Friday, July 6, 2012

The Astounding She Monster -- a curvy cutie!

By Steve D. Stones

What do you get when you combine all the poor qualities of filmmaking, such as bad dialogue, unconvincing special effects, amateur acting, boring long shots that seem to last forever, mismatched stock footage and frequent continuity errors? The result is a film like The Astounding She-Monster. Still, the film has many redeeming cult qualities to recommend it to any cult film fan.

For starters, She Monster was directed by a protégé of Ed Wood named Ronnie Ashcroft. Wood is unaccredited as a “creative consultant” for the film. Ashcroft made a film with all the markings of a Wood film. In fact, if the opening credits were left out, it would be easy to mistake She-Monster for an Ed Wood film. The opening credits even say: “Hollywood International Pictures Presents,” just like the opening of Plan 9 From Outer Space.

The music for the film is by Gunther Kauer. The same music was used for another cult film, The Beast of Yucca Flats. Actor Kenne Duncan, who appeared in Ed Wood’s Night of The Ghouls (AKA Revenge of The Dead), also appears in She Monster. Another Wood regular, William C. Thompson, served as director of photography. These qualities alone make The Astounding She-Monster an immediate cult item.

The film opens with a boring long shot of wealthy socialite Margaret Chaffee, played by Marilyn Harvey, leaving her mansion to drive away in a Cadillac. Chaffee is a wealthy Beverly Hills socialite. As she drives down the street in another boring long shot that lasts forever, she is stopped and kidnapped by Nat Burdell and Brad Conley, played by actors Kenne Duncan and Ewing Brown.

A meteor soon crashes high in the San Gabriel Mountains, bringing with it a sexy space alien in a tight spandex suit, played by Shirley Kilpatrick. Geologist Dick Cutler, played by Robert Clarke, and his dog Egan, witness the meteor crash near Cutler’s cabin.

Burdell and Conley are next seen driving the kidnapped Chaffee to the San Gabriel Mountains. A second woman named Esther Malone, played by actress Jeanne Tatum, appears in the car with them. Malone appears to be drunk. The group is forced off the road by the site of the sexy alien. Why she is called a “She-Monster” in the title of the film is anyone’s guess? She is any thing but frightful. In fact, she is very sexy and beautiful.

The group leaves their car on the road and walks to Cutler’s cabin. Duncan and the group force their way into the cabin and take Cutler as a second hostage.

Conley soon sees the She-Monster starring in the window of the cabin and leaves to investigate. He takes Cutler’s dog Egan with him. He and Egan are attacked and killed by the She-Monster. Burdell goes out looking for him and brings his corpse back to the cabin. The corpse is covered with radium poisoning. Cutler insists on going out to find his dog, but Burdell continues to hold him at gunpoint.

The group finally decides that they must get away from the She-Monster by leaving the mountain in Cutler’s jeep. While driving down the mountain road, the She-Monster blocks their path, forcing them out of the jeep. Burdell is attacked and killed by the She-Monster as he attempts to flee the jeep.

Cutler and Chaffee flee back into the cabin and are met once again by the She-Monster. Cutler throws a bottle of nitric acid on the She-Monster, and she immediately disintegrates. Chaffee notices the She-Monster’s necklace on the cabin floor. Cutler opens the locket to find an important message.

It turns out that the She Monster is an emissary sent by the Council of Planets with a message of peace for the earth. Cutler concludes that the She-Monster only attacked because she was forced to protect herself.

It’s interesting to note that The Astounding She-Monster follows in a long line of alien invasion-themed films that saturated the drive-ins of the 1950s. Hollywood produced many much better films earlier in the decade of a similar theme, such as The Day The Earth Stood Still and The Thing From Another World.

Robert Clarke also starred in The Man From Planet X in 1951, which has a similar theme to The Astounding She-Monster. In Man From Planet X, the alien also attempts to communicate with those who encounter it, but is misunderstood as being an enemy from outer space.

Cult film fans are greatly indebted to Wade Williams for rescuing and buying the copyright of a number of films that would have otherwise been lost or never released on DVD, such as The Astounding She-Monster, Ed Wood’s Night of The Ghouls, The Cosmic Man and Cat Women of The Moon, among many others.

I’m still waiting for a Robert Clarke film festival to come to my town so that I can see Man From Planet X, The Hideous Sun Demon, The Astounding She-Monster, The Incredible Petrified World, Beyond The Time Barrier, Terror of The Blood Hunters and Secret File Hollywood all in one day’s screening. In the meantime I will be satisfied seeing these films on DVD. Watch out for that curvy cutie in a tight spandex outfit!

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