Friday, April 11, 2014

Cat-Women Of The Moon!

Cat-Women of the Moonis one of those infamous flicks I've read about for decades, but had never seen. When I found it with its companion Missile to the Moon, I knew I had to have them. More on that other film later. 1953's Cat-Women of the Moon begins right in the middle of the action, with a really suspect crew blasting off to the Moon with what appears to be limited expectation of what they will find and frankly what they will do. The movie was made on a small budget and nowhere does that show up more obviously than in what to my memory is the most makeshift interior of a spacecraft I've ever seen on screen. It's clearly just some office furniture and a few specialty hammocks in front of some exceedingly cheesy looking dials and knobs.

Flying into space inside this sardine can is a crew made up of Sonny Tufts as mission leader Laird Grainger who seems an incredibly naive scientist type, Victor Jory as Kip Reissner, a no-nonsense second-in-command who harbors feelings it seems clear enough for Marie Windsor in her role as Helen Salinger, the crews largely pointless female member and who is tied romantically to the mission leader. Along for the ride are William Phipps as Doug Williams, a youthful innocent radio man and Douglas Fowley as Walt Walters, an avaricious engineer. The plot is mostly revealed within moments of meeting the crew as their key personality traits are uncovered. The only surprise might be Helen who it seems is under the mental control of the Cat-Women, who by the way don't actually appear until half way into the movie.

Thanks to Helen the crew touches down right outside the cavern entrance to the lair of the Cat-Women who have manipulated events to get their claws on the spaceship so they might leave the Moon, their society on the verge of collapse with only a few folks remaining, all of them slinky femme fatales it seems. They are led by Alpha (Carol Brewster) and Beta (Suzanne Alexander) and there's also Lambda (Susan Morrow) who falls in love with Williams.

After much haggling around, and increasingly stupid decisions the crew fall victim to their various emotions and almost to some of the most haggard looking giant spiders it possible to imagine. Only Kip stays vigilant, but eventually even he succumbs and the crew is in desperate straights before the finale which comes abruptly and to my chagrin mostly off stage.

Cat-Women of the Moon is a hapless movie with some fun and funny scenes. The acting is properly hammy and effects create more giggles than suspense. No one in the cast is taking it easy and they earnestly plow ahead through this exceedingly cheesy material to their credit.

Missile to the Moon appeared in 1958 several years after the Cat-Women movie, but is largely identical in the larger scope of its plot, and is considered a remake of the earlier film. Sources suggest that this movie had a smaller budget than the earlier flick, but they sure the bang for their dollar as it looks a little sleeker, especially in the early stages. The spaceship is slightly more convincing for sure and the action on the Moon is more elaborate with some actual outdoor shooting.

The story is similar but also different in some remarkable ways. This time the action begins well before lift-off, in fact it's an attempt by the United States government which prompts a quick launch. The creator of the rocket ship, one Dirk Green it turns out is an agent of the society which once thrived on the Moon, but which some years before had sent a mission to Earth to find a way to stave disaster. He hastily returns, using some juvenile delinquent escaped convicts named Gary and Lon.

Green's partner is a guy named Steve Dayton who along with his girl friend June end up tagging along on the trip accidentally and this merry troop head off into space. Sadly Green soon succumbs to an accident and gives Dayton a medallion and tells him to allow the ship to land itself. They follow those instructions and soon find themselves on the Moon and facing off against some really neat rock monsters. Soon they find a cave and a culture of exclusively women, this time the place looks rather like Fu Manchu's hide out. The dames want pretty much the same thing they did in the last movie, but it takes some few different twists getting there. 

Missile to the Moon is a movie that gets a little bit stupider as it goes along, forcing characters to do some really lame things to keep the action moving forward. Richard Travis as Dayton gives a remarkably flat performance, among the weakest in the cast which all seem to have been under orders to keep things relatively calm. Tommy Cook and Gary Clarke are fun as the hoods, but their presence makes little sense if you stop to think about it even for a second.

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