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There is something strangely appealing about this low-budget, nearly
forgotten British horror film from 1957. It made the US rounds on the B
side of horror double features in the late 50s and then pretty much
dropped out of sight. Most movie review tomes dismiss it as a waste of
time, but the horror genre (apart from a few "monstres sacres") is
generally dismissed as a whole by these surveys. If approached within
the confines of the late 1950s monster/horror movie genre, "Womaneater"
holds it own quite well.
In terms of acting, there is really nothing to criticize. George Coulouris seems, for better or worse, born to play a faustian madman. He can achieve a wide-eyed look that is frankly rather disturbing. Joyce Gregg, as the housekeeper and frustrated former lover, is also successful at suggesting turmoil under the surface.
The film has the perfect horror-film look of its period: stock jungle footage plus shadowy studio interiors. Edwin Astley's soundtrack is heard to advantage on the DVD, and it's appropriately creepy. There is an overall luridness about this film that is just plain compelling. We first experience it in the so-called "dance of death", during which the native girl victim (Marpessa Dawn) does no dancing whatsoever, but rather swoons to an intoxicating drum beat. Later, a potential victim has her blouse ripped just enough so that we may glimpse her bra-strap. And when the mad doctor needs more plant food, he visits what looks like a seamy district of Soho (a highly effective location sequence, by the way). Such little concessions to a prurient audience add to the charm of the film. In addition, there is a walking dead scene that hearkens back to the 1930s Universal horrors.
On to the monster. Here is where the film makes a tiny claim to immortality. This is no vampiric stalker, resurrected dinosaur, or bloodthirsty alien. It is, quite simply, a tree. But what a sinister, malevolent-looking tree it is! This fairly nightmarish invention is covered with shaggy tendrils and has two kinds of apparently powerful tentacles with which to grasp its prey. Of course, the prey must be placed into, or forced to enter the clutches of the tree, but that contributes to the originality of the conception.
This little gem has been out of circulation for many years. Previous video incarnations have been extremely shoddy, using broken elements with nearly inaudible sound. The DVD issue presents "Womaneater" in what must be the best condition possible, which is pretty good. See it, if you dare.
You really have to be a 50s B movie sci-fi/horror aficionado to fully appreciate this movie. The plot is poor, and the scenes a bit choppy. The horror in this movie is nothing in comparison to the movies of today. You won't see any blood or gore here. The monster is an odd looking plant that shakes it's limbs a lot. You don't actually see it devouring it's prey. This absurd looking creature is great. It's one of the funniest looking things that ever attempted to scare a movie audience. The terror of the 50s has mellowed a bit over the years. Its not so scary anymore but still holds it's own when pitted against other similar movies. It probably did it's job of scaring people well in it's own day. There are also a couple scenes that were supposed to be sexually suggestive and a bit racy back then but by today's standards it's pretty tame stuff. I was really surprised with "Womaneater". Although somewhat dated, it's still an entertaining movie. You have to remember that this is the 50s. This film is a classic example of that genre in the British style, which in this case, is almost undistinguishable from the American films. Some of the scenes will bring an unintentional smile to your face. Intended shock may produce a laugh. This is fun stuff. Lighten up, relax and enjoy the film. I think "Womaneater is very under rated and should be right up there with some of the other better known B monster movies of the 1950s. If 50s B monster movies are your thing, take a look at "Womaneater". You won't regret it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Woman Eater was one of two cheap and cheerful horror films made by the producer-director duo of Guido Coen and Charles Saunders who usually specialised in second feature crime thrillers. The teams initial venture into this territory, The Man Without a Body is sadly a bore despite a plot which features Nostradamus' severed head being brought back to life and concludes with a mini-rampage from a monster that resembles a tall man with a pillow case on his head. Opening with location defining shots of the Thames, their second attempt at the genre is an equally ludicrous but much more fun and spirited example of B-movie horror. At the explorer's club' Dr James Moran (George Coulouris, the lead in both the Saunders-Coen horrors) entertains young associate Colin with the tale of a tribe that can bring the dead back to life. Ignoring warnings that insanity runs in the Moran family, Colin joins the doctor on a trek to the Amazon cost cuttingly evoked by stock footage and a few jungle sets at Twickenham studios. Stumbling across the tribe performing a black magic ceremony involving a woman being fed to a monster tree, Colin makes an ill-fated attempt to halt the proceedings (`stop you devils') and ends up with a spear in the chest for his troubles. Moran is later found babbling and suffering from jungle fever.
Five years later Moran has decamped to a sleepy village in England where hidden in his basement lies the bizarre spectacle of Tanga (Jimmy Vaughan) one of the tribe, hypnotizing various women in order to feed them to the monster tree. (Best not to question how Moran got both a tribesman and a carnivorous tree from the Amazon to provincial England without anyone noticing, especially say customs). Moran eases his conscience by ranting she'll become part of the plant, she won't have died in vain' convinced the tree's juices can bring the dead back to life. With this our people make live the dead master' remarks Tanga in his broken native' English, a theory demonstrated by Moran injecting the juices into a pulsing heart which he keeps in a jar. In his search for tree food the preferred victims being buxom women- Moran takes a furtive walk around Piccadilly Circus and Soho, ignoring prostitutes in favour of following a woman to a crummy late night watering hole. After he buys her a drink she asks him if he's a talent spotter for the movies then jadedly adds all men are talent spotters in one way or another'. Soon after she's thrown to the monster tree who sports some barely mobile vines and oven glove like claws, the surreal effect suggests a man who has disguised himself as a Christmas tree in order to grope a passing starlet.
Despite a brief running time of 71 minutes and a plot that drafts in a zombie woman on top of a monster tree and a mad doctor The Woman Eater does contain a fair deal of padding and plot diversions that hasn't endeared the film to many critics over the years. In fairness these moments aren't completely without interest though. 50's pin-up Vera Day a kind of proto Barbara Windsor, plays the heroine, an ex-hula hula dancer whose appearance in the village turns the heads of both the local mechanic and the mad doctor. As a scientist I'm more interested in things with six legs rather than two' proclaims Moran at one point but soon changes his mind when he hires Vera to look after his house. Given their Butchers films backgrounds its no surprise that Coen and Saunders also have a tendency to dwell on the police investigation side of things with the forces of law and order quaintly represented by village detectives who wear trench coats and smoke pipes and a cheery copper who gets about on a pushbike. Saunders' chief claim to fame is that he would later direct Britain's first nudist camp film Nudist Paradise (1958) which was still playing in London as late as 1967 and also wound up as a visual gag in a Carry On film, while Coen would end his career producing sex comedies. You can see slight hints of what was to come in The Woman Eater, Coen and Saunders seem to enjoy flirting with salacious sights that never actually materialise, the heroine is introduced hula-hula dancing at a carnival as a barker promises we'll see south sea island belles all for a bob' and an advert for a West End play called Nude with Violin is used in a almost subliminal message way. Slightly more risqué is one of the film's few scenes played for a comedy in which Vera helps her mechanic boyfriend mend a car only for him to become distracted by staring at her chest. Less the censor suspect the hero (or the cameraman for that matter) is meant to be having amoral thoughts about Miss Day, moments later he's doing the honest thing and asking her to marry him, even though they've only ever met three times. It could all of course play on Sunday afternoon television today without anyone raising so much as an eyebrow but this was what a British exploitation film looked like in 1957. The Woman Eater also anticipates many a home-grown horror effort (usually the ones starring Michael Gough) in which dedicated mad doctors become distracted by something blond, half their age and in a tight sweater, leaving their repressed middle aged housekeeper fuming with envy and putting the spanner in the works that eventually causes everything to (literally) go up in smoke.
The 1950's produced almost everything in sci-fi/horror and The
Womaneater is the one about the flesh eating tree. I quite liked this.
A mad scientist brings a flesh eating tree back from the Amazon that the natives used out there. This tree only eats women and he has to look round the local area for these. After it has eaten its "meal", the scientist then gets a serum and uses it to resurrect the dead. He employs a native to help him. The victims includes his housekeeper/lover and nearly her replacement too. The tree is burned at the end.
The cast includes Gorge Coulouris (Citizen Kane), Vera Day (Quatermass 2) and Robert MacKenzie (Feind Without a Face). With Jimmy Vaughn as the Native assistant.
If you wish to see another movie about a killer tree, take a look at From Hell It Came.
The Womaneater is a must see for all 1950's sci-fi fans. Great fun.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
On an expedition to a remote part of South America, Doctor Moran
(George Coulouris) discovers a savage tribe who worship a carnivorous
plant that feasts solely on young, beautiful, curvaceous women. No
'plain Janes', oldies, uglies, skinnies or fatties for this lean, green
killing machine: it's only interested in attractive babes with
impressive curves (quite how the plant has developed this discerning
attitude towards its food is never explained).
Having devoured it's prey, the plant produces a liquid that can purportedly restore life to the dead, something that greatly interests the doctor, who arranges for the ravenous shrub to be transported back to his home in England, along with one of the tribesmen, Tanga (Jimmy Vaughn), to help him with his work (quite how Moran came to this arrangement with the bloodthirsty natives is also never explained). Luring women back to his secure, basement laboratory, Moran sets about feeding the plant in an effort to create enough of the sap to revive the dead.
Womaneater is made of the stuff that monster B-movie fans live for: there's the mad scientist with his creepy ethnic assistant, a ropey old tree creature with flailing limbs and tentacles, a bevy of buxom beauties in skimpy sacrificial robes, a pneumatic blonde heroine (sexy ex-funfair worker Sally, played by Vera Day), and a brave but chauvinistic mechanic hero, Jack Venner (Peter Wayn). As one might expect from a low budget '50s B-movie, the film is no Oscar winner, but what it lacks in logic or technical merit it sure makes up for in cheeze 'n' sleaze, with big helpings of both being served up by director Charles Saunders.
The shonky monster is guaranteed to illicit more laughs than screams, as will the sight of Tanga in his adult-sized nappy banging the bongos; the seedier content includes Moran prowling the streets and bars of London for suitable victims and his misogynistic treatment of devoted ex-lover/housekeeper Margaret (Joyce Gregg).
There's also an unexpectedly tacky moment when Sally helps Jack to fix a car: while Jack is in the foot-well, he eyes up Sally's impressive breasts (her '50s torpedo chest blatantly occupying the foreground), after which he rudely berates her for her inability to follow simple instructions. Considering how he has just asked her to marry him, the scene leaves the viewer wondering just how badly he might abuse her once the ring is actually on her finger.
A fun finalé adds even more sleaziness, with sexy Sally narrowly avoiding becoming a meal for the monstrous weed, but not before her blouse has been torn to give viewers a tantalising glimpse of her bra (this being 1958, I imagine that's all audiences needed to get hot and flustered!).
7.5 out of 10, rounded up to 8 for the very lovely Vera Day as Sally.
******SPOILERS****** Before coming back to civilization from the
uncivilized and unexplored Amazon jungle Dr. Moran, George Coulouris,
came upon a secret that the local natives had all to themselves for
generations, the restoration of life for the recently departed among
With his weird and creepy native drummer boy Tanga, Jimmy Vaughn, as well as an exotic plant that he brought back to the UK with him Dr. Moran created the same conditions for the secret native ceremony that he learned in the Amazon jungle from the locals in his basement laboratory to bring the dead back to life. With this the egotistical Dr. Moran planned to become the greatest man in the history of scientific and biological research that the world has even known and all the fame and riches and power that goes along with it.
Now five years later with everything is ready for Dr. Moran's ground-breaking experiment to be tested all he needed was a human sacrifice for the flesh-eating tree and the only humans that the tree eats are well endowed young women needing them to get the tree to extract a secret serum that can give life to those that the serum is injected into.
Tanga goes and captured a young women outside Sara, Susan Curtis, to be given to the tree for lunch. After extracting the serum and injecting it into what looked like a skull in his laboratory the pulsometer. The results showed that the serum wasn't enough for the tree to give the Doctor the jolt that he needed to bring back to life the dead-head that he had in the jar. Soon another unexpected complication arose for Dr. Moran when the young and buxom Sally Norton , Vera Day, came looking for a job at his home as a housekeeper. That didn't go too well with Dr. Moran's long-time housekeeper and lover Margaret, Joyce Gregg, who now has to compete with the much younger and far more attractive Sally for the doctor's affections.
Although obsessed with his findings in life-after-death studies Dr. Moran let his amorous emotions get in the way of his scientific curiosity. Dr. Moran fell madly in love with Sally and didn't use her for his experiment as food-stuff for the hungry tree which made Tanga very mad. It was later that he got into a fight with Margaret over Sally where he strangled her.
Kidnapping another young and will-built woman Judy, Joy Webster, at the local pub in town for the trees unquenchable appetite the serum is ready for Dr. Moran to see if he can bring the dead Margaret back to life. To Dr. Moran' great shock an surprise he finds out when he brings Margaret back to the "living" that Tanga his supposedly loyal and faithful assistant played a dirty trick on him. Margaret's body was alive but her mind was brain-dead! As the gleeful Tanga tells Dr. Moran " The body for you. The brain for us".
Dr. Moran going berserk, with the knowledge that his experiments all these years were a bust, attacks Tanga and ends up with Tanga taking a knife out of his diaper and putting it in Dr. Moran's back. This happened after the doctor set the tree on fire. With that a crazed and despondent Tanga seeing his "God" destroyed he walks into the burning bush and together both go up in flames.
Inspired acting by both George Coulouris and Jimmy Vaughn lifted the movie up to the point where your interested in watching it especially that of Coulouris' Dr. Moran. Coulouris who did such a good job of acting insane during the movie that even the few times that he was supposed to be normal he came across as deranged.
Yes, it is a cheap Hammer Film done on a budget of nothing, but the story is quite clever and the film has a sassy style. There's one outrageous scene where a blonde secretary in a tight sweater is having her car worked on. The camera is looking over her shoulder at the mechanic under the dashboard. The cast, headed by George Couloris ("Citizen Kane") as a mad scientist, is outstanding, especially Vera Day as his wife. Note that the first victim is played by Marpessa Dawn, who was the star of the oscar-winning foreign film Black Orpheus.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an enjoyable British 50's sci-fi film. More knowledgeable buffs have exhausted the actor references, so let me suffice to say that this film is slow, even by 50's standards, and a tad disjointed. But if you're interested in that good old quaint 50's vision of horror, then it's definitely worth a gander. Funny carnival scenes and several London street scenes from that era, including double decker buses advertising cream crackers and Van Heusen shirts. The whole intro in the jungle is almost needless, as it is never quite explained that the doctor brings back the native with him, who willingly stays with him for years even though we learn later (minor SPOILER) that he's not really all that fond of him. Seems kind of a long playout for a joke, to me. And the scenes of the girls being hypnotized by the wild and uneven bongo playing of said heathen were hard to swallow, especially as they seem to wake up right before they are pushed into the "Womaneater" and start screaming and resisting. And of course there's the silly looking Womaneater tree, comparable to the invading pickle in "It conquered the World." (Hence my catchy title.) So - although most of you won't find this little ditty at your local 'grope and mope'(Blockbuster), if you do run into it, AND you like 50's movies for what they were - BY ALL MEANS watch this movie.
WOMANEATER is a film that has much in common with the American-made
B-flick FROM HELL IT CAME, as both movies are about carnivorous trees
that demand sacrificial human victims. However, this is by far the
worse movie, as it's just too cheap and stodgy to entertain. Scenes of
the tree attacking people only occur a couple of times during the film,
and for the most part it's talky and dull.
It's certainly of interest to British horror aficionados, as I enjoyed the colonial background of the tale which has some stylistic similarity to THE REPTILE and THE GHOUL; malign foreign influences corrupt otherwise decent British folk and lead them to murder and madness. It's a shame, then, that the execution is so lacklustre and the horror moments so limited.
Still, B-movie freaks might still enjoy this one, and it's not all bad. B-movie king Charles Saunders contributes brisk and efficient direction, although he can't disguise the problems with the script. George Coulouris (CITIZEN KANE) is fine in one of those down-on-his-luck-famous-actor-makes-a-B-movie type roles. Vera Day is the very definition of the blonde and buxom '50s starlet. But for WOMANEATER to really shine, I needed more cheese, more dodgy effects, and simply more action, as that way it would have been more fun overall.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*Spoiler/plot- The Women Eater(Womeneater), 1958. A scientist hears
about and travels to the Amazon jungle to find about a legendary tree
of life. He finds the tribe and tree. He takes the tree home to England
for experiments that cause disastrous crimes and disappearances.
*Special Stars- George Coulouris, Vera Day, Peter Wayn, Joyce Gregg, Jimmy Vaughn.
*Theme- Wanting to re-animate the dead has its problems.
*Trivia/location/goofs- British. Soft sex-ploitation, where film male roles are vicious, misogynist jerks. To review another killer/monster tree from the Amazon, view 'From Hell it Came'.
*Emotion- An odd combination of horror and sexual exploitation elements contains in this film with an very obvious exploitation title. Every lead role of the film is harshly presented in gross extremes. The villains are very unlikeable and the victims are very innocent. With the roles that heavily defined and presented there are many times the viewer will find this film to be campy or laughable in the wrong plot points. This film became unbelievable and very comic-book from the beginning for me and so I found it more humorous that scary. I'm not sure that response is what the producers wished from their audience.
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