|QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE - 1958|
A film perhaps more famous (and notable) for its recycling from other films rather than any of its own merits.
A space mission is to shuttle a scientist to an orbiting space station. As they close for arrival, light beams shoot out of nowhere and destroy the station. They try to escape the beams, but when they're hit, they're knocked unconscious. The ship accelerates wildly...
(Eighteen minutes in, we finally get the title card.)
They crash onto a planet. Eventually, they decide it's Venus, though, inexplicably, this Venus is habitable, forested, and pleasant. They're quickly captured by a race of amazon glamour models and dragged before their masked Queen, who has no problem in finding them guilty of planning an attack against them.
They make contact with a Venusian scientist (Zsa Zsa Gabor, yes, cop-slappin' darlink Zsa Zsa) who warns them that the Queen is planning to destroy the Earth. Soon, the leader of the Earthmen is on a mission to seduce the Queen into a friendlier way of thinking. Everything's cookin' along fine until the whole mask issue comes up, and blah blah blah...
As an essay on sexual politics, it would seem to take a conventional 50s outlook, heavy (even overdone) on the misogynistic angle, and suffering from the conspicuous and common conceit that an amazon society waits anxiously for the arrival of **Men**, hair coiffed, make-up impeccable, a view shared in varying degrees by similar films like CatWomen of the Moon, Missile to the Moon, Abbott and Costello on Mars, World Without End and Flight to Mars.
On a first viewing, this film shows obvious evidence of science-fiction produced by mundane minds for mundane minds. However, there is reason to take the view that the persons responsible knew the hackneyed conventions they were using and were intentionally parodying them.
The case for Queen of Outer Space being a knowing satire can best be attributed to the reputations of the credited writers, Charles Beaumont and Ben Hecht. Beaumont wrote for numerous other genre programs, including numerous episodes of the original Twilight Zone. Hecht, who wrote such timeless classics as The Front Page, did script work on Gone With the Wind, as well as other works to numerous to name, wrote the original story on which Beaumont's script was based.
Also lending into the intentional comedy theory is the resumé of director Edward Bernds, who worked on many B-picture comedies, including Blondie pictures and the Three Stooges shorts and features made in the 1960s. Some scenes have the strange feel of a Three Stooges installment, particularly the 'chase' scene as the mini-skirted, high-heeled guards float about looking for the escaping Earthmen.
Even if they hadn't intended to make a comedy, they certainly succeeded.
The look of the film is significantly helped by featuring costumes, raygun props, and bits of scenery from FORBIDDEN PLANET, and the rocketship that saw duty in FLIGHT TO MARS, IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, and WORLD WITHOUT END, which also provided some special effects footage.
The color and photography are very good.
The orientation of rocketship interior doesn't match while it's on the pad, with the rocket pointing up and the set laying horizontally. The La-Z-Boy-style seat/couches don't match either, putting our brave astronauts feet-first into outer space.
One of the common maladies of 50s sci-fi film is blatantly manifest in this film--The Mysterious Changing Rocketship. The launch is of an actual NASA rocket, which is completely mismatched to the later footage of the rocketship.
PLUSES: If you approach it with a view that it is a knowing satire and an intentional comedy, you'll have a lot of fun with this one.
MINUSES: If you don't.