lot of these movies I've never seen before I sit down and start
typing this crap. I watch it all in real time, and I'm just as
surprised as you are by how things turn out (I mean by the movie, not
how badly I write).
However, I have seen the Wasp Woman before, at least once. So, my commentary here will be just as ignorant as any of the other reviews here, but at least it'll be an informed ignorance. Now there's a concept.
We start with the titles and credits, over a swarm of milling...bees. Yes, bees, not wasps, not that it makes any real difference. Bees, wasps, they both sting and have queens, who cares in the end? It's only the credits, man, get a grip! I suppose that was directed more toward myself than to you. Sorry about that. “Screenplay by Leo Gordon, from a story by Kinta Zertuche.” Daniel Haller is the art director. Music by Fred Katz, who did a lot of movies by Producer-Director Roger Corman.
We open on a guy in a beekeeper suit trudging along a dirt road, and if I didn't know any better (note: I don't) I'd swear this is the same dirt road Spider Gary loped along after scaring some bikini models...I mean dancers...in Horrors of Spider Island. (Shudder)
Anyway, he's an old guy and he's carrying the kind of case you'd probably keep bees in, if you were a beekeeper and shopped at the right stores. He pauses and looks at a tree, that makes bee noises. I may be wrong about this, but as I look, I think his beekeeper head-covering allows his real porkpie hat to poke through the top! Now I know he shops at Sharper Image. He walks toward the tree.
He looks up at it but doesn't see the nest (neither do we, the audience). And now I'm sure...about his hat. (The answer is yes, yes it does.) Anyway, he uncaps a thermos type thing which seems to have...in freeze-frame...some completely moldy food in it. Or a big luna moth who needs a bath. Mold or moth, it seems to wiggle some antennae before he shuts the lid on it again. Smoke pours out of the thermos. And I thought I knew some science! Maybe he's teaching the luna mold to smoke? Or this is a special ashtray? If the latter, it's not working too well.
He climbs up the tree and talks to (I guess) the buzzing swarm of wasps and says he's not going to hurt them one bit. He speaks in a heavy foreign accent (actually, he speaks as if his whole head is made out of peanut-butter) but I definitely heard the last bit. Well, he's certainly going to hurt them if he teaches them to smoke! Nobody should smoke!
Anyway, he goes on to say that they'll sleep (“sleep, sleep, sleep!”) and “in the morning, you'll find yourselves in your new home.”
Now we see the nest, which looks like a trash or plastic grocery bag, and the professor snaps off the limb holding it with one mighty wrench of his incredible arms. He puts the nest in his trunk. No, no, a trunk you carry things in. Now that that's out of the way, he walks back home and we cut to a different beekeeper (metal hat) looking at beekeeper boxes. The professor (yes, I've seen this before, but he has a foreign accent, who else could he be) brings in his latest catch.
“Wasps?” asks metal hat. “You better be careful, they can sting a man to death.”
“They know who their friend is,” says the professor.
“Yeah, but they know when you aint, too!” offers metal hat.
“If you knew about wasps what I know,” says the professor, “you'd have no fear of them, my boy, no fear!” And he moves on.
Just then, a car/pickup-truck combo drives up to the bee/wasp farm. Another guy—make that two guys—get out of the car, also with beekeeper hats. I wonder if I can get a beekeeper hat on eBay or something. I would wear it in malls and things and every now and then, glance at my watch and look up. People would probably give me money to go away, and then I could finance some research on bees, and the irony meter would skyrocket.
Anyway, these two guys get out of the car/pickup-truck and start getting big boxes out of the truck bed part. One of the guys, who wears a suit and tie in addition to his beekeeper hat (to my admittedly fashion-blighted eyes, the combo does NOT work) turns out to be some kind of big boss, maybe not THE boss, but at least a regional manager. He talks to a beefarm guy (not metal hat or the professor) and congrats him on the 1000 pounds of Orange Blossom honey. “Congratulations, you've made the top of the list again.” He goes on to tell this guy that he sees a great future for him in the company.
“I try to take my inspiration from the bees,” says the Employee Of The Month (henceforth EOTM), “always busy, busy, busy.”
“Yes...cough,” says the boss. “Now, what about this fellow, Doctor Zinthrop?”
“Zinthrop...boy, there's a nut. Him and his bees[sic]. You know, it wouldn't surprise me some day to see him flapping his arms, taking off after some queen bee with the rest of the drones.”
Boss harrumphs a bit, and mentions that Zinthrop is paid to research royal jelly (which bees actually make), but he hasn't had a progress report in a month. He seems pretty ticked about this, doesn't he know science takes time? And effort? And money?
EOTM points the Boss towards Zinthrop's “shack” where he “keeps a few colonies.” Reluctantly, Boss decides he better “have a look.”
EOTM follows him, blowing smoke out of the same kind of moldy luna moth thermos that Professor Zinthrop (for aye, it was he, back then) had earlier. It's kind of like those old sultan movies where there was some guy with a big fan making sure the boss man had a nice bit of breeze at all times. EOTM stops. “Hey, this isn't a honeybee—these're wasps!” I should mention that the hat poking out of EOTM's beekeeper head unit is a cowboy hat. So he has one of those twangy accents.
“Wasps?!” says the Boss. Deciding that Zinthrop is to blame for these here wasps, they double-time it up to the ol' crackpot's shack. All the while, EOTM follows with his smoke-pot thing.
Now, the Professor (for aye, it is he) is in his lab, sans beekeeper hat, which is unfortunate as it reveals his baldness. Of course, baldness equals Scientific Genius. Not to mention super-villainy, but we won't bring that up. He's noting things about wasps on a bit of paper. He's also poking at some kind of big, um...square of wax? I dunno—perhaps he'll explain it to us! You know how those double-domes are. I hope he won't use too many five dollar words, too!
He hears the Boss calling from outside, and he puts on his glasses and man, he looks just like James Gleason, who was in a bunch of Frank Capra movies. No, it's not relevant, but I thought I'd casually toss in something which shows I don't spend all my time watching crappy B-Movies. Or in this case, “bee” movies! Ha ha ha choke cough hack hack hack wheeze. Cough. Cough.
Anyway, he has this I'm-in-trouble-now look on his face. And he goes out to meet the Boss (and the EOTM tags along, of course. You just know he's trouble.)
“Now look here, Zinthrop, what's all this nonsense about wasps?”
“I'm sure glad you dropped in, Mr. Boss Guy, Sirrah.” No, he doesn't say that but I couldn't catch the name. Foreign accent and all. Super genius or evil genius? The suspense!
“I'm on the verge of a great discovery!” says the Prof.
“Discovery? What do you mean?”
Prof explains that he's found a new method of extracting royal jelly from the queen...wasp. That's how he phrases it, reluctant pause and all.
“According to my figures, you're better at extracting funds from the company,” says the Boss. Which is pretty funny, if you, you know, hated science and all that. (Science should be funded, because we learn stuff from science, even if we can't understand it. And even if this science sneaks up behind us and pierces us with a beak that drains spinal fluid. Even set-backs like, well, that, shouldn't stop science. Because...well, just because. That's all. You wouldn't understand the reasons. No one does. No one! In fact, they just laugh nervously at talk of “nerve armies” and “directed groupings” and “bio-lightening.” They all laughed, the fools! They laughed at me, but soon, very soon, no one will be laughing! No one! Nya ha ha ha ha ha!)
A-hem. Well, Boss goes on, “Now look here, Zinthrop, over a thousand dollars last month for 'miscellaneous.'” Which is also pretty funny. Damn, Boss, you got the funny lines in the movie.
Professor hems and haws over this, obviously anxious to drop this money-talk and reveal his wasp research cool-ness. As I've said, I've seen this before so I can assure you he does not say anything about a “super soldier.”
No, he says that he has learned how to slow the process of aging. Soon, he “will be able to reverse it, entirely.”
Now, let me interject here (stop that moaning!) and say this sounds pretty darn great, and Boss should say something like “Holy frickin'-A! How much more funds do you need?”
But that doesn't happen. Instead, Prof shows Boss some dogs. A Doberman pincher and a cute li'l puppy Doberman! Puppies! Awwww. He asks what the Boss sees.
Boss says, dogs. But Prof reveals that the two dogs are the same age. He has created a puppy-preserver! He has given the puppy injections from the queen wasp.
EOTM sees his prestige washing away on a wave of, well, solid scientific evidence (cough) so he says, “Just like I told you, [Boss],” and tries to get some peer-pressure thing going down. (It's like, Boss, Boss, I am way popular, and I say Prof is nutz, and I am...way popular. Remember that 1000 pounds of Orange Blossom Special!)
Boss swallows it all and says “I understand about 'science' and 'progress' and all that, but you were obtained to extract queen bee royal jelly. Now, it's a health food, a cosmetic...it's not a miracle drug or elixir of youth, that sort of thing is impossible.” I'm sure the Luddites among you think it's pretty cool how he ignores the evidence right in front of his face, evidence in the form of “cute puppy.” Anyone who can ignore cute puppies...well, I [snipped]
Well, I'm back. Course, my arms are still sore, [snipped]
Okay, now I'm back again, and nothing hurts at all. Truly.
Professor tries to argue using weird things like “facts” and “evidence” but Boss don't cotton to those i-dears. He fires Zinthrop (EOTM folds his arms in triumph) and explains that he (Zinthrop) “doesn't seem to be one of the team. [Pause] You understand...good luck! I'm sure you'll fit in...somewhere!” and with that devastating blow, he and EOTM leave.
Professor says, “Fly my wasps, fly, and kill them!” But they don't. Because he didn't say that. Only because he was too sad, I'll bet.
Fade to back in his shack, where he tells the wasps not to worry. “We shall find a home somehow...somewhere. [Pause] Oh, but you sound impatient!” He figures out, though, that they're actually just hungry. I've made the same mistake, myself, many times. He feeds them a caterpillar. He tells them to eat it, because they have to be strong, because “we have a lot of work to do, together. A lot of work.” And he leans back and gazes into the future as we fade...
...to some bustling metropolis, and a building which has a plaque that reads, “Janice Starling Cosmetics” on it, and finally, we see a hand pointing out a descending series in a bar graph. “As you can see, gentlemen,” says a lady's voice, “sales for the last fiscal quarter...have dropped.” We see the lady speaking. She's not unattractive, but she has her hair all severely pinned in and wears black-rimmed glasses, so I think we men are meant to think “Gosh, she's kind of plain.”
Which is, I think, just as much a slam against men as it is against women. There are many, many factors in why a man finds a woman attractive, and certainly appearance has its place. But for me at least, brain, thinking skills, adventurous learning, sense of humor and personality play a greater part. But no, according to this movie, all I think about are looks. Yes, I am skipping ahead (thematically) because I've seen this before, but believe me, in time, my remarks will make sense. Well, no, they probably won't, ever, but they might. Some time in the next few hundred years. When your thinking has evolved to the point where I can be understood!
Anyway, this lady goes on to note that sales for competing cosmetic firms have NOT dropped, and she wants to know why. No one dares say anything. They all look embarrassed, as if wind had been passed and no one dared take the blame. I know why they will not speak (as I've seen this before) but I'm waiting to let the film say it.
She asks an old guy. He apologies to Miss Starling (as in “Janice Starling Cosmetics,” see) and says he's not feeling well. Oh, you old wuss! I bet you drive slow in the left lane, too. I hate you already.
Some younger guy named “Lane” says he knows why sales are so off. Janice asks, oh?
He puts the blame on “you, Miss Starling.”
She's taken aback a bit, but rises to the challenge. “I imagine you, have arguments,” she says, “to support that contention.”
“We've all been looking at it for the past twenty minutes,” he says. “The most convincing argument is right on that graph [the bar graph she was pointing to earlier].” He walks up, smooth as only Anthony Eisley can (though here credited as “Fred Eisley”) and asks if he can show the room what he means. Janice gives him the pointer.
“Right here in April,” he says, poking the chart like a master, “is when Starling sales started dropping off.”
“Very clever of you, Lane,” Janice says.
He hesitates, then asks if she would mind waiting until he finishes. She apologizes, he goes on to point out that the reason for the sales fall-off is actually in February. He goes on: “Starling Products have always been thought of as something of a...a modern miracle in the cosmetics trade,” he says, and just for cinematic variety we get our first shot of Pipe Guy. He's an slightly older guy with a bow tie and a pipe he's always smoking (and a full head of hair). As you'll see when it happens, a particular trait of his is what I remember most vividly about this film.
Anyway, Lane goes on: “A firm built to a multi-million dollar business, on the strength and appeal of one person, Janice Starling [quick cut to her just so's we're all on the same page]. From the beginning right until February of this year, only one woman's face was used to advertise those products...your face, Miss Starling.” Another shot of Janice, looking resigned and unhappy. Lane goes on: “The public have come to accept you as a symbol. Well, now, after sixteen years, they see a different face, they...they don't trust it. They feel cheated. The simple fact is, that Starling Cosmetics should have Janice Starling's picture advertising them. Well, that's about all I've got to say.”
He hands the pointer back to Janice (the Freudianism!) and Pipe Guy says, “And a darn good job of saying it, too!” and he starts clapping. No one else does, though. But they say things like “Hear, hear” only not in those words.
“I think I've had enough...flattery for one morning, gentlemen,” says Janice, and she's pretty much not happy. “A very convincing argument, Lane,” she says, while her secretary takes an intercom call about a Mr. Zinthrop “to see Miss Starling.”
“There's only one small factor you've overlooked,” Janice goes on, while Anthony...I mean, Fred Eisley smokes in that way that only he can do and look cool. “Not even Janice Starling can remain a glamor girl forever.”
Mary the secretary interrupts with the bit about “Mr. Zinthrop” here to see Miss Starling. Janice says thank you and closes the meeting. Everyone leaves like there was a huge smelly fart they were trying to escape. As they leave, Janice calls to Pipe Guy (Arthur) and says she wants to see him. He says sure. Another secretary (not Mary) is filing her nails in the foreground. I don't remember, but I think this means she's selfish and uncaring. Does filing one's nails, in a movie, ever indicate a good person, or even a neutral person?
Janice and Pipe Guy go into her office. They talk a bit about royal jelly, and how it could be therapeutic but it depends on the individual. He lights her cigarette, then lights his pipe. He says royal jelly could be The Stuff. She says, what about a more powerful kind of royal jelly, like from the Queen Wasp? Would that have “some rejuvenating effect on a human being?” He looks pretty bemused by the query (he has a bow tie) and says, “I'd stay away from wasps, if I were you, Miss Starling. Socially, the queen wasp is on a level with the black widow spider. They're both carnivorous, they paralyze their victims, and take their time devouring them alive. They kill their mates in the same way, too,” he says, and she looks interested at that. “Strictly a one-sided romance,” he concludes.
“Well, I'm not exactly interested in the love life of the queen wasp,” she answers. “I want your opinion on the possibilities of using enzyme extracts from royal wasp jelly, commercially.”
Pipe Guy says that if she wants an honest opinion (and she says of course she does) “My advice is, forget about it.”
Well, she doesn't like that at all, but she thanks him anyway, and he walks out of the office, but not before doing one of the most memorable things in this whole movie.
He puts his LIT PIPE into his JACKET POCKET! I'd repeat that, but if you want the same effect, just read it again. Can you imagine? This is not, repeat NOT like putting away your cell phone, this is something that is ON FIRE and CONTAINS TOBACCO PRODUCTS! You know, Roger Corman is supposedly a...frugal man, but here he threw away a whole movie! The Pipe Man! He holds the...uh, flame of history in his, er, blackened heart! Okay, that's lame but you guys, you can come up with a winner. Just don't forget your old friend here. PayPal me something, anything.
Well, back to the movie. Janice settles back in her chair, obviously contemplating how fleeting is fame, etc. She's already sold on this Zinthrop guy, but then I bet he showed her the puppy and she knew the score then. And yes, she calls to the secretary pool to have Mr. Zinthrop shown in. “About time,” he mutters, and walks into the office with a big trunk. No, no, nothing like that...a trunk like what he had before, for bees, or wasps, or fig newtons. You guys! Alla time, you guys.
Anyway, Zinthrop walks in the office and Janice says she won't be able to give him much time, and he says, “No, it is I who will give YOU time, ten, maybe fifteen years I give you!”
Janice says she expects absolute proof. He says that's not a problem, but it would be better shown in the laboratory, yes, no, maybe, perhaps? Reluctantly (it seems to me) she goes along with this.
And in the lab, we see...um, two astounding...astonishing!...amazing!...okay, no, we just see two guinea pigs. One is white-ish, the other is brown-ish.
“They look terrible,” Janice says. “Why don't you put them out of their misery?” How mean! They look like normal guinea pigs to me.
“Madam, you ask for proof, please be kind enough to look at proof you ask for,” says the Prof. Wow, he's a Zen master, too. He asks if he can proceed, she nods, he takes out a hypo of (well, I'm guessing) royal wasp jelly extract and injects the white-ish one. He puts it back in the cage and promises a miracle.
Soon, through the miracle of special effects, the white-ish guinea pig has become a white rat. Prof, I think you need to redefine your miracles here. I think we're supposed to think that the white rat is a younger version of a guinea pig. But we're not that stupid. Well, I may be, but are you? The larval version of the guinea pig is not the white rat. It is, in fact, the well-known ice-cream-sandwich. Boy doesn't that sound delicious! Better eat them now, or you'll open your freezer and have a dozen guinea pigs to care for and feed and listen to while they squeak.
Well. Enough of that. Back to this. Janice wants to be sure, so he injects the brown-ish guinea pig, and it...well, the screen goes all wavy as if time has passed. In the next shot, we see only the white rat in the cage, so I assume the brownish guinea pig dissolved into a protoplasmic horror, and the Prof has been thrown out into the streets. Except we fade in on him, in the lab again, talking to Janice. They're talking terms. He wants a laboratory; if he's successful, he'd like a bit of percentage. What he wants most of all, though, is credit for the discovery.
She says she'll have contracts drawn up, but he says her word is good enough.
Janice says that's pretty amazing, based on how she figures the world works.
“I know you're a good woman,” says the Prof, “even if you do not like other people to know it.” He then muses that his formula, which turns guinea pigs into rats, “may not be good for human beings, I have not tested it yet.” Good lord, man, you mean it might turn people into midgets? Call the gendarme! Also, let me just add, bad sales technique.
Janice says that the tests will be performed on her. Prof protests, “No, no, no, no, there might be danger!”
“Those are my terms, Mr. Zinthrop. Janice Starling will be your next guinea pig.”
They both agree to this, and a horror movie is a-borned upon the winds of film. Cos we all know what's going to happen, right? Hint: the title of this movie.
Janice says that perhaps the Professor (and her) can save the company, “maybe even make it bigger than before.”
“Yes, oh, yes,” agrees the Professor.
Sometime later, we fade to Pipe Guy sitting at his accustomed spot at the board room table. Janice is giving another presentation. She's telling them sales will be better than ever, thanks to “Mister Zinthrop” (not Professor?) who is working on this revolutionary new product, blah blah. At the sound of his name, several board members react rather negatively. But no one says anything, except Janice, who goes on to say that Zinthrop has complete financial freedom and is answerable only to her. And then we fade to Zinthrop's lab. Wow, I always thought Roger Corman was pretty frugal but I didn't see any point to that scene.
Actually, we fade to a montage of lab, guys unloading boxes, Zinthrop with a needle, Pipe Guy being Pipe Guy, etc, all to this rather silly sounding drums-xylophone-piano music. Intercut with this montage are close-ups of the Board members, just staring into the camera. Ohhh...kay. I guess it is supposed to show the passage of time.
We then cut to Mary (the secretary, remember) with Lane. She's busy typing and he's all slouched in his chair like some ape. And this movie is a slam against which sex, again?
Lane says, “I dunno, Zinthrop must be the granddaddy of all confidence men to take in a gal like Starling.” All the while, Mary is typing and the microphone must be RIGHT IN the typewriter, as it makes a loud slamming noise like a paper robot eating fire-crackers. So it's hard to hear Lane very clearly. “Why doesn't somebody wise her up?” he asks.
“Like you, for instance?” Mary asks. She then asks why Lane doesn't think Zinthrop is “on the level” as “we don't know what he's working on, it could be very legitimate.” Both good points and I hate to mention that they kind of negate each other. If no one knows, it could be either on the level or not.
“You're as bad as she is,” Lane chauvinises, “oh...women!”
Mary shakes her head and touche's, “...men.” She says that he says “Women!” every time he's supposed to answer a question and doesn't. She persists in asking why he doesn't trust Zinthrop, and he says he'd go so far as to call it “male intuition.”
“Something about this whole deal doesn't smell right.” He mentions the private lab, the secret experiments and “Zinthrop himself. The only thing that's missing,” he sniffs, “is a genie with a lamp.” Lane, I think you mean, a hunchback named Igor but we'll let it pass. This time.
Anyway, they leave to go to dinner. There's some banter about who's going to pay, as Lane always tosses for the check and Mary always loses (doesn't seem all that chivalrous to me, but perhaps this is considered “liberated” behavior). He says he'll pay if she'll keep an eye on Zinthrop-Starling Thingy. Pipe Guy shows up with his pipe. Apparently he's also in the I-Don't-Trust-This-Zinthrop-Guy Club. With that pipe and bow-tie, I bet he edits the Club's newsletter.
He's of the opinion that Zinthrop is more dangerous than Lane thinks. Lane thinks he's just after money, but Pipe Guy thinks he's a “quack,” which he says can do more than just financial damage. Well, they all leave, and suddenly it's a new day.
Mary shows up in the typing pool. Already there are two heavily-Brooklyn-accented gals (one of them was filing her nails earlier, remember?). They're complaining about their Significant Others. Again, it adds to the running time. Not sure we needed more running time, but, while insignificant to the film, it's not painfully boring. It's supposed to be humorous and I suppose it's more the fault of our jaded modern realm that it isn't, much.
Zinthrop shows up, doffing his hat to the ladies. They react as if he was a vampire. He asks to see Starling, they say she's in conference. He says he'd like to see her, when she has time. To swell, jazzy double-bass plucking, he eyes the two gals. Rather, uh, hungrily, I might add. Then he leaves. The gals comment at length about how he seems like an eccentric, though harmless, but he has all the execs worried, but no one knows why. Another scene that sure accomplished a lot. I mean, we already knew this because of the previous scene. It makes me wonder if this was supposed to be like an old serial, with 10 minute episodes, half of which were taken up with “previously on our show...” because it sure doesn't make a lot of sense otherwise. I guess I'm glad to know the steno pool also doesn't trust Zinthrop. I s'pose.
Back to Zinthrop in his lab, and his glass hive of bee—uh, wasps. He's writing things in his notebook, accompanied by ominous music. Then Janice shows up and knocks on the door. He leaves the wasp room and removes his bee hat. “Do you remember the big cat I showed you last week?” he asks.
“What about it?”
“Well...I want you to look at it. Come!” And he leads her over to a terrarium. She looks in and joyously takes out a young kitten (awwww). Apparently it was originally an old cat, and now it isn't. Janice is quite excited about this. “Do you know what this means?” she asks the cat, who doesn't reply. “You're young again...you're a kitten again!”
Well, yes, yes, yes, fine, fine, fine. The thing is, we already knew the Professor could do this stuff. He showed us at the beginning of the film with a dog, and later we saw a guinea pig turn into a cough white rat. So this shouldn't be anything new to her. I would think de-aging a cat would be very similar to de-aging a dog. It doesn't seem like progress to me. So...Zinthrop HAS been wasting Janice's money! Lane and Pipe Guy were right all along. You rotter, you!
Awww. Cute kitten.
Anyway, to threatening brass accompaniment, the Professor says that today will be Janice's first injection. “Now that it works on cats, it will work on anything!” the Professor doesn't say.
Anyway, she rolls up her sleeve. The brass and tympani continue. And she gets her first shot.
Later that next day, Janice is in her office and some guy in Accounting calls. Janice says she already told the guy, Zinthrop gets whatever he wants, so make out the damn check before I sting you! Mary listens in on the extension phone. She then immediately calls Lane, and tells him that Accounting got a bill for $2300 for “enzyme extracts” for Zinthrop. She seems pretty pleased about this. Guess she likes spying on the boss? Dunno.
Back to Janice, she checks her face in a pocket mirror. Seems a bit disappointed that Youth hasn't Sprung into her Cheeks. Fade to another hypo against a background of be—uh, wasps. I meant wasps.
Fade again to Zinthrop examining Janice's face, saying “there's great improvement in the tissue.” How the hell would he know? He's a frickin wasp specialist. Anyway, she's depressed that it's been three weeks and, you know, she's all old and icky, still. Prof points out that “there's more to you than a little kitten.”
She asks why he can't increase the dosage, and he advises patience. “We must step lightly, with care.” And he gives her another injection.
He then goes off on this tangent that, I'm predicting, will add to the running time but not to our greater understanding of the world. He says he's been experimenting with a diluted solution of the enzyme, and he thinks it would be great for creams and such. He says that Starling Enterprises will be famous and rich and so on. She says there'll be some “red faces” in the Advertising department if he's right. He insists that he is right, and says she looks “five years” younger than she did. I'm not sure how you would measure that once a person becomes thirty or so, but I guess that's why he's a damn scientific genius and all and I should not question his observations. Hey, was that a duck? Ha ha ha.
Cut to Mary, going through Janice's drawers. She finds a handwritten note and removes it. She returns to her desk and calls Lane. Once again she seems really pleased by all this cloak-and-dagger stuff. She's shown she has common sense and smarts, it just makes her seem...I dunno, mercenary or something to have her take such obvious pleasure in spying on Janice. She'll bring the note to Lane at lunch.
Lunchtime, and it's a meeting of the I-Don't-Trust-That-ZinThrop Club. Pipe Guy is reading the note and Lane says he himself isn't very good at that “technical stuff” so Pipe Guy will have to “translate.”
“Pseudo-technical,” Pipe Guy sniffs. “Mr. Zinthrop is a very capable confidence man, from what I read in this letter.” He reads about the de-aging via wasp enzymes. Everyone reacts via body language that says, “Oh, what a bunch of hooey!”
Mary asks what the two of them are going to do about it. “I dunno,” seems to be the consensus. But they're having whatever the male term for a bitch-session anyway. They discuss how Janice is afraid of growing old and losing her beauty, which is why Zinthrop managed to worm his way in. Lane says she fell for the first line she heard, and he dismissively says “Wasps!” Mary says “Bill!” like he just said a dirty word. Hey, yeah, they sting and stuff, but they also...um, well I'm sure they fill their ecological niche well.
They flip a coin for the check and Pipe Guy loses. He says he wants to keep the note for a couple of days, Mary says she could lose her job if Janice finds it missing, as Mary's the only one who would also have access to Janice's office. Pipe Guy says that's a chance that she (Mary) will have to take. Hm, and who's being dismissive of women's needs, here? Who is being patronizing and such-like? Here's a hint: he smokes a pipe.
Well, Pipe Guy says to Lane and Mary, “Come on, young lovers,” which I think is the first hint that Mary and Lane have something goin' on. Generally that sort of thing is frowned on in the office, I thought, but maybe it was different in the past.
Anyway, that exciting scene out of the way, we cut to Janice in her office late at night. She's looking worried about something. (She's also smoking, which isn't going to do anything for your looks, lady. Of course, here in the technical vastness of the future we know these things, back then in 1960 they had no idea. So we can cut the film a tad of slack here.)
Anyway, she leaves the office and takes the elevator down to Zinthrop's office. You remember that bit earlier, about could she please have more of the enzyme so's it would work faster? I think we're going to find out she didn't like Zinthrop's “No” answer. Interesting sound work here, as her high heels click very loudly on the floor. She opens the door to the lab and carefully closes it. Sure thing, she goes right to the refrigerator where Prof keeps his enzymes, and she takes out that cheesecake and eats every last bit of it. Yeah, I'm kidding, she actually cuts herself a hefty slice of cheese-enzyme, I mean, wasp-enzyme. I guess she figures Prof is an old guy, he probably has weak eyes, he won't notice how the level of formula is way down. (Even though Prof is an old guy as well as a Prof, he doesn't wear glasses. Probably vanity, as they would take away from his mustache and baldness.) I'm not sure who told composer Katz that xylophones were good for suspenseful scenes, because whoever it was, told a fib. But it's too late now, we got a movie and it's got xylophones. Oh and now we have a double-bass! Mr. Katz, you are a bigger kidder than I am. Plucked double-bass for suspense! Ha ha ha.
Anyway, Janice is done mainlining wasp enzyme (sounds like a lyric from Lou Reed) and she puts the rest of the enzyme away. And I bet when tomorrow comes, she can berate Zinthrop for not having enzyme, and he'll sputter and say, “I could have sworn...” and generally come to the conclusion that it is his oldness that caused the problem. But maybe she won't do that. Janice seems like a genuinely nice person, and for that matter, so does Zinthrop (his only real flaw is his obsession, but then Janice shares that as well though not in the same area). Well, as Janice leaves, we track back over to the cute little kitten in its terrarium, and something appears to be amiss with cute little kitten's back! It looks, honestly, as if someone has mussed up a long-haired cat's fur. However, given the tracking shot and sudden blare of music, I suspect we're to think that cute little kitten is mutating into some horror. And in fact, if you rewind and freeze-frame, you can kind of see two little knobs around the shoulder blades...as if cute little kitten is growing some cute little kitten wings! Or cute little wasp wings.
Me, I wonder how they got the “makeup effect” on the cat without losing a lot of (their own) blood. Anyway, the audience quickly confused, we fade to (guessing) the next day, and we see one of the secretaries from that hilarious scene earlier sitting and filing her nails. Janice walks in, and the secretary rolls into a deep pit of astonishment at how young and beautiful Janice looks. She doesn't say anything until Janice picks up the Annual Report (another guess) and then says, “It is you, isn't it, Miss Starling?”
“Of course it's me,” Janice says, darned pleased at the effect she's having. “Who did you think it was?”
“You, you look so different!”
Janice soaks up a bit more of this admiration, then tells the secretary, “Finish your nails.” I imagine that's like saying, “Watch football” or “Download porn” to a guy, is that right, ladies? I must confess I've never done my nails and have no reference frame. Well, Janice goes into her office. There's a couple more seconds of comedy bits but it's all the same point, Secretary can't stop staring, Janice is darn pleased.
Fade to another board meeting, and Janice is telling the assembled old goats, Pipe Guys, Mary, and Lane that Starling Enterprises is going to have this huuuuge new advertising campaign, “Return to Youth with Janice Starling Cosmetics” and while Lane and Pipe Guy look kind of “Whoa! I'm kind of alarmed!” at all this, the old goats are all “Whoa!” in a different, more positive sense. Janice says that there'll be a press conference and all questions about the “rejuvenation process” will be referred to Zinthrop. Oh, good, old peanut-butter-head. No danger for typos there! Janice then dismisses the meeting. Everyone jumps up to complement Janice on her no-longer-old-and-crappy self and she repeats that the meeting is done. One old guy (the guy from earlier in the film who refused to take a stand) has this definite “Hubba-hubba” expression, or perhaps it is “Twenty-Three-Skiddoo.” As he is so old, I cannot form a proper frame of reference.
Janice tells Mary to wait behind, and Pipe Guy stands at the door, not closing it, until Janice gives him this yes-you-go-too look, and he reluctantly closes the door. But I bet he'll have his ear pressed up against it. He has several columns in the I-Don't-Trust-Zinthrop Club Newsletter to fill, remember.
Janice tells Mary that her new self is a miracle, and she is all but hooting about it, I suspect only that this is a staid business setting prevents this hooting. Mary is terrifically happy for Janice as well. She says everyone has been worried about Janice, “we really thought you were in danger. We even went to plotting how to rescue you from Mr. Zinthrop.”
Janice just laughs this off, she's just so happy with her new beauty and all, she's going to drive it through the mountains with the radio on. No, wait, that's a car. Sorry.
Janice asks Mary how old she looks. Over and over and over, and, um, kind of with increasing hysteria or it could be just a lot of relieved happiness. Me, I'd say she looks twenty. Mary guesses twenty-three or twenty-two.
Janice reveals that's how old she was when she started the company, “eighteen years ago.” She's back where she started, but with the empire it took her eighteen years to build intact and ready for her. “It's like a dream!” she gushes.
Cut to Zinthrop entering his lab, to slightly comical music. He puts his coat and hat on the coat-and-hat rack and takes down his lab coat (from the same rack) and puts it on. From the look of the lighting, I'd say it was evening some time. Either that or he likes his office dark, the better to have his wasp enzyme stolen. Hey, I'm just pointing out the disadvantages of such a lighting preference.
He goes to his wasp tanks and checks them all, then gets to cute little kitten's terrarium and discovers that it is empty. He puts his hand in, just to make sure it has not become an Amazing Transparent Cute Little Kitten. It has not. Prof, here's a bit of a clue, if you can put your hand inside, the lid is off; and if the lid is off, the cat is out.
He looks around the lab worriedly, and spots cute little kitten on top of the fridge (they are always doing that). Cute little kitten is no longer so little, and those proto-wings we (cough) saw earlier are now much farther along. Cute Little Kitten also seems to be in a grumpy mood. In very quick cuts, the cat jumps off the fridge and onto the Prof, who struggles a bit with it and (rather graphically) kills it, by apparently twisting its neck a lot. Ick. No, I'm sure it was just a stuffed animal, but still, I stand by my statement: ick.
Cut to the I-Don't-Trust-That-Zinthrop Club, again at the same restaurant, though in order to make it look like it's a different day from last time, Pipe Guy and Lane have switched seats! Roger Corman, you devil you! Though the camera is still in the same position. Anyway, Pipe Guy is all in total I'm-A-Downer mode, as he points out that other “quacks” have treated people with “monkey glands” which “seemed to work for a while, then the deterioration set in.”
Mary looks pretty depressed at this. She's sympathetic to Janice's perceived plight. Pipe Guy says he could know for certain if this will be Janice's fate if he could get inside Zinthrop's lab. While talking, he lights his pipe. He then puts his LIT PIPE back into his JACKET POCKET. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Pipe Man! Thank you, thank you!
Back to Zinthrop in his lab, putting something hastily inside a chamber. I'll bet it's a dead cat, and an oven. No, no, no he is not making cat cake! There is no such thing. No, there isn't. No, he is disposing of the cat's body by baking it into nothingness. And I hope he is making a check out to the ASPCA. It doesn't have to be for $2300 but it should be generous. And remember folks, spay or neuter your pets. October is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, did you know that? But really, any time of the year is good for adopting a nice pet from a shelter. As long as they're not rotten cats like mine. The ingrates. I give them food, affection, [snip] until the name “Maudling,” is almost totally obscured.
Where were we? Yes, Zinthrop setting his oven on “Destroy Evidence” mode, then leaving the lab, in a kind of daze. He leaves the lab unlocked, too, perfect for Pipe Guy to become a victim, I mean, uh...put his pipe in his jacket? Yes!
Prof strides, zombie-like, to the elevators. It's unclear (to me) whether his state is because he was bitten by the cat and has toxins in his blood, or whether he is thinking “Oh I am in trouble now, yes I am.” As he leaves in the elevator, sure enough, Pipe Guy sneaks around a corner and watches him go. He (Pipe Guy) goes into the laboratory (but not, we are compelled to note, before passing in front of a clearly visible fire ax) and looks around with bemusement. I bet he is thinking, “Ooo, I know much better science that this! This science is all old and crappy, and I hate it! My science is way cooler!” He checks the be—um, WASPS briefly and shakes his head. “Wasps!” he no doubt thinks, and I bet Mary would tell him to “watch your mouth!” “But I'm talking 'bout Zinthrop!” Pipe Guy would say, and the secretary typing pool would say, “And we can dig it!”
And then, ladies and gentlemen, Pipe Guy turns away from the wasps and PUTS his PIPE into his JACKET POCKET! Another round of applause, if you please, for Pipe Guy!
He starts looking through papers and things and opening drawers with his knife and generally behaving like an old snoopy-pants, when suddenly a knock comes at the door. Well, it's not his office, what is he to do? On the other side of the door is Janice, looking, well, ahem, looking like I need my wasp fix doctor (another Lou Reed line. Does anyone have his email address?).
Of course, Janice knocked because she was just being polite to (she thought) the old Prof, as she has her own key, and she produces it and unlocks the door. Pipe Guy is nowhere to be seen, of course. Janice asks over and over for Mr. Zinthrop, but of course, he is not there either! Lady, you are striking out! Instead of getting more Wasp Juice, though, she leaves. Pipe Guy comes out of the waspeteria (where he was hiding) and back into the main lab. In preparation to do more snooping, he takes his pipe out of his jacket pocket and starts smoking it again. Man, this guy would be killer in Las Vegas.
We cut to Zinthrop walking along the street, with that vacant, distracted I-wonder-who-really-wrote-Casablanca look we're all familiar with from television celebrities. And we see his feet step off the curb (in close-up), not, repeat NOT at the crosswalk! He leaves the frame, the music gets all uh-oh, and sure enough there's a loud THUMP noise and he rolls back into frame with blood on his face. Yes, well, very sad, right, but he strangled that cute little kitten! Just because it was growing wings and was going to fly to fulfill its dreams! And bring happiness to children everywhere! Oh and also because it attacked him, be fair. Sure.
Cut to Janice saying that we have to find Zinthrop, no matter what the cost! And we then cut to OH MY GOODNESS it looks like Doctor Otto Frank from The Atomic Brain! Noooooo! Anyway, Dr. Frank...or, this guy, whoEVER he is...says they'll find him, they find everyone. And, um...
...sorry for the delay. I just had to check the IMDB to see if this was the same actor as Doctor Otto Frank. I could not go through that again! And, I hate to wail the tidings of fear, but it's the same guy! Frank Gerstle. Excuse me--
Well, that was refreshing. Remember, mushrooms are an important source of selenium and bananas have potassium. So they are very healthy for you to eat them!
Anyway, Doctor Otto Frank wants to know more about this Zinthrop guy, how can we find him, what's his address, pager number, etc. Janice says he was kind of odd, no one knew much about him, blah blah.
Doctor Otto Frank says, well, he just didn't walk in off the street, did he?
Janice says, “The letter!” and starts looking for it, and I bet it's the one that Mary stole a while back. She doesn't find it, Doctor Otto Frank suggests “one of the other drawers?” but Janice shakes her head.
“So that's what she meant,” she says, realization dawning.
“What who meant?” Doctor Otto Frank queries, but suddenly there's a loud blare of brass on the soundtrack and Janice puts her hands to her temples like these horns are giving her a headache. Doctor Otto Frank ignores this and goes on with his irritating questions. Janice mentions that her secretary probably took the letter. She dials Mary's home phone number.
“Might be better if I busted in on her cold,” Doctor Otto Frank objects. “This way, she'll have a chance to prepare her story. I'll never get her brain, then!” Okay, he didn't say the last sentence. I'm just ultra creeped out to see this man again. Have you ever been ultra creeped out? Be thankful!
“I know what I'm doing,” says Janice. She gets Mary on the phone, and we fade to Janice, Mary and Doctor Otto Frank (feel the power) all in the same room. Mary confesses to taking the letter. She says she made a copy, and everyone goes to her desk to see this copy. Apparently, this very copy of this very letter contains Professor Zinthrop's address. We next see Doctor Otto Frank reading this address over the phone to one of his Monstrosities...um, subordinates, with instructions to get back to him as soon as possible. And don't kill any guards! Don't forget that part, Doctor Frank, you...you always do.
We then cut to this subordinate, who turns out to be NOT a Monstrosity, and he swings into action and we get an exciting (it says here) montage of people looking for Zinthrop by driving around, splicing in stock footage, and more piano-xylophone music. We also see the Monstro—ahem, I mean, the subordinate driving around and giving Zinthrop's picture to various hot-dog vendors and such like, you know, people who really know the streets. How much is stock footage? I am guessing it is much cheaper than shooting your own film. But that is only baseless speculation.
The Monstro—um, no, the subordinate makes a phone call to Doctor Otto Frank. The cool thing about this is that, even though it is in Janice's office, no one answers the phone except Doctor Otto Frank. He must have known, through brainwaves, that is was the Mon—the Subordinate who was calling. His phone conversation indicates that they have found Professor Zinthrop and that he is at “Central Emergency” Hospital. He had no identification except a lab coat, so obviously they knew he was a foreign scientist of vast genius. So they hurled him into a pauper's grave! Ha ha, I kid, actually they put him in the Conveniently Amnesiacs ward. Janice grabs her coat and goes off to see. Hey, and in the room was Pipe Guy! He doesn't look guilty at all. Of snooping, I mean. Obviously he is preoccupied with the Newsletter and has no time for such human emotions as guilt.
Anyway, we fade to Professor Zinthrop, head-bandaged in the hospital. And a cameo! Ladies and gentlemen, Producer and Director Roger Corman! He plays the doctor telling everyone that Zinthrop has brain damage. He's not terrible as an actor, and kind of comes across like Larry Hagman, you know, from I Dream of Jeannie and things. His main “thing” seems to be removing his stethoscope and Looking Concerned. Janice says spare no expense and he rushes off like, I'm gonna finance three more movies! Roger, Janice is only a movie character.
Fade to Pipe Guy and Janice in her office. “I don't know,” Janice says. “I think it best we wait.”
Pipe Guy says it's been three days and no sign of improvement. Gee, Janice, and we all thought YOU were impatient for going through weeks of treatments! Pipe Guy is just asking to be killed horribly. Well, no, he isn't, but I am, as we kind of need something here to liven the pace a bit. Janice, did you realize your whole movie up to now (fifty minutes!) has had NO menaces at all, aside from a cute little kitten with wings? The stockholders want someone to take responsibility! “Who knows how badly his brain has been damaged!” Pipe Guy says. Pipe Guy, you are the worst advertisement for the male sex, ever.
“I'll give it another forty-eight hours,” says Janice. Somehow, I don't think Pipe Guy will be convinced to just calm down. As he leaves the office, he thrills the audience yet again by putting his LIT PIPE into his JACKET POCKET! Hoorah! That just never, never gets old! I wish he would just do it over and over again, through the whole length of the movie. That would just make everyone smile, and we'd all go home having had a good time!
Now, no sooner does Pipe Guy get his snoopy and jealous little self out of Janice's office, but she hurries down to the Professor's lab (mournful cello on the soundtrack) to get her some more wasp enzyme goodness, oh yeah yeah. Wasp enzyme goodness, oh mama oh yeah. (Sorry, I'm still waiting for Mr. Reed to call.) More shooting up scenes.
Fade to Pipe Guy in the lab, going through Zinthrop's journals. “It's incredible,” he says. “Right in front of our noses. But, he can't have used it all.” He looks wistful. “I could run a qualitative analysis...” Convinced of this plan's efficacy, he galvanizes his own damn self into action. And he goes to pry open Zinthrop's lab. So I guess he wasn't there, before, after all. Must have been his own lab. Ah! Now we see the motivation...it's jealousy, pure and simple ladies and gentlemen! But before you render harsh judgment, remember...he can put his LIT PIPE into his JACKET POCKET! Now, now, let's hold our applause and return to the movie....remember, he is prying open the lab door.
He succeeds, and checks out the supply of wasp enzyme in the fridge. He prepares to study this with some equipment (he turns on a little lamp) when a strange shadow in the Wasp Room appears. The power in the lab suddenly goes out. And Janice attacks.
She has a pretty silly looking wasp-head, with antennae and compound eyes. She also has claws on her hand, and of course, like any wasp-based creature, she makes a humming sound as she attacks Pipe Guy (she has no wings, however). Pipe Guy raises some kind of boathook or something to fend her off, but this proves ineffective and he falls to the floor and his (presumed) death. I am imagining, myself, that just before he dies, he takes his LIT PIPE out of his JACKET POCKET, smokes the dying embers, then puts it back into his pocket. But that's just me.
I'd like to point out that Janice as Wasp-Woman (hey, I said the title) is wearing the same sweater and medallion that Janice as Human was wearing earlier. And now that she's biting Pipe Guy's neck, I can see that she has fangs, and that her eyes look rather silly. Pipe Guy's neck is pretty bloody for 1960.
Then, of course, to comical xylophone music we get the comical night watchman, played by Low Budget Fat Guy Bruno Ve Soto. It's all dark (of course) but it looks like he stops by a door to recharge his Heart Plug. Don't be angry, everyone has one here. Or maybe it's a radio, powered by...doors. He complains about how it “always goes out of fritz right in the middle of a good program.” And we cut away to...what do you mean, what did that accomplish? Good Heavens, it's a fat guy complaining about technology! You don't see how that's relevant? Why, it's as plain as the nose on my....well, it means...okay, you're right. Can we go now?
Janice (as Human) is in the lab, putting away the needle and the wasp enzyme done. She looks kind of worried, not because of Pipe Guy (or Fat Guard) but because the supply seems to be getting low. Man, Lou Reed really needs to write this song. This shot brings up an interesting question: is Janice aware that she transformed into a wasp-thing and killed Pipe Guy? I would have to say “No,” simply because, beauty-obsessed as she is, I don't think she could rationalize away murder for looks (“murder for looks,” hmmm...I'm betting Lou Reed saw this movie a lot when he was young). Also, I hope she would realize that if this formula is put on the market and is successful, we're talking hordes of wasp women. I honestly don't think Janice would want that kind of success. Why, the worries alone would add years to her looks!
Anyway...Janice Starling, noted executive, now fiend, kill just to be killing...wait, wrong movie. After a quick look round, she puts the formula away and we cut to the board meeting next day. She's talking about the advertising slogan, “Return to Youth,” just like she did before, and Old Goat says, “Well, we shouldn't be getting out of cosmetics and into medication, we can get in trouble.” Not his exact words but a good point. What if Microsoft got out of software and into stock car racing? She agrees to have all advertising cleared through Old Goat's office. Lane pipes (ha!) up and agrees and Janice is pretty irked with him. Janice is basically tired and irked all around.
Janice stands and says she wants one thing clear, she's going to bring the best and most salable product ever to the world. She wants no timidity on the staff! Everyone's like, wow, we're not going to argue, she's definitely in one of her “moods.” Mary gets up and asks if she's okay, Janice says she just has a little headache. Maybe it was something you ate! Pipe smokers frequently are disagreeable to digest.
(A quick word. Due to the talk earlier about female wasps devouring their mates, some folks think that Janice actually ate pipe guy, pipe and all, even the shoes. I don't think this is likely. For one thing, just having the head of a wasp doesn't give you the stomach of one, and more importantly, I don't think that wasp-eating-mate thing was supposed to take place in a matter of minutes. Thirdly, even if she did devour him, that would make her gain weight. Hey, don't look at me, there must be nutrients and things in a human body. Even the fat content would make you put on a few pounds. So what happened to Pipe Guy? Probably got sliced up and stuffed in the oven. I suspect the Wasp Woman has enough human intelligence to recognize the need to destroy evidence. Not really a Jekyll-Hyde thing, as it's wasp enzyme supplying the overwhelming drive, and Janice's intelligence facilitating almost like a reflex action. Also, and there's no way to put this delicately, even wasps have an excretory system. I imagine even wasps stomachs can't dissolve bones, and what goes in has to come out. Where'd Pipe Guy's bones go? And his pipe? And all his shoes? Into the little oven: that's my guess. Back to the film.)
Janice dismisses the board. Her headache is clearly getting worse. So's mine.
And it's back to the secretaries. Not worth going into details. Two guys show up with a fold-away mattress. They ask for Miss Starling. More flirting and takin' offense and dull talk. Turns out they're setting up a bed for Zinthrop. He's going to be right in Janice's office. And sure enough, he rolls up with a nurse and a wheelchair, off the elevator. With the bandage on his head and his black eyes, he looks remarkably like one of the Kyben, from the Outer Limits episode “Demon With A Glass Hand.” Say, you don't suppose Harlan Ellison saw this movie? (I better watch what I write, I don't want to get sued.) At any rate, or rather because of, Janice is explaining how they've got a room all set up for him, and he's very grateful. I'm sure he's suffering from amnesia, though. Oh yeah, I've seen this movie.
“There are a few things I'd like to discuss with you,” Janice says, and Zinthrop says, “Good, good,” then starts moaning quietly like his bowels are acting up on him.
“I must tell you something important,” he says, as the nurse and Janice help him into the bed (he has wild pajamas), “but I cannot remember!”
“I'm sure it can wait,” says Janice, “right now the main thing is to get you back to health!” He goes to sleep, the nurse promises to take care of him, and Janice leaves to the outer office, where Lane and Mary are talking about missing Pipe Guy.
Janice looks slightly alarmed at the mention of Pipe Guy's name. Maybe she does know what she's done, I dunno, it's for the philosophers to debate I suppose. If she does, though, it means she is going to put her appearance ahead of murder. But aren't we supposed to be sympathetic toward her?
Well, I jumped the gun a bit, as Janice says that Pipe Guy's been with the firm a long time, he's entitled to a day off now and then. “That's what I said,” says Mary. Janice still looks a bit shifty, but I'm putting that down to inappropriate direction from Mr. Corman. Lane asks about Zinthrop. “He's fine, fine,” says Janice, again looking a tad uneasy. She then hands over some advertising stuff to Lane.
“Ready when you are, boss,” he says, and Janice looks coyly at him and says, “Look those over [the advertising things, not Janice's legs].” She then goes into her office.
Mary tells Lane not to get any ideas about the boss. Oh come on, you've already made Lane a jerk, are you going to make him a creep, too? Lane says he just wants her to know that he's “an eager member of the team. Still,” and he gets the biggest grin I have ever seen on a human being, “she is looking a lot younger these days, isn't she!” He turns to Mary. “You think Zinthrop would give you any of those treatments?” Mary playfully strikes him. And we fade to the night skyline.
And it's Bruno Ve Soto again! Ha ha ha, he's still having trouble with his little portable short-wave radio. Hey, it's making those bwoooOOOp noises that short wave radios do. Suddenly he hears a buzzing that is not coming from the radio! It sounds like a whole bunch of be—uh, wasps. (Damn it.) He fiddles a bit with his radio, hoping I guess to drown out what might be work, but it just isn't going for him. He might have to do some work! This might be exciting. He looks at the door whereby the noise issues, and notes that the lock is broken. He draws his gun, and enters. And...
And we cut to Zinthrop, resting, nurse reading in a chair. What, we're not going to see Bruno Ve Soto vs. Wasp Woman? Ooooh, what a cheat! But we do hear him scream. Zinthrop sits bolt upright in bed, and his nurse tries to calm him. “It's only a fat guy in his death throes!” she says. Well, no, she doesn't say that. You got me there. Heh.
Actually, she tells him that he had a bad dream. She says it over and over, like a mantra, and he believes it, the old fool. So, she must have heard the scream, what's she going to do? Me, I would have said, “Zinthrop, that was a scream! We must be ready to fend off, oh, I dunno, a Wasp Woman or something, and that's only a guess! Here, you take this can of Raid, and point the spray the right way this time! Okay, take two!”
But none of that happens, we fade to the next morning, and Janice is telling Mary, “Tell Mr. Greene that personnel is his responsibility.” She looks over her advertising things. “I've other things to think about than worrying whether the night watchman walked off the job.”
“But that's just it, Miss Starling,” says Mary. “Mr. Greene feels that the watchman never left the building. His lunch pail and his raincoat are still in the basement.” Somehow, that's a very sad little sentence.
Janice gets another look on her face. “I don't want to hear anything more about it, Mary.”
“Yes, Miss Starling.”
Janice drops some advertisement mock-up boards on the table. “We'll use these.” I'm still not convinced Janice knows what she's done, but I think she's aware that somehow, she's involved. The enzyme urge to kill people makes use of Janice's cognitive skills to be effective, but it must leave memories somewhere.
Anyway, Mary goes off with the proofs but not with a lot of enthusiasm. Mary, along with Janice, are the most interesting and well-characterized people here. It is obvious that Mary cares about Janice (there are many scenes of Mary being sympathetic) but it is also obvious that Mary doesn't know what to think about Janice's sudden offhandedness in regard to Pipe Guy and Bruno Ve Soto. Mary clearly is disappointed in the “New Janice” but doesn't know what to think about her.
Well, we cut to Mary and Lane having dinner. Lane mentions that the nurse heard a scream “from one of the other floors” and that Zinthrop heard it too, but the nurse convinced him it was a “bad dream.”
Mary says maybe they both were having a “bad dream” but Lane is decisive.
“It's not funny anymore[?], Mary, there's something going on in that building, and I'm going to find out what it is.”
“How?” she asks.
“Have a look around [Pipe Guy]'s lab, for one thing. After that, I...I dunno.” Lane, you're an inspiration to...well, to I dunno. Someone, I'm sure. Anyway, we fade to black.
And fade in as Mary and Lane are in some office, with a flashlight, trying to pry open a desk drawer. They manage to get it open, while elsewhere...
...Janice wants to talk to Zinthrop, alone, and the nurse agrees to leave the room.
“Zinthrop, Zinthrop, you've got to help me, something's happening, something's happening to me, I can't control it!”
Zinthrop tries to wrest the scene away from her. “There is something that I must remember, but I can't!”
Janice grabs the scene with both hands. “Try to think! --The Wasp enzymes! The extracts you were experimenting with! Before the accident! Try to think!”
“I can't!” he says, and breaks down into sobs, and we cut back to...
...Mary and Lane, sitting in a tree, K-I-S—oh wait, no, they're not in a tree, they're in an office, reading documents by flashlight.
Okay, I've tried to decipher Lane's lines here several times. It seems to be “Why, Zinthrop's no poke, Mary. Milk on his experiments with jam.” (Did you notice I didn't mention Lou Reed?)
“Well, how did [Pipe Guy] get hold of it?” she asks.
“I dunno,” Lane says. “Oh, if only [Pipe Guy] would show up!” He then plays his flashlight on the desk. “Mary, look!”
We see Pipe Guy's pipe, sitting in an ashtray...right next to where they are both sitting on the desk, but we will pass no judgment on their dunderheadedness, as they were looking for documents (I guess) and not a pipe. (I promise I won't point out that Pipe Guy had his pipe with him when he was attacked.)
Mary says it's Pipe Guy's pipe.
“Don't you get it, Mary? He'd rather go out without his pants than to leave that pipe behind! He's still somewhere in the building. I'd bet a year's salary on it.”
“If he is, he...” Mary starts.
“He's dead,” Lane finishes. “And the night watchman,” he wildly speculates. Well, yes, we know, but what's his evidence?
Back to Janice and Zinthrop. “There's only enough left for one more injection!” Janice says. “One more! You've got to make more, Zinthrop! Help me, Zinthrop!”
Zinthrop is all a-blubberin' and he says “Please, leave my hair away!” (I've tried three times and that's all I can make out.)
Janice starts getting one of her headaches. “Zinthrop help me!” she screams.
Outside, the nurse is getting ready to bust this scream-and-cry party open. She hears Janice scream.
But we cut back inside to a close-up of Zinthrop, and his eyes start getting wider and wider, and he has one of those I'm-Looking-At-Someone-Transform-Into-A-Wasp-Woman expressions. The buzzing starts up too. He starts making these kind of I'm-In-Trouble-But-Am-Too-Scared-To-Be-Articulate noises, and the unlucky nurse chooses that moment to bust the party open. Alas, the party now contains one Wasp Woman, who makes a career in nursing suddenly seem less inviting. Interestingly, like with Pipe Guy, the Wasp Woman bites the nurse's neck (drawing blood) making her look rather vampiric. Well, we are in uncharted territory.
Zinthrop sits up in bed to watch, then faints back into bed. There's a quick shot of the nurse's shoes as she is being dragged out of the office, then another shot of shoes (Lane and Mary) walking through another door. They're now in Zinthrop's special room.
“Is he--asleep?” asks Mary. Lane says he dunno. (Have you noticed he says that a lot?)
They go over to him and wake him up. Before they can, Mary notices the nurse's bloody, uh, sweater over on the couch where she was attacked.
Cut to the lab, where what are obviously Janice's hands put down the last empty bottle of enzyme. It's funny, every time she transforms, she wears the same black sweater and necklace with pendant. Hey, maybe it's the pendant that's making her transform! You know, like John Jameson in Spider-Man comics.
Anyway, funnily enough, even though the three bottles of enzyme (now empty) are right in front of her, Janice takes the time to cover this, well, metal baking dish with a lid. It's way off from where the bottles are, perhaps the wasp enzymes convey a sense of tidiness too. She did the same thing the last time she shot up with enzyme.
Suddenly the buzzing noise starts up again, and Janice rises as if mesmerized and goes to the sound of the buzzing. She looks at a big colony of bees. No, I will not say they are wasps! They are honeybees. She watches them a moment, and realizing she is a Wasp Woman, and not a Bee Woman, she leaves the lab. Perhaps her memories are starting to break through into her consciousness? Or maybe she has to feed more often now.
We cut back to Lane and Mary. Lane notes that the nurse's coat, purse and “everything else” is still “in there. She wouldn't go out without her purse.”
“Bill, let's get out of here, I don't like it,” says Mary.
Just then, Zinthrop starts muttering. Can't make out any of it, and I'm not rewinding.
Lane introduces himself and Mary, and mentions Janice.
“Miss Starling...the cat,” says Zinthrop.
“No, Miss Starling is not a cat, she is your employer,” Lane gently chides. Oh, all right, he doesn't say that. “What about a cat?” Lane asks.
His damn peanut-butter head goes into alert mode, and best I can get is he says “Must not take any more injections!”
“Is Miss Starling in danger?” asks Mary.
“Terrible danger!” he says, and rises from the bed. “I must--!” but Lane pushes him back down and tells him he should relax, he's too weak, don't try to dance and stay away from pepperoni. He tells Mary to get Janice on the phone.
Just then, Janice walks into her office and hears the phone ring. Good thing Mary called your office and not your home, eh, Janice? Or do you not have a home? I'm sorry.
She picks up the phone, talks briefly to Mary and Lane, and asks them, coldly, why they are still in the building.
Zinthrop starts going on and on about something, but he is incomprehensible. It sounds like “I'm a zup!” but I think it is “I must help!” On the phone, Janice hears this.
Lane and Mary are forced to put the phone down, as it takes two of them to pinion the frantic Zinthrop. (Which is nothing like Tripping the Light Fantastic.) Lane picks up the phone and tells Janice he will be right at her office. Earlier, I said that Zinthrop's bed was in Janice's office, I guess I was wrong about that. Sorry.
Upon hearing Lane's plan to “go upstairs,” Zinthrop starts shout-muttering again. I think he is saying “Insect! Insect!” but it's anyone's guess and the field is wide open. “You do not understand, Miss Starling, she is in danger, I must warn...”
Zinthrop is so way into his thrashing that only Lane can hold him down. So he sends Mary up to Janice, instead, and tells her to call the police, too.
Mary runs to the elevator and pushes the UP button and waits a bit, then gets on, and Janice paces in her office, and the music starts getting kind of frantic so we may be in the home stretch now.
Mary runs into the outer office bit of Janice's major office, and starts pounding on the door. Janice reacts in panic. Then she starts getting one of her headaches. But she lets Mary in. Mary says we need to call the police, and when Janice doesn't, she runs to the phone. But Janice grabs her and slaps her. She apologizes, but goes on: “There's no time for hysteria,” Janice says. “Now, what is going on?”
Back with Lane and Zinthrop, the latter is dazedly giving away clues like restaurant fliers under windshields. “You should not have sent the girl up there, Miss Starling will kill her, and tear her body to shreds!”
“Miss Starling, kill Mary?”
“Miss Starling is not a human being any longer! The enzymes have changed her! She will destroy the girl, as the female wasp would destroy her enemies! And then devour their remains!” This bit of exposition exhausts the Professor and he collapses on his pillow.
And I should point out that I was all wrong, many moons ago, about whether Janice ate her victims. But I still think my reasoning is superior to that of this movie. I will concede defeat, however, as I am just on this dumb website and The Wasp Woman (1960) is all over DVD players everywhere.
We cut to Mary and Janice, and Mary is explaining what the thought process was for all this stuff. Janice looks on coolly.
Mary says they have to call the police, and Janice wants to put it all down to “mistakes.” But then she starts getting one of her headaches...
Mary goes on talking, seemingly oblivious to the buzzing wasp noise now whomping up on the soundtrack. She looks back at Janice, and sees The Wasp Woman. We get a nice long close-up, and I'd like to say that the makeup-effects people, well, their reach exceeded their grasp. Nice try, though. As the Wasp Woman attacks Mary, we see that the Wasp Woman's neckline is still perfectly human and free of insect hair or scales or whatever. Granted, the people making this film in 1960 had no idea of video tape, and if you told them about DVD, their heads would probably explode.
Mary goes to a big window, and screams. Down below, Zinthrop mutters something in Zinthropese and Lane realizes that the screaming is kind of important. So he rushes out of the room. He stands by the elevator waiting for it, and this takes so long that Zinthrop is able to shuffle out of bed and stand beside him. “I'll go with you,” he says.
Even though he was standing right in shot with the stairway door, it takes this long for Lane to say, “I'll take the stairs instead.” Zinthrop points out that the elevator is going to the lab, and Lane decides that's the place to go too. (So I suppose that the Wasp Woman is able to use Janice's reasoning abilities—she can operate an elevator--but why, if she is going to devour Mary, does she take her to the lab? I think ole Zinthrop was talking through his beekeeper's hat about devouration, and the Wasp Woman is heading for the oven to dispose of Mary's body. Hey, I can be just as obsessive with my ideas as anyone!)
Lane gets to the lab just in time to see Mary's feet being dragged into the lab. He shouts and follows after. But that crafty Wasp Woman has locked the door! Lane can only shout in impotence. Finally he decides to break the glass windows in the door. He bursts in, and the Wasp Woman comes at him! He grabs a trash can and throws it at her, and this is pretty effective (see earlier, about neatness). Just then Zinthrop comes in, and the Wasp Woman looks at him like, Easy Meat, and she attacks him.
Then Lane shows up again and uses a chair to keep her away (like a lion tamer). Zinthrop spots a bottle of carbolic acid, and throws it at the Wasp Woman, and she starts smoking (no, not with cigarettes!), and Zinthrop collapses clutching his chest (oh, what a cop-out!), and Lane uses his chair to toss the Wasp Woman out a window. She screams on the way down. (No wings, remember.) Mary is still alive, for some reason, and she and Lane clutch at each other in relief. Zinthrop flops in his death-throes, and we cut to the Wasp Woman.
Hard to see, but she is still smoking, and her smoking, er, self fades to a wall of bees (no, not wasps, bees) and it is The End of the movie. And we get the cast credits, and we are finally done with this movie. We're all pretty happy about that. Well, I am, anyway.
It's funny, when I saw this before, several moons ago, my general impression was that it was “Okay” though not much more than that. Now, it seems way worse than I remember it. Not worse enough to turn the channel if it pops up on the Late Show, but worse enough that I'm going to tell you straight, don't wait for the Criterion Collection release of this film. It will not be worth $30 or so.
Roger Corman, as a film-maker, is best known for being very fast and very prolific and very frugal. No one watches his movies (except maybe the Poe ones) for the style or the intelligence or the overall effect.
And you know what? That's fine, because that's not why he made these early movies. He was filling halves of a double feature, probably with the title and poster art already chosen. These are not works of art, they are products, in much the same way as, well, as some cosmetics. They fulfill a function. Some people might prefer one to another, in a matter of personal taste, but in the end, products is what they are.
With that in mind, do I recommend this film? Well, it's certainly serviceable enough, it moves pretty quick, there are a couple of interesting ideas thrown in, and some food for thought as well. But I sure can't get excited about it. I guess that counts as a guarded “yes” but don't miss another, better movie because you see this one is on the Late Show. It's an unobjectionable time-filler, certainly better than our previous Corman offering.
The one unique thing about this (I've never seen it before) is...Pipe Guy! Ladies and gentlemen, he puts his LIT PIPE in his JACKET POCKET! Thank you, thank you! If for no other reason, this film should go into the cinema history bin for that alone. When he gets killed, you can change the channel unless you're a big fan of Bruno Ve Soto, headaches, and/or carbolic acid.
--September 30, 2004