Cat-Women of the Moon (1953)
Cat-Women of the Moon is a cheesy science fiction flick with a right-wing ideology.
When it begins, we find five astronauts on a spaceship on their way to the moon. One of those astronauts is Helen (Marie Windsor), the navigator. After the ship has quit accelerating, and the astronauts are able to rise from their cots, Helen flips open her compact and begins combing her hair and fixing her face. Walt, the engineer, who comes across as a womanizer, watches her do this and says, “Oh brother, am I going to collect some bets.” One can only imagine that the bets had something to do with having a little space sex with Helen. This might be a challenge, however, because there seems to be a love triangle between her, Kip (Victor Jory), and Laird (Sonny Tufts), the copilot and pilot respectively. Looks as though they should have brought more women along so that everyone could have one. But that will soon be remedied.
Walt is also out to make a fast buck. He plugs an oil company on the radio when saying a few words to the folks back home, which he figures is worth a couple of grand. He also has some stamps to put on his letters from the moon, which he figures will be worth a couple of hundred bucks each.
Helen seems to be directing the ship to land on what she and Laird call the “dark side” of the moon, which no one has ever seen, as opposed to the “bright side” of the moon, which is what we on Earth can see. Of course, the far side of the moon is not always in the dark, just as the near side of the moon is not always illuminated, so the man that wrote this script seems to have been rather confused on this point. Laird balks at Helen’s desire to land on the dark side because the original plan was to start with the bright side.
Once they land and get suited up, Helen complains about her boots, which she says are too heavy. But Laird tells her that they will weigh less once they leave the ship and are walking on the surface of the moon. That’s where there will be less gravity, you see. And sure enough, once they disembark, the boots are much lighter.
Anyway, there they are on the “dark side” (i.e., far side) of the moon, and yet Laird is able to look up at the sky and see the Earth. Helen, who brings her cigarettes with her because they make her feel at home, directs them toward a cave. Laird just doesn’t understand how she knows so much about this dark side of the moon. But it’s a good thing she does, because when they reach the border where the illuminated part of the moon begins, Laird shows the men how you can light one of Helen’s cigarettes by exposing it to the sun, where it immediately bursts into flames. It manages to do this even though oxygen is not present. Laird did this with the cigarette to show everyone why they must avoid setting foot on the bright side. And this is strange, because it was the bright side where Laird said they were supposed to land originally.
Once they get inside the cave, their boots become heavy again. Then they notice stalactites, which are formed by dripping water. Kip takes one of Helen’s matches and lights it, proving that there is atmosphere in the cave as a result of the increased gravitational pull. So, they remove their space suits. Kip brought his revolver with him for the same reason Helen brought her cigarettes: it makes him feel at home. But now that they know they can breathe the air, Kip says the revolver is definitely going with him now. As he says, “Where there’s oxygen, there’s life. And where there’s life, there’s death.” In a left-wing movie, any character that straps on a gun with a swagger is doomed to suffer an ignominious death before the movie is over, but as this is a right-wing movie, he proves to be quite the hero with that gun, as when he deals death to couple of giant spiders that attack Helen.
Eventually they encounter the title aliens, good-looking women from an ancient civilization, three of whom are Alpha, Beta, and Lambda. They are called “cat-women,” presumably, because women are often thought to have feline characteristics, especially if they wear black tights, have upward slanting eyebrows, and long fingernails. The men of their civilization died soon after these women were born, but Beta says they have no use for men.
What they do have need of is the spaceship so they can get to Earth, because they are running out of oxygen on the moon. They have been in telepathic communication with Helen and have made her one of them. The cat-women have no telepathic control over men, only other women, but they do have their womanly wiles. The women set about trying to seduce the men in order to learn how to fly their spaceship. Once they get the information they need, they will kill the crew, go to Earth, get telepathic control over all the Earth women, eugenically select the best men to impregnate the cat-women, have lots of girl babies, and rule the world. Needless to say, it is just this idea of women taking over that bothers the male-dominated, paranoid right.
Beta works her charms on Walt, playing on both his lust and his greed. He hopes to get a little moontang from her, and he becomes really interested when she tells him about all the gold on the moon. She promises that after he teaches her what he knows about the ship as the engineer, she will show him the gold. On the ship, she catches on quickly. Walt says, “You’re too smart for me, baby. I like them stupid.” Beta then delivers on her promise to show him where the gold is, taking him to a cave where the walls are full of the stuff. While he is dreaming of untold wealth, she plunges a knife in his back. Meanwhile, Lambda has been going to work on Doug, who is the boy-next-door type. She falls in love with him and warns him of what’s up.
Kip has been suspicious of the whole setup. While the other men have been enjoying delicious meals with the cat-women, he has been sitting apart, eating his K-ration. He even tosses the wadded-up package on the floor to show his contempt for the whole business. Laird, on the other hand, thinks those on the Earth and the moon can get along, just the sort of peacenik naiveté for which the right has contempt. Laird wants everything done by the book, and he is always talking about science. Those on the anti-intellectual right are skeptical about science and disdainful of the professional elite, and Kip’s contempt for Laird in this regard surfaces repeatedly.
And Kip has been suspicious of Helen too. He gets rough with her, grabbing her hand and squeezing it until she feels pain. It happens to be the hand through which the cat-women have telepathic control over her. Released from cat-women control, she falls into Kip’s arms and confesses her love for him. They kiss.
But once he releases her hand, she reverts back to the bad Helen. She tells Laird she loves him to get the information she needs to pilot the spaceship. When she tells Kip it is Laird she loves, he is disgusted. But when he finds out from Doug what he has learned from Lambda, that Helen is just trying to get information from Laird before she kills him, he squeezes her hand again. Whenever he hurts her like that, she becomes tender and compliant. That’s the way you have to handle women. And now that she is back to being the good Helen, she confesses the plot, as well as her love for Kip. This angers Laird, and he and Kip get into a fight, which breaks up when they realize that Helen, no longer under Kip’s grip, has run off. Lambda tries to stop Helen, Alpha, and Beta from commandeering the ship, but Beta bonks her on the head with a rock and kills her. Kip uses his revolver to shoot Alpha and Beta, after which Helen is no longer under cat-women influence. She and the rest of the crew, minus Walt, get back to the ship and head for Earth.
And so it is that Kip, the gun-toting astronaut, saves the day by killing these cat-women before they could take over the Earth. He has won the heart of the woman he loves, not only getting the better of Laird, but also freeing Helen from the pernicious influence of those cat-women, who had been putting ideas in her head.
Queen of Outer Space (1958)
Whereas Cat-Women of the Moon was serious in tone, Queen of Outer Space is a light-hearted look at another world dominated by women. Nevertheless, it too has a right-wing orientation.
When this movie begins, it does it’s best to look futuristic, because it is set in what at that time was years in the future, 1986, but you have to smile when you see the display of cobra phones, which I haven’t seen outside of a movie since the 1960s. Three astronauts and a Professor Konrad blastoff into space in a futuristic 1950s rocketship, full of mechanical gauges.
They are headed to a space station because there has been some trouble lately. Just before they get there, the thing is blown up. They set their ship on maximum acceleration to escape the blast, and the next thing you know, they land on Venus, which turns out to be habitable. That surprises the crew, since it is contrary to the theory that Venus cannot support life.
But it does support life. In particular, it supports life in the form of beautiful, young women with ray guns, who are wearing makeup, tight-fitting garments from the waist up, short skirts, and transparent high-heel shoes. The men are brought before Queen Yllana. She and the councilwomen who accompany her wear masks. One of the women watching this tribunal, Motiya, leaves and goes to tell Talleah (Zsa Zsa Gabor), leader of the resistance movement, what is happening.
Queen Yllana says the Earthmen are violent and want to invade their planet. Larry, the womanizer of the crew, says, “Why don’t you girls knock off all this Gestapo stuff and be a little friendly?” Yllana says they will all be put to death after they are tortured into telling the truth, after which they are led to the prison chamber.
Once they are alone, Professor Konrad and Captain Neal Patterson conclude that they did not wind up on Venus by accident, Neal saying that the beam that destroyed the space station and knocked them off their course may have originated from Venus. Mike says, “Oh, come off it. How could a bunch of women invent a gizmo like that?” To this, Larry replies, “Sure. And even if they invented it, how could they aim it? You know how women drivers are.”
Talleah comes to the room, and we get a quick history lesson. Ten Earth years ago, there was a war between Venus and Mordo, in which weapons of great power were used. Mordo was eventually destroyed, but most of the cities of Venus were destroyed as well. As a result of all this suffering, the women took over, led by Yllana, who said that men caused the ruin of their world, and it was time for women to be in charge. They were able to do it because the men didn’t take them seriously. After all, Yllana was only a woman, and the men were too busy preparing for war. Most of the men were put to death, except for a few scientists and mathematicians she needed. (So that’s who built the beam that destroyed the space station!) These few men were banished to Tyrus, a satellite of Venus, and it has become a prison colony. And because the men on Earth have been making a lot of scientific progress, Yllana wants to destroy Earth with the Beta Disintegrator before they are able to invade Venus.
Meanwhile, sex is on everyone’s mind. Larry is excited to think about the ratio of women to men on this planet. More particularly, both Talleah and Yllana are falling in love with Neal, which is why Talleah becomes angry when Yllana sends for him. When Neal gets to Yllana’s boudoir, he tries making love to her, but she refuses to remove her mask. He psychoanalyzes her. “I understand you better than you do yourself,” he tells her. “You’re denying man’s love, substituting hatred and a passion for this monstrous power you possess.” He continues, saying, “You’re not only a queen, but a woman too. And a woman needs a man’s love.”
Determined to give her the love she needs, he rips off her mask, revealing her horribly scarred face, which she says are radiation burns, caused by men and their wars. She asks him if he will give her that love now, and he says he’s sorry, turning away in disgust. This then is the root of the problem. Deprived of the sexual fulfillment of giving herself to a man completely, she has tried to compensate by dominating men and destroying them.
He is sent back to the prison chamber, but women loyal to Talleah bring the men to her. Except for Professor Konrad, each man ends up with a woman who goes with them to destroy the Beta Disintegrator. The women say they have no life without love, without children. Talleah’s plan, if they are successful, is to bring the men back from Tyrus and restore the old order, the one in which men run things, while women stay home and have babies.
On their way to the Beta Disintegrator, they end up having to hide in a cave. Just as in Cat-Women of the Moon, the walls of the cave are full of gold, which the women regard with indifference because gold is so plentiful on Venus. And just as in that other movie, they get attacked by a giant spider, which they manage to kill.
Soon after, they are recaptured. Yllana prepares to destroy the Earth, but Motiya sabotaged the Beta Disintegrator, and it starts disintegrating. Yllana tries to save it, but she ends up being burnt to a crisp. Now there are only beautiful women on Venus, with no ugly women around to cause trouble because they can’t get a man.
The next thing you know, the astronauts are saying goodbye to each of their women, because duty comes first. But then they get a message from Earth telling them it is too risky to return on the ship that got them to Venus. They will need to stay there for about a year. Each man is delighted, taking his woman in his arms. The movie ends as we see Professor Konrad about to be part of a ménage à cinq.
Invasion of the Star Creatures (1962)
Invasion of the Star Creatures is a low-budget spoof of movies like the two we have just discussed. In order to make sure everyone is in on the joke, the credits open with “R.I. Diculous Presents An Impossible Picture.” It is filled with silly situations and corny jokes, but it is rather amusing, if you are in the mood for this sort of thing.
On an army missile base, Private Philbrick and Private Penn are normally in charge of such things as washing the garbage cans, but are assigned by Colonel Awol to be part of a team investigating a cave that opened up as the result of a nuclear test explosion. The team discovers seven-foot-tall, plant-like extraterrestrials. They look like trees with vegetables growing out of their heads. However, these plant creatures are just slaves, their masters being two tall, beautiful women, Professor Tanga and Dr. Puna. The two privates are captured by the vegetable monsters and brought before the two women.
Philbrick wonders aloud what Space Commander Connors would do, a variation on such radio and television characters as Captain Video, Captain Midnight, and Commander Corey of Space Patrol. The women tell Penn and Philbrick they plan to return to their planet, after which Earth will be invaded and conquered. Then they show the privates the room where they grow the plant men. We see flower pots, most of which have a hand sticking up out of them. When they prepare to leave the room, Philbrick says goodbye to the plant hands, one of which waves bye-bye.
Although there are warrior men back on their planet, the women don’t seem to know anything about love, so Philbrick teaches Dr. Puna what “kiss” means. She swoons, allowing Penn and Philbrick to escape. They return to base and tell Colonel Awol that he must stop the spaceship from blasting off. Awol does not believe them and orders them to be thrown into the guardhouse, assuming them to be drunk. But when Philbrick swears on his Space Commander Connors’ secret ring, Awol asks to see the ring. When Philbrick shows it to him, Awol shows Philbrick his. They utter the secret code words and do the hand signal. Then they discover they both belong to the same stellar squadron, and it turns out that whereas Awol is only a junior flight leader, Philbrick is a senior flight leader, which means Philbrick is now in command.
The three of them head back to the cave. Penn says the three of them will not be enough to stop the space broads from taking off. Just then, a bunch of Indians come along, whereupon it turns out that they also are members of Space Commander Connors’ flight squadron, only one of the Indians is the general flight leader of that squadron, and proves it with a badge pinned to his bare chest. So now, the Indian is in command.
They all have a pow wow, during which the Indians and the colonel get drunk. Penn and Philbrick go back to the cave and manage to blast the rocketship off into space, marooning the two women. Professor Tanga is angry that their plans for conquering Earth have been ruined. But Dr. Puna gets Penn to teach Professor Tanga what “kiss” means. As both women are kissed, they swoon. When it is explained to them that marriage is when a woman becomes a man’s slave, they think the idea sounds heavenly. They all get married and live happily ever after.
I saw this movie a couple of times in the 1960s on the late show, and I liked it so much that I bought my very own copy on DVD. I was looking forward to one of my favorite jokes in the movie, when Penn and Philbrick try to get telepathic control of one of the plant men. The way I remember it, Penn says, “Focus on his eye.”
But as the eyes of the plant men are spaced really far apart, Philbrick asks, “Which one?”
“The one next to the carrot,” Penn replies.
Imagine my disappointment when I found it was not on the DVD. Then I noticed that IMDb says that the television version is ten minutes longer than the theatrical version.
I guess I’ll have to wait for the director’s cut.