Director: Edward Bernds
Warner Home Video

Director: Nathan Hertz (Nathan Juran)
Warner Home Video

Director: Eugène Lourié
Warner Home Video

For its highly anticipated box set “Cult Camp Classics Volume 1 - Sci-Fi Thrillers”, Warner Home Video has tapped into the Allied Artists film library (a bountiful resource for B movies if there ever was one), granting us three very popular fantasy titles from the fabulous 1950s. Surely the crown-jewel box set of the series so far (each title is also available to purchase separately), these particular films are even accompanied by full audio commentaries.

QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE (1958) takes place in the-then distant year of 1985. After a pre-credit sequence which lasts an incredible 15 minutes, four astronauts – Capt. Neal Patterson (Eric Fleming), Lt. Larry Turner (Patrick Waltz), Lt. Mike Cruze (Dave Willock) and Professor Konrad (THE DAY THE WORLD ENDED’s Paul Birch) – have their space mission thwarted when their rocket crash lands on Venus. Despite what they were told in school, the men uncover Venus as a planet with an atmosphere similar to Earth, and rich with vegetation. Setting up camp the night of their arrival, they are unsuspectingly taken captive by a group of Amazonian, leggy Venusians clad in mini-skirts and toting ray guns. The leader of Venus is the evil Queen Yllana (Laurie Mitchell), a self-professed man-hater who has to hide her horribly disfigured face under a fancy silver mask. The unwelcome astronauts are held prisoners, but compassionate scientist Talleah (Zsa Zsa Gabor) and her cohorts befriend them and attempt to overthrow the Queen, who is bent on destroying the Earth.

It’s not the first 1950s sci-fi flick to concern spacemen visiting a planet ruled by sexy love-starved females, but QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE is surely the most historically exemplary and enjoyably bad of its type. Everything about it is pure camp, no doubt the reason why the film has appealed to so many late-night TV gazers over the decades. Many of the costumes were borrowed from FORBIDDEN PLANET, and special effects footage and props (including a lifeless bulky spider flung at one of our heroes) were cribbed from both WORLD WITHOUT END (from the same director) and FLIGHT TO MARS. Though seemingly played straight, many of the performers seem to be winking at the audience (especially the wisecracking Patrick Waltz and Dave Willock as the film’s most sexist characters) and a lot of the dialogue (the script was by “Twilight Zone” scribe Charles Beaumont, based on a short outline by Ben Hecht) is too silly to be anything but tongue-and-cheek, even at the time it was conceived.

Top-billed Zsa Zsa Gabor gets to model a number of different fancy gowns and her make-up and hair is never out of place. The former Miss Hungary’s infamous and perennial socialite status is another factor why people are still so fascinated by her rather oddball appearance here. Despite the Zsa Zsa-exploiting poster art, the “Queen” is played with schlocky gusto by Laurie Mitchell, and her horrible scarred face make-up is still pretty effective. Director Edward Bernds is best known for his work with The Three Stooges and The Bowery Boys, but he also directed a number of straight sci-fi, fantasy and dramatic B programmers, including this opus. The late bombshell Joi Lansing (as an earthling) has a brief cameo, and her reaction to a rocket launching brings on one of the film’s most unintentionally hilarious moments.

One of the most recognized titles in movie history, ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (1958) tells the story of alcoholic, wealthy heiress Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes) who runs into a giant white alien orb while driving on the freeway. Meanwhile, her leeching, equally drunk husband Harry (William Hudson) is having an affair with town floozy Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers), and both are scheming to screw poor Nancy out of her fortune. The sheriff (George Douglas) and his nerdy deputy (Frank Chase) are not convinced of Nancy’s sighting, but a second visit to the giant round satellite by the determined woman has her touched by a giant alien who is seemingly out to get her diamond necklace. Now contaminated, Nancy begins to grow to enormous proportions as two doctors (Roy Gordon and Otto Waldis) attempt to treat her very unnatural condition. The giant sized Mrs. Archer then goes on a rampage to find her no-good philandering husband and have him “all to herself.”

For monster movie fans, you won’t find a better charmingly inept way to spend 65 minutes. A great cast of character actors in appropriately over-the-top performances and a wonderful score by Ronald Stein highlight the overall ineptitude of the incredibly awful special effects. Stings holding up the alien orb are clearly visible, and when the giant alien lifts up the sheriff’s car, the background scenery goes up with it! The giant male alien is bald (ala THE AMAZING COLOSSAL MAN) and is played by Mike Ross (who doubles as a bartender) in a shoddy gladiator costume. When he is seen onscreen as a walking giant, the effects are so poor, he almost looks transparent. The same technical mishap befalls the beautiful Allison Hayes when she’s giant, but her makeshift tube top and mini-skirt are so damn distracting, hardly anyone will notice (the image of this in painted form made for one of the most famous movie posters of all time). Other incredibly dreadful special effects include a giant dangling hand which looks like part of a Thanksgiving parade float and a rag doll substituting as poor William Hudson in the hand of the giant Miss Hayes. But it’s this kind of stuff that gives the film its charm, and I’m sure no viewer (except director Nathan Juran, who wasn't given the effects budget he wanted) would have it any other way.

More well-respected than the other two titles in this collection, THE GIANT BEHEMOTH is a giant-monster-on-the-rampage romp produced in England. On the coast of Cornwall, loads of dead fish (which turn out to be radioactive) have been washing ashore. When visiting American scientist Steve Karnes (Gene Evans) catches wind of this, he contacts Professor James Bickford (Andre Morell) of the Atomic Energy Commission, and the two team up to investigate. What they find out is that a local older fisherman has died from radiation burns, while another is left with traces of contamination on his hand. It is soon realized that the cause of all this is a prehistoric monster – a radiated Paleosaurus awakened from the ocean floor after millions of years – making its way to London to cause mass destruction.

Known in its native England as BEHEMOTH THE SEA MONSTER, THE GIANT BEHEMOTH was directed by Eugène Lourié, who also wrote the screenplay. A few years earlier, Eugène Lourié directed THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, a similar film made in Hollywood, and BEHEMOTH is often considered a poor man’s remake of that. The Paleosaurus (similar to THE BEAST, only with a longer neck and more detail given to the creature’s scales) was created by Willis O'Brien and Pete Peterson and done in stop-motion; it looks less impressive when seen in puppet incarnation with its head popping out of the ocean. Scenes of it stomping through London work better, and the added attraction of a giant monster that effortlessly radiates the flesh off the bones of pedestrians was quite horrifying to those who saw this as a tyke. The stop-motion effects overall are not the best of their type and often clumsy, but are easy to overlook as it’s still an intriguing giant monster film, well-acted by leads Evans and Morell (dependable veteran of a number of Hammer horrors) and carries a good supporting cast (including John Turner, Jean Trevethan, Jack MacGowran and Maurice Kaufmann). Lourié was not yet through with giant monster movies: in 1961 he’d helm GORGO, which like GODZILLA, featured an actor in a creature costume.

Warner Home Video presents all three titles on DVD with very satisfying transfers. QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE looks great, finally presented on home video in its original 2.35:1 Cinemascope aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. Colors are rich, detail is excellent, and there is very little in the way of grain or print blemishes. There is some slight staining on the far right side of the screen for the final few minutes, but it’s nothing too distracting. ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN is presented anamorphic, letterboxed at approximately 1.78:1. The framing looks correct, and the black and white picture detail is very sharp with only instances of dirt or debris. THE GIANT BEHEMOTH is also is presented anamorphic, letterboxed at approximately 1.78:1. After a scratchy title sequence, the picture remains sharp throughout with some occasional print blotches, but all in all looks quite good. This is the uncut version of BEHMOTH, running approximately 80 minutes, and not 90 minutes as the back cover dictates. All three titles have clear English mono tracks with no noticeable hiss or distortion, and all have optional English and French subtitles, as well as optional English captions.

As mentioned, all three titles contain full audio commentaries. QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE features star Laurie Mitchell and is moderated by film historian Tom Weaver. It’s a fun commentary with some good anecdotes about co-star Gabor, director Bernds and much more, and the two even take time recreate scenes which were in the original script but didn’t end up in the final film. ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN has Weaver again with actress Yvette Vickers, who discusses her experience making this low budget wonder, as well as other aspects of her career. Weaver ads a lot of trivia tidbits and authentic quotes to the proceedings, and both actresses are delightful, so long-time fans of these films will be more than satisfied. THE GIANT BEHEMOTH features a commentary with special effects masters Dennis Muren and Phil Tippet which seems like it’s going to be interesting at first, but just becomes a silly, condescending affair, basically putting down the film every chance they get (did they ever think that maybe the viewers buying this disc actually might like the movie?). They know some things about effects, but offer no background or significant information on the film itself (and they fail to identify any of the actors on the screen). Skip it. The discs come with their trailers, that is except for 50 FOOT WOMAN. (George R. Reis)