Queen Of Outer Space, 1958. 5/10

Not a bad premise: the routine space mission gone awry–a crew of astronauts seemingly stranded on a hostile planet. Color is used to good advantage here. I’m sure I’ve seen the astronauts’ uniforms before–on Forbidden Planet, I think. The tone is a little iffy from the start, with lime-draped Larry’s girl making out with him, on the launchpad, no less.

The miles-per-second ‘speedometer’ is a cool touch; “there’s something strange going on our there!” the navigator announces, their space station blowing up. Unfortunately, the spacecraft is in a sort of cartoonish mode, as the mysterious beam pulls it in. The question arises, why destroy the space station? Or, why isn’t the spacecraft also destroyed, as it’s hit by the same beam?

The spacecraft, upon its crashlanding, has sort of graduated from an image into a model. Nice lurid-looking flora on Venus “It appears all things are possible in space” says the suddenly sombre Prof. Konrad (Paul Birch). I almost wish the astronauts would stop talking; there’s either speeches or inane banter, nothing to resemble the thoughts of actual characters.

Finally, the ‘girls’ show up. Not only vividly and scantily-clad, but an even assortment of blondes, brunettes, and redheads as well. The “How would you like to drag that to the Senior Prom?” comment lets us know, despite the fact that females are in control here, that we’re in the middle of a sexploitation universe. The interior shots of the Venusian city are pretty cool, but the exteriors are obvious modelling jobs, and look medieval in contrast to the otherwise futuristic look of everything else.

The Queen (Laurie Mitchell) is fairly witchlike–the masks are creepy. “I have a sense of foreboding about them” reflects Konrad. I agree, the Venusians basically kidnapped them, and already condemned one to death. At least they discover through Talleah (Zsa Zsa Gabor) that there’s a rebel cadre amongst the natives.

The Queen seems to waffle a bit “even a queen can be lonely, Captain”. Ah, so that’s their weakness! But, she’s not done threatening; The Beta Disintegrator looms large in her calculations… The Captain (Eric Fleming), can’t quite play along, as he’s a bit put off by her radiation-ravaged face.

So the plot does gain some traction, as the rebel Venusians and the astronauts attempt to destroy the Disintegrator. There’s nothing worse in a movie than dodging in and out of corridors, but thankfully everyone get outside (I was getting claustrophobic). The spacey sound of the rayguns is cool. The problem, as usual, is the guys’ numbing dialogue; the women seem to be better actors for some reason.

Finding a cave always helps juice up a sci-fi situation–some different, decent sets, and the giant spider isn’t bad–and dies even better. A general make-out session ensues. Then, a cunning ruse…”Do you want to be hated?” says the Captain to the Queen, after the tables turn. These sympathetic psychological ploys do supply some much-needed dramatic interest.

More car-and-mouse stuff; by this point the sci-fi theme might as well just fold up, as all the intrigues are so much short-feature adventure filler. It doesn’t help that we have the Disintegrator right in our faces. That stagey apparatus hasn’t got much visual impact; even its destruction looks inconsequential. On the other hand, the Queen’s incineration is pretty ghastly.

The goofy ending makes a weird sort of sense, but, naturally, just caps off the campy hi-jinks. This is worth watching for its cult status, and the generally creative sets and (sort of special) special-effects. If the script didn’t reek so much of the beer-hall, Queen Of Outer Space would be a bit better. 5/10.

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