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Federico Fellini
Richard Fleischer
Louise Fletcher
D.C. Fontana
Anne Francis
Joanna Frank
John Frankenheimer
Brendan Fraser
 
FRANK, JOANNA
(1941– ). American actress.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Acted in: "ZZZZZ" (1964), episode of The Outer Limits; Probe (tv movie) (Russ Mayberry 1972).
 
I have long pondered the issue: can I really justify including an actress in this encyclopedia essentially for a single performance in an episode of a science fiction television series? Yet the very fact that I keep returning to the question argues for a positive response, especially if the performance under consideration has lingered in one's memory for over forty years and holds up to repeated reviewings. In any event, I am controlling the horizontal and the vertical here, and I strongly suspect that most of my devoted readers are quite familiar with Joanna Frank's defining moment and will have no objections to my decision.

After seeing her in America, America (1963). Joseph STEFANO, then producing a new series called The Outer Limits, was inspired to have a script written especially for her, the oddly titled "ZZZZZ." Portraying a queen bee transformed by bee scientists into a human woman to execute the sort of poorly defined, illogical and dreamlike plan that characterized the series—here, to seduce and mate with a human entomologist in order to breed a hybrid superrace—Frank first of all commands attention as perhaps the most alluring woman to ever appear in a science fiction film, always photographed in appealing soft focus and sporting a hairdo that seductively keeps covering her large, doelike eyes. And if nothing else, providing eye candy for adolescent nerds who cannot aspire to such conquests in real life has always been a key item on the agenda of the science fiction film.

Yet her performance is as remarkable as her appearance. True, one might complain that it is simply the work of an inept actress, an assemblage of lines improperly intoned, inappropriate smiles and gestures, and a constant aura of awkwardness and discomfort. However, one must consider the situation: here is a bee pretending to be human, armed only with the knowledge that could be garnered by observations of the species from an insect's perspective; would you really expect her to give a good performance as a human being? Further, despite her deceitfulness and wanton cruelty toward the entomologist's wife, the fact that Frank is so visibly ill at ease impels audiences to sympathize with this stranger in a strange land, utterly unable to understand the people around her and their outrage regarding her behavior. Frank has complained that she felt neglected by veteran director John BRAHM, but perhaps he shrewdly realized that her doing everything wrong would be spectacularly right in this peculiar instance. Observing Frank in this episode, then, provokes a vexingly complex question: how, exactly, should one define a good performance as an alien? David BOWIE in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) offers some food for thought on this issue; so does Joanna Frank in "ZZZZZ." And at this moment, I can't think of another film to recommend.

Still, lasting success in Hollywood requires determination and supreme self-confidence, and if her role in The Outer Limits is any guide, Frank must have lacked those attributes, explaining why the next two decades of her career involved only some scattered roles in minor films and television episodes, include a small part in the television movie that was also the pilot for the short-lived high-tech spy series Search (1972-1973). But there is another way to succeed in show business, which is to be well-connected, and it just so happened that Frank's younger brother was an increasingly prominent writer-producer named Stephen Boccho, and that in 1978 she married an actor named Alan Rachins. Thus, after a few film roles in the 1980s while she focused on raising a son, Frank was finally able to achieve some wider visibility with a recurring role in her brother's and husband's television series L.A. Law (1993-1994). To science fiction fans, however, Joanna Frank will always be the one, and only, Bee Girl.

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