I'm your fire!
What's your desire?
A team of seasoned astronauts, lead by Captain Neal Patterson (Rawhide's Eric Fleming), is ferrying Professor Konrad (Paul Birch) to the space station he designed. No sweat, right? Well, maybe if a mysterious ray hadn't just blown the station to smithereens, snuffing out the lives of untold hundreds of scientists and crew members. Worse still, whoever or whatever fired that ray beam is aiming it perilously close to their ship.
Whisked away at who knows how many hundreds of miles a second, the ship crashes on an unrecognizable alien world. The professor theorizes that they're on Venus, but...wait, it's supposed to have a surface temperature approaching some 870 degrees. How is it snowing? With that impenetrable cloud cover, how can the planet sustain such lush vegetation? And, oh, no one at Mission Command said anything about a Venetian monarchy populated entirely by women in proto-Star Trek skirts.
Masked, maniacal Queen Yllana (Laurie Mitchell; Missile to the Moon) isn't falling for their ruse. Surely this was all a reconnaissance mission to assess Venus' military might prior to a full invasion. Confess! Confess!
Thankfully, not all Venetians are under this despot's sway. Secretly mounting a rebellion is brilliant scientist Talleah (Zsa Zsa Gabor), and she and her most trusted allies have vowed to save the Earthmen from the grisly fate that awaits them. Then again, if Yllana has her way, there won't be an Earth for them to return to.
Even though I was first introduced to Queen of Outer Space decades ago, I didn't realize until today that it was penned by Charles Beaumont – the man behind many of the most beloved episodes of The Twilight Zone – and maybe Academy Award-winning writer Ben Hecht (Notorious; Kiss of Death). That sort of pedigree is easy to miss watching a movie this unapologetically campy. Queen of Outer Space lobs out one cornball joke after another, to the point where it's as much a comedy as it is an outer space adventure.
It's also jaw-droppingly sexist, although that does cut both ways to some extent. Yllana is a misandrist whose forces were able to overtake Venus' men because they were never viewed as a serious threat. But, y'know, at the end of the day, the women of Venus just want to be loved by men, and Captain Patterson and company just want to ::ahemCOUGHLooney Tunes wolf howl, maybe punctuated by an "aaoooga!"::.
There's no more depth or nuance here than any other flick in the "astronauts stranded on an alien world consisting solely of beautiful women" sub-sub-sub-genre that had a surprisingly strong foothold in theaters back in the '50s. Its message at the end of the day is "women can't be happy without men", which isn't just subtext but is literally a line of dialogue delivered at the end. What passes for special effects includes wiggling a model spaceship on a wire while a fan blows confetti or something towards it. Its take on suspense generally involves a handful of characters ducking behind a corner or inside a closet. And hey, remember that line in Forbidden Planet where Morbius sneers that "you'll find the household silver in the dining room and my daughter's jewelry on her dressing table"? I guess one of Queen from Outer Space's production designers followed those directions because:
The ray guns, the uniforms, even Altaira's dress that's the loveliest, softest thing Robby the Robot had ever made for her...! Forbidden Planet is far from the only sci-fi classic from which Queen of Outer Space plunders, but those sorts of Easter eggs are all part of the fun. And, of course, "fun" is the operative word here. Queen of Outer Space may not be good in the sense of...yeah, but its campy, slapdash charms haven't diminished in the slightest on this, its sixtieth (!) anniversary.
Queen of Outer Space is part of Warner Archive's September wave of off-beat genre cinema, which also includes The Cyclops, Looker, and The Swarm. While you'll never find any lasting meaning in your life if you limit yourself to just one of those, if you do find yourself in such a precarious position, your best bet is always the one starring Zsa Zsa Gabor. Highly Recommended if you're cursed with the same wonderfully terrible taste in movies that I have.
Queen of Outer Space is...hmmm, what's the word I'm looking for?
Oh, right! A knockout. This newly-remastered presentation is nothing short of spectacular. Its filmic sheen is rendered beautifully, steering clear of any compression artifacts and showing no signs of heavy-handed noise reduction. The presentation is immaculate, devoid of any wear or damage whatsoever. Beyond being so crisp and sumptuously detailed, Queen of Outer Space boasts an unbelievably gorgeous palette. I could keep rambling on, but you know that whole thing about pictures, thousands of words, and all that:
There is some anamorphic distortion, of course:
Queen of Outer Space takes what looks like 1.37:1 footage of an Atlas A rocket launch and squashes it to 'scope, which isn't terribly convincing:
Some posterization is briefly visible in one early shot, but that's the only issue anywhere remotely along those lines that I could spot:
But hey, those are observations, not complaints. Queen of Outer Space has been given the same white glove treatment that Warner Archive lavishes upon everything they bring to Blu-ray, and the end result is as perfect as I could hope to see.
As if you couldn't tell from the dozens of screenshots scattered throughout this review, Queen of Outer Space is presented at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Despite the film's lean runtime and limited video-based extras, Warner Archive ensures that the AVC encode is given all the headroom it needs with a dual-layer disc.
Presented in two-channel mono, Queen of Outer Space's 24-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is more than respectable. The background noise that's present is too light to distract, and no overt flaws like pops or dropouts ever once rear their pesky little heads. The film's dialogue shows its age but is reasonably clean and clear:
Eric Fleming's baritone line readings in particular are wonderfully bassy and full-bodied. The score by Marlin Skiles score comes through well, and while it doesn't embrace electronic tonalities the way Forbidden Planet does, the filter sweep representing Queen Yllana's digital bloodhound still sounds phenomenal after all these decades. Though less astonishing than the visual end of Queen of Outer Space's presentation, I can't imagine anyone being the least bit disappointed with what Warner Archive has delivered here.
Also included are an audio commentary (lossless as well because...why not?) and a set of optional English (SDH) subtitles.
Not that this has anything to do with bonus features, exactly, but I do want to point out how much I adore the menu design, showcasing the original six-sheet for Queen of Outer Space – complete with fold lines!
The Final Word
Sing it, sister!
I've been waiting for Queen of Outer Space to Bochino! Bochino! to Blu-ray for more than a decade now. Warner Archive has made sure this disc is well-worth the wait. Showcasing a top-shelf presentation and a marvelous audio commentary, Queen of Outer Space is a borderline-essential purchase for schlock cinema fanatics. Highly Recommended.