For Reel


The Wasp Woman (1959)
June 12, 2016, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Roger Corman
2 Stars
The Wasp WomanLegendary director Roger Corman turned to exploitation films in the mid-1950s, marketing towards a teen audience by quickly and cheaply making films relevant to the day’s trends. The Wasp Woman comes on the heels of the success of The Fly and brings a score of energetic jazz music to keep the action fresh and exciting. If as a horror film it is not particularly monumental, The Wasp Woman represents Corman at his most socially conscious, whether by accident or not. The screenplay by Leo Gordon (from a story by Kinta Zertuche) upends the mad scientist genre altogether in its sympathetic depiction of Janice Starling, the president of a major cosmetics company (played by Corman staple Susan Cabot). Whereas women in similar films might search for a youth serum in order to attract a mate, in The Wasp Woman the serum is almost thrust upon Starling as a means of preserving the financial stability of her company. An early boardroom scene shows complaints that Starling has become too old to continue to be the face of the company, and her aging is to blame for the plummeting sales. Her abuse of the serum that leads to her demise is driven by her desire for power, her empire having been destroyed by the beauty standards of her era. If the film is a key feminist text of the late-1950s, however, it fails as both a horror film in both delivering the scares and in creating a psychological tension in its lead character. Although Starling goes on a killing streak, her amnesia sweeps the consequences under the rug. Had Starling been wrought as being aware of the mayhem she causes, the drama might have amplified the film’s sense of tragedy.



The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967)
March 15, 2011, 2:13 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Roger Corman

As each character is introduced in The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, a narrator seals their fate with a short biographical passage. Earning a reputation as one of the more accurate depictions of the titular massacre, Roger Corman’s rare studio picture is a terrifically shot, albeit mechanical effort. The cast – filled with recognizable faces in supporting roles such as Bruce Dern and Charles Dierkop – is serviceable, however as Al Capone, Jason Robards is too ungrounded to ever establish any emotional complexities within Scarface. His interpretation of Capone is not that he has a short-temper, but that he is in a perpetual state of growling. There are few pleasures to be had, however, including one hilarious sequence in which George Segal viciously pursues Jean Hale over a fur coat. One can only wish that the rest of the film offered that level of reckless spontaneity.