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Roger Corman's 'Wasp Woman' Screens With Live Science Commentary

Poster art for the 1959 cult classic sci-fi B movie "The Wasp Woman," about a woman who tries to come up with a beauty product to stay young.
The Film Group
Poster art for the 1959 cult classic sci-fi B movie "The Wasp Woman," about a woman who tries to come up with a beauty product to stay young.

TheNAT's entomologist Dr. Michael Wall provides science fact behind the fiction

Roger Corman’s ‘Wasp Woman’ Screens With Live Science Commentary
GUESTS: Michael Wall, curator of entomology, theNAT Beth Accomando, blogger and podcaster, KPBS Cinema Junkie

THE BALLPARKS COMES ALIVE AFTER FIVE WITH EXTENDED HOURS AT PARTICIPATING MUSEUMS INCLUDING THE NAT. THIS FRIDAY, CURATOR OF ENTOMOLOGY WILL BE SCREENING 1959 MOVIE WASP WOMAN. PROVIDING LIFE COLOR COMMENTARY. WE TALKED TO HIM ABOUT THE EVENT AND SCIENCE GONE WRONG. THE 1950s WAS THIS BREEDING GROUND FOR SCIENCE FICTION WHERE IT'S SCIENCE GONE WRONG. WHAT LED TO THAT TREND IN THE SCIENCE FICTION GENRE AT THAT TIME? DURING THAT TIME, WE'RE IN THE ATOMIC ERA AND AGE SO THERE'S ALL THIS FEAR OF THE DESTRUCTION THAT SCIENCE COULD CAUSE AND POSSIBILITIES IT COULD BRING ABOUT. FEAR IN GENERAL OFTEN INSPIRES CREATIVITY IN SOME SORT OF WAY SO WE SAW A LOT OF MOVIES, PARTICULARLY ONES ABOUT RADIATION ON WRONG, CREATING HUGE CREATURES AND KILLER CREATURES AND OTHER FORMS OF SCIENCE TO SING IN A BAD PLACE. CITIES, NATIONS, EVEN CIVILIZATION ITSELF THREATENED WITH ANNIHILATION. BECAUSE IN ONE MOMENT OF HISTORY MAKING ROUNDS, MAJOR RAN RAMPANT WROUGHT ITS MOST AWESOME CREATION OF THINGS SO TERRIFYING, SO HIDEOUS, THERE IS NO WORD TO DESCRIBE THEM. WE MAY BE MRS. TO A DIFFICULT PROPHECY COME TRUE DISCUSSION -- DESTRUCTION AND DARKNESS AND THE BEASTS WILL REIGN OVER THE EARTH. THESE FILMS ARE SIGNS GET TWISTED AND THE CLASSIC BE MOVIE. WASP WOMAN. I'M GOING TO PLAY A BIT OF THE TRAILER. A WOMAN OF FANTASTIC DESIRES, SPONSORING A SCIENTIST IS WITH FANTASTIC THEORIES AND DEMANDING FANTASTIC RESULTS. HOW OLD OLD TO I LOOK? 23? WHY DID YOU WANT TO SHOW WASP WOMAN AS AN ENTOMOLOGIST I LOVE ALL THESE SCI-FI B-MOVIE SAID HAVE ANY SORT OF BUGGY OR SPIDERY CONNOTATION. I LIKED THIS ONE BECAUSE CONTEMPORARILY THERE'S A LOT OF INTEREST DIFFERENT TYPES OF HEALTH PRODUCTS IN DIFFERENT WAYS IN WHICH NATURE CAN HELP US TO HER OUR WORDS OF AGING AND THINGS LIKE THAT. I THOUGHT IT WAS KIND OF TIMELY IS ALSO REALLY FUN AND ROTTEN SO IT'S ALL GOOD TO HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF FUN WITH. FROM THE QUEEN WASP, HOW MUCH WORLDLY COULD YOU GET? DISPOSE THAT MIGHT HAVE REJUVENATING EFFECTS OF A HUMAN BEING'S I WOULD STAY AWAY FROM WASPS EVERY. SOCIALLY THE QUEEN WASP IS ON A LEVEL WITH THE BACKWARD ASPIRE. THEY'RE BOTH CARNIVOROUS, THE PARALYZING VICTIMS AND TAKE THEIR TIME DEVOURING THEM ALIVE. THEY KILL THEIR MATES IN THE SAME WAY ALSO. STRICTLY A ONE-SIDED ROMANCE. YOU NOT TO SHOW THE SOVIET UNION WILL BE DOING THIS MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 WITH GABRIEL SCIENTISTS HECKLING THE FILM ABOUT THEIR SCIENCE UKAH WE MERGED POP-UP VIDEOS WITH MST 3K TO MAKE FUN OF THE SCIENCE AND INJECT POP-CULTURE INTO THE MOVIE. IT'S POKING FUN THAT WE TRY TO PROVIDE THE REAL SCIENCE BEHIND THE SCIENCE FICTION. THIS IS COMING FROM A PLACE OF AFFECTION FOR THE MOVIES ALSO. I'M A SUPER FAN OF ALL THE SORTS OF THINGS. I LOVED WATCHING THEM WHEN I WAS REALLY YOUNG. LOVE TO MISSY SAYS PETER WELLER'S KIDS -- LOVED MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE. BEEN A HUGE GIANT SCREEN WHICH WILL BE SHOWING THE ACTUAL WASP WOMAN FILM BUT DOWN BELOW THAT WE HAVE A SMALLER SCREEN WHERE WE WILL BE PUTTING UP THE TRIVIA AND LITTLE SCIENCE FACTS AND THINGS LIKE THAT. I'LL BE THERE AT THE BEGINNING WITH A BRIEF INTRODUCTION AND INTERJECTING COLOR COMMENTARY THROUGHOUT THE FILM. AT THE END WE'LL TALK MORE ABOUT THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE SCIENCE FICTION FOR THE HOW DO YOU FIND THESE MOVIES FOR ENGAGING IN AUDIENCE AND GIVING NEUROSCIENCE? I THINK IT'S A GOOD ENTRY POINT. POPULAR CULTURE IS A GOOD ENTRY POINT FOR EVERYTHING BECAUSE IT'S POPULAR BY ITS DEFINITION. TO TAKE THESE FILMS THAT ARE RETRO POP CULTURE AND USE THEM AS AN ENTRY POINT TO TEACH PEOPLE ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEES AND WASPS AND ALL THAT SORT OF STUFF IS A GREAT ENTRY POINT. YOU SPOKE BEFORE A FILM I SHOWED CALLED STAND. WASPS IN PARTICULAR ARE TERRIFYING. YES. THERE'S A HUGE DIVERSITY OF WASPS AND SOME ARE DOWNRIGHT CREEPY. THERE ARE ONES IN PARTICULAR THAT INSPIRED A LOT OF SCIENCE FICTION, PARASITIC WASPS. THEY LAY THEIR EGGS AND OTHER TYPES OF INSECTS AND THAT EGGS BURST OUT OF THE INSECT HOST. IN SPECIAL PROGRAMS LIKE ALIENS AND STUFF LIKE THAT. O GOD! O GOD! DON'T TOUCH IT! THERE'S A HUGE DIVERSITY OF WASPS, SOME ARE BENEFICIAL. THE MOST PART THEY ARE REALLY SCARY THEY DON'T HAVE A GOOD REPUTATION. AS A SCIENTIST YOU MUST SEE FIRSTHAND HOW THE REAL WORLD HAS SOME THINGS SCARIER THAN ANYTHING. HOLLYWOOD CAN COME UP WITH. THERE'S TONS OF INSPIRATION THAT HOLLYWOOD WRITERS FIND FROM THE REAL WORLD OF NATURE. PLENTY OF GROSS THINGS LIKE PARASITIC WASPS AND EVEN PLANTS CAN TALK TO ANOTHER. IT DIDN'T JUST HAPPEN IN THE HAPPENING, THEY CAN TALK TO EACH OTHER. I LOVE SCIENCE FICTION FILM BECAUSE EITHER I LIKE TAKING APART THE SCIENCE OR FINDING WHERE THEY FOUND THE EXPIRATION FOR MAJOR IN IT. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. WILL -- ZYCH FIVE SCREENS -- WASP WOMAN SCREENS THIS FRIDAY. AT THE NAT .

Roger Corman's 'Wasp Woman' Screens With Live Science Commentary
This summer, Balboa Park comes alive after five with extended hours at participating museums, including theNAT. On Friday, curator of entomology and pop culture fanatic Dr. Michael Wall will screen Roger Corman's 1959 B-movie "Wasp Woman" and provide commentary.

This summer, Balboa Park comes alive after five with extended hours at participating museums, including theNAT. Curator of entomology and pop culture fanatic Michael Wall will screen Roger Corman's 1959 B-movie "Wasp Woman" and provide commentary this Friday.

Once again, theNAT serves up a mash-up of pop-up videos and Mystery Science Theater 3000 as it presents a science-fiction film with trivia and live commentary by Wall.

"We kind of merged VH1’s old pop-up video with Mystery Science Theater to make fun of the science and to mix some contemporary pop culture into the movie so it’s a little bit of poking fun and the real science behind the science fiction," Wall said.

This Friday, you will find out if Janice Starlin (Susan Cabot) can really transform into a murderous wasp creature after applying experimental beauty creams as Wall presents "Wasp Woman."

Wall calls himself a "pop culture enthusiast."

"As an entomologist, I love all sci-fi B movies that have any sort of buggy, spidery connotations to them. And I like 'Wasp Woman' because even contemporarily there’s a lot of interest in different kinds of health products and the different ways that nature can cure our woes of aging, and so I thought it was kind of timely in a way but also just really fun and the science in it is pretty rotten," Wall said. "And so it’s all good to have a little bit of fun with."

And the fun comes entirely from a place of affection. Wall may be heckling the film and making fun of the bad science but he loves these movies and sees them as a means of getting real science to audiences.

"I think it’s a good entry point. I mean popular culture is a good entry point for everything because it’s by its definition popular. So to take these films that are retro pop culture and use them as an entry point to teach people a little bit about the difference between bees and wasps and all that sort of stuff is a great entry point," he said.

The science fiction films of the 1950s serve up a particularly rich sample of a particular strain of the genre: science gone wrong.

"During the 1950s, we’re in the atomic era. And there was all this fear of the destruction that science could cause and also the possibilities it could bring about," Wall said. "And so fear in general often inspires creativity in some circles and so we saw the movies, particularly one about radiation gone wrong and breeding huge creatures and killer creatures and stuff like that but also with other forms of science twisting in a bad way."

I was fortunate to have attended previous screenings that Wall has hosted including one he did for the film "Stung," all about giant wasps. And what I took away from his talk was that real wasps are pretty darn scary.

"Exactly!" Wall agreed. "There’s a huge diversity of wasps and some of them are downright creepy. There’s ones in particular that inspired a lot of science fictions that are parasitoids or parasitic wasps, they kind of lay their eggs into other types of insects and then eventually those eggs hatch and burst out of the insect host so very much in the inspiration of these aliens and things like that. But there’s a huge diversity of wasps. Some are beneficial — they pollenate figs and things like that but for the most part, a lot of them are pretty scary. They don’t have a good reputation."

The screening experience at theNAT is great.

“Wasp Woman” will play on a giant screen and a smaller screen below will feature pop-up videos with trivia and little science factoids. Wall will introduce the film and provide "live color commentary" throughout, and at the end he will be available for Q&A.

It is an incredibly fun and informative experience that I highly recommend.

“Wasp Woman” screens at 6 p.m., Friday at theNAT. You can also listen to Cinema Junkie Podcast Episode 15B for more with Wall about scary real-life bugs and the science fiction they inspire.

'Wasp Woman' Trailer