27/03/2018

The Astounding She-Monster - A Definition Of 'Money Grab'

Quick Thoughts: The Astounding She-Monster (1957)

A creature from another planet that is concerned about human's advancing technology lands in the woods.


Two of my major weakness in life are brilliant movie posters that I know won't deliver what they promise and movie titles with needless adjectives in. The Astounding She-Monster ticks both boxes with ease.

This 50s nuclear movie follows two thieves and an alcoholic woman who holds a gun some of the times, but spends most of her time complaining, that kidnap a suburban housewife before running into a creature in a skin-tight suit (a 'nude dame') who has a death-touch. They run away to a guy who lives in a cabin in the woods and they spend the rest of the movie exchanging bland dialogue, toiling upon contrived conflict, running out into the forest, back to the cabin, out into the forest, back to the cabin...

Before the excitement begins, we are treated with some of the most insipid narration ever put to film, narration that asks us rhetorical questions, thinks talking down to the audience is storytelling, tells us when every major character enters the screen, and is ultimately only there to mask the fact that the director shot a good portion of this film as a silent picture to save money and to take the opportunity to ransack whatever sound library he had access to as to find the most ridiculous sound bites he could. (A dying bear and a screeching leopard apparently sound identical).

The whole movie was supposed to be shot in a week with $50,000, but was spat out in 4 days with only $18,000. Who knows where that $32,000 went? And who knows how they sold this to distributors for $60,000? Director, Ronald V. Ashcroft, cuts costs with very few locations and only one somewhat inventive shooting technique: he seemingly puts a liquid or gel before the lens to distort the image of the She-Monster to imply she is radiating... stuff. (We're constantly told what by the characters, but its hard to pay attention to their garble). What's more, Ashcroft had this edited in his own living room and uses about 10 medium shots. With almost everything shot in cheap and easy wide shots, this 62 minute film feels like a good two hours - I even had to pause it to nap at the 30 minute mark.

The acting throughout is just... eh... despite the fact that the characters constructed are somewhat intriguing - well, at least the jarring presence of the drunk woman is. You're never told why the thieves come together, no characters really develop relationships, have lives or any personality. We just have a selection of weird caricatures in a stuffy cabin - and a dog who dies. They sit in a forgetful script whose only success is that it has all of its plants put into place 5 pages before pay-offs. With that one bit of structure nailed, the screenwriter must have though his job was done.

A few interesting details about the film's production is that it was supposed to be called 'Naked Invader'. That implies that this possibly had plans to exploit the oncoming and snowballing sexualisation of cinema. And what's more, the brilliant poster used a nude pin-up girl, Madeline Castle, as a reference - which certainly confirms that this was wanting to use sex and the female body to sell a cheap B-picture. Click here to see a comparison if you must.

Beyond all of that, there really isn't much to be said about this film. It's a transparent money-grab that shamelessly makes its buck trying to provide am empty morality tale about humanity's fear-induced aggression. A poster, not a film, The Astounding She-Monster needn't be seen by anyone.






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