Queen of Outer Space (1958)

Three American astronauts – Captain Patterson (Eric Fleming), Lt. Cruze (Dave Willock) and Lt. Turner (Patrick Waltz) – and a professor (Paul Birch) are on a new mission and will be the first men to travel to Venus. To their surprise, they find the planet to be much more Earth-like than they had ever imagined – aside from the fact that it’s inhabited by only women, ruled by a Queen of Outer Space, Yllana (Laurie Mitchell) who hates men.

Naturally, they’re immediately imprisoned by the man-loathing queen. She not only hates them because they’re male, but has also convinced herself that they’re spies. Convinced that there can be no solution other than for one planet to defeat the rest, she hatches a plan to destroy the Earth.

The three men must attempt to overthrow the queen and save their home planet, with the help of a few Venusian ladies including Talleah (Zsa Zsa Gabor), who aren’t quite as opposed to men as the queen is.

The film opens in a very unconventional way, with about 15 minutes of a sort of “prologue” before the credits roll. This portion shows the events leading up to the trip to Venus. While it’s certainly a unique way to open the film, it ends up feeling a bit dull and the audience doesn’t really get drawn in until after the credits roll.

Once the credits do roll, a flurry of perfect b movie sci-fi effects such as laser beams and pingy electronic sounds bring on the fun. One of the the things I love about mid-20th century sci-fi films is the wacky effects, and Queen of Outer Space does not disappoint in that respect. According to IMDb trivia on the film, many of these effects were taken from 1956’s World Without End, though I haven’t seen that film and can’t comment on the extent of the borrowing.

These effects, along with the planet-destroying, laboratory-experimenting plot make this film fit the stereotypes of its genre perfectly. Many viewers have apparently interpreted Queen of Outer Space as a parody of the genre as a result. I can definitely see how it would be interpreted that way, especially given the fact that it does fit the genre’s conventions so well.

However, call me crazy, but I actually found the plot to be very interesting on its own, possible genre parodies aside. I found many of the scenes to be very suspenseful and was genuinely concerned for the characters during those tense moments.

I also found the premise to be intriguing, especially since I recently read Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking series. This series of books begins in a town where there are only men, and that town served as an opposite in my mind to the social climate of Venus in this film. Keeping those books in mind certainly heightened my ability to take Queen of Outer Space a bit seriously. With the two separate works being set in, on a surface level, similar worlds, I was half expecting the characters in this film to be pelted with just as many terrors as Todd and company endure in Ness’ books.

That’s not to say it’s some sort of masterpiece. There’s a lot of un-funny (and some blatantly sexist) humor in the dialogue, sometimes edging on corny territory. I feel obligated to warn my dear readers of a few overcooked jokes about how women can’t drive, for instance. And the delivery of the material sometimes seems very stiff, though the space girl/astronaut couples have good chemistry and seem sincere overall.

Despite it’s flaws, Queen of Outer Space can still be quite exciting if you take it at face value and don’t try to analyze it too seriously. On a scale of The Gamma People to Forbidden Planet, the former being mediocre and the latter being an instant favorite, this one falls closer to the Forbidden Planet end of the spectrum. It is, of course, nowhere near as brilliant as Forbidden Planet, but it is almost as enjoyable for very different reasons. The score: 3/5

*All screen captures used in this review were taken by me while watching the film, hence the lack of web source credit.

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