Mesa of Lost Women has just about everything you could want in a 1950s sci-fi flick, assuming your idea of great 50s sci-fi includes movies like Queen of Outer Space, Cat-Women of the Moon and other ultra-campy romps.
It’s a mad scientist movie and a monster movie. A man and woman are found wandering in Mexico’s Desert of Death. After they recover from dehydration and exhaustion they have an amazing tale to tell.
The sinister Dr Aranya (played by Jackie Coogan who is of course best known as Uncle Fester from The Addams Family) is conducting fiendish experiments on animals and people. He has created a race of spider-people. The males, like male spiders, are puny and weak. The females are beautiful and glamorous, but deadly and almost indestructible.
Dr Aranya had tried to enlist the assistance of another scientist, Dr Leland Masterson. When he refuses to cooperate he is used as an experimental subject and is left completely insane. He ends up in an asylum but escapes and hijacks a small plane which crash-lands on the very mesa on which Dr Aranya has his secret laboratory. Can Dr Aranya be stopped before his spider-women take over the world?
The special effects are ultra-cheap. The mad scientist laboratory is very basic. But the movie has enough goofiness in its plot to more than make up for these shortcomings, and the entire execution of the film is camp taken to delirious extremes.
The acting is bad, but it’s terrific Z-movie bad acting and it’s fun. Everyone is ludicrously intense. Tandra Quinn adds some exoticism as the most spectacular of the spider-women, the beautiful Tarantella. She can’t act but her non-acting performance is weird enough to be very effective. Harmon Stevens is ultra-hammy as Dr Masterson. While Jackie Coogan gets top billing he’s actually overshadowed by the spectacular and delightfully awful performances of the rest of the cast.
The plot makes no sense at all, which as it should be in this type of movie.
Most importantly the film runs for only 70 minutes, so there are no dull bits. Something silly is happening all the time.
My copy came on a three-movie disc along with Carnival of Souls and The Ape Man from an outfit called Classic Entertainment. The transfer is pretty dodgy but it was dirt cheap and it’s the sort of movie that is more fun if you’re watching a slightly grainy washed-out print with a few scratches.
Mesa of Lost Women is a classic of the campy sci-fi monster movie genre, a must-see for any self-respecting cult movie fan.