Dr Zinthrop (Michael Mark) is a scientist with a special interest in insects, and more specifically wasps. Today he is out scouting for wasps' nests, and finds one in a tree which he takes down, after stunning the inhabitants with gas, and places in a carrying box. When he reaches the bee hives where he has been contracted to do work on the bees, his boss isn't happy with what he has brought with him. After trying to explain that the medicinal properties of bees' royal jelly is not as powerful as that of the queen wasp, Dr Zinthrop is sacked regardless and has to take his research elsewhere. So where does he go? To the cosmetics industry of course.
Possibly director Roger Corman's female answer to the bigger budget hit The Fly, The Wasp Woman takes a while to bring on its monster, and is less of a straight mad science story than its inspiration, even if both need the services a huge rolled up newspaper. If you're feeling pretentious, it can also be seen as an examination of how difficult it is for women to hold onto top positions in the world of big business, as our heroine Janice Starlin (Susan Cabot) finds out when, as the head of one of those cosmetics companies, she discovers that age is catching up with her. This has led her to step down as the face of her products, and the company is now failing financially.
They need a new product on the market, and her board meeting suggests that Janice should look into appearing in their advertising once more, so as luck would have it, Dr Zinthrop is pitching his ideas around town. His grand notion is that the wasps' royal jelly can be used for rejuvenating purposes, which he demonstrates in an unlikely scene where he knocks years off two guinea pigs - and apparently turns them into rats as well, the special effects crew presumably unable to find a suitably youthful looking guinea pig as a stand-in.
"Bingo!" thinks Janice and gives Dr Zinthrop the job of a one man research department in the Starlin building, but she keeps his endeavours a secret from the board. The office life depicted here is not one of cut throat capitalism but rather a supportive environment, with our hero Bill Lane (Anthony Eisley) and our replacement heroine once Janice goes a bit mad Mary Dennison (Barboura Morris) the most visible. Indeed, Janice herself is not painted as some superbitch by Leo Gordon's script (from Kinta Zertuche's story), but a sympathetic character whose efforts to keep her business bouyant lead to her tragic downfall.
As it is, Janice is keen to try out the new serum on herself and Dr Zinthrop obliges; it doesn't show much difference at first, but after a few weeks it has worked wonders and she is raring to start the new campaign. Unfortunately, as anyone can tell you, wasps are not humanity's friends, and as the quick natural history lesson earlier on has pointed out, a queen wasp is dangerous and carnivorous. We also learn they eat their mates, an interesting angle that goes unexplored as Janice has no hint of a love life. The makeup that Cabot wears when she transforms is wisely kept in the shadows, but we see enough to to know that she's in a bad way - but not as bad as her victims. Mention of the film Dr Cyclops by Janice's secretary (Lynn Cartwright) alludes to the film makers' amibitions, but The Wasp Woman is otherwise pretty limited all the way, both in effects and suspense. Music by Fred Katz.