The Astounding She-Monster (1957)

An amazingly cheapskate little s-f quickie, loosely modelled on Key Largo. A pair of hoods (Kenne Duncan, Ewing Brown) and a drunken moll who has come down in the world (Jeanne Tatum) abduct a shrill socialite (Marilyn Harvey) and head for the woods, where they hole up in the cabin of two-fisted geological surveyor Robert Clarke. We get the usual snarling, taunting and bitching, with the cowardly crooks waving guns at a he-man hero who bides his time before turning the tables, but instead of the hurricane in the John Huston movie there's a shimmering (optical effect) showgirl from space (Shirley Kilpatrick) stalking the woods, killing with her radioactive touch, sometimes walking backwards to disguise a rip in her tight suit. After the alien visitor, who arrived via a matchflare passed off as a meteor, has done away with the villains, Clarke whips up an acid that can be thrown at the 'thin protective metal covering' mentioned in the script but not visualised in the film and kills her.

There's a big reversal as only seconds after the hero has been sneering at the alien's evil trick to dupe the earthman into picking up a deadly medallion he realises she was an ambassador of peace and goodwill whose touch of death was apparently accidental (the same gambit was no more convincing in a Doctor Who serial years later) and that the Earth may be in trouble when the UN-type planetary federation that sent her learns how she was treated not by the hoods and thugs of the planet but by a supposed good guy (an irony the script misses).

Svelte Kilpatrick, who some sources say became the heftier Shirley Stoler who starred in The Honeymoon Killers, stalks weirdly throughout, with an optical blur around her but is essentially a standard blonde Vampira variant, and none of the rest of the cast are anything more than stereotype. It has a lot of doomy narration over amateurishly-filmed action – the opening kidnap is especially clumsy, and when we get to the cabin in the woods it turns into a talkathon. Ronnie Ashcroft plods through the hour running time: he had little budget to speak of, but – some time later – George Romero or Sam Raimi only had a cabin and a handful of actors but added some talent and inspiration to come up with something watchable.
KIM NEWMAN

First published in this form here.


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