Queen of Outer Space

Queen of Outer Space is a 1958 American DeLuxe Color science fiction feature film in CinemaScope. Produced by Ben Schwalb and directed by Edward Bernds, it stars Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eric Fleming, and Laurie Mitchell. The screenplay by Charles Beaumont, about a revolt against a cruel Venusian queen, is based on an idea supplied by Ben Hecht and originally titled Queen of the Universe. Upon its release, the film was promoted by Allied Artists and distributed to some locations as part of a double feature with Frankenstein 1970 starring Boris Karloff.

Queen of Outer Space
Theatrical release poster
Directed byEdward Bernds
Produced byBen Schwalb
Screenplay byCharles Beaumont
Story byBen Hecht
Starring
Music byMarlin Skiles
CinematographyWilliam P. Whitley
Edited byWilliam Austin
Distributed byAllied Artists Pictures Corporation
Release date
  • September 7, 1958 (1958-09-07)
Running time
80 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Plot

In 1985,[1] Captain Patterson (Eric Fleming) and his space crew (Dave Willock, Patrick Waltz and Paul Birch) take a rocket to a space station near Earth. En route, however, the space station is destroyed by an interstellar energy beam which also affects their rocketship. The space crew crash land on Venus and are captured. They learn the planet is under the dictatorship of the cruel Queen Yllana (Laurie Mitchell), a masked woman who has most men killed, keeping only mathematicians and scientists on a prison colony moon which orbits Venus. In the palace, the astronauts are aided by a beautiful courtier named Talleah (Zsa Zsa Gabor) and her friends (Lisa Davis, Barbara Darrow and Marilyn Buferd). The women long for the love of men again and plot to overthrow the evil queen to reestablish the "old order".

Once Patterson is alone with the queen in her bedchamber, he has the opportunity to remove her mask, revealing that her face is horribly disfigured due to radiation burns caused by men during a war between Venus and another planet "10 Earth years ago". Later, in a fury, the queen decides to destroy Earth to protect her world and to preserve her own power. In the presence of her armed guards, Talleah and the crewmen can only watch as she aims the energy-beam "disintegrator" at Earth. Just after the queen activates the weapon, Talleah's allies arrive. As a large struggle ensues, the disintegrator begins to malfunction, explodes, and the queen dies. Talleah is now the new leader of Venus and at a subsequent ceremony announces that Patterson's rocket has been repaired and he and his crew can return to Earth. Talleah's technicians have also repaired the "electronic televiewer", which allows space command on Earth to contact Patterson. Command orders him not to attempt a return home but to remain on Venus for at least a year, until a relief expedition can arrive. Although the crew could return to Earth in their repaired ship, they are elated to follow orders and stay. The film ends with the men and Venusians celebrating in a flurry of hugs and passionate kisses.

Cast

Also included in the cast are Guy Prescott as Colonel Ramsey (uncredited), Gerry Gaylor as base commander, Ralph Gamble as officer in anteroom (uncredited) and Joi Lansing as an astronaut's girlfriend (uncredited). Venusians are played by Tania Velia, Norma Young, Marjorie Durant, Brandy Bryan, Ruth Lewis, June McCall, and Marilyn Buferd, who was a former Miss America (1946). This was Buferd's final role in her decade-plus film career.

Production

The Three Stooges and the Bowery Boys director Edward Bernds recalled that, after famed producer Walter Wanger was released from prison for shooting agent Jennings Lang in the groin for having an affair with his wife Joan Bennett, Wanger could only find work at the low-rent Allied Artists (formerly Monogram Pictures). In 1952, Wanger brought a ten-page idea for a screenplay by Ben Hecht called Queen of the Universe that was a satirical look at a planet run by women. Several years later, with the idea of science fiction films being more common, Allied Artists revived the project with Wanger replaced on the film by Ben Schwalb, who was then producing The Bowery Boys films. Screenwriter Charles Beaumont did not think there was much in the Hecht screenplay, but Schwalb suggested spoofing the idea and had former Three Stooges screenwriter Ellwood Ullman touch up Beaumont's screenplay.[2] Allied Artists retitled the film Queen of Outer Space as they thought the original title sounded more like a beauty pageant.[2]

The central plot of a planet ruled by women was recycled from other science fiction productions of the era, including Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953), Cat-Women of the Moon (1953), and the British feature Fire Maidens from Outer Space (1955). Queen of Outer Space also recycled many props, costumes, and other elements used in earlier films of the 1950s, most prominently the C-57D crewmen's uniforms and Altaira's wardrobe from Forbidden Planet (1956); models, sets, and special effects from Bernds' World Without End (1956); stock footage of an Atlas missile taking off; and a model rocketship built for Flight to Mars (1951).[3][4] The model was used as well by the Bowery Boys in Paris Playboys (1954), which was co-written by Bernds and Ullman. It is noteworthy too tha the queen's guards wore uniforms that foreshadow (and may have influenced) those worn on the later Star Trek television series, coming in the same three Starfleet colors; red, blue, and gold.

In her 1991 autobiography One Lifetime is Not Enough, Gabor recounts a memorable line of her dialogue in the film and cites the production costs for creating the highly tailored fashions worn by her character:

I made Queen of Outer Space, which was destined to become a classic. Written by Ben Hecht (of Front Page fame), Queen was one of the last films he wrote....I play [Talleah], a scientist who is against all of Queen [Yllana's] cruelties and wants to see her banished. The highpoint comes when I declare, "I hate that queen"—a line that even to this day causes a great deal of mirth among many of my gay friends. I liked Ben Hecht and adored my costumes, designed by Edith Head and costing a staggering $15,000 apiece.[5]

Reception

In 1958, the film received generally positive reviews from critics in major newspapers and in trade publications. Most reviewers, including Charles Stinson of the Los Angeles Times, approached the film in their assessments as an amusing, mildly erotic parody or spoof, not as a true science fiction offering or even a faintly serious space adventure. In his November 13 review, Stinson characterizes the feature as "cheery frivolity" with "well-constructed cheesecake", all of which is visually punctuated by "luscious DeLuxe color".[6] He even compliments Gabor's performance:

Fortunately, Allied Artists' "Queen of Outer Space"...is not science fiction. Because if it were, it would be horrid. However...it is an elaborate parody of science fiction and, as such, it is quite good, indeed....Naturally, the one and only Zsa Zsa Gabor is the principal attraction. She comes through superbly, demonstrating a nice touch for light, dotty comedy, as, with hair gone moon-platinum, she floats about gauzily, tongue in cheek, flirting outrageously, satirizing herself and sighing deeply over the fact "zat de qveen vil destroy ze planet Earss unless ve stop her, Capt. Patterson." Zsa Zsa saves, of course.[6]

Marjory Adams, writing for The Boston Globe, also recognized the Gabor vehicle as a "merry spoof of science fiction" that no one either on the screen or in theater audiences takes seriously, especially with regard to the actors' lines. "The dialogue", notes Adams, "is of the sort which might be written by a high school freshman", adding "the only unexpected twist is [Zsa Zsa] isn't the queen."[7] Variety—for decades a leading trade publication in covering the United States' entertainment industry—simply deemed Queen of Outer Space as "a good-natured attempt to put some honest sex into science-fiction".[8]

In Canada in 1958, Mike Helleur, a reviewer for Toronto's The Globe and Mail, compares the film's portrayal of life on Venus to "living backstage at the Folies Bergère", complete with light entertainment and rather scantily clad young women, who in this case take a "slapstick romp" through a Venusian queen's palace.[9] One of several oddities that Helleur notices in the film is Gabor's singular identity among all the planet's inhabitants met by the Earthlings: "She is...the only girl in Outer Space with a Hungarian accent."[9]

As of 2019 Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 18% based on reviews from 11 critics.[10]

"Morally objectionable"

The trade publication Motion Picture Daily reported in 1958 that the National Legion of Decency objected to the content of Queen of Outer Space. In its October 3 issue, less than a month after the film's release, the magazine provides a few examples of the Legion's classification system for judging a Hollywood production's level of "decency":

Two pictures were placed in Class B, as morally objectionable in part for all by the Legion of Decency, which reviewed seven films this week. In the B category are "Man of the West" and "Queen of Outer Space." Objection to the first was explained thusly, "the highly moral nature of this story is substantially marred by excessive brutality and unnecessary suggestiveness." Of "Queen," the group said it contains "suggestive costuming."[11]

See also

References

  1. https://variety.com/1957/film/reviews/queen-of-outer-space-1200419077/
  2. Weaver, Tom (2000). Return of the B Science Fiction and Horror Heroes. McFarland & Company. p. 55. ISBN 978-0786407552.
  3. Warren, Bill (1982). Keep Watching the Skies: Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, Vol. II, 1958-1962. McFarland & Company. p. 169. ISBN 978-1476666181.
  4. Thompson, Nathaniel. "Queen of Outer Space". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  5. Gabor, Zsa Zsa; "assisted by" and edited by Wendy Leigh. One Lifetime is Not Enough. New York, N.Y: Delacorte Press, 1991, pp. 155-156.
  6. Stinson, Charles (1958). "Zsa Zsa Gags It Up as 'Queen of Space'", Los Angeles Times, November 13, 1958, p. B12. ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
  7. Adams, Marjory (1958). "ZSA ZSA OUT OF THIS WORLD: She Saves Rocket Squadron", The Boston Globe, October 25, 1958, p. 24. ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
  8. "Review: 'Queen of Outer Space'". Variety. 1958. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  9. Helleur, Mike (1958). "It's Entertainment", The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada), September 10, 1958, p. 11. ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
  10. "Queen of Outer Space (1958)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 23, 2019.
  11. "Legion Gives 'Man' and 'Queen' B Ratings", Motion Picture Daily (New York, N.Y.), October 3, 1958, p. 5. Internet Archive, San Francisco. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
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