MARS NEEDS WOMEN
(1968)



Hi, it's Pam again. I was sitting at my desk, thinking about what movie I wanted to review next, when I realized that the last few movies I reviewed had actually been somewhat good. Although you, the reader, might not mind this, it's actually harder for this particular MMT-ian to review a good(ish) movie than a bad one. Bradley and Nate may have a different opinion, but to me, good movies just don't give me enough to snark about. And snark is what MMT is about, after all. So I asked myself, What are some awful movies I've seen in the past? As it happens, I've seen quite a lot, but for some reason my mind wandered back to the late 1960s, when TV movies became popular. Some of them were not bad, some were awful. Many of them have been posted on Youtube. Then, for no reason I can explain, one particular TV movie popped into my head: Mars Needs Women.

I remembered watching this movie at some point in time, but I didn't remember when, and I didn't remember much about it, except that I thought it wasn't very good. Therefore it seemed like the perfect movie to review, plus it might help us fill out some of the history of the Red Planet and its needs.

You loyal MMT readers (all ten of them...) might remember some other movies about Mars that MMT has reviewed, movies that tell us what the Martian way of life is like. First there was Devil Girl From Mars, in which we learned that in fact that Mars needs men. But that was in 1954, so it seems that much has changed. Then there was Santa Claus Conquers the Martians , where we learned that Mars needs Santa Claus. Then there was Princess of Mars, which told us that Mars needs power plants to manufacture its air. There was also Aelita, Queen of Marswhich revealed that Mars really needs fashion consultants and interior decorators. And let's not forget The Day Mars Invaded Earth, which suggests that Mars needs... I'm not sure what, possibly just to keep humans off it. Maybe Santa Claus really put them off humans. Occasionally Mars breaks down and does something nice for humans, as it does in A Message From Mars where a Martian teaches a human to be generous. There's also The Christmas Martian, who takes two Earth children on an extended joyride in a flying saucer.

But before I get started with my review, I have two questions about Mars Needs Women that I hope the movie can answer. First, is it going to give us a more coherent picture of Martian society? So far what we've seen is very fragmented, not to mention contradictory. However, let's not forget that the movies MMT has seen up to now cover a wide span of time, so Martian society could have changed drastically in the intervals between the movies. It's also not safe to assume that there's only one dominant culture on Mars. There could be many different cultures with many different ways of life. I hope this movie provides more information.

My second question is, is this going to be a good movie or a bad movie? It's quickly answered by the opening credits: "Written and Directed by Larry Buchanan." Larry Buchanan, the genius who made The Eye Creatures. Oh, yeah. This one's going to be bad. So on to the movie.

We open with three mystifying scenes. In the first one, a man and a woman are playing tennis, when the woman abruptly disappears. It happens instantaneously, without so much as a blur or some sparkly lights. In the next scene, a man and a woman are eating in a restaurant. The man gets up to buy a pack of cigarettes from a cigarette vending machine (how many of you have ever seen one of those in real life?), and the woman also abruptly disappears. In the third scene, a woman is taking a shower (don't worry, you can't see anything below her shoulders), and she disappears in a blink. What is happening?

The next scene is completely different. We see an Air Force officer being driven somewhere. He has a motorcycle escort, so his mission must be of some importance. A shot of a sign tells us he is going to a place called "United States Decoding Service - NASA Wing." I'm sure nobody will be surprised to learn that no such organization seems to have ever existed in real life, but you're probably wondering exactly what it's supposed to be doing. Me, too, but we're about to find out.

The Colonel arrives at his destination and hurries to a room that contains some 1960s-era computers. It seems that this organization monitors and translates various worldwide broadcasts, and they've been picking up a very unusual broadcast, which has just been decoded. The message: "Mars Needs Women."


Perplexed Air Force officer

This message has been repeated over and over three days, and nobody knows what it means. The Colonel tells a high-ranking government official, who says he'll tell the President about the message. It seems to me they're taking this a little too seriously at this point, because it could very well be a prank somebody's pulling.

However, it seems that I'm wrong about that. The Colonel returns to the computer room, where he's informed that whoever sent the message is going to communicate further. He does, and he informs the Colonel that "we" have tried to seize three women "by transponder" but were unsuccessful, so somebody is coming in person. I'm worried about the three women who disappeared. I hope they're okay.

Somebody does appear, as instantaneously as the three women disappeared.


Probably an alien

The Somebody introduces himself as Dop and says that he comes from Mars, also that he comes in peace. It seems that there has been a regression in the Y chromosomes in Martian genetics (his words), which has led to a ratio of 100 men to every woman. To remedy this, Mars is looking to Earth for assistance, and five Martian men have set out in a spaceship with room for five women. The first scenes suggest that the Martians were planning simply to kidnap five women who looked good to them, but as mentioned above, they don't seem to be able to do this. Dop doesn't mention this now, but instead insists that they're looking for five fertile women to volunteer to come to Mars.

Now I would think that it would be worth a shot to try to find five women willing to volunteer, but the Colonel is outraged at the mere suggestion and demands that Dop's crew forget the whole thing and return to Mars. Dop looks at him and says that they intend to carry out their mission regardless, and then blinks out.

The matter is brought to the attention of the United Nations, and it seems that the entire world is as outraged as the Colonel. What is the world going to do? It's not sure. Jets are dispatched to look for the Martian spaceship, but somehow the Martians make the jets' radar malfunction. More jets are sent to try to spot the Martian spaceship visually, but this time their instruments malfunction. The Colonel, who seems to have remained in the same spot in the computer room while all this has been going on, is baffled and angry. He thinks the Martians are gloating over how much better their technology is than ours. By the way, Byron Lord, the man who plays the Colonel, is a terrible actor who tries to make his character come to life mostly by displaying teeth-clenching anger, but to be fair, he isn't getting much help from the script.

What are the Martians up to? We find out when a couple of fishermen spot an unexplained flare.


What could this be?

They don't want to stick around to see what it is, even though they suspect they've had a little too much to drink and are seeing things. But here they wrong themselves, because it seems that the Martians, instead of flying around in the sky, have actually chosen to hole up under water. Their spaceship doesn't look very big, and probably for this reason, they elect to reside in a spooky-looking building. Dop mentions that this is an old ice plant - how does he know? We'll find out later that this ice plant is somewhere in the vicinity of Houston.

It seems that the Martians need things besides women, as Dop tells his four subordinates that they need "brine, ammonia, salts, and sodium." Fortunately for the Martians, there are stocks of these still in the building. One of the other Martians is a doctor, and he warns them that the gravity on Earth is higher than the gravity on Mars, so they need to avoid unnecessary exertion. He also tells them that they will be on Earth for only 24 hours, and they aren't allowed to eat any Earth food. Dop tells them that they aren't allowed to use violence in any confrontation with humans, but they may use hypnosis. He then sends one of his crew, whose name seems to be Fellow 3, out to get money and a map of the city. Where does Fellow 3 go?


Very nostalgic

Fellow 3 seems to be surprisingly familiar with Earthly gas stations, because he knows how to step on the cable to summon the attendant. For the younger readers, I may need to say that when this movie was made, self-serve gas stations didn't exist, and the cable was there so that when you pulled up to the pump and drove over the cable, a bell would ring inside the gas station and let the attendant know to come outside and fill up your car with gas. I haven't seen a full-service gas station in years, and I understand there aren't any left in the United States outside of Oregon and New Jersey, both of which for some reason have banned self-service gas stations. I'm surprised that Fellow 3 knows about the cable, but maybe Martian gas stations of the time had the same setup.

Anyway, the attendant comes out of the gas station, Fellow 3 knocks him out, then runs into the gas station, opens the cash register, and helps himself to the cash. He also grabs a map, and just then a car drives up. Fellow 3 responds by blinking out, and I suppose he goes back to the ice plant.

Fellow 4, another member of the crew, is sent out to obtain an automobile. His assignment is more complicated, because Dop tells him not to steal just any old car but one that won't be missed for at least 24 hours. This seems like rather a tall order. Can Fellow 4 read minds so he'll know who's planning to be away from his car for 24 hours? Apparently not, but he does something I find even less plausible: he goes to the long-term parking lot at an airport and helps himself to a car whose driver he saw carrying a suitcase and heading for the terminal. I note that he has no difficulty at all driving the car. The only thing I can figure is that Mars has been studying Earth for some time, so Dop and his crew are fully up to speed about Earth technology.

Dop and his crew might know all about Earth technology, but they're not quite as familiar with current human male attire as worn in the United States.


Not what men wear in my neck of the woods

However, Dop is on top of this and dispatches Fellow 5 to get them some clothes that won't be so conspicuous. I'm rather relieved to see that Fellow 5 doesn't know how to pick Earthly locks but instead uses an "air knife" to break in. But how will he know what sizes of clothing to get? It seems that Dop has prepared a chart that converts Earth sizes to Martian sizes and has given it to Fellow 5. Dop thinks of everything.

These Martians know way more about Earth than I find credible, but Fellow 5 does get appropriate clothing for all the crew. He seems to know what he's doing, and shortly thereafter, all five Martians sally forth from the ice plant, dressed as American males of 1968 down to their haircuts, and determined to find themselves women.


Good luck, men from Mars!

It seems that each Martian has his own ideas about how to find the ideal woman. One goes to a movie theater, and one goes to a strip club. Dop and the Doctor go to a fancy hotel but find that no rooms are immediately available. They go to the bar to wait and see if there's a cancellation, and they order martinis (har, har). However, they're told that they can only get beer or wine because mixed drinks can't be sold in Texas, even in big cities like Houston. This surprised me, but American liquor laws are inscrutable. They content themselves with beer, but Dop's attention is distracted by the TV broadcast, which mentions that a Dr. Marjorie Bolen has come to Houston for a "high-level meeting at Monitor 1." The newscaster doesn't explain further what the meeting's about, but he states that Dr. Bolen has a degree in space medicine, has written a Pulitzer-prize-winning book on space genetics, and is a stunning brunette who finds it hard to hide her charms behind horn-rimmed glasses. No kidding, he really says that.

Dop's attention has clearly been caught by the brief shot of Dr. Bolen on the news, and his attention is further caught by a poster in the lobby that announces that Dr. Bolen will be giving a news conference at the hotel on extraterrestrial reproduction, a/k/a Sex in Outer Space (the actual title on the poster, believe it or not). Unfortunately the poster also says that only newsmen with the proper credentials will be admitted, but I have a feeling that Dop will figure something out. He does, and his plan is simple. He calls the front desk to find a reporter who's just arrived from out of state, then he goes to the room to hypnotize the reporter into giving him his press card and going back home.

Of course Dop knows just how to hypnotize a human, and in almost no time, the reporter is out the door and on his way home, leaving the room free for Dop and the Doctor. The Doctor produces some sort of radio, which at the press of a button connects him with Fellows 3, 4, and 5. They communicate back by speaking into a wristwatch-like device.


Martian technology includes expandable watchbands

Fellow 4, it seems, has chosen an airport in which to search for women, and he has his eye on a cute stewardess. Of the other two, one sends a signal that he's okay but can't respond now, and we see that the other is still in that strip club and can't hear the signal over the music. The stripper gets a fair bit of screen time and we see her in various stages of undress, but even at her least dressed, she's still wearing a sequined bikini. Remember, this was a made-for-TV movie. Fellow 4 decides to make a move on her, and as the scene fades, we see them together in her dressing room. Right now it doesn't look too good for romance, as her response is to scream.

Back to Dop, who decides that he wants to hear Dr. Bolen's lecture, which for some reason is being given at 10:00 PM. The Doctor doesn't go along. He's decided to focus his attention on college women, and he wants to go to sleep so he can get up early and chase the coeds.

So Dop heads off to meet Dr. Bolen. Since this movie was made in 1968, you probably won't be surprised to hear that Dr. Bolen is getting a good deal of harassment from the men in the audience at her lecture. She's not putting up with any nonsense, though, and she tells the reporters bluntly that if they can't come up with a pertinent question, she's ending the conference.


The beauteous Dr. Bolen

Somebody does - it's Dop. He asks if it's possible that what happened on Mars could happen on Earth. Dr. Bolen says that her research shows that that's a possibility. A reporter asks that if the Martians are mutants, will they be freakish-looking? She says that on the contrary, they probably look a lot like us. Of course we all know that she's right. With that, she ends the session.

Dop hangs around after the reporters have left the room, and Dr. Bolen thanks him for his question. She must really have liked it, because she asks Dop to go for a walk with her. Either there was a great deal of the session we weren't shown, or that was a very long walk, because the next scene shows them strolling along in broad daylight. You'll perhaps recall that the session started at 10 PM. They seem to be getting along pretty well, when Dr. Bolen spots a sign advertising a show for a "Trip to Mars." She pulls Dop into the theater, and along with a bunch of schoolchildren, they settle down to watch. Unfortunately the projector breaks down after a couple of minutes, but Dop takes over, narrating information about Mars. It seems that Mars needs a lot more than just some women, since Dop claims that the reason Mars is red is because most of the oxygen has been eaten up by oxidizing the rocks. The schoolkids applaud his presentation, but Dr. Bolen is clearly wondering how it is he knows so much about Mars. Whatever she's thinking about Dop, it must be favorable, and as they leave the theater they're holding hands.

Dop is clearly rather smitten, too, and as he goes back to his and the Doctor's hotel room, he seems to be in a daze. But how are the other Martians doing? The doctor is back in the room, sound asleep. Fellow 4 is still at the airport, trying to snag a stewardess, and it looks as though he's trying some Spooky Mind Powers on her. One of the others is at a - college football game? That's not my idea of the best place to pick up women, but he's eyeing the candidates for homecoming queen. The announcer tells us that they're being judged on the qualities that make up the ideal woman - good looks, good health, good deportment, and good personality - so I guess the Martian knows what he wants in a woman and how to find her. Evidently neither the judges nor the Martian consider intelligence to be of any importance in a woman.


The perfect woman?

It seems that the Martian agrees with the judges that the winner is the ideal woman, and as the announcer has considerately told everybody which sorority she belongs to and therefore where she lives, he hotfoots it to her sorority house. Somewhere along the way he acquires a florist's van and some flowers, which he proceeds to deliver to her. He also appears to be using Spooky Mind Powers on her.

I'm not the only one to have noticed that the Martians are using something other than natural charm to achieve their goals. The scene shifts to a meeting, in which a man is informing a group of people that both the stewardess and the homecoming queen have disappeared, and therefore he concludes that the Martians must have been using hypnosis. Okay, we seem to have skipped some steps here. First: When did humans learn that the Martians are actually on Earth? Second: How did this man come to the conclusion that the Martians are responsible for the disappearance of those two women? People disappear all the time for all sorts of reasons. In fact, since Dop said that the Martians were going to be on Earth for only 24 hours, there doesn't seem to have been enough time to realize that the two women have actually disappeared. (I suspect the 24-hour thing was quietly ignored by the filmmakers, once they realized that this really didn't give the Martians enough time to track down and abduct five women, and they didn't bother to go back and edit out Dop's statement.) Third: How did this man know the Martians were using hypnosis on the women?

During the meeting, we are informed that the stripper has also disappeared. I was beginning to wonder if the Doctor had struck out, but no, just as he told Dop, he's at the college campus and spots a pretty blonde girl who is outdoors sketching. The Doctor evidently is a man who makes his mind up quickly, for after a minute or two of conversation, he's using his Martian powers of hypnosis on her.

Back at the meeting, the Colonel is now talking, and apparently he already knows that this girl has been abducted, too. He informs the audience of this fact, and Dr. Bolen is part of the audience so now she knows, too. The Colonel further tells the audience that the at center of all the Martians' activities is a lake, which contains an old ice plant. Dr. Bolen pricks up her ears at this and tells them that "sleep freeze," a process in which space travelers are frozen cryogenically so they'll sleep during space travel, is being discussed on Earth as a way to avoid the danger and the boredom of space travel. She thinks that the Martians picked the ice plant as their base on Earth because it has the chemicals they need for sleep freeze. The Colonel agrees that this makes sense and makes a plan to raid the ice house once night has fallen.

It seems that the Martians are going to be toast in short order, but something's going on that the people at the meeting don't know. The information about the Martians is being given out to reporters, and as you may remember, Dop is passing himself off as one. Yes, Dop knows exactly what the humans are planning to do. Furthermore, one of the reporters says that Dop should talk to Dr. Bolen get more information.

Dop is quite okay with this, and he takes Dr. Bolen out on a date. I notice that Dop now has a car and the knowledge of how to drive it, but of course it's possible that Mars has developed similar vehicles. Matters appear to be going rather quickly with the couple, and Dr. Bolen says she's going to take Dop to meet her father. However, Dr. Bolen in fact takes Dop to a museum, because her father, who was also an expert in genetics, is no longer alive. As they stroll through the exhibits that display her father's research, she and Dop have their arms around each others' waists, and they're looking at each other more than they're looking at the exhibits. Finally they kiss.


The lovebirds

But you'll recall that Dop, like Cinderella, has a deadline. He reminds Dr. Bolen that he's assigned to report on the hunt for the Martians, so he'll have to end their date, and she tells him that by tomorrow he'll be back in Seattle and she may never see him again. He asks her why he'll be going home tomorrow, and she spills the beans about the planned raid on the Martian headquarters. The raid, in fact, is going to take place in about an hour. Off he dashes, and Dr. Bolen follows him, even though he tells her it would be better if she didn't. Ah, true love! I suppose she thinks he's just a very dedicated reporter at this point?

At the ice plant, the other four Martians are preparing their women for the trip to Mars.


This doesn't look good for the women, I hope the Martians know what they're doing

Dop and Dr. Bolen reach the ice plant, and as soon as they're inside, Dr. Bolen learns that her new love is in fact one of the Martians. Dop announces the bad news and tells the other Martians to leave the women and get into their spaceship. He, however, is staying on Earth. The other Martians react quite negatively to this news, as it seems that if they go back to Mars without any women, they'll be executed. The Doctor holds a gun on the pair and says that either Dop or Dr. Bolen has to go back to Mars. If Dr. Bolen goes, the mission will be considered successful enough so that the four Martians' lives will be spared. If Dop goes, he'll be the one to be punished, and the other Martians will be spared.

Actually, if Dr. Bolen goes and they prepare her for the trip after the spaceship leaves Earth, as the Doctor says they can, why can't they take the other four women, too? However, nobody mentions this, and Dop better make his mind up fast, since the soldiers have just arrived at the ice plant. (It seems to be a remarkably small force to combat such a menace to the entire world. It's night now, and the scene is so dark it's hard to tell for sure, but there seems to be no more than five or six soldiers and two officers, one of which may be the Colonel.) One thing may help Dop make up his mind. From the Martians' conversation, it's clear that there's nothing romantic about the other Martians' intention toward the women, the women are going to be breeders only.

Dop announces firmly that Dr. Bolen will be remaining on Earth. He tells her that the word "love" disappeared from the Martian vocabulary a hundred years ago, but nevertheless, he loves her. He's so convincing here that it's hard to keep in mind that at this point, they've known each other less than 24 hours. The other Martians are already climbing into the spaceship, and the Doctor is kind enough to stop and tell Dr. Bolen that the women are only under mild sedation and will wake up soon. After one last kiss, Dop follows them, and the spaceship takes off, leaving the broken-hearted Dr. Bolen behind.

Much to my surprise, I sort of liked this movie, although it had its problems. It was obviously very cheaply made, which certainly didn't help. It was also obviously made in a hurry. There were two things that made no sense. First: what happened to the three women who blinked out at the start of the movie? No explanation was ever given. From the callous attitude of the four Martians to the women they captured, I suspect that this first attempt to capture some breeders failed and the three women died as a result of the abduction, but this was never mentioned. Second: Why did the Martians broadcast "Mars Needs Women" in the first place, and if they felt the need to, why did they broadcast it in code? Other than to capture our interest, I mean.

For the most part, the acting ranged from just adequate to awful. Yvonne Craig, the actress who played Dr. Bolen, was fairly good. She had already done a lot of television work when she appeared in the movie, with her most famous role being Batgirl in the Batman TV series. Mars Needs Women was one of the few movies she appeared in. Although her roles got scarcer as she got older, she continued to act until 2011. She died in 2015.

The most famous actor, and the best actor, in this movie is Tommy Kirk, the man who played Dop. As you probably already know, Tommy Kirk was a successful Disney actor until a few years before this movie. His career hit the skids when Disney found out that he was in a relationship with a teenaged boy and promptly fired him. He got a little more work in movies, but by 1968, he was reduced to acting in movies like this one. He also developed a drug problem, and offers for work got scarcer and scarcer. He did manage to turn his life around, I'm glad to say. He stopped acting in the 1970s, gave up drugs, opened a successful carpet-cleaning business, and even did a little more acting in the 1990s. He died last year. I was really surprised to see that he did a good job playing Dop, since it's not the kind of part he usually played. He gave Dop an otherwordly air that the other Martians didn't have, and it was easy to believe that he was from another planet. If more pains had been taken with this movie, it could have been pretty good, but it was obviously thrown together as quickly as possible. I have to say that it was an improvement over The Eye Creatures.

I'm sorry to say that this movie is yet another one that paints Mars in a very poor light. I recommend that Dop and his buddies get together with the Devil Girl, so both their problems can be solved in one fell swoop and they'll leave us humans alone.



Written by Pam Burda in November, 2022.





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