It’s not all black & white “noir” and Criterion Collection classics over at TCM.
The channel also airs weird, obscure (or not) “underground” films and B-movies that are often (mis)categorized as “cult” flicks.
Tonight (and into this morning) TCM is showing movies all about space, “the final frontier.”
Along with predictable choices like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien, they’re playing that fondly remembered 1950s “sci-fi” quickie, Queen of Outer Space.
Contrary to the film’s own publicity materials, Zsa Zsa Gabor is not the titular “queen.” Instead, that much-married Hungarian beauty queen/Paris Hilton relation leads the resistance fighters who want to overthrow Venus’s ruler. (Whose mask looks like an aborted kindergarten project.)
Not surprisingly, life on this all-woman planet gets complicated following the arrival of three very male American astronauts: Oscar-Levant-Looking-Guy, Paul Rudd’s dad, and Eisenhower-era Matthew McConaughey. (It may be “the future,” but they’re still using Brylcreme, and lots of it.)
Queen of Outer Space could have been a cute Shavian satire on male/female relationships. Instead, it’s simply a colorful, confused but ultimately painless time-waster.
Blogger Kate McMillan likes to say that “if women ran the world, we’d still be living in caves, but with really, really fancy curtains.” Alas, according to Queen of Outer Space, the women who run another planet can’t even manage that. Astonishingly cheap sets that would have looked passable in black & white are rendered nakedly, comically putrid beneath the relentless gaze of CinemaScope Color.
(And sure enough, the women’s super-duper nuclear death ray is decorated with yellow polka-dots.)
Along with the awful set design, genre fans treasure the “giant spider” that’s the size of a kiddie pool (and slightly less menacing) and, especially, the racy costumes worn by what looks to be Sylvia Plath and her fellow Mademoiselle interns.
Then there’s Zsa Zsa, throwing awkward “sexy” shapes and breathlessly warning the astronauts that the Queen possesses “weaponsh made by her schientishtshs that can deshtroy da Earthsht.”
So set your PVR and, when you’re ready to watch, wear your drinking pants.
Or purchase Queen of Outer Space on DVD and enjoy the charming audio commentary by the “Queen” herself, B-movie regular Laurie Mitchell.