The British answer to 1957’s From Hell It Came was The Woman Eater, made one year later. “See the nerve shattering Dance of Death!” the poster promises. I must’ve missed that scene or maybe my nerves aren’t that prone to shattering that easily every time someone bangs a tune on the bongos. The poster also promises the tree’s “hideous arms” devour “the beauties of two continents”, another thing you don’t really get to see in the film. For a scene where we’d actually see a woman disappear into a tree would imply a larger budget than this film must’ve had. Not that The Woman Eater is in any way as bad as From Hell It Came (told you earlier this week it would become a standard). Even though the basic idea is equally ludicrous: here we may not have a walking tree, but it’s a tree that has women for lunch or dinner. How this was actually discovered we’ll never find out, but the core idea is that someone bangs the drums until a woman is in some sort of a trance and she’s ready to be thrown inside the tree, which is basically standing there with waving arms. Well, at least it doesn’t walk.
There are a couple of reasons why The Woman Eater isn’t as crappy as From Hell It Came: the actors are visibly better (no fake Australian here) and the writer allowed its characters to have some form of depth. Sure, the idea of a tree that feasts on women makes no sense at all and there are more plot tricks that seem to make little sense. I found it ridiculous how one explorer tried to save the poor woman about to be the tree’s dinner and was viciously killed by the tribe (who don’t have a problem with everyone else looking at the offering). I also didn’t buy the fact that suddenly we were five years later and back in England, where one of the explorers Dr. Moran (George Coulouris) had managed to have the same tree (or part of it) waiting in his basement. But there is detail in that the characters have some background: the writer managed to include a housekeeper who’s in love with Dr. Moran, there’s a storyline that explains how Sally (Vera Day) ended up in Moran’s house… many of them are just details but all in all this helps you to go along with The Woman Eater‘s wacky idea of a woman-eating tree. I did have problems with Moran’s reasoning this tree could help him to bring the dead back to life (not to create an army of zombies, just to make everyone live eternally), but if you can get by the notion of a tree residing in someone’s basement, devouring the occasional victim, it’s not too much of a problem.
Brandon Fleming was the man behind the story and screenplay of The Woman Eater. He only wrote a handful of movies, including There’s Always A Saturday, another movie where he teamed up with director Charles Saunders. Saunders has a slightly more productive career in cinema, directing over 30 movies (as well as a couple of episodes of tv shows), from drama (Fly Away Peter) over thrillers (Kill Her Gently) to nudist movies (Nudist Paradise), but not a lot of them can be classified as well-known. In fact, The Woman Eater (or Womaneater as it was originally known) may be the film for which he’s most remembered. While that may not be a blessing, at least Womeneater is entertaining enough to be a guilty pleasure.
Two clips to end this review. First here’s the trailer:
And now a scene where the tree is fed his dinner. Bon appetit!
P.S. The Region 0 release by Image Entertainment shows the film in its original 1.66:1 ratio. The print shows a bit of wear from time to time, but overall it’s more than good enough for you to enjoy this exceptional feature.