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  Womaneater Gardeners' Question Crime
Year: 1958
Director: Charles Saunders
Stars: George Coulouris, Vera Day, Peter Wayn, Joyce Gregg, Sarah Leighton, Jimmy Vaughn, Edward Higgins, Norman Claridge, Robert Mackenzie, Marpessa Dawn, Harry Ross, Joy Webster, John A. Tinn, Alexander Field, David Lawton
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Doctor Moran (George Coulouris) has a proposal for those who attend his gentlemen’s club, he wishes to head off on an expedition to South America to seek out a tribe descended from the Incas, and discover their secrets that could be useful – and lucrative – in the developed world. He persuades one chap to accompany him, and the next week they are beating their way through the foliage in search of the natives, but just as it seems Moran will have to give up, they hear drumming and stumble into a clearing where a human sacrifice is about to be conducted. The party stares on aghast, but the hotheaded new chap barges out to try and stop it, then gets a spear in his chest, leaving the others to witness the ceremony where the victim (Marpessa Dawn) is fed to a giant, carnivorous plant…

Marpessa Dawn was the female lead in the arthouse cult classic Black Orpheus, but she was a long way from Brazil when she showed up briefly to be consumed by one of the rattiest killer tree effects ever witnessed on the big screen, and that includes the one in Please Don’t Eat My Mother. Really, in a low budget B movie of the horror stripe it should have been the sole reason for enthusiasts to watch, but the production had a bonus in star Coulouris, who had been in Citizen Kane as part of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre company during the previous decade, and had gone on to headline his own movie here. That may sound more prestigious than it is, for Womaneater (also simply called The Woman Eater to destroy the novelty of the sort of pun on maneater for some reason) was a deeply tatty affair that Coulouris nevertheless brightened up with his dedicated performance as a mad scientist.

Yes, there were still nineteen-thirties-style mad scientists around in the fifties, and Dr Moran was one of those, transporting the plant back to his English stately home lair (quite how he managed to (a) convince the tribe to give it up or (b) actually work out the travel plans for such a delivery are left unexplored). This was more horror than science fiction, and curiously looked forward to Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom in that Moran stalks the streets seeking victims for his experiments, all of whom just have to be attractive young women because, um, well they just have to, OK? In this way we can see the mad doctor was suppressing something in his libido that can only be unleashed by watching young ladies devoured by the flora in his basement, or rather embraced by the blokes working its arms who are standing behind the model and frankly fooling nobody – gory this was not, nor was it especially chilling.

It perhaps said more about the filmmakers than they intended with regard to their view of women, as if this has been concocted by a bunch of seriously sexually frustrated middle-aged males (look at that title, for a start), and only contributing to that was the treatment of Dr Moran’s housekeeper and ex-lover Margaret (Joyce Gregg) who still carries a torch for him, but is the sole object of horror for the madman to think that he might be desired by somebody over the age of thirty. More his preference is the pneumatic Vera Day, a popular pin-up of the era who is our leading lady, though not after another candidate, Sarah Leighton (who became a famed painter and advocate of giving up votes for women), is out of the way and suitably digested. Vera’s Sally already has a boyfriend, mechanic Jack (Peter Wayn), who we imagine will ride to the rescue come the finale, particularly as few are going to be impressed with the serum the doc is manufacturing to bring back the dead and therefore make his fortune. Throw in Jimmy Vaughn as a loincloth-sporting, native manservant who withholds an item of information you might have thought salient to mention earlier, and you had a singleminded and obliviously ridiculous experience. Music by Edwin Astley.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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