Friday, March 14, 2008


Science delves once again in places it shouldn't, this time with reanimating the dead (duh, why else would it be here?), in THE WOMAN EATER--or WOMANEATER, if you go by the onscreen title card--a 1957 programmer from director Charles Saunders. As is usually the case in mad-scientist flicks, a terrible price is paid for one's meddling but this time around it's the audience who pays it.

George Coulouris plays Dr. Moran, a stuffy British scientist who discovers the secret of restoring life to the dead whilst on a trip to Africa (or rather, a stagebound jungle set rife with stock animal footage). The secret is the extract from a malevolent tree who feeds on the bodies of sacrificial virgins, a B-monster marvel with floppy limbs and Audrey Jr-like appendages which gets precious little screen time. Moran brings the tree, along with a native manservant (Jimmy Vaughan) in tow, to his laboratory in England, where he begins his death-defying experiments. Or, more accurately, engages in multiple conversations drier than day-old toast, stretching the meager 70-minute running time to the breaking point.

Even by potboiler standards it's boring as hell, crawling along with the same urgency as a drunken snail. Laboratory scenes take a backseat to forced melodrama, and even when we are privy to Moran's experiments it's as interminable as the rest, usually a slooooow shot of liquid coursing through a network of tubes. Oooh, fascinating stuff, Doc. Moran finally puts his theory to the test, reviving the body of Joyce Gregg a whopping two minutes before the film's end; even then, all she does is putter around, sort of like my grandma did when she couldn't remember which cupboard had the cookie sheets, before dropping to the ground. Egads, the horrible toll science demands!

THE WOMAN EATER couldn't even muster a little poetic justice for Moran. The living dead doesn't punish his hubris, nor does he end up a midnight snack for the plant. Want me to give it away, and save you an hour and change of your life? Moran torches the tree--the secret wasn't for him to know, you see, that's reserved for the stereotypical savage native to understand--before Vaughan takes him out with a handy knife trick. Oh, and Vaughn then joins himself in the flames consuming the tree, because nobody hates loose plot threads more than an insensitively-drawn, one-dimensional villain.

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