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Deep Reviewing: Cinematic Titanic’s “The Wasp Woman”

In September, when DVD Talk reviewer King Stuart Elderberry Galbraith IV gave Cinematic Titanic’s The Wasp Woman a surprisingly vicious, scathing review, most of us reacted with appropriate rage. However, after spending some time with the crew’s take on Roger Corman’s 1959 snoozer, I have to admit that I’m not nearly as offended by Galbraith’s bile and ire as I used to be.

While I certainly don’t wish death and destruction upon the Brains and all their works now (as some seem to), Wasp Woman was definitely not the ideal DVD to show to someone who clearly has a bias against MST3K and its descendants. How bad is it? Well, it’s not “half-a-star” bad, I can tell you that much in the pre-review blurb. For the saucy, tantalizing specifics, hit the jump and read. You know you want to.

The Wasp Woman is, first and foremost, a film about wasps. And yes, there is a woman involved. In fact, many women. But only one The Wasp Woman. The wasp woman in question is Janice Starling (Susan Cabot), the aging owner of a cosmetics company. She acquires the services of Eric Zinthrop, a rogue beekeeper with a thing for wasp queens. He’s found a way to use the queen wasp’s jelly to reverse the effects of aging. And since Ms. Starlin’s losing her looks (through the miracle of crappy makeup effects), she’s more than willing to give him a shot.

Needless to say, this doesn’t turn out well. In her lust for slightly less than 35-year-old looks, Janice starts abusing that sweet wasp smack, causing her to start sporadically transforming into a murder-hungry The Wasp Woman. Janice is ultimately sent to her demise by her secretary Mary, Mary’s smug lovah, and the injured Mr. Zinthrop, once they discover that, despite her waspy mandibles and claws, she really can’t do much when acid is thrown in her face.

This movie is what I like to classify as a “non-entity.” Non-entities are films that feel like they don’t exist. You watch it, but you feel virtually nothing about it, both during and after. It’s as though the film is stranded somewhere between “bad movie” and “average movie.” It’s not really painful to watch, nor is it at all interesting to watch. It’s a weird feeling, but this movie manages to nail it. I don’t hate this film at all, but I don’t think I would ever intentionally watch it again. So, well done, Corman?

I honestly have to say, many of my unenthusiastic feelings about the movie tend to carry over to my impressions of the Cinematic Titanic side of things. In short, this just isn’t a terribly good episode. You’ll certainly find a good-sized handful of decent laughs, but there’s nothing really sharp or memorable here. The Wasp Woman is the Radar Secret Service of Titanic, thus far. Unfortunately, this one doesn’t have a high-quality short like Last Clear Chance supporting it.

There are a number of riffs that just come across as slightly embarrassing. Numerous times during the episode, I felt as if I was watching someone’s fan-riffing on YouTube, or sitting around a dorm listening to some friends’ flat attempts at movie riffing. Often, I just found myself staring at the screen, furrowing my brow, and waiting hopefully for the next riff. Perhaps, this is a side-effect of the movie’s “non-entity” status. There just isn’t a lot of meat on this one.

On the plus side, we get a much more solid intro, with the in-show story — they’re playing themselves, recruited for a company’s DVD commentary project, much like The Film Crew — clearly set in stone. While the intros are mostly charming, the in-theater “host segments” continue to elicit groans and proverbial glances at one’s watch. Mercifully, they limit them to two per episode, even acknowledging Frank’s segment’s lack of popularity — yet, they still do it anyway.

I don’t want to entirely dump on this episode, though. Like the movie itself, it’s still tolerable and somewhat enjoyable, despite its being much less than ideal. But when your favorite line of the episode is, “Three-way, anyone?” you know you’re probably not looking at a triple-A effort — despite an excellent guinea pig-doping sequence.

Briefly, I’d just like to address 68 users of the Internet Movie Database. Specifically, the 68 users who rated The Wasp Woman with 10 (out of 10) stars. I just want to say this: Really? Really? This movie is really as good as it gets? Out of every film ever made, this is among the best that humanity cobbled together? That’s where you’re landing on this one? Really? Okay. I’m done.

I’m really disappointed that Mr. Cooper, aka Pipe Guy, didn’t provoke any J.R. “Bob” Dobbs references from the crew. I thought it was fairly obvious.

My favorite moments from the film, bar none: The awkward, out-of-left-field scenes with the two female office workers. They’re just odd. Odd and uncomfortable. And when Zinthrop begins ogling them… well, it’s like catching your favorite uncle eyeing one of your friends from high school. Shudder. Zinthrop is, however, redeemed by the amazing “feral cat attack” sequence. Now, that’s talent.

I’d like to know what, exactly, Josh was smoking, in the intro.

Once again, there are a couple of political references. Josh’s “Ron Paul” joke is kind of amusing. Trace’s “President McCain” joke falls flat, though possibly due to the horror elicited by placing those two words right next to each other. Still, I don’t think the gang has quite gotten the hang of 21st century political humor.

While watching Wasp Woman, I realized two very specific things that I miss: Josh’s more reserved delivery as Tom Servo, and Trace’s more playful delivery as Crow. I don’t really expect them to continually revert to the styles of their old characters, but I can’t help but miss them.

And lastly, I’m going to choose to believe that the “Hugh Beaumont as Fred MacMurray!” line was a reference to me. I know I’m wrong, but leave me alone. This is my happy place. Don’t ruin it.

C-

Honestly, I nearly dipped down into “D” territory, while considering what grade the episode deserved. It pains me to say that, but this is just not a sharp episode. It’s salvaged only by a small handful of good lines and the generally non-threatening feel of the movie. The episode and the movie don’t hurt; they’re just kind of boring. But every series has its missteps, and I’m still looking forward to what’s next.

[If you want to read the unedited notes that I took while watching/reviewing the episode, click here for a .pdf file of it. I know no one cares, but I figured, Why not?]

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One Response

  1. Comparing this to Radar Secret Service tells me everything I need to know. I’ll probably save this one for last when I finally get around to picking up the rest of the CT dvds. Thanks for the review!

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