BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Homegrown terror returns with the release of Retromedia’s The Wasp Woman/Beast from Haunted Cave. This black-and-white double feature is absolutely killing it in my blu-ray player as both films – one directed by Roger Corman and one directed by Monte Hellman – are both underrated gems from an era of quick moviemaking that was so fantastically imaginative and largely misunderstood.
Toward the latter-half of the 1950s, Roger Corman took his fledgling distribution company to the stratosphere with a slew of no-budget genre flicks aimed directly for the popular drive-in theaters popping up around the country. The decision to aim solely for the drive-in was a risky one. To be that limited in the market game had huge financial risks. It paid off; however, and we now celebrate Corman as the movie genius that he remains.
Otherwise known as the movie that almost killed actress (and Corman regular) Susan Cabot, The Wasp Woman is Roger Corman’s protest movie about not valuing women over a certain age. It’s true. We don’t and, as the lesson is still not learned, we continue to devalue women of age to this day.
In Leo Gordon’s script, this whole situation is presented through a cosmetics firm whose aging owner (Cabot) takes a huge risk when a pseudo-scientist claims to have discovered the secret to reversing a person’s age. She becomes his guinea pig and, yeah, she turns into a woman-sized wasp. Of course, she gets younger first and then craves the serum, but the side effect of morphing into a wasp just isn’t worth it. She pays the ultimate price, too.
While some might suggest that The Wasp Woman is merely a rip-off of The Fly and only exists to line wallets with cash, I sill submit to you that Corman was always socially concerned and, because he could turn a quick profit, shot the film in a total of five days to, yes, (a) cash in on The Fly and (b) comment on women being under appreciated. Regardless the film zips along with an energy that comes from Corman’s thriftness and execution.
Hellman’s Beast from Haunted Cave is another interesting tale. In Charles B. Griffith’s script, a group of bank robbers run into hell itself when they plan a diversion that awakens a big spider-looking monster from deep within a gold mind. The monster then follows them as they try to escape Deadwood, South Dakota with the loot and their lives. The standout performance in this one has to be from Sheila Noonan as Gypsy Boulet, the object of affection for the two male leads in the movie.
It’s another quick shoot (this time, though, five weeks) and was directed by Hellman for Corman with $1000 check and a single handshake, which Hellman – to this day – honors. Film buffs know that Hellman would go on to direct such classics as Ride in the Whirlwind and Two-Lane Blacktop, both available on blu-ray and both worth owning (along with this title). A sequel was planned to wrap up the loose ends in the fate of the criminals as they watched the burning of the aluminum wire-created beast (designed and portrayed by Chris Robinson, but wisely hidden from audiences), but it was never filmed.
This 1080p twofer release of The Wasp Woman and Beast from Haunted Cave by Retromedia replicates the drive-in’s original double feature presentation as the two films were intended to play together. Owning this one, Horror Hounds and Gore-Gore Girls, is a no brainer.
The Wasp Woman/Beast from Haunted Cave: Widescreen Double Creature Feature (1959) - Blu-ray Review
Home Video Distributor: Retromedia
Available on Blu-ray - April 2017
Screen Formats: 1.66:1
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Region-free playback
Retromedia releases both films on one disc with a 1080p transfer presented in 16x9 widescreen. There’s been no restoration to the films, so there are some instances of dirt and debris in the transfers. It’s not awful and nothing gets in the way of the value in owning this two films, but expectations should be lowered as there are plenty of flaws in the print. Pristine this is not. Details are sparse and shadows are often heavy. The sound is presented in a bare boned HD STEREO track.
Filmmakers, Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau, provide the commentary track for The Wasp Woman. For Beast from Haunted Cave, the commentary is provided by Fred Olen Ray along with the lead star of the movie, Michael Forest. Both are worth listening to, but they do tend to focus on the actors and less on the movie.
What’s cool about the release is both films have a commentary track and both films have bonus footage from their television releases. Their original trailers are also included.
- Additional TV Scenes for The Wasp Woman
- Additional TV Scenes for Beast from Haunted Cave
- Original Trailers
Trailer for The Wasp Woman
Trailer for Beast From Haunted Cave