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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Missile to the Moon

This little B-movie is obviously a remake of Catwomen of the Moon. One wonders why the producers thought this was a good idea. Perhaps their marketing folks said there was some quick/easy money to be made with a film that features a bunch of beauty pageant winners in dance leotards, high heels and tall hair. In that case, the Catwomen script provided a means. The script of Missile to the Moon (MTTM) follows the story of Catwomen pretty closely, but with just enough differences to provide a little interest to B-film fans.

Quick Plot Synopsis
Dirk Green has privately built a rocket for traveling to the moon. The government plans to commandeer the project, because only governments can do space travel. Dirk blasts off that night. Inside the rocket are two escaped convicts, whom Dirk hijacks into being his crew. Dirk's assistant Steve and his fiance June happen to get aboard too. During a meteor storm, a big battery falls on Dirk. Mortally injured, he gives Steve a medallion then dies. When they get to the moon, the four find rock monsters. They escape into a cave only to become prisoners of and the all-female remnant of a civilization living underground in ever-shrinking air pockets. They mistake Steve for Dirk because of the medallion. Dirk came from the moon. The queen plans to take her subjects to earth. Alpha, the second-ranking moon woman rebels and kills the queen. She plans to kill the other earthlings, marry Steve (even though he isn't Dirk) and take her moon girls to a different planet. Moon-babe Lambda falls for the convict named Gary. He's only interested in the cave full of diamonds. Lambda is killed by the cave-dwelling spider monster. Zema, falls in love with the other convict, Lon. During the belly-dancing wedding ceremony, Lon and Gary save June from execution by the spider monster. Alpha, angry at their escape, orders Zema to flood the caves with poison gas. Zema instead tosses a grenade which breaks up their last pocket of air. The moon women dramatically expire. On the surface, Gary is laden down with bags of diamonds. The rock creatures force him into the deadly full sun. He burns up. June, Lon and Steve get to the ship. June asks Steve if she's prettier than Alpha. Only good ol' mother earth is prettier. Har har. The end.

Why is this movie fun?
MTTM is a remake of Catwomen of the Moon, but cranked up a notch or two. It's fun to see how much MTTM matches Catwomen and where it deviates.

Cold War Angle
There aren't really any Cold War metaphors or references in MTTM.

Notes
Catwomen Redux -- Yes, MTTM is a recasting of the story Catwomen of the Moon. Check that link for a recap. In some ways, MTTM is a cheaper copy (most notably in the props). In other ways, MTTM goes further than Catwomen did. MTTM has two loving traitors. Lambda falls for Gary and dies. Zema falls for Lon and dies. A twist in the Zema duplicate is that she causes the end of the moon women. MTTM has a repeat of the greedy-man (Walt with gold, Gary with diamonds). MTTM has the same spider puppet as Catwomen but made more menacing with big toothy mandibles. MTTM adds the laughably slow, but intriguing rock creatures. Like Catwomen, there is a very odd preoccupation with romantic pairings and whether someone loves them or not (or is pretty enough). An alien civilization and bizarre creatures are not important enough. Boy-girl attractions. Now that's important.

Telltale Budget -- MTTM is a typical low-budget production, so it's fun to spot the usual shortcuts. You'll see some V2 footage used many times, and an astoundingly cheap flat prop "rocket" for the on-the-moon shots. The rock creatures are actually kind of fun. A toddler could out run them, yet the actors respond as if they were tigers.

Rare Air -- The moon women supposedly have the last pocket of air, but it's interesting to see that only Air Force jumpsuits, pilot's helmets and oxygen masks are needed on the moon's surface. And, when Gary strays into the sun, he bursts into flames. The lit torch in the cave was 'proof' that there was oxygen earlier in the story.

Green Cheesecake -- One could imagine Producer Marc Frederic starting with the idea of a quick-buck movie whose "hook" was a cast of a dozen beauty pageant winners.
But what to have them do?. The plot of Catwomen provided a venue, so remake it was. Instead of the catwomen's artsy full black leotards, MTTM has the pageant winners in high heels, dance leotards and bangeled up like budget Las Vegas showgirls. Such an obvious pandering to teen male audience tastes is amusing. Watch how all the pageant babes are always striking glamor poses.

Bottom line? MTTM is more fun if you've seen Catwomen already. Compare and contrast, as the professors say. Beyond that, look past the extreme cheapness of the production and take in another (somewhat wacky) installment in the "lost women" sub-genre.

9 comments:

Luis Bueno said...

Both lunar female movies left me feeling cheap and degraded.

In fact, I felt so exploited that I felt compelled to give in completely to this tawdry objectification of women by watching "Nude on the Moon."

God, I'm so ashamed.

Great review, Nightowl. I do think the rock monsters are awesome. In fact, it would have been great to see an epic subterranean battle between the humans and the stone-hearted creatures whose blood likely flows like gravel.

--Lou

Nightowl said...

thanks Lou,
Yes, both Catwomen and MTTM are certainly exploitive. The latter most blatantly so. At least Catwomen had some pretense at "art" in a sort of beatnik spin.

Seems pretty evident that producers of B movies in the 50s figured that young males were THE big ticket buying demographic. So, what more simple product design than to promise them a screen full of pretty women to oogle. That demographic didn't have much problem with objectified women.

Fire Maidens is another in this vein. It helps to overlook the blatant exploitive elements (since there's no changing it now) and see what else the writers/director had to say.

The rock creatures, as you mentioned, deserved more action. I suppose the demographic of the day, however, would have objected. "Get those silly monsters out of the way and bring on more ladies!"

Nude on the Moon ('62) is a bit into the review future.

Mike Scott said...

Haven't seen MTTM, yet (that I recall), but it's in the mail. Can't wait to see the "belly-dancing wedding ceremony"! LOL

Nightowl said...

Mike,
Don't expect too much from the belly dancing. It's more peculiar than provocative. Which, fits the rest of MTTM.

Enjoy. It's a quirky film. :-)

Mike Scott said...

Quote: Don't expect too much from the belly dancing.

I'm not expecting a whole lot from any part of the movie. :D (It was on sale.)

Mike Scott said...

MTTM came yesterday, so I watched it this afternoon. Not nearly as bad as I was expecting, though it will probably be a while before it gets pulled off the shelf, again.

Nightowl said...

Mike, I suppose that's how a lot of B-scifi goes. If you don't expect too much, they can be fun -- or even interesting. Seems that many of the average viewers expect a lot, so are usually disappointed.

MTTM does have merits and entertainment value, if you look beyond the cheesecake. For all that, it's pretty mild cheesecake too. The producers weren't going out on too thin of a limb with this one.

Mike Scott said...

BTW Was that the "Rocketship X-M" ship I saw (for about a second and a half) talking off from Earth? That spaceship interior looked awfully familiar, too.

Nightowl said...

Mike, Good eye. That was indeed a recycled clip from XM. The interior did look a little familiar. I'll have to compare with some others when I get a chance.