal and read about the experiments on Janice. Then they see, on the desk...dum dum dum...Cooper’s pipe. “Don’t you get it?” says Bill. “He’d sooner go out without his pants on than leave that pipe behind.” Of that I have no doubt. So now they know he’s somewhere in the building. Bill says, “He’s dead. And the night watchman.” Cooper is the night watchman? Oh, I see; the night watchman is also dead. A little awkward phrasing there....

Janice is pleading with Zinthrop to make more of the extract; she is running out and is jonesing big time. There is a zoom into Zinthrop’s face and the music perks up. Ah, that can only mean one thing: Janice is turning into a wasp. Zinthrop screams and Lilith the nurse comes into investigate. Janice the Wasp attacks her, forces her down on the couch, and tucks in to her neck. Again, she should have a stinger in her butt. Someone has confused wasps and vampires, but never mind.

A short time later, I guess, Bill and Mary are in Zinthrop’s room, and he is asleep. “Don’t touch him!” exhorts Mary. Why? Will he get old person’s germs on him? While Bill ignores her warning and touches Zinthrop, Mary notices a bloodstained rag of some kind on the couch. She points it out to Bill and they react very slowly.

In the lab, Janice has used up the last of the enzyme extract, but has at least dewasped. Once again, I ask, where is the nurse’s body? She gazes longingly into the wasp colony, and there is a closeup of a swarm of bees. (Huh?)

Bill and Mary are also wondering what happened to the nurse. Zinthrop wakes up and warns them that Janice shouldn’t take any more injections. Well, the toothpaste is out of that tube, isn’t it? Mary calls up to Janice’s office, and Bill immediately grabs the phone. Janice chides them for still being in the building. Zinthrop is struggling to get up. Bill will go up to Janice’s office. Zinthrop yells, “The insect! the insect!” Ah, that clears everything up. He is such a help. Bill then sends Mary up to Janice’s office and says to call the police, as the phone in Zinthrop’s room doesn’t have an outside line. (Of course it doesn’t.) She runs off to what is sure to be her waspy doom.

Janice is pacing back and forth, obviously thinking, “Which of them should I eat first?” Janice has locked herself in her office and Mary begs to be let in. They struggle, and Janice slaps Mary. “I’m sorry I had to do that.” Then why did you?

In Zinthrop’s room, Zinthrop is even more incoherent. Bill is trying to get something out of him. “You do not understand! You do not understand!” Sounds like John McCain during the Presidential debate. Mary is in great danger. “You fool, you fool! Miss Starlin will kill her and tear her apart into shreds....Miss Starlin is not a human being any longer." He adds, “She will destroy the girl, as a wasp will destroy her enemies and devour the remains.” Sounds like Nixon. But is that what wasps really do?

Meanwhile, Mary has been telling everything to Janice—finding the lab notebook, etc. We close in on Mary’s face...I guess Janice is changing again. Yep. Mary screams, and there is a struggle. Bill and Zinthrop hear the scream (noises do carry very well in that building), and they charge out of the room. Bill waits for the elevator, then decides to take the stairs. They notice that the elevator has stopped on the laboratory’s floor. The lab door is locked, but Bill kicks in the scored glass, which makes it pretty easy. (He works for a cosmetics company; how butch do you think this guy is, anyway?) Zinthrop lurches in behind him. While Bill is fending off Janice the Wasp with a stool, Zinthrop grabs a bottle of carbolic acid that just happens to be lying around. You know it’s bad stuff because it even has a skull and crossbones hand-drawn on it. I guess sometimes even a professional scientist needs to be reminded that some things are poison. Zinthrop throws the bottle and it beans Janice right on the top of the head. The bottle breaks, and Janice starts smoking as the acid eats into her—and she then plummets off the balcony to her doom. Twas beast that killed the beauty. Or, as they said in Cinematic Titanic, “Twas beauty killed the bees.” Mary is okay, Zinthrop not so much.

The end.

Not many people realize this, but The Wasp Woman was actually a loose adaptation of one of business management expert Peter Drucker’s least known books, Management Challenges for Freakish Half-Insect Mutants (an expansion of his article for the Harvard Business Review, “They’re Not Employees, They’re Food”) which laid out essential advice for running a company when you have the tendency to turn into a giant wasp. As with most adaptations of books, they changed some fundamental points; Drucker had explicitly stated that managers and owners should not eat their own employees; that’s what the competition was for. Well, Corman had a small budget and a limited cast, but did what he could.

Still, for most of us in the workplace, we face bigger management problems than a boss who randomly turns into a man-eating wasp. Corman tackled other management challenges and adapted Peter Drucker’s Concept of the Corporation for the other film he directed in 1959, which was retitled A Bucket of Blood.

On a sad note, actress Susan Cabot who played the titular wasp woman, met her own tragic end. I am not making this up; via IMDb: she was bludgeoned to death in 1964 by her son, Timothy, a weight-lifting dwarf, which could have been a Roger Corman film in and of itself (or an only slightly loose adaptation of Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop).

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