The Wasp Woman
Fort Massacre
Machine-Gun Kelly
The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage To the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent
War of the Satellites
Carnival Rock
Sorority Girl
Ride Clear of Diablo
The Battle at Apache Pass
The Duel at Silver Creek
Son of Ali Baba
The Enforcer
Flame of Araby
The Prince Who Was a Thief
On the Isle of Samoa
Kiss of Death




Susan Cabot was born in Boston and raised in a series of eight foster homes. She attended high school in Manhattan, where she took an interest in dramatics and joined the school dramatic club. Later, while trying to decide between a career in music or art, she illustrated children's books during the day and sang at Manhattan's Village Barn at night. It was at this same time that she made her film debut as an extra in Fox's New York-made Kiss of Death (1947) and worked in New York-based television. Cabot soon found herself signed to an exclusive contract with Universal, but later asked to be released from the pact when the sameness of her roles in various westerns and Arabian Nights films became more than she could bear. After a brief stint on Broadway, she was once more lured to Hollywood by producer Roger Corman, and set about making the films for which she is best remembered today.

TOM WEAVER: How did working in these Roger Corman films compare to working at Universal?

SUSAN CABOT: "Totally mad. It was like a European movie -- I mean, we'd have some sort of a script, but there was a lot of, 'Who's going to say what?' and 'How 'bout I do this?' -- plenty of ad-libbing and improvising. But Roger was really great in a way; he was very loose. If something didn't work out, he changed it [snap of the fingers], right away. He gave me a lot of freedom, and also a chance to play parts that Universal would never have given me. Oddball, wacko parts, like the very disturbed girl in Sorority Girl (1957) and things like that. I had a chance to do moments and scenes that I didn't get before.

"Although Roger was -- I suppose still is -- some kind of maverick, he's very bright and fast-thinking. He treated a lot of us shabbily in ways, and I'm sure we were asked to do things above and beyond what a major studio might have asked. But we all wanted the pictures to work, so we just pressed on."

Q: Did you enjoy playing villainous roles in Viking Women and the Sea Serpent, Sorority Girl and Machine-Gun Kelly?

SUSAN: "I loved it from the standpoint of their being a challenge, but it was very hard for me to play an unfeeling character -- to do or say something cruel to another person, not feeling it in my bones or in my heart, and know that that other person is suffering. I've been victimized by people like that, and it hurts."

Q: How did you enjoy working with the Corman stock company?

SUSAN: "I enjoyed our group -- I think we had a super bunch, good talents. Barboura Morris was a lovely actress, a very sweet lady and a nice friend -- but she always seemed very sad to me. I'm sorry she's gone. Dick Miller was a nice guy, very cooperative; Richard Devon, an excellent actor; I loved Ed Nelson. Everybody worked hard, we worked spontaneously, we interplayed with each other -- we had a real good group."

Q: Gene Corman had bit parts in Machine-Gun Kelly and The Wasp Woman. Did you get to know him well?

SUSAN: "Gene was a lovely person and a fine man, and I respect his work. I liked Gene very much; he seemed the antithesis of Roger. Gene was a very low-key, gentle man; Roger seemed a driven man. Roger wanted to accomplish a lot, he had to have a lot of drive to do it, and he pushed through. He not only pushed through, he punched through! With a lot of energy -- and a lot of disregard, at times."

Q: Did you and Roger date?

SUSAN: "We had a few dinners, yes. And argued about the treatment of our fellow actors. Having a social conscience -- me, that is, I don't know about Roger -- and being, I think, the only one he had signed under personal contract, I felt like a mother hen, and thought perhaps I could influence him to take it easy on the actors. Everybody wanted to please him, to make the pictures a success -- but when he'd disregard somebody's safety I'd get real mad. And so we would argue a lot about that."

Q: What would his comeback be?

SUSAN: "'Oh, don't be so sensitive. We're just making a movie, don't take it so seriously.' Things like that. But I have to say one thing about Roger: When Sandy Meisner, who is a very respected acting teacher, came out here, many years ago, Roger began to go to his classes to learn how actors act and think and how they work things out. So I had to hand it to him -- he was really trying to improve himself and develop, and see things from the actor's point of view. When a director does that, he becomes a better director."

Q: What can you tell us about The Wasp Woman?

SUSAN: "That was a lot of fun and a real challenge. In that film I played Janice Starlin, a character who, through injections of wasp enzymes, goes from a woman of forty to a woman of twenty-two. I had to play two roles differently. Older people usually move and speak more slowly, and I just used a slower pace, a more considered way of thinking for the 'old' Janice. Acting spontaneously, full of life, doing things off-the-top -- that was how I played the 'young' Janice. Since I'm small -- I'm 5'2" -- another challenge was figuring out a way to attack 6'4" men and make it look credible. The only way I felt I could convincingly down a bigger person was through swiftness -- by coming at them so fast, like a bolt of lightning, and staying right on target. It worked."

Q: So you did all of your own stunts in the film?

SUSAN: Every bit of running, jumping, tackling, fighting and falling you see in that film, I did myself. One thing I remember in particular was that, as I attacked each character, I was supposed to bite their necks and draw blood. As I pierced the neck, to get the drama of the moment Roger wanted to see the blood. And so as I attacked everybody, I had Hershey's chocolate in my mouth -- which I proceeded to blurp, right on people's necks. What we did for Roger Corman -- I mean, things that you could never do in a real studio but you did for this guy. Everything seemed unreal with him.

Q: Your best scene as The Wasp Woman came at the very end of the film.

SUSAN: "Well, after I'd done all those ghastly things I had to get my lumps at the end, right? That's a story in itself: The whole finale was going to be done in one shot -- one shot! -- and if anybody goofed, it stayed goofed. The hero would burst into the lab where I was lurking, and the fight would begin. We'd battle with a stool, back and forth, then somebody would throw a bottle of 'acid' at me. After the bottle hit, I was supposed to duck out of camera range for just a few seconds while the prop man put liquid smoke on my antennae -- the smoke showed the effects of the 'acid.' Then I had to go out through a window backwards. We started shooting the scene --Anthony Eisley discovers me in the lab, the fight begins, the stool, everything. Then they threw the bottle -- which was supposed to be a breakaway bottle. Well, things started happening at that moment. Somebody had filled the bloody thing with water, and it hit like a rock. I thought my lower teeth came up through my nose. When you saw me hiding my face in that shot, it was because I was hurt very badly. But I continued to go through the scene! Out of camera range, the prop man put the liquid smoke on my antennae -- too much liquid smoke! I went crashing backwards out the window, and two men caught me on the other side. I started choking on the liquid smoke, but I couldn't tell them! The mask did not have a mouth -- it only had two little nostrils and two globular eyes, and it was glued very tightly all around my neck. The smoke was going in the nostrils, and there was no place for it to go out. I was clawing and scratching but I couldn't talk! At last somebody got the message and poured water on me. I had to tear part of the mask off in order to breathe, and when I did I tore away some of my own skin. That left a big purple bruise on my neck for a very long time. Did Roger do anything? Did Roger send me flowers? What year is it now?"

Q: What made you decide to quit Hollywood after 1959?

SUSAN: "I felt that I had more within me to explore, as a music and art major and as a person. And the way my film career was headed, I didn't feel that that was going to offer me a way to develop any more, except on a very superficial level. I mean, how many Wasp Womans can you do?"

On December 10, 1986, Susan Cabot, 59, was bashed to death with a weight-lifting bar by her own son Timothy in the bedroom of her Encino home. In typical modern-courtroom style, the victim became the accused: The defense said that Tim was an emotional wreck because Cabot was an overprotective, disturbed mother, and because their home was filled with such "massive filth and decay" that the conditions constituted child abuse. ("Child" Timothy was 22 when he caved in his mom's head.) None of the above was even faintly evident to this frequent visitor to the Cabot home, but there was also some legalese double-talk about steroids and an experimental hormone the kid was taking (he was born dwarfed), defense arguments that conjured up images of Cabot as Sunset Blvd.'s Norma Desmond, and even published accounts which made Tim the love child of Cabot and either actor Christopher Jones or Jordan's King Hussein. By the time all the hot air cleared from the courtroom, Timothy Scott Roman received a three-year suspended sentence and was placed on probation.

Tom Weaver is the author of Science Fiction and Fantasy Film Flashbacks, Attack of the Monster Movie Makers and many others available from McFarland & Co.

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