BILL’s BIZARRE BIJOU
William D. Carl
This week’s feature presentation:
QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE (1958)
Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if there’s a multitude of drag queens and camp sensibility, if go-go dancers in cages are featured, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk till dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable—then I’ve seen it and probably loved it. Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you, so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open.
Scientists will debate about nearly every scientific theory known to man—climate change, evolution, psychological profiling—but there is one thing that every scientist in every movie ever made can agree on. . . there will be lovely women populating outer space. I have grouped this sci-fi sub-genre into something I call GLOOP (Gorgeous Ladies on Other Planets), and I’ll be focusing on them all through this summer. There will be no debates!
We begin our examination into this titillating sub-genre with QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE (1958), starring the beautiful Zsa Zsa Gabor.
We begin in the future year of 1985, with grainy stock footage of a rocket launch, then we fade into the headquarters where three astronauts await their next mission. Captain Patterson, the chiseled hyper-masculine type (Eric Fleming of RAWHIDE), Lt. Cruze, the sarcastic joker (Dave Willock of REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, 1955 and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, 1962), and Lt. Turner, the chauvinist womanizer (Patrick Waltz of THE DEVIL’S BRIGADE, 1968) are reporting to Professor Konrad (Paul Birch of NOT OF THIS EARTH, 1957 and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, 1962). They are to accompany the professor to the space station he designed. Lt. Turner has trouble extricating himself from the kissing clutches of a woman, (“But, Larry, spaceships are so dangerous!”) played by the lovely singer Joi Lansing. They strap the professor into a red bed, while everyone on the crew gets super cool recliners that go all the way back, but no safety straps! They also get the space suits worn in the classier FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956). Cue rocket stock footage again.
As they approach the space station, they see animated rays that blow up the station, killing everyone. They try to outrun the rays (which oddly seem to come from every possible direction – where the hell are the guns?) in rocket footage lifted from WORLD WITHOUT END (1956). This movie borrows a LOT of footage from others. Well, the ray acts as a tractor beam, drawing the crew of four men to an icy world. And NOW the credits appear over dramatic music!
Captain Patterson is hit in the head and has a concussion, and Turner thinks they’ve died and gone to heaven. Luckily, the gravity and atmosphere are similar to Earth’s. They step out to explore the Technicolor forests that look an awful lot like fake sets, and the Professor concludes they are on the planet Venus. They hear a weird electronic signal and follow it until they camp for the night. In the morning, they are surrounded by beautiful women in low cut mini-dresses with ray guns that shoot fire, and who know English (except when they shout “Botchino! Botchino!”).
Our heroes are taken to a city full of women. One woman rushes at them, scratching at their faces, shouting “I hate them! I hate them!” The astronauts notice there are no men anywhere, even inside the city which looks a lot like a Beverly Hills high-end dress shop.
To a Theremin proclamation, the Queen makes her entrance, wearing a sparkly black pantsuit and a yellow cape. She also wears a mask over her face, as do her women in waiting. She is Queen Yllana, played by the great Laurie Mitchell (MISSILE TO THE MOON, 1958 and ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE, 1958). She wants all men dead, but she throws the foursome into a prison until she can get more information from them. She has been monitoring Earth, and she doesn’t like what she sees.
Meanwhile, the gorgeous Motiya (Lisa Davis of THE DALTON GIRLS, 1957) reports to the lead Venusian scientist, Talleah, played by Zsa Zsa Gabor (TOUCH OF EVIL, 1958 and basically famous for being famous and lovely to look at—the Gabors were the Kardashians of the 1950s and 1960s). Wait up. . . a SCIENTIST played by Zsa Zsa? Okey dokey.
The queen and her council decide the men are there to prepare an invasion of Venus. Lt. Turner says, “Aw, why don’t you girls knock off all this Gestapo stuff and try to be a little friendly.” And yes, he raises one eyebrow suggestively. About the ray gun, he even says, “Even if they invented it, how could they aim it? You know how women drivers are!” Yes, there’s still sexism and misogyny in the future world of 1985.
Talleah visits the men in their prison room, and she says that there is a rebellion afoot. She explains that men caused a terrible war and “Dat is ven ve vomen took over!” Oh! That Hungarian accent! “Men caused de ruin of dis vorld and ve vomen took over!” The Queen wants to destroy the Earth, blowing it up with her death ray, “I’m going to allow myself the exquisite pleasure of watching you, while I obliterate the Earth!”
The Captain is summoned to the Queen’s chambers, where he is determined to change her mind, even if he has to romance her. “There’s a certain irony in the fact that our lives, and the lives of everyone on Earth, may depend upon Captain Patterson’s sex appeal.” Talleah shouts, “I hate hair. I hate dat qvueen!”
The captain tries, but the queen refuses to remove her mask. She shows him her ultimate weapon . . . the Beta Disintegrator! This looks like a giant cardboard box that has been bedazzled to death. He tries to romance her, and he yanks off the mask, revealing a hideous burnt face beneath it. She was burned by radiation in a war created by MEN! That’s when her vendetta began. Laurie Mitchell is terrific in this scene, actually bringing pathos to the ridiculous dialogue and situation.
The rebel women, led by Talleah and Motiya, rescue the men and make a dash to get to the Beta Disintegrator and stop the queen from destroying Earth. Each of the Earth men get a woman who is attracted to them (except, for some reason, the Professor), leading to plenty of sexual innuendo, but the Queen is chasing them with other weapons.
Will the astronauts ever get back to Earth? Will the rebel Venusian women return with them as mates? Will they escape the giant rubber spiders? Will Zsa Zsa ever learn to pronounce her “W’s” and “Th’s”? The only way to find out is to watch this camp classic!
QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE never takes itself seriously, and that works to its advantage. The script by Charles Beaumont (THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH,1954, THE INTRUDER, 1962, and many of the best TWILIGHT ZONE episodes) knows that this was a silly story (originally by Ben Hecht of HIS GIRL FRIDAY, 1940, NOTORIOUS, 1946, and SCARFACE, 1932). They knew EXACTLY what they were writing…a campy science fiction movie filled to the D-Cup with gorgeous women . . . and what is wrong with that? Of course, a lot of the dialogue is rife with sexist pig rhetoric . . . doll, babe, sweetie.
The colorful photography is quite good, with wonky sets full of ‘spacey things’ and sparkly costumes and curtains. The cinematography was by William Whitley, who usually shot for TV shows like BONANZA, TOPPER, and THE LONE RANGER. There’s a great low-budget charm to the costumes and sets.
QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE is not a great film, but it is a ton of sexy fun. Everyone seems to be in on the joke, and that makes it a great guilty pleasure. Plus, with a cast full of beauty pageant winners, there’s plenty of eye candy!
I give QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE three “Botchinos!” out of four.
© Copyright 2017 by William D. Carl