The Astounding She-Monster

The Astounding She-Monster (1958)
Image Entertainment
Cast: Robert Clarke, Kenne Duncan, Shirley Kilpatrick, Marilyn Harvey
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Liner notes

Ronnie Ashcroft’s dreadful calling card to the cinema begins as a heist caper, with the abduction of a prominent socialite. The kidnappers almost reach freedom when they encounter the glowing She-Monster on a deserted (what else?) highway. Smashing their car, the criminals and their ’loot’ wander through the woods (all the time the insipid narration ’delving’ into everyone’s feelings), eventually finding the cabin of a geologist (Robert Clarke, playing scientist with his Mr. Wizard chemistry set). As the criminals ponder their next move and the captives wait for a chance to escape, the space siren closes in to make her mysterious purpose known to all Earth’s inhabitants.

Bone-headed dialogue, brittle acting that matches the balsa-wood sets and special effects that are neither special nor affect are but a few of the bad cinema cliches that define this ’magnum dopus.’ What is the worst thing a first-time director can do? Ask advice from the worst director ever. According to the liner notes, Ashcroft sought pointers from Edward D. Wood, Jr., infamous perpetrator of ’Plan 9 From Outer Space’ and ’Glen and Glenda.’ Continuity errors abound like the two-shot of a car passing by, filmed at different times of the day or the lit match representing a spaceship. Not even the evident charms of Ms. Kilpatrick, who essays the titular character, can save this grade-Z film.

The fullscreen transfer does what it can under the circumstances. Varying in quality, some scenes offer sharp detail delineation and decent gray scale, while others suffer contrast levels so low that details melt into a silvery blur (the chintzy ’glow’ effects notwithstanding). The source is plagued with film grain, speckling and scratches, which I normally take into account with DVDs from ’50s B-movies, but here the blemishes far from enhance the nostalgia effect. Black levels are adequate but inconsistent.

The mono audio similarly labors under appalling conditions. The confused, congested sound mix literally and frequently ’pits’ dialogue against sound effects and music cues. Reproducing the atrocious soundtrack under the unforgiving ear of Dolby Digital, the result is audio as confused as the visuals.
Schlock cinema buffs might get a charge out of rediscovering ’The Astounding She Monster.’ Not exactly the trip down memory lane I had hoped for, but someone might watch this DVD and see the possibilities for a remake or update, albeit under more professional circumstances.