Cat-Women of the Moon (1953)
Meow, indeed. I'm not sure what to make of this movie. On the one hand it's a sci-fi thriller about space travel and adventure of alien worlds. On the other it's a sophomoric sex comedy about dumb men thinking with their penises and hot women using that to their advantage. You'd think those two genres (sci-fi and horny dudes) wouldn't go together well, and you'd be right, but if you just close your eyes and imagine that this is really Cat-Women of Florida State University or Cat-Women of Manhattan, then it's oddly more enjoyable.
This will be a joint review between myself and my esteemed editor Pam. Before you begin the review, Pam, any thoughts on what we should expect with Cat-Women of the Moon?
Yes, Nate, one comment popped into mind as soon as I saw the heading: Seeing the name "Sonny Tufts" billed first tells me all I need to know about Cat-women of the Moon. At the time this movie was made, he was the ultimate joke of an actor. He got his start during World War II because he was tall, good-looking, and most important 4-F, so he was hired out of desperation because so many other actors were off fighting. He was never highly rated as an actor, but he didn't have much competition for a few years, and he starred in some "A" movies. However, by 1953 he'd developed a drinking problem which had caused some embarrassing incidents, including being sued by two women who claimed he had bitten them on the thighs. In addition, according to Veronica Lake, he suffered from pyromania and had a habit of starting fires on the set. Unsurprisingly he found it difficult to get employment, which is no doubt why he ended up in a movie like this one. The other actors are competent but undistinguished, and their IMDb listings show they all acted in a lot of movies but never became stars.
He was better in westerns.
The movie was originally shot in 3-D, but the only version readily available, and the one I watched, is in 2-D. The movie opens with five astronauts in what at first glance looks like an office or laboratory, but turns out to be the control room of a spaceship. The control room is not lavishly equipped: the walls are made of corrugated metal very much like a Quonset hut, and the astronauts are strapped to what look like chaise lounges of the sort you'd expect to find in somebody's back yard. It also seems quite cramped for five people, and the lounges are positioned in such a way that the crew must spend a lot of time bumping into them. The actors are grimacing and squirming a little, probably to suggest the enormous G-forces which they must be experiencing as their spaceship heads into outer space. We learn the ship is headed for the Moon when White Sands calls the "Moon rocket" on the radio. They slowly recover and sit up, and we meet the crew.
The first-billed Sonny Tufts plays the commander, Laird Grainger. Sonny is looking somewhat the worse for wear, with more wrinkles and sagging skin than you'd expect on a man in his early forties. My guess would be the stories of his heavy drinking weren't exaggerated.
Grainger (he's a tool).
The second-in-command is Kip Reissner, played by craggy-faced Victor Jory, who was also doing a little slumming in this movie. He played Jonas Wilkerson, the overseer in "Gone with the Wind," and had an extensive career, mostly in movies better than this one.
Kip, but, sadly, not Kip Winger.
Doug Smith, the radio operator, and Walt Wallace, the engineer, are played respectively by William Phipps and Douglas Fowley, two actors who both spent their careers in roles like these. (A hint that this movie was made on the cheap comes early, as the engineer clearly introduces himself as Walt "Wallace," but is always referred to as "Walters.")
No, buddy, it's not over yet, you still got an hour to go before you can nap.
And wonder of wonders, the fifth astronaut is actually a woman, Helen Salinger by name. And she's not a nurse or anything stereotypically female, she's the navigator. And even more surprisingly, she's not treated condescendingly or in any way patronized by her fellow astronauts, but is accepted as a competent member of the crew. I don't have to say how rare this was in a movie made in the 1950s. She is played by Marie Windsor, an actress who, in common with the other actors, had been in better movies than this one. All the astronauts, including Helen, wear identical plain shirts and pants with no insignia, so they may be civilians rather than military personnel.
Oh you can't be serious, a compact and brush? Somewhere Valentina Tereshkova is crying.
We are told by White Sands that the ship is traveling at 25,000 miles per hour, which means that the trip to the moon should take somewhat less than ten hours, much faster than Apollo 11 managed. Experience with real-life moon landings, both manned and unmanned, suggest that at such a speed the spaceship could not be slowed down enough to enable it to land without smashing both the spaceship and the occupants, but let's forget about this, okay? Besides, who wants to see a long stretch where all the actors do is stare at the controls? Anyway, the short travel time, only ten hours, may explain why the control room is so cramped, since the astronauts don't expect to be in it very long. During the exchange with White Sands, we learn a little more about the crew: Grainger is something of a jerk, Reissner is a no-nonsense take-charge kind of guy who sees no need to follow arbitrary rules, Wallace (or Walters) is a sharp character always looking to make a buck, Smith is completely undistinguished, and Helen is given to making oddball remarks. More on Helen's remarks later.
As I mentioned, the spaceship designers seem to have cheaped out when it came to equipping the control room, and the astronauts' workstations consist of metal desks on which rest the banks of mysterious dials movie spaceships always have, and swivel chairs! However, what they saved on the control room was clearly spent on gravitational controls and inertial dampers, for the astronauts are obviously experiencing normal gravity. We are given an even better idea of just how effective the system is when a meteor hits the spaceship and somehow becomes lodged in it. Yes, instead of either crashing through the ship completely or disintegrating on contact, the meteor gets stuck on some part of the spaceship like a piece of popcorn hull between two teeth. Fortunately a remedy is at hand, and Grainger orders the ship to be rotated end over end until the meteor falls out. This actually works, and the crew sits in the control room completely unaffected by the spinning, with only a slight lurch as the ship comes to a stop. The crew did, however, put on their seatbelts before the spinning started, although they are sitting on regular office-type chairs on wheels which don't appear to be in any way secured to the deck. We can applaud their commitment to safety and the splendid example they set for the audience at a time when seatbelts in cars were a radical concept most Americans preferred to ignore.
...too bad it looks nothing like the one they took off in.
It appears, however, that the meteor happened to lodge in the "atomic chamber," damaging it and causing the "heat radiation" to increase. (I think this just means that the temperature is rising, but I guess heat radiation sounds more dramatic.) The engineer, who I'll call Walters from now on because everybody else does, deduces that the meteor must have broken one of the "nitric acid containers." I have no idea how nitric acid is involved in nuclear fission, or fusion, or anything else involving atoms that's likely to be used to propel a rocketship, but judging from the looks on the crew's faces, a broken nitric acid container is a very serious thing indeed. Grainger orders the water line turned on to neutralize the nitric acid, but when Walters tries, nothing happens. Grainger appears to be at a loss, but Reissner snatches up a cloth suit of some sort which was conveniently lying on the deck and heads down to the water line to see what's the matter. Let's hope the water line is nowhere near the atomic chamber, because that flimsy little suit will do nothing to stop radiation, whether ionizing or heat. It appears that the suit will only hold up for exactly one minute, and Grainger doesn't think Reissner should risk it, although he doesn't seem to have any alternatives to suggest. Reissner, being the kind of guy who has no use for blindly following the orders of his superiors, ignores Grainger, pulls open a hatch, and climbs down a ladder into a chamber where the water line must be located. Check out the school-hallway-type lockers in the background as Reissner suits up.
Takes two to get dressed.
The ladder leads to a room dramatically filled with much smoke, nature unknown, but possibly fumes from the nitric acid. Or maybe the increase in "heat radiation" has set something on fire? The smoke keeps us from seeing much, but we catch glimpses of many unlabeled containers and small tanks, the kind generally used for compressed gases. Meanwhile, up above the crew stare worriedly at their wristwatches as the needle on the "gyrocontrol" moves toward the danger zone. Reissner fumbles briefly at what's probably a valve, you can't really see, then picks up a fire extinguisher and proceeds to spray the deck. The crew sees the blinking warning light go out, and they all look relieved as Reissner staggers out of the hatch. Observe that, although there was no smoke left in the room after Reissner got through with the fire extinguisher, a lot of smoke pours out as the hatch is raised.
Look, just stop it, clock-watching won't make this movie end any sooner, I promise.
We reopen in the control room, where Reissner is lying on one of the lounges with Helen sitting next to him. His only injury appears to be a bandaged thumb. They have a little chat which serves rather awkwardly to show that Helen and Grainger are an "item," although Helen is determined that for the duration of the voyage, it'll be strictly business, no pleasure, between them. Helen does indicate that Grainger is in complete accord with this determination, so maybe the coolness is not entirely her choice. Reissner's look and tone of voice suggest that he himself feels that Helen is somewhat more than just a fellow crewmember to him, but she doesn't react and he backs off. I guess I have to give the movie credit for introducing a triangle involving two men who are, to put it mildly, not your standard romantic heroes, both being below average as to looks and above average as to age. (In fact, now that I think about it, all of the crew look a little elderly for astronauts.) The rest of the crew is also in this tiny control room but appear deaf to the conversation and the emotion that is seething only a couple of feet away from them, which seems impossible but is necessary for the plot to advance. Or maybe Grainger is giving Reissner the silent treatment and Walters and Smith are too cowed to even look at Reissner, I guess that could be what's going on. If they are in fact civilians, Grainger may have limited authority over Reissner anyway. There is nothing in this scene to suggest that Reissner is in trouble for disobeying an order from his superior officer, in any case.
You know, this is what set Lisa Nowak off on the wrong path.
The ship now nears the Moon. The trip takes only ten hours, remember? As the navigator, it's Helen's job to select the landing spot, and she insists on a place on the dark side of the moon. Grainger wonders why she thinks it's a good idea to land on the completely unknown dark side, but she says that she "just knows" it's the perfect spot. For such a hardnose, Grainger gives in pretty quickly, so maybe his feelings for her haven't been completely put on hold. The ship comes in for a landing, and now I'm going to turn this review over to Nate, while I sit down and try to figure out what sort of rocket propulsion system involves an atomic chamber, nitric acid, and a lot of heat, but seemingly no ionizing radiation.
Love the old film reel up there on the wall.
Thanks, Pam. Well here they are, on the surface of the moon in their spiffy rocketship, which has landed on her tail fins like your typical 1950s spaceship. They don spacesuits with clunky, clear plastic helmets, suits that look more like Nomex firefighter coveralls with plastic buckets hot-glued on. Helen insists on taking along a pack of Camels (1953, baby!), and Reissner holsters his trusty revolver. Could you even shoot a conventional pistol on the moon? Maybe, especially one with a self-contained cartridge, but probably not something that would require an exposed spark, like a flintlock, for example. Even if you could fire it, though, how would the differences in air pressure and gravity affect the ballistics of the bullet? Would it spin or just tumble? I digress.
A note here, one of the Random Red Shirt Ensigns (Wallace/Walters?) has this running gag where he's always working on some scam to make money off this trip, mostly by hoping to hock trinkets when they get back to earth. It's played for laughs, but it strikes as true to the heart of the gung-ho capitalism of the 1950s as anything, and it's probably the most interesting thing I've seen in this movie so far. Earlier, before they landed, the crew also gave a groaningly obvious plug for Delphi Oil Company for sponsoring the lubrications for the ship, which is about as American as apple pie. As David Bowie reminds us, the space race is big business and "the papers want to know whose shirts you wear".
Ah-ha! I told you people! Now do you believe me? Huh?
So now they're out walking around the surface of the moon in their dorky suits, with spacy pwinging noises on the soundtrack and a Chesley Bonestall painting hung up behind them against the sound stage wall. They're not doing the Armstrong Bounce, though I wonder just when it was that scientists knew that the moon's gravity was not the same as earth's? Earlier than 1953 when our movie was made? Of course, even if the producers knew about the gravity change, any sort of rope-work or optical effects were surely way off the budget sheet. We did come here for Cat-Women, after all, so let's put the bucks into that and forget the science nonsense, ok? And that includes any mention of the scene where they toss a cigarette over onto the "light side" of the moon and watch it burst into flames, because that's just frickin' retarded.
Helen points over there (there!) to a cave off screen and strongly suggests (nay, flatly demands) that they go inside, like, right now, go, this instant. Grainger acquiesces meekly, once again saying that "she's the navigator", even though another guy wonders aloud how she could have possibly seen that cave while landing and maybe something is not right with Helen. Dumdumdum.
She wears the (high-waisted) pants.
In the cave now, which is clearly an open sound stage on some rented studio back lot (they darn sure didn't build this just for Cat-Woman of the Moon). After some meaningless conversation, they check for oxygen with a lit match. From this one single frighteningly unscientific test, they determine that the air in the cave is not, in fact, loaded with inflammable toxic gases or brain-dissolving microbes, but is ready for deep inhaling. It's a balmy 72 degrees in there so they strip off their spacesuits and are now back in their khaki uniforms (and their hair is perfect!).
Boring walking and talking and then...drama! A killer mutant alien tarantula attacks! The men take up arms and form a line, but Helen, being a girl, runs away screaming like a little kid (oh, I so miss the days of Ellen Ripley and Sarah Conner). Her fear is a bit unfounded as the "spider" is just a big moldy cloth puppet suspended on frayed strings from the roof of the cave set and dropped down by lazy and uncoordinated gaffers. It might be the same prop used in Mesa of Lost Women, it sure looks the same.
Nice unicorn spike.
The actors all adjust their pants and square their jaws before jumping on the puppet, doing the best they can to seem like it's a living thing when it's clearly inert and stuffed with polyfil. Watching the poor guys flail uselessly at the puppet, while shouting and waving their arms around with great gusto, really makes you feel sorry for them in a deeply personal way, much like when you see some urine-soaked homeless man still wearing his Cornell class ring and can't help but wonder where his life went wrong. In the end they just shoot it dead with the pistol and stand around acting proud of themselves.
Get 'em, boys!
You know, that really bugs me. Why is it that in movies, when some spooky killer thingie leaps out of the shadows at a group of people, it's invariably the weaky women who squeal and faint and the jocky men who instantly leap to action to snuff it out? I'm pretty confident that if you surprise-throw a 100 pound spider at anyone, man or woman or my ex-wife, a firm 99.99999% of the time that person is going to Chernobyl on you to the point of incoherent mumbling. If I were a woman I'd be insulted at these movies and their skewed view of gender based flight-or-fright reactions. Of course, if I were a woman, I'd never leave the house (winkwink).
Anyway, another alien spider drops down on Helen, who seems to lack even a tiny bit of peripheral vision and couldn't hear a 747 parked right next to her. She shrieks aplenty and the men have to come beat that one down too. Then they just move on to the next set-piece scene with absolutely no discussion about finding an alien life form on the moon, nothing, like it happens all the time. Myself, I'd maybe want to take some samples or break an arm off for a souvenir or something.
In an interlude, a pouty and distracted Helen is taking a nap break when she's sneak-approached by a lithe humanoid form (a Cat-Woman, perhaps?). The visitor creeps up stealthly, like Kelby in his younger pre-addiction days, taps Helen's open palm, and then runs away like she just played a doorbell prank. Huh? Wha? Hopefully they explain that later.
Almost offhand, they discover that their spacesuits have gone missing. The menfolk get all pissy and make a big overblown deal about needing them, but do they? Is it only outside the cave they need suits? Because the very nature of a cave is that it has an opening(s) that lets atmosphere in and out, right? Perhaps then the entire surface of the moon has a breathable atmosphere, and they never needed the suits at all? Were the Illuminati Freemason Templars right all along about NASA hiding evidence of air on the Moon? It would certainly be easier for the Nazis to keep their colony active...
Who lines up like this in real life?
However, the brash and insolent (but perky) Helen firmly insists that they keep going, and Grainger changes his mind like it's made of limp lasagna noodles (it's got to be her boobs, right?). They exit the cave and see off in the near distance a fuzzy matte painting of a rather Hellenic looking abandoned city on a hill. Their reaction is more "ho-hum" than "Christ! Look, proof of aliens!", once again lending weight to my theory that Cat-Women of the Moon was originally scripted as Cat-Women of the Amazon River Delta. Helen demands that they go to the city and she's not about to take no for an answer. And with that, back to Pam for part three of this fine, fine movie.
I'm here, Nate, eager to talk more about this wonderful movie. I still haven't figured out what makes the spaceship fly, but possibly it's the same power that keeps an atmosphere in a cave open to a vacuum. Let's skip over that, because I'm sure it won't be explained, and get back to the city. Our five astronauts enter a temple-ish sort of structure, vaguely Greek but with a statue of what looks like a Buddha and another of one of those Indian gods with multiple arms. I see no signs of swastikas, so it's probably not the Secret Nazi Moonbase. (But that doesn't mean there isn't one -- it could be right next door!)
The Nazis would have more art deco.
Displaying the same fine judgment he's shown so far, Grainger reaches into a brazier and concludes from the cold ashes that there hasn't been a fire in it for many years, if not centuries. He further deduces that the city belonged to a civilization now extinct. As though the Universe is determined to make a monkey out of him, Smith finds another brazier and uses one of Helen's matches to light a fire with no trouble at all, as he says that materials were already laid for a fire. Reissner chooses this time to grill Helen, wondering how she knows so much about the city, but Helen firmly denies any special knowledge. Through all this, Grainger just stands next to them with a vague look on his face, and this may be one of the times when Sonny Tufts had had a little too much to drink before showing up on set.
He's a scientist!
While the others gaze at the flames as though they'd never seen fire before, Helen and Smith wander off. As Helen looks knowing and visualizes the face of a woman with slanty eyebrows, Smith gets attacked -- a woman in a black leotard appears from nowhere and pounces on him like, and I just have to say it, a cat on a mouse. It's uncertain whether she has rape or dinner on her mind, but she's able to wrestle him to the ground with no trouble while Helen walks off without even trying to help. However, the other men hear the commotion and rush to Smith's aid, whereupon the woman runs away, leaving Smith rumpled but unhurt.
She's no help.
The men are now very suspicious of Helen and try to track her down. The burning brazier has been left unattended, and now another figure in a black leotard appears and puts out the fire merely by waving her hands over it. The men notice the fire has gone out, run back, decide again that they must find Helen and spread out to look for her, and now it's Reissner's turn to be grabbed by three women in black leotards. They seem to know what his gun is, since the first thing they do is try to get it away from him, and they run away as soon as he fires it. Meanwhile, Smith is attacked by a fourth woman in a black leotard.
All of these seem weaker than the first woman we saw, since three of them can't get the gun away from Reissner, and Smith has no trouble subduing his assailant. However, these women seem to have some Spooky Mind Powers besides being able to put out fires by waving their hands at them, because when the men run to Smith and pull him off the woman, she stands up, brushes herself off, and vanishes into thin air!
No fair, she's got no traction in those slippers.
The men exhibit the same mild astonishment that they showed to the giant spiders, and Grainger finally abandons all pretense at leadership as Reissner orders them all to stay together and look for Helen, although Grainger does muster enough moxie to insist on staying put for an hour to see if Helen will come back on her own. Did the writers of this movie have something against Sonny Tufts? Because he really has been looking like a dork so far.
Seriously, guys, give it up, you still have half an hour left before it's over.
The little we've seen of the Cat-Women gives the impression that they aren't friendly toward humans, at least to male humans. This impression proves to be correct, for Helen is now with a group of the Cat-Women, who tell Helen that she has been under their mental control since the spaceship left Earth, and apparently for some time before that, since they are the ones who taught her navigation. (I'm assuming here that Helen wasn't taken along as, say, a secretary, and suddenly developed an ability to navigate after the spaceship took off. However, given that the men accept an atmosphere on the moon, giant spiders, and women who disappear into thin air, with barely any surprise, maybe they didn't think it odd when Helen abruptly knew how to navigate.) This explains the strange remarks that Helen has been making since the ship left Earth. However, it seems the catwomen can't control men by mental telepathy (reason why not explained).
"Oh crap, this movie is going to be on my imdb page, isn't it?"
I'm going to digress a little here and give a brief description of the Cat-Women. They're all young, all wear identical black leotards with light-colored collars, have dark hair slicked back into a sort of bun, and have slanting dark eyebrows. Perhaps they're clones? The scene where the Cat-Woman pulled Smith to the ground suggested that the Cat-Women are stronger than the average Earth male (odd, because the ones we've seen are smaller than the men, and with the Moon's much lower gravity, you'd expect them to be very much weaker.)
What's with the toilet seat on the wall?
There are no Cat-Men, and the leader, Alpha, tells Helen why: when the Moon began to lose its atmosphere, the Cat-Women's ancestors decided on a policy of Maximum Energy Reduction, a/k/a planned genocide. This means what you think it means, and it seems the males were selectively targeted, since there are none at all left on the Moon. Alas, this only "postponed the inevitable," and the Cat-Women telepathed Helen to come to the Moon and take three of them to Earth in the spaceship. Once on Earth, they will take control over all Earthwomen and thus conquer the Earth. Helen must be deeply under their spell, because she doesn't say anything about the idiocy of killing off all the males if you expect the race to survive and why would she want to join up with a bunch of dumbbells. She does point out that all she knows how to do is navigate the spaceship (although why would they need her to do that if they're the ones who taught her how in the first place?) The Cat-Women leer evilly and say that they have a plan...
The "Hollywood Cover Girls", for reals.
Meanwhile, back at the temple, the men are still waiting. Reissner is getting antsy, but just as the men are about to set off to look for Helen, Helen shows up with several of the Cat-Women, who are carrying food and drink. Helen assures the men that the catwomen are friendly, but Reissner just glares at them and demands the return of their spacesuits. Helen says cuttingly that Reissner is being a bore, but this crushing remark leaves him unmoved, and he continues to demand the spacesuits as the Cat-Women set the table. Alpha assures him that their spacesuits will be returned in the morning, and he grudgingly shuts up. Grainger, upon being told that the Cat-Women have been in telepathic contact with Helen the entire trip, greets the news with typical indifference, and they all sit down to eat.
Anymore people in this line and you'd need a widescreen TV to see them all.
Now we see what the Cat-Women's plan is. A Cat-Woman sits down next to each man and proceeds to entice him with what he likes most. The sharpie Wallace/Walters is told of a cave filled with gold not far away; the shy Smith is romanced by Lambda, a Cat-Woman who seems quiet and demure, in contrast to the others; and Grainger is given a large jug of wine and a goblet. Reissner, meanwhile, is slumped in a chair with his pistol shoved into his belt, and sullenly insists on eating a bar of rations he had in his pocket. He glares at the Cat-Woman who approaches him with food and throws the ration bar wrapper at her.
Just eat the dinner rolls, Reissner, it won't kill you to be polite.
Grainger is not taking his eyes off that jug, but he does retain enough awareness to refuse to tell Alpha how the ship's autopilot works. In contrast, Wallace/Walters is succumbing to the temptation to see the cave, and Smith is falling fast for Lambda. Alpha offers a toast to the "everlasting friendship of our people," and the Cat-Women leave for the night. And guess what, it's Nate's turn again!
Yeah, Smith, I'd probably hit that, too.
And, oh my, am I ready for this to end! Reissner smells danger and takes Helen off alone to question her. He grabs her hand roughly and hurts her, but the pain seems to break the mind lock the Cat-Women have on her (ok, nice to know domestic violence has its good side). She admits that they want to kill all the men and take the rocketship back to Earth to colonize it. She also admits that the aliens made her be with Grainger instead of him, and he buys it. As she sneaks a peek at her palm, we can surmise that she's been lying and scamming Reissner this whole time, because the Cat-Women still have a hold on her emotions.
You always hurt the one you love.
In this scene, Reissner asks, "How do these Cat-Women intend to play their hand?", in the first and only use of the titular term "Cat-Women", which seems kinda strange. I'm not sure why they are called "Cat-Women" anyway. They don't look like cats and they don't act like cats (well, they are pretty cold and manipulative, that's cat-like for sure). Are they any relation to Catwoman from the Batman universe, does she have a secret outer space origin like Wonder Woman? Jocelyn Wildenstein's inspiration? Hello Kitty's satanic underpinnings? My God, is Cat-Women of the Moon the first Furry Fetish movie? My bowels shudder at the thought. Why Cat-Women, do they even know what they are trying to do?
This is a cat...
This is a woman...
This is a Cat-Woman from our movie, I'm not really seeing the resemblance here.
Let's forget all that for now, shall we? Giddy about Helen's admission of love, Reissner deliberately misleads Grainger, the nominal head of the mission, about the dangers they all face. Though, to be fair, ever since they landed, Reissner has been running roughshod over Grainger's tenuous hold on authority (the term "contemptible insubordination" comes to mind) so this is nothing noteworthy. What is amazing, however, is the number of immutable laws of physics Sonny Tufts has broken to get his pants hiked up so high.
Tufts does seem a bit tipsy here.
Meanwhile, Wallace/Walters and his attendant Cat-Woman are in the spaceship, he having allowed her access in his lust for fame and fortune. I see they are both wearing spacesuits, which suggests that the environment of the moon is hostile to the Cat-Women as well, which makes no sense based on their Athenian city's complete lack of a protective covering (though one could surmise an invisible force field of some sort like in that old Star Trek episode Who Mourns for Adonis?). If we buy the air in the cave and the city being breathable, how about the considerable distance you have to walk to get between places? I don't know why I'm worrying about this so much. Anyway, after she shows a strangely intimate knowledge of the ship's propulsion and navigation equipment, Wallace/Walters sets gender equality back a hundred years by groaning that she's, "too smart for me baby, I like them stupid."
That night, while the humans are sleeping on the most uncomfortable beds this side of The Phantom Planet, the Cat-Women perform an interpretive dance number in the courtyard. While they may be pretty girls, they sure can't dance a lick (sorta like the back-up dancers in that classic Robert Palmer video). We're also left to wonder where that Punjabi snake-charmer music is coming from.
Simply irresistible! Not.
Smith awakens to their siren call and wanders in to watch. He's entranced by the beautiful Lambda and they share a passionate kiss, which, odd for the '50s, doesn't involve any painful-looking mashing, twisting, or grasping, just a simple, effective, sweet kiss (these two were totally boinking off camera...). Smith's instant goo-goo eyes for Lambda suggests that he doesn't have a girlfriend back home, or perhaps still lives with his mom.
Now that's a kiss.
Helen, having now gone all bad girl noirishly rogue under the aliens' Mind Powers, sends Reissner away on a wild goose chase and then moves to kill off the sleeping Grainger. The camera cuts away as her hands reach for him...
Go for the jugular!
Back now with Wallace/Walters, who has been lured into the dark recesses of the cave in search of gold by his personal Cat-Woman. After incorrectly calling him "Doug" (can I get a post-pro editor, please?), the Cat-Woman slowly and easily slips a dagger into Wallace/Walters' back. Another greedy capitalist bites the dust, his pencil-thin mustache will be missed.
"Ouch, my film career!"
Meanwhile, Smith and Lambda have made their way to the Lunar equivalent of Make-Out Point and are busy swapping slobber when Lambda breaks down. She's suddenly had a change of heart about the whole "kill the men" plan, as she's fallen in love (awww...) with the kind but namby-pamby Smith. "I love you, but I must kill you.", she says with feeling. She tells him that all of this is being done to preserve their species and their civilization, which is in danger of collapse. With his blood flow going south instead of to his brain, Smith promises her that he'll come back for her and they'll make little cross-species mutant babies and she can have a nice, quiet 1950's suburban life of Tupperware parties, PTA meetings, and unreported spousal abuse.
Smith's pretty desperate for a date.
Lambda, now having serious second thoughts, goes to the boss-lady Alpha to ask if they can take one of the men back with them to Earth (her dreamy Smith). Alpha spouts her world conquest mantra again, but Lambda says she just wants to have a normal Earth woman life and wear something other than this leotard. Alpha gives her a roundhouse slap and Lambda leaves, now firmly out of the club. You know, I'm a bit surprised there are no blatant Red Scare Commie undertones to this movie, it is from 1953, after all. Unless, of course, the Cat-Women are somehow stand-ins for the Rooskies, and this whole movie is a subtle warning that we Americans should be wary of hot Soviet women coming to take over our fair nation (sign me up!).
Cat fight! (too easy?)
Now, before, they made it seem like Helen was going to strangle Grainger, but now, judging from their glowing, giggly, post-coital coziness, she might have been reaching for something else other than his throat, if you know what I mean. This doesn't sit well with Reissner, obviously, who not an hour ago was assured by Helen that she loves only him. Dude, get over it, women are evil and they just want your car and your Nickleback CDs.
Helen has now got Grainger so whipped that he's willingly writing down the instructions for the ship's auto-pilot operation, which is just what the Cat-Women need. Reissner, the only one who still has his wits about him, jumps in and confronts Helen. He once again grabs her arm and squeezes her hand, which somehow blocks the Cat-Women's Spooky Mind Hold. Once Helen is back to her senses, Reissner's first question is not, "How do we escape this deadly trap and make it home alive?", but "Are you in love with Grainger or me?". Dumbass.
Don't wrestle with girls, they break too easy.
When she truthfully says Reissner, they kiss and Grainger takes a manly swing at the other guy like they're both still in Junior High. Helen slips away while the men tussle over her and once they realize she's gone, they drop fists and run off to find her. Lambda tells them that Helen, Alpha and Beta just left to steal the rocketship. Smith and Reissner give chase while Grainger, now reduced to an ineffectual fifth banana, is left behind to adjust his pants and look for something to set on fire.
"Maybe my script copy is flammable."
Lambda does that "teleportation" thing again and appears before the Cat-Women (plus Helen) in the cave. There they have a heated confrontation that ends with Alpha smacking Lambda in the head with a rock, killing her instantly (you bitch!). Helen just stands there passively, her flesh is willing but her mind is weak. Smith and Reissner arrive on scene just then and Reissner pulls his pistol and starts shooting at the Cat-Women (from the hip, most irritatingly). The climatic action actually takes place off-screen, and all we get is Reissner telling us that the Cat-Women are dead and Helen is ok (total cop out). Smith couldn't care less, as he cradles Lambda in his arms and weeps.
Death's sweet sting.
Our closing scene is back in the ship as they take off for Earth. While they console poor Smith over the loss of his true love (that he just met yesterday and who was planning on killing him eventually), no one seems to even notice that Wallace/Walters is missing and presumed dead, nor does anyone seem too concerned about all the other Cat-Women left in the city who are surely out for blood. Nor does anyone wonder why the Cat-Women's city looked like a studio set from The Ten Commandments, or why there were no blonde Cat-Women, or how the Cat-Women open pickle jars or reach high shelves or change flat tires without any Cat-Men around. What if the Cat-Women are still up there on the Moon, in 2011? Are they mating with the Nazis? So many questions left unanswered, so many things to keep me up at night, so little free time to ponder such things.
The spacesuits look a lot bigger here than before.
So, in conclusion, Cat-Women of the Moon delivered exactly as promised, with cat-ish women living on the Moon doing cat-ish things. For that, I can't complain. Pam, any final thoughts on this bomb?
Not too many, Nate. I do, however, wonder why they're still trusting Helen. Was Alpha the only one who could take control of Earthwomen? I doubt it. And was Helen the only Earthwoman the Cat-women controlled? I doubt it. I think trouble is just around the corner for Earthmen. With any luck, things on Earth will be bad enough when they get back so that 1) Grainger doesn't get fired for being such an abysmally incompetent commander; 2) Reissner doesn't get fired and maybe court-martialed for repeatedly disobeying orders (I still can't tell if these astronauts are in the military or are civilians); 3) Helen doesn't get arrested for doing her best to sell out Earth to the Cat-women, and for indirectly causing the death of Walters/Wallace, and 4) Smith finally gets enough guts to move out of his parents' house (just my assumption that that's where he lives, but it seems reasonable based on his actions).
After thinking about this movie for too long, I've come to the conclusion that unlike so many movies of its time, it wasn't a thinly-veiled Red Scare, it was a thinly-veiled statement that Women Are No Damn Good. Of course, since it showed that women are capable of operating spacecraft and navigating them across space, it does tend to counteract the assumption common in the 1950s that women just aren't capable of grasping math and science and, you know, all those hard subjects. Whoever wrote this movie probably didn't take time to think through all the implications. Still, the actors are decent, the sets are kind of cool, and the movie's short, so there are worse movies out there you could be watching.
Written in February 2011 by Nathan Decker and Pam Burda.
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