Thursday, August 6, 2015

Queen of Outer Space: A Review


Women Really Are From Venus...

The title itself dares us to not take it seriously.  Zsa Zsa Gabor merely confirms the sheer lunacy of Queen of Outer Space as sheer camp delight.  Why, I wondered, did no one bother to ask how a Venusian woman spoke with a Hungarian accent? 

In perhaps the oddest casting choice in science-fiction, Princess Zsa Zsa is NOT the actual Queen of Outer Space.  One wonders why she was not made the Monarch of the Universe when her figure is the big selling point of Queen of Outer Space.  Everything you might think about Queen of Outer Space is true: it's badly acted, it has silly sets and a pretty silly plot.  However, I found it a great pleasure (guilty, perhaps, but a pleasure nonetheless).  Watched in a joyful, frothy spirit, I think people will find Queen of Outer Space a great deal of fun.

And for the record, I found Queen of Outer Space a damn sight better than that crappy, self-important The Theory of Everything (and with better acting than that of the much vaunted Crappie Redmayne too).

A spaceship bound for a Mars space-station is attacked, and the ship crashes on Venus.  There, Captain Patterson (Eric Fleming), scientist Professor Conrad (Paul Birch) and the crew, ladies man Lt. Larry Turner (Patrick Waltz) and comic relief Lt. Mike Cruze (Dave Willock) find that Venus is actually quite pleasant, with breathable air and gravity.

Yes, I know, but again, throw logic out the window on something called Queen of Outer Space

Immediately they are captured by Amazonian beauties in skimpy outfits and taken to Yllanla, the Queen of Outer Space (Laurie Mitchell).  She is hidden behind a mask, she and her Court of Advisors.  They rule that the men must be executed and taken to a room.  However, one of the guards goes and talks about the new arrivals to another Courtier, Talleah (Gabor).  Talleah, who hates the Queen for engaging in ruthless wars (among the planets she's devastated was one called Mordor, which lends itself to great Queen of Outer Space/Lord of the Rings crossover possibilities), sees the men as opportunity to overthrow the tyrannical Illyana.  Talleah has many sympathizers on her side, and she aids the men's escape in exchange for their aid in the coup.

Illanya and her Masked Marvels

They do get recaptured eventually, but with Talleah as double-agent, pretending to be the ones who captured the men.  Captain Patterson uses his masculine wiles on Her Majesty, and literally unmasks her to reveal a deformed figure, done in by nuclear radiation. More Phantom of the Opera than Queen of Outer Space now, from this springs her hatred of all men (who have been either executed or driven out of Venus).  A few twists and turns lead eventually to Illyana's downfall and with Talleah as the new Queen of Outer Space, one who will have men on her planet, and who get to stay another year...enough time for more romance.

I'm not going to beat up on Queen of Outer Space only because no one, not even the cast, can take it seriously.  To a point, I admire the fact that at least some of them are making an effort to try to make this as plausible as possible.

This is a B-movie, and as such, should be gleefully embraced as such.  Bless Ben Hecht (who wrote some of the greatest screenplays in film history, such as Spellbound, the original Scarface, Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious...and those were the ones he actually received credit for), but somehow it's astonishing that he could have come up with this story (the screenplay itself was by Charles Beaumont).

It isn't as if there aren't some parts that we know are supposed to be funny.  When Professor Conrad observes, "Perhaps this is a civilization that exists without sex," the ever sex-crazed Lt. Turner snaps, "You call that civilization?"  However,  one thing that I did find that was rather surprising was just how sexist Queen of Outer Space was.  From the moment we saw the Amazons, with them in either skimpy skirts or Gabor's rather luxurious cocktail dresses for a scientist, this film has a surprisingly low opinion of the opposite sex.

We get 'jokes' about women drivers, and at one point one of the astronauts observes that the fate of the world depends on Captain Patterson's sex appeal.  Such lines as "Women can't be happy without men" I'm sure would please many a gal.

No Revolution until after Cocktail Hour.
That being said, Queen of Outer Space is a hoot in just about every way, which not only is part of its charm but a way to overcome the tasteless sexism and somewhat gruesome 'message' about nuclear war.  There's Zsa Zsa's 'acting' (at one point, I think she said 'mathemagician' instead of 'mathematician' in her Hungarian accent).  There's the odd scene of one of Turner's girlfriends going to the launch in a gown. There are the cheap sets, the chintzy special effects, the hilarious music, the curious costumes (why Gabor's not-mad scientist gets these great evening gowns while the actual Queen of Outer Space doesn't is anybody's guess) the odd double entendres (one of the women romancing Turner informs him "We don't need any more wood", which opens up a world of possibilities).

As I watched and thought on Queen of Outer Space, I came to the conclusion that the film should not be taken seriously.  It certainly doesn't (though it tries to be with its talk of nuclear annihilation) but on the whole, as bad as the film is, it's in that 'so bad it's good' zone.  I enjoyed it for its silliness (intentional or not), and in the right spirit, Queen of Outer Space can be a total lark.


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