The Astounding She-Monster (review by Doug Smith)
Prepare for (non-) action! Prepare for (anything but) excitement! Prepare for The (Amazingly Less Than) Astounding She-Monster! This is one of those movies where you just kind of stare at the screen while constantly thinking one thought; “….what the hell was that about?” At first glance, you would think that this movie has Ed Wood written all over it. While he was an uncredited creative (or not) consultant, this film was actually produced and directed by Ronnie Ashcroft. And, oh, what a job he did.
Robert Clarke plays Dick Cutler, whose name is pretty appropriate, because he’s such an ineffectual hero, you’d think his dick was cut off. Nat Burdell is played by Kenne Duncan, one of Ed Wood’s favorite actors who was actually somewhat of an accomplished actor in westerns, even though most of his credits are as “Henchman.” Marilyn Harvey plays the rich, young, “beautiful” Margaret Chaffee. Jeanne Tatum plays the boozed up old hag, Esther Malone. And no one rounds out a cast quite like Shirley Kilpatrick as the She-Monster and Ewing Brown as Brad Conley.
It doesn’t take long to figure out this is one of those idealistic movies about nuclear weapons that were so prevalent during the late fifties. According to the narrator, the Big Bang was the result of an early advanced civilization who detonated a nuke that was too big. Well, I can see how that would make sens…..huh??
The narrator continues talking in a very melodramatic way and says something about how a distant planet is afraid Earth will blow up the universe, so they send some weapon to destroy Earth first and it looks like a flaming marshmallow.
We go through the credits and suddenly an entirely different narrator starts talking about Margaret Chaffee as she walks down the outside steps of her huge Beverly Hills mansion. According to the narrator, she overslept and is late for cocktails. I only WISH I could have that problem. “Ah crap, I’m late for my job drinking cocktails at the bar!” She drives away and the narrator continues to talk smugly until she gets abducted by a couple of so-called gangsters, who look like pretty much any Lucky Strike spokesmen ever. And, still, the narrator keeps talking in his smug, self-righteous manner and pretty soon you want to find out just who the hell it is, take a plane to his town, get a cab to his door, ring the doorbell and be like, “WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR DEAL!?!” And then punch him and Snicker-snag on him. And then make him write an apology letter to every man, woman and child on the planet. And then punch him some more. And maybe kick him.
But I digress. The cops eventually show up to Margaret’s empty car and that’s pretty much the last we see of them, and they really have absolutely no bearing on the plot and were obviously just put in to fill up time.
After that, we go to Dick Cutler who’s walking through the woods with his dog. He’s talking about how cold it is and says (to his dog) that they should really get back to the cabin. WHAT TERRIFIC FILMMAKING!!!! THE DIRECTOR SHOULD WIN AN AWARD!!! WOW! Anyway, he happens to see a bad special effect floating through the sky, which is supposed to be a meteor but looks more like Tinkerbell and it crash lands. Dick doesn’t really give a crap about it and reiterates that him and his dog really have to get back to the cabin. Oh, by the way, the narrator tells us that Dick’s a geologist.
Then we’re introduced to the title character who I guess is supposed to be terrifying because she wears a lot of eye shadow and they filmed her out of focus and she walks funny. To further make us fear her, she startles a fawn. Because, you know, fawns are brave creatures that don’t run away from anything. Also, she kills a rubber a snake just by touching it. I’m shaking in my boots.
Milk, eggs, butter, bread, Charmin (the REALLY soft stuff), gin (LOTS), vermouth. Oh, whoops, that’s my shopping list. Sorry.
Meanwhile, the gangsters, their boozed-up slut, and their hostage are driving down the road and listening to the radio. This makes for some extremely exciting cinema. I haven’t been so far on the edge of my seat since the masturbation scene in American Beauty. They keep driving for a bit, the boozer polishes off a bottle of what appear to be Crown Royal, and then suddenly the driver sees the She-Monster and swerves off the road. I can hardly contain myself.
As it turns out, the thug driving the car ended up breaking it when he swerved into the ditch, so off the four of them go on a little hiking trip. And, unfortunately, the smug little bastard of a narrator decides to start talking again. I can’t be too sure, but he sounds a hell of a lot like Derek from Teenagers from Outer Space, which would explain the gay lisp.
Anyway, at this point, we’ve been introduced to all of the characters in the movie and now we’re watching them walk in the woods. You’ve heard of Film Noir? This is film NOWHERE! Dick gets back to his place first and talks to his dog for a while before the gangsters and their hostage arrive and promptly take over.
Okay, my usual goal for a review is 1000 words, so I’m just going to rant for the last hundred or so. The rest of the movie can basically be summed up like this: One gangster gets killed by the She-Monster, the group figures out how he died and they run out of Dick’s place only to be confronted by the She-Monster. They run back in to Dick’s place only to be confronted by the She-Monster. They run out of Dick’s place only to be confronted by the She-Monster. Are you getting the pattern here yet? This happens multiple times until all the bad guys are dead and Dick figures out the monster is protected by some type of thin platinum coating. He then makes a little chemical cocktail, throws it at the monster and the monster dies and dissolves. Easy, with no messy clean-up! After blatantly murdering the monster, they discover a little medallion with a message in it. To sum it up, the monster was actually an emissary sent from a distant planet to invite the Earth to join into some kind of interplanetary union. And they killed her. GOOD ONE, Cutler!
It took me about three weeks to write this review. I’d watch a few minutes of the movie, write a paragraph and then I’d need a break for a day or so. It was just horrid. I have to admit, though, it IS rather funny to watch after a few cocktails (like I’ve had while putting the finishing touches on this review). Sober, I give this movie a yak turd. Drunk, I give this movie about a yak and half for riffing potential. Speaking of yak turds, I have to stop writing now, because a friend wants me to watch So You Think You Can Dance. May god have mercy on my soul.