The Woman Eater [DVD] [1957]

Charles Sanders' The Womaneater (1957) comes to DVD courtesy of Image Entertainment and Gordon Films, mastered from a print from Columbia Pictures' archives. The merits (or lack therein) of the movie aside, the disc's image recalls television showings from the mid-1960's, with perhaps somewhat greater sharpness -- the latter attribute works in the shots that have the detail and clarity to back it up; but in other shots, the increased clarity only highlights the flaws (including scratches, uneven light levels etc.) in the film materials -- whoever the telecine operator was for the film to video transfer, they appear to have tried a one-light transfer, which means there are glaring discrepancies from shot-to-shot within the same scene; those errors are doubly astounding, considering that the disc's producers also went to the trouble of masking this image to the valid theatrical aspect ratio of 1.66-to-1, and programmed a generous 16 chapters for a 71 minute feature. Then again, that fits with the bizarre inconsistencies of the movie itself. The plot is almost -- but not quite -- incoherent, and the action and story arc are so haphazardly assembled as to require a character to utter a line of explanation (to no one in particular on screen) every few minutes. But the producers also thought to engage George Coulouris, a distinguished British actor, as the lead. And the nearly inccomrehensible plot elements surrounds genuinely grisly scenes in which Coulouris's scientist is seen nurturing the pulsating "heart" of the title creature, a rather large plant. What's more, somewhere in the middle of this mess, which Coulouris does his best to make more within his scenes, is Marpessa Dawn, the enchanting actress who was later at the center of Marcel Camus's Black Orpheus. The disc does as much as it can with the variable elements at hand, and the makers can be forgiven for some weaknesses, except for the extremely low volume, which required this reviewer to double his normal setting just to get a decent level on playback, an even more astounding requirement given that Edwin Astley's music score blasts its horns and brass at every even slightly suspenseful on-screen event. The movie starts up automatically with the disc, and a simple four-panel menu, rather cleverly designed and offering access to each chapter, can be called up manually.
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The Woman Eater
Dr. James Moran (George Coulouris) is a scientist whose goals are beyond the pale of established medical science. While on an expedition to a remote part of the Amazon jungles, he encounters a huge plant being worshipped by a mysterious race descended from the Incas -- a plant that feeds off of women, devouring them almost like a giant Venus flytrap, and which also generates a fluid that can bring the dead back to life. Five years later, Moran has moved the plant into a laboratory in his basement, complete with a member of the tribe of worshipers who is capable of caring for it, and begins to experiment with it -- but he must find women to feed to it. Moran believes that using his scientific approach, the plant's sap will not only reanimate the dead, but could give its recipients immortality. He proceeds with his experiments despite the inquiries of the police, who are investigating the disappearances of several young women. He adds to the inevitable complications of his deceit when he brings in a pretty local girl (Vera Day) to assist his middle-aged housekeeper (Joyce Gregg), evoking deep and ultimately murderous jealousy from the older woman, who loves the doctor and also hasn't a clue as to what he's been up to in the basement laboratory, which is always locked. He's forced to kill her, and she becomes the object of his first serum experiment -- but she returns to life as a mindless zombie, and Moran realizes that all of his work, and the murders he's committed, have been for nothing. He recognizes that he has a monstrosity in his home, but it's still protected by that tribesman, who cares about nothing except the good of the plant. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • George Coulouris
    George Coulouris - Dr. James Moran
  • Image coming soon
    Robert MacKenzie - Lewis Carling
  • Image coming soon
    Vera Day - Sally
  • Image coming soon
    Norman Claridge - Dr. Patterson
  • Marpessa Dawn
    Marpessa Dawn - Native Girl
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