SciFi Classics 50-movie Pack, Disc 2

Horrors of Spider Island, 1960, b&w, Fritz Böttger (dir.), Harald Maresch, Helga Franck, others you’ve never heard of. Original title Ein Toter hing im Netz (“A corpse hangs in the web”); also released in the U.S. as Body in the Web, Girls of Spider Island, It’s Hot in Paradise, The Spider’s Web. 1:29 (or 1:21 or 1:17). [1:14]

The IMDB trivia notes reveal a lot: This was originally released in the U.S. as an “Adults-only” movie, then trimmed of the nude scenes for this odd version. It would make more sense with full nudity. Maybe. (This one was used by MST3K.) The plot, such as it is: A bunch of women are interviewed (which mostly involves showing off their legs) to join a dance troupe headed for Singapore. The plane crashes. After a few raft scenes, the women (and one man) make it to an island where they find a cabin with, gasp, a man suspended in the middle of a huge spider’s net. The man gets bitten by a radioactive spider and turns into a furry-headed claw-handed monster of some sort—while the women run around in what’s left of their clothes. Two men arrive to help the uranium prospector (the dead guy), radio their ship to come back for the women, a couple of people die, and there’s lots of dancing. All accompanied by mild jazz/pop, much of it with a substantial lag between sight and sound. A mess, but a mildly amusing mess. $0.50.

The Wasp Woman, 1960, b&w, Roger Corman (dir.), Susan Cabot, Anthony Eisley. 1:13.

Not bad at all. An eccentric scientist who’s supposed to be extracting royal jelly from bees thinks he can do better by extracting wasp jelly. The woman who founded a cosmetics company and always used her face on the products laments lower sales because she’s getting older. The scientist believes that he can reverse the aging process with the wasp jelly. And so he does—but she takes a little too much of it (without the mad scientist’s knowledge) and, after losing half her apparent age, starts turning into “wasp woman” every so often, killing and eating some of her staff. You can see how Corman managed to do this on the cheap: The wasp-woman makeup is quite effective, but all her appearances on screen probably add up to two or three minutes and were probably all filmed in one day. Not a masterpiece, but a coherent story and a typically competent Corman flick. Decent print and sound. $1.50

Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet, 1965, color, Curtis Harrington (dir.), Basil Rathbone, Faith Domergue. 1:18 [1:13]

A surprisingly good B sci-fi flick for its time, particularly given that much (most?) of the footage is Russian (obvious from a couple of brand names, but the odd lack of coherence between the spoken dialogue and lip movements in most scenes makes one suspicious). Turns out that this movie and the other one on Side B of Disc 2 are Roger Corman productions consisting of new American footage (probably the scenes with Basil Rathbone and, separately, Faith Domergue, almost always alone or with one other actor in a “space station” or “space ship” set) intercut with footage from a well-made Russian SF movie, Planeta Bur. (I’d guess all of the Venus exploration was from the Russian flick.) Generally good print, decent sound. In a way, this is sad: The movie’s set in 2020, by which time we’d explored and colonized the moon and were ready to explore Venus with manned spacecraft. Or maybe not. $1.50

Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, 1968, color, Peter Bogdanovich (dir.), Mamie Van Doren. 1:18 [1:19]

Another Russian-American hybrid: New scenes of Mamie Van Doren and a bunch of others filmed by Bogdanovich blended with footage from the Russian Planeta Bur (provided by Roger Corman). Do not watch this picture within a week of watching Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet—unless you want to thrill at Roger Corman’s sheer gall. Not only is most of the movie the same Russian footage as in the other flick, the dubbed dialog is the same—which leads to a bizarro note that the command center for the Venus voyage was “Marsha,” to cover for the earlier movie’s dialog between landed astronauts and Faith Domergue (Marsha) still out in space. Bogdanovich provides voice-over narration for this reconfigured version. The nine women in the new scenes, all in seashell tops and full-length pants, never speak: all their dialog is “telepathic” voice-overs. They don’t act much either, mostly just providing a few minutes’ footage to make this a different movie. (They don’t really provide much in the way of eye candy either, to tell the truth. They’re just there.) The color generally seems washed out; otherwise, the print varies from very good to damaged. There’s a little more of the original footage this time, including grand shots of the space ships taking off (with a very obvious single red star on the rocket fins) and refueling at a space station (where, wondrously, the Cyrillic lettering on the ships in moving shots turns into unlikely English-language names such as “Typhoon,” just what you’d call an exploration ship). Good enough if you haven’t seen the 1965 version; otherwise, I’d pass. $1.

Corman scores: Even with the single movie recut and padded into two different releases, this is an enjoyable foursome. I wonder if Planeta Bur would be worth watching on its own (with subtitles?).

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