THE ASTOUNDINGLY BAD ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER
It’s not a good sign when you flip over the DVD case of the movie you’re contemplating watching and discover Ed Wood credited as a consultant. Asking Ed Wood to consult on your movie is like asking George W. Bush for help in finishing off your crossword puzzle after you’ve filled in all the easy clues.
Such was the case with the 1957 low-budgeter, THE ASTOUNDING SHE-MONSTER. Actually the most astounding thing about this movie (besides the she-monster in a skin-tight bodysuit; more below) occurred about ten minutes in when we find our hero walking down a dark mountain trail with his faithful canine companion. You can clearly see our hero, but the dog’s obscured by shrubbery (but we knew he was there because of the smarmy voice-over) and Gail says, “That better be a collie,” and, lo and behold, it was. My amazement at her uncanny prescience was tempered by the immediate realization that the dog was the walking dead, and (not to give away too much) I was also correct. One of my few inviolable rules as a movie reviewer is that if you kill the dog (occasionally, the cat) for no other reason than you’re a cynical asshat, you will suffer my wrath. More on this below, too.
The movie starts with a pretentious and not very believable panoply of planets and galaxies and an unctuous voice over by some guy who sounded as if he’d a few too many gin and tonics. Something about a visitor coming to Earth. Obviously, the astounding she-monster. So, immediately we switch to the utterly unnecessary (except, of course, to occupy footage to fill out this 62 minute epic) sub-plot of a trio of incompetent criminals (the chief, his henchman, and the chief’s booze-soaked moll) who kidnap a “socialite” who will never see 35 again and who’s obviously been around the block multiple times for every one of those 35+ years. They force her into their car, and drive off, and for some inexplicable reason eventually head up a dark mountain road (more of an unpaved trail, actually) until the henchman, startled (who wouldn’t be?) by a glowing woman wearing a skin-tight bodysuit, drives off the road and wrecks the car. The chief, instead of going back down the trail to civilization, also inexplicably orders them to go up the mountain, where fortuitously they come across the rustic cabin (which is the only indoor set in the entire movie) of our geologist hero and his doomed canine companion.
Our hero and the kidnaped “socialite”
The “naked chick,” as the startled henchman calls her, is of course the astounding she-monster, who, moments earlier, our hero had observed crashing into the desert at the base of the mountain. Since then we have observed her walking around, glowing in a sinister and oddly effective (especially for this movie) manner. The other strange thing about her is her way of walking, sort of a sinuous combination of fancy pageant walking and stripper striding (both of which, for all I know, she may have been familiar with). The weird thing was that you never saw her back. Then I read in Bill Warren’s indispensable KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES the reason behind this. It seems that early in the onset of the epic four day (!) shoot, she ripped the seam of the bodysuit down the butt (understandable, actually). And they didn’t have any money in the budget to replace or repair it. Really? Not enough in the budget for a needle and thread?
In any case, the she-monster comes across in quick order a stock footage coyote, deer, and snake during her mountain side ramble. The coyote and deer flee. She picks up the snake, and then quickly tosses it away, immediately rubberized and/or dead. You learn she’s a badass who can kill (or rubberize) with a touch.
So, I bet you see where this is heading. Everyone converges on the lonely mountain cabin of our hero geologist and his doomed faithful companion. EVERYONE, and I mean, EVERYONE, except for the dog, in this movie is a complete idiot. The dog, tossed out into the night by the idiot criminals, sees the idiot she-monster and trots towards her, barking in welcome and wagging his tail, and she reaches out and kills him. The chief’s henchman goes out to see what all the fuss is, and she reaches out, and kills him. In the she-monster’s defense, he was shooting at her at the time, but his bullets had no effect on her. She kills him anyway. Then, the she-monster leaps through the cabin’s window (which obviously had no glass in it) and everyone runs outside.
Excitement on the awesome cabin interior set.
They get into our hero’s jeep and go down the mountain. Somehow, the she-monster gets ahead of them on the trail, reaches out and kills the booze-soaked moll while everyone runs back to the cabin. They decide to run for it. The she-monster follows them. A bear follows her. The she-monster kills the bear in a completely unconvincing manner. They run back into the cabin and make a torch, go out and wander in the night again (which shifted quite obviously from night to day and back again as scenes progress), and she reaches out and kills the chief. They run back into the cabin again. Our hero makes up a concoction of hydrochloric and sulphuric acid (pouring it into narrow-necked containers; “Steady hands,” Gail comments. I agree. The guy is an idiot to handle acid in that manner, but he does have nerves of steel.). The she-monster jumps through the glassless window again. Our hero throws the container of acid at her. It hits her in the stomach. It doesn’t break but the she-monster dies immediately, anyway. And then dissolves, leaving behind only the brooch that had been dangling upon her impressive bosom the whole time.
Dead she-monster, pre-dissolution.
Our hero opens it and finds a note, written in English, introducing the she-monster as an alien ambassadress who has come to help the Earth solve all their problems before we blow ourselves up. Really? I mean frigging really? The off-stage aliens must also be complete idiots, because otherwise they wouldn’t have sent a mute ambassadress who slinks around mountains at night killing everything that comes within reach. Gah.
Because English isn’t enough to show this film’s astoundingness.
Even with the pointless dog-killing, I’ve still seen worse movies (but not too many; only 3 out the last 288). And it was short. I’ll award them half a point for that and Shirley Kilpatrick’s obvious thespian assets, giving it a rating of 1+.