Monster women in the movies -- A look back at six classic demon femmes

By Ty Burr and Tim Purtell
Updated December 01, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

You don’t have to be a textbook Freudian to see the shape-shifting man-eater played by Natasha Henstridge in Species as a metaphor for male unease. Lessee, now: She’s a babe, she’s sexually aggressive, her desire to procreate overwhelms any consideration for her dates — why, she’s an alien who must be destroyed. It wouldn’t be the first time, as a quickie tour through six decades of movie demon women shows.

The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Fatal femme: A woman (Elsa Lanchester) cobbled together from spare parts to be a mate for a man-made man (Boris Karloff). What she does: Takes one look at Frankie and shrieks in horror. Moral: Even if you’ve made her from scratch, there’s just no predicting a woman.

Cat People (1942) Fatal femme: A descendant of a race of feline folk (Simone Simon) tries to overcome her bad breeding. What she does: Turns into a deadly black panther when sexually aroused. Moral: Female lust is lethal and must be repressed at all costs.

Attack Of The 50 Foot Woman (1958) Fatal femme: Nancy Archer (Allison Hayes), who grows to Gigantor proportions. What she does: Stomps around in skivvies, seeking revenge on husband and his mistress. Moral: A wife scorned is a much bigger deal than her husband might have expected.

Queen of Blood (1966) Fatal femme: An alien (Florence Marly) who’s rescued by an American spaceship turns out to be a hemophiliac vampire. What she does: Seduces, then kills, most of the crew. Moral: Beware of seemingly helpless women with beehive hairdos — they’ll bleed you dry.

Rabid (1977) Fatal femme: Rose (Marilyn Chambers), who has a weird phallic thingie under her armpit that sucks blood and transmits the rabies virus. What she does: Runs around Montreal infecting the entire population. Moral: There’s a fear of sex in Canada.

Lifeforce (1985) Fatal femme: A beautiful, buck-naked vampire from outer space (Mathilda May). What she does: Brings about Armageddon. Moral: Creature’s disdain for bras reflects success of feminist movement.