Thu 3 Oct 2013
THE WOMAN EATER. Eros Films, UK, 1958; Columbia Pictures, US, 1959. George Coulouris, Vera Day, Peter Wayn, Joyce Gregg, Joy Webster, Jimmy Vaughn. Director: Charles Saunders.
The Woman Eater is the risible title of a remarkable little film which no doubt inspired (if inspiration had anything to do with it) the better-known Little Shop of Horrors (1960).
George Coulouris, best remembered as young Charles’ guardian in Citizen Kane, here plays an intrepid explorer/scientist, and tries hard not to look embarrassed as he journeys deep into the Amazon Jungle where he sees a lot of stock footage and Marpessa Dawn (who would go on to Black Orpheus) being sacrificed to a giant thing that looks like a cross between a hairy Muppet and Mr. Tree — truly one of the most unintentionally amusing monsters of the 50s, and one you should not miss.
Five years later (a title tells us) he’s back in England with the plant and a cringing native catamite/assistant called Tanga, convinced that the tree secretes a sap that will revive the dead. Of course to get the sap he has to sacrifice young women to the damn thing, so it seems like a zero-sum game to me, but hey, he’s a scientist I’m sure he must think he knows what he’s doing.
At one point he tests things out by injecting the sap into what looks like a giant chicken heart, which makes one question his priorities, but it doesn’t work and that’s the last we see of the giant chicken heart, which is rather a shame because I thought it was a good part, even if we never learn exactly what it was, where it came from or why. Obviously a film to challenge us with existential questions about the meaning of it all.
Anyway, the story gets a little strange at this point, as George’s housekeeper says she’s madly in love with him (with George Coulouris???) the young heroine recently employed by George insists there’s something evil in the house (even though they forgot to shoot any scenes of her hearing strange noises or such) and George announces he’s madly in love with the heroine, whom he met the day before. We get the usual climactic conflagration, and all ends, if not well, at least promptly in a film worthy to stand beside classics like Jungle Captive and The Spider Woman Strikes Back.
As Walt Kelly used to say: it’s enough to make a man think.