Saturday, 16 May 2009

Cat-Women of the Moon (1953)

Cat-Women of the Moon illustrates one of the reasons I don’t give movies numerical ratings. If you were to rate this one on plot coherence, pacing, characterisation, directorial flair or set design you would have to rate it at about 2 out of 10. But for entertainment value, it rates much more highly. Its virtues are very much the virtues of movies such as Plan 9 from Outer Space. Lacking the money, resources and technical skill required for movie production, the makers of Cat-Women of the Moon went ahead and made a movie anyway. I tend to admire that sort of spirit.

The first rocket ship to reach the Moon (atomic-powered of course - this was 1953 and atomic power was the future) touches down on the Dark Side of the Moon. The craft has a crew of five, including one woman. She is the navigator, and she advises the pilot to land the ship in a sheltered valley she happens to know about. But how can she possibly know about this valley, since it’s on the Dark Side of the Moon? And how does she know about the nearby cave, which was not visible from the spaceship as it came in to land? It turns out that the Moon is inhabited, by an ancient race whose mastery of advanced science includes telepathy, and they have been communicating with her by his means, without her conscious knowledge. She was chosen because she is a woman, and the inhabitants of the Moon are all women.

Cat-Women of the Moon gains major bonus points not just for bad science, but for bad science above and beyond the call of duty. It turn out the Moon has an atmosphere, which proves (contrary to what scientists had thought) that it must have gravity as well! This atmosphere is unfortunately slowly being lost. The moon-people, in order to conserve oxygen in order to save their species, forcibly and drastically reduced their population. This population control included killing all all the males, obviously a wise and far-sighted move if your principal concern is to ensure the survival of your species. The moon-women (who are called cat-women because Cat-Women of the Moon is a cooler title than Women of the Moon) intend to steal the spaceship and use it to colonise the Earth.

The moon-women start getting friendly with the male members of the spaceship crew, so they an learn the skills necessary to pilot the ship back to Earth (luckily learning to fly a spaceship is something you can pick up in a couple of days) and of course one of the cat-women falls in love with one of the human astronauts. Then, as it looks like the movie might be moving towards a dramatic finale, it just sort of ends with a hurried resolution that gives the impression that the money simply ran out and they were unable to film a proper ending. Which is undoubtedly what actually happened.

The most surprising thing about this film is the presence of Marie Windsor as the navigator. It’s surprising because she could in fact act, and she actually attempts to do so, insofar as that’s possible given the wildly nonsensical script and jaw-droppingly bad dialogue which is all she’s given to work with. The acting of the remainder of the cast varies from barely adequate to absolutely deplorable. The costumes and sets are laughable. The pacing, even for such a short movie, is slow. The plot makes no sense at all.

But like an Ed Wood movie, it’s great fun. It’s a must for connoisseurs of spectacularly bad science fiction movies.

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