Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Cat-Women of the Moon (1953)

... aka: Rocket to the Moon

Directed by:
Arthur Hilton

Awful special effects, chintzy sets, bad acting, extremely corny dialogue and an utterly ridiculous plotline, plus the surefire schlock title, have all helped to ensure that this would go down as a camp classic. Atomic Rocket 4 sets off on a 200,000 mile journey towards the moon. The five member crew - Commander Laird Grainger (Victor Jory), co-pilot Kip Reissner (Sonny Tufts), navigator Helen Salinger (Marie Windsor), radio operator Doug Smith (William Phipps) and engineer Walt Wallace (Douglas Fowley) - waken from their deck chair-like seats and immediately get down to business. The Commander wants everything "by the book," but doesn't seem to mind that Helen grabs her compact and brush to make sure she's presentable as soon as she awakens. Their ship is hit by a meteor, so Kip must bravely enter the "atom chamber" to extinguish a nitric acid fire. Helen, who's caught between her affections for the Commander and Kip, is having the strange feeling of deja vu. She feels like she's been on this journey before. Or that she's dreamed of it. She even seems to know a safe landing spot on the dark side of the moon for them to land on once they reach their destination.

Once safely on the moon, everyone slaps on their space suits for a little exploring. Helen's ESP kicks in yet again and she knows of a cave that's nearby. After ducking under a flaming meteorite (!), they find the cave, discover there's both water and oxygen inside and remove their suits so Helen can finally stop wining about how heavy her boots are. After thwarting several giant-spiders-dangling-from-the-ceiling-on-strings attacks, Helen insists they keep on going until they reach the other side of the cave. The fact someone has stolen their spacesuits so they can't go back to their ship solidifies the decision to move forward. The cave opens out into a field where there's sky, clouds, grass and a large palace. Yes, there's "another world in the bowels of the moon!" And it's full of (gasp!) Cat-Women. with pulled-back jet black hair, Eddie Munster hairlines, thick, drawn on eyebrows, wild eyelashes and skin-tight black suits. They immediately attack the group and try to steal their gun. And then Helen wanders off somewhere. The men decide to wait it out until she comes back... and when she does she has company.

Helen goes to meet with Alpha (Carol Brewster), queen of the Cat-Women, plus her second-in-command, the violent Beta (Suzanne Alexander), and another, nicer one named Lambda (Susan Morrow). The Cat-Women confide in Helen that they "have no use for men" and can disappear at will, communicate telepathically and project their thoughts long distances, which is what they've been doing to Helen to lead them there. The ladies claim to be peaceful beings, promise to give the astronauts back their space suits the next morning and decide to show them a bit of their hospitality in the meantime. Before you can say "May we serve you, Earth men?" the kittens' engines start purring and they use their feminine (feline?) wiles to cozy up to several of the guys; serving them wine and a honeydew melon-like substance. Naturally, the alien women have more devious plans in store for out stranded space travelers; namely learning how to operate the ship so they can steal it. Their master plan is to go to Earth, get knocked up and then return to the moon.

Beta seduces Walt with promises of gold before (literally) stabbing him in the back. After a discussion about going to the beach and drinking some Coca Cola, Lambda ends up actually falling in love with Doug. Yes, the girls may be wise in the ways of extensive eye makeup, checkerboard flooring and Roman architecture (plus, was that a Buddha I spotted atop their palace?), but they do not know the ways of human love. Nor do most really care. Helen, under the mental control of the Cat-Women, attempts to turn the Commander and Kip against one another to get information about how to operate the ship. Will the Cat-Women claw their way to victory or be outsmarted by the Earthlings?

Originally released to theaters in 3D and boasting an Elmer Bernstein (!) score, this is side-splittingly dumb stuff. Even though I have to give this the appropriate rating here based on its quality, I'm not ashamed to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. It's really a lot of fun. The ending is abrupt and definitely could have used a little more oomph, but the thrilling and seductive dance of the Cat Ladies more than makes up for that, am I right?


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