This is the story of two space females. One of them, in October 1957, kidnapped a Brazilian farmer named Antonio Villas-Boas and half-seduced, half-raped him twice before letting him go. The other appeared about six months later on the silver screen, and far more powerfully in a movie poster that, after more than half a century, still scorches the eyeballs.
She’s called “The Astounding She-Monster.”
There are two Astounding She-Monsters, actually, the one on the poster and the one in the movie itself. They bear only a distant resemblance to each other.
I made the acquaintance of both “monsters” thanks to the rich knowledge of Martin Kottmeyer, who was kind enough to share with me his files on the motif of the alien eye in science-fiction and the UFO tradition. These files included the poster She-Monster, who has, in cyclopean fashion, only one eye.
That eye, however, is a doozy.
The poster, the masterpiece of the gruesomely gifted Albert Kallis, appears to the right of these paragraphs. (As if you hadn’t already noticed.) It’s still worth quoting the description of it by Tim Lucas, in an article, “Close Encounters with the Astounding She Monster,” that appeared in 2010 in Video WatcHDog, #158:
” … a forceful evocation of female allure, exuding luxuriant unknowability and power. The design is dominated by the curvaceous shescape of the She Monster herself, encased in a star-studded leotard. The information her face might provide is withheld in mystery except for a single mascara-limned eye and arched brow. It seems to glow, that eye, from beneath a lioness mane of orange-yellow hair, burning forth between upheld forearms, her almost-meeting elbows held in precise parallel to a pair of perfectly defined breasts and ascending to a pair of remarkable hands–demonically manicured, flexing with ferocity and malice, their fingers splayed as if to astonish, or at least to astound.”
What flesh-and-blood actress could match such an image? Certainly not 1950s pinup girl Shirley Kilpatrick, playing the She-Monster in a skin-tight spandex costume.
You’ll notice that in the poster, the She-Monster’s single eye is tilted as far as possible toward the vertical, and located nearly on the axis running down between her breasts. It’s a textbook example of what the Freudians call “displacement upward.” Try turning the picture upside-down and imagining her elbows to be her knees; you’ll see what I mean.
(There’s already a “displacement upward” in the nude shot, of Playboy model Madeleine Castle, on which Kallis based his poster. As Lucas points out, the naked Madeleine is “airbrushed from the waist down”; the single eye takes the place of what, in the 1950s, couldn’t legally be shown. But, belonging to an actual human being, it couldn’t do so anywhere near as effectively as in Kallis’s art.)
EVIL … BEAUTIFUL … DEADLY … ! The She-Monster is deadly, all right. She’s radioactive–one touch from her and you die. (She does this first to a snake near the beginning of the movie; Freudians take note.) But she turns out to be about as “evil” as Aunt Bee in the “Andy Griffith Show.”
Seems she’s an emissary from a benevolent cosmic society called the “Council of Planets.” She’s been sent to invite the people of Earth to join that Council, and thus have the benefit of the other members’ wisdom in resolving our current “crisis and chaos.” Apparently she has at first no idea how dangerous she is to Earth creatures, and comes with the best intentions for us all, striking out only when attacked. The humans, however, don’t find this out until they’ve managed to destroy her.
So the Astounding She-Monster is not quite the first world savior to be murdered by the people she’s trying to help, who know not what they do but go ahead and do it anyway.
But enough about her. Let’s talk about the other space female of 1957-58, Antonio Villas-Boas’s abductress.
If, as I’ve claimed, the Betty and Barney Hill incident of 1961 was the world’s first UFO abduction, the Villas-Boas case deserves mention as a precursor. It has some odd parallels to the Hills’ experience, which, however they’re to be accounted for, can’t be explained as direct influence. Villas-Boas and his encounter with the spacewoman were practically unknown to English-speaking UFOlogy before 1965–an odd situation which Thomas E. Bullard attributes to “the sensational elements being too extreme for the era.” (Which tells us something about early 1960s UFOlogy, and the culture in which it was embedded.)
The details were published by Gordon Creighton in several issues of the British Flying Saucer Review in 1965-68, and in 1967 by Coral and Jim Lorenzen in their book Flying Saucer Occupants. The Lorenzens quote the full deposition given on February 22, 1958, in Rio de Janeiro, to the physician and UFOlogist Olavo Fontes:
“My name is Antonio Villas-Boas. I am twenty-three years old, and a farmer by profession. I live with my family on a farm which we own near the town of Sao Francisco de Salles, State of Minas Gerais, near the border with Sao Paulo State in Brazil. …
“All of us men work at the farm where we have many fields and plantations; we also own an International petrol tractor for plowing. When the time comes around for plowing we take turns with the tractor: During the daytime the work is done by two laborers who are paid for the job. At night it is usually I who work alone (so I sleep during the daytime) …”
Is it really possible to plow your fields by night? Do the tractor’s headlights give off sufficient illumination? This seems very odd to me, but what do I know? I’ve never been a Brazilian farmer.
Anyway, this would explain why, on the night of October 15, 1957, Villas-Boas was out plowing his fields.
“It was a cold night and the sky was very clear and starry. At exactly 1 A.M. I suddenly noticed a red star in the sky. … In a few moments it had grown into a very bright, egg-like object, flying toward me at a terrific rate of speed.”
The UFO landed; Villas-Boas tried vainly to flee; the engine of his tractor died. A “small figure … dressed in strange clothes” grabbed his arm. He pushed it away, “but at the same time I was attacked by three others, men, both from the sides and at the back.” (For reasons that aren’t completely clear, Villas-Boas assumed the “small figure” who first laid hold of him was the woman he’d later encounter.) The men held him fast, carried him onto the UFO.
“They stripped me naked, and I was again in anguish, not knowing what would happen next. One of the men … began to spread a liquid all over my skin. … As they began undressing me I had begun to shiver and now this liquid made me shiver all the more.”
They took him to a small room where was a large couch, and left him to wait. Eventually, in came a woman.
“She came in slowly, unhurriedly, perhaps a little amused at the amazement she saw written on my face. I stared open-mouthed, which is not surprising, for the woman was entirely naked, as naked as I was, and barefoot too. …
“Her hair was blond, nearly white (like hair dyed in peroxide)–it was smooth, not very thick, with a part in the center and she had big blue eyes, rather longer than round, for they slanted outward, like those pencil-drawn girls made to look like Arabian princesses, that look as if they were slit.”
But this woman’s strange eyes were real. There wasn’t any makeup.
Her nose was straight; her high cheekbones “made her face look very wide, wider than that of an Indio native,” but the face narrowed to a pointed chin. “Her lips were very thin, nearly invisible in fact.”
“Her body was much more beautiful than any I have ever seen before. It was slim, and her breasts stood up high and well-separated. Her waistline was thin, her belly flat, her hips well developed, and her thighs were large.”
She came to him, hugged him, “glued” her body to his. “I became uncontrollably sexually excited, something that had never before happened to me. [Which would make him a rather unusual 23-year-old.] … We ended up on the couch, where we lay together for the first time.”
A second time followed soon after. “But by now she had begun to deny herself to me, trying to avoid me and to escape, to end the matter. … Some of the growls that came from her at certain times nearly spoiled everything, as they gave me the disagreeable impression of lying with an animal. …
“Another thing that I noticed was that the hair in her armpits was bright red, nearly the color of blood.”
“Displacement upward,” again? And Villas-Boas noticed something else: that she wouldn’t kiss him while they made love, although once she bit him softly on the chin.
She left him afterward, pointing to her belly and then, smiling, to the sky. He assumed she was trying to say she’d be back to take him with her, to whatever planet she came from. The prospect frightened him. He was shown around the UFO and then released. It was 5:30 in the morning; he came home and slept. Physical symptoms–headache, nausea, vomiting, burning in the eyes, peculiar wounds on his arms and legs–appeared, then vanished.
Almost as if he’d been exposed to some kind of radiation …
So–was this the Astounding She-Monster?
Of course I don’t mean that literally. The She-Monster existed only in the human imagination, and so I’m sure did Villas-Boas’s spacewoman. Specifically, the male imagination. The theme of the EVIL … BEAUTIFUL … DEADLY female was already old thousands of years ago, when the goddess Ishtar first put the moves on the human Gilgamesh. (Whose life she proceeded to ruin.) It’s hung on through the generations, bringing incalculable harm to incalculable numbers of women.
So that two riffs on this theme should have surfaced in the same 12-month period, one north and one south of the equator, is no marvel.
Still, it seems curious that both should invoke a landed spaceship. That both females are more or less radioactive. That both are erotic and aggressive in equal measure, the males in their vicinity either their attendants–the UFO crew in Villas-Boas’s encounter–or their passive victims. Of course Villas-Boas’s unnamed captress (is that a word?) doesn’t look exactly like the She-Monster. You could hardly expect his fantasy femme to match up with the flesh-and-blood Shirley Kilpatrick. But Shirley seems made up to approximate, as closely as possible, the Brazilian spacewoman’s eyes.
Yet neither story can have influenced the other. Although the date of “The Astounding She-Monster” is often given as 1957, it was released on April 10, 1958, nearly two months after Villas-Boas first told his story to Olavo Fontes. (My thanks to Martin Kottmeyer for this information.) And, as I’ve said, hardly anyone in this country would even hear of Antonio Villas-Boas for another 7 or 8 years.
So if we’re not to say this is just coincidence–an issue I blogged about last week–we’ve got to attribute the resemblances to a vague something called Zeitgeist. Which I’d feel a lot more comfortable doing if they came from the same culture, or even the same continent.
But they don’t.
And what do these two space-female stories tell us?
Unlike the Kallis poster advertising it–a stunning yet unspeakably sinister work of art, evoking age-old terrors of the vagina dentata through the She-Monster’s “demonically manicured” talons–the movie is a third-rate piece of so-bad-it’s-good shlock. Yet the message conveyed is benign. Female power and sexuality, the film seems to say at its end, are no menace unless they’re foolishly treated as such. On the contrary: they bear the promise of peace, reconciliation, healing.
And the female power and sexuality that laid hold of Antonio Villas-Boas, in the darkest hours of an October night?
Hard to say. His visitor kidnaps him, comes close to raping him. Yet she smiles at him as she points to the belly he’s seeded, and with that smile seems tenderly to promise: I’m coming back for you.
Did he sometimes regret, I wonder, that she never did?
by David Halperin
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