Friday, December 30, 2016

The Fur Flies In "Cat Women Of The Moon"

"Those who play with cats must expect to get scratched": The Hollywood Cover Girls bare their claws in this classic movie poster.

Hi-dee-ho, movie lovers.

Interested in getting your paws on a top-notch outer space thriller?

Watch "Aliens"!

Meanwhile, the rest of us plan to hunker down with "Cat Women Of The Moon" (1953), a cinematic hairball that stars "The Male Sensation of 1944" Sonny Tufts as the head of a mission-to-the-moon and "The Hollywood Cover Girls" as the Cat Women they encounter.

The fun begins with Commander Laird Grainger (Tufts) of Rocket 4 waxing philosophic about "the eternal wonders of space and time. The far away dreams and mysteries of other worlds. Other life. The stars. The planets.."

Female lady person Helen (Marie Windsor) makes a (space) ship to shore call while Kip (Victor Jory) eavesdrops.

But enough of that! Suddenly the flick cuts to a Playtex Easy Glide Tampon hurtling through the cosmos and then to its intrepid crew, who are strapped into lawn chairs and looking mighty uncomfortable.

Head honcho Tufts presides of a crack crew of space cadets that include second-in-command Kip (Victor Jory); the business oriented Walt (Douglas Fowley, who looks like the breast-obsessed director Russ Meyer); newbie Doug (Bill Phipps) and navigator Helen (Roger Corman regular and budget Joan Crawford Marie Windsor).

The fact that a woman of the female sex holds such an important position on this mission is meant to show that, in the future, all vestiges of debilitating sexism have been banished. However, since "Cat Women" was made in 1953, all vestiges of that era's sexism remain firmly in place. Case in point: the first thing Helen does after emerging from hyper-sleep is fix her hair and make-up. Later on, when the gang is attacked by a giant spider puppet wearing a tiara, the men launch into attack mode, while Helen screams and faints (twice).

There is another reason why Helen's presence on this trip is vital-- although neither Helen or her cohorts are aware of it. See, an ancient race of Cat Women have been using their superior mental telepathy powers to take control of Helen's mind. Why? Well, it's simple: the moon is running out of air. The Cat Women--who are the last of their lunar litter--must relocate PDQ. Their choice for a new home? Earth.

Of course, the Cat Women wouldn't be in this predicament at all if their tribal elders, many generations earlier, hadn't decided that the best way to "conserve air" was to knock-off half the population. The male half, to exact. Not only did this strategy not save any air, it pretty much ruined the moon's swinging singles scene.

"Comb Together": Helen (far right) checks out her coiffure while Sonny Tufts checks her out.

Through Helen, the Cat Women plan to lure Sonny Tufts and company to their settlement. Once there, the crafty kittens will pump the crew for info on how to fly their rocket ship. The Cat Women will then ditch the guys (but bring Helen along) and zoom off to Earth. It goes without saying that they will take over the planet, establish a female dictatorship and use males only for "breeding purposes." That, however, is farther down the plot-line. And it must reiterated that Helen knows nothing about the feline mind control being practiced on her; the poor dear merely thinks she's having weird dreams (or really bad PMS).

Now, it's not my intention to bog this article down with exposition and/or plot points, but there is one more aspect to Helen's presence that must be discussed before we move on.

It appears there is a subtle love triangle involving Laird, Kip and Helen... so subtle in fact, that Laird seems totally unaware of it. Never the less, Kip feels the need to dramatically announce, "Look, Helen, I have a very high regard for you. You're smart, you have courage and you're all woman! If it hadn't been for Laird, I would have tried to make it 'you and me' a long time ago!" To her credit, Helen tries to keep things professional, insisting her "interest" in Laird is "strictly scientific". Yet Kip keeps pushing, declaring, "You can't turn love on and off like a faucet!"

OK, back to the action.

"Cat got your tongue?": Helen is speechless upon meeting top cat Alpha and her pussy cat posse.

Our crew finally touches down on the moon. Guided by Helen (who is guided by the Cat Women, remember), the gang trudges to the town square of the Cat Women's encampment. The wonder of it all causes Helen to muse, "It's just like I dreamed! Only now the dream is real!" Seconds later, Helen wanders off to join her fellow feline femmes.

"Welcome to the moon!" purrs top cat Alpha (Carol Brewster). "This is my second-in-command Beta and this is Lambda."

Dressed in form fitting body suits with lace collars, sporting hair-dos that resemble shellacked pineapples and wearing enough mascara to make even Tammy Faye Baker wince, the Cat Women are a sight to see. To bad nobody thought about giving our moon minions some personality to go along with their outlandish wardrobe. Unfortunately, these lunar ladies are dull as dishwater and stiffer than starch. There are department store dummies with more get-up-and-go! After enduring their listless acting, you begin to believe boredom is what killed off their men-folk, not "planned genocide."

After conferencing with Helen, the Cat Women eventually show themselves to our unsuspecting male crew members. Although Beta had sneered earlier, "We have no need of men", the Cat Women know that the way to a man's brain is through his stomach. "May we serve you, Earth men?" the crafty cats ask, bearing trays of Hostess Sno-Balls and an exotic fruit that "tastes a little like Honey Dew Melon." The guys gleefully chow down and appear to enjoy to local wine, too. Everybody, in fact, seems to be getting along great, except for spoil-sport Kip. He plants himself in a corner instead, alternating between glaring at the gang and munching on a K-Ration.

It's during this little social hour that Walt, forever looking for ways to make a fast buck, notices a Cat Woman's bracelet. "It's made from a metal far superior to anything you have on Earth," she informs him. Walt is impressed--especially when he learns that the moon is so full of gold, the Cat Women don't even bother to mine it. Soon, the jet jockey and his feline hostess make a deal: he'll show her around the rocket ship if she shows him the gold.

"I'll show you mine, if you show me yours": Engineer Walt strikes a fatal bargain with his cunning kitty companion.

Walt holds up his end of the bargain and so does the Cat Woman. Unfortunately, while Walt is admiring all the gold, his pussy cat partner stabs him in the back--literally. She then scurries off to Alpha's office, where she mentally downloads all the science info she extracted from Walt.

A less sinister hook-up forms between newbie Doug and Lambda. While Doug munches on that strange moon fruit, he shyly drawls, "I wonder what the folks back home would think if they knew I was having dinner with a beautiful moon woman." These two are definitely headed for Heartbreak Hotel, especially after Lamdba confides, "I love you, Doug, but I must kill you."

Meanwhile, Kip has discovered that if he holds Helen tightly and covers a white spot on her palm (don't ask), it breaks the mental hold the Cat Women exert on his would-be cuddlemate. After doing so, Helen not only admits her true feelings for Kip, but also reveals the Cat Women's evil plans. Without a second to lose, Kip and Doug round up their space suits (with help from smitten kitten Lambda) and race after the Cat Women. Just as predicted, Lambda gets a fatal conk on the noggin for fraternizing with the enemy. While Doug mourns over Lambda's kitty corpse, Kip whips out his gun and races off camera. Bang! Bang! Bang! "The Cat Women are dead!" he yells triumphantly. Oh, and "Helen's alright!"

When we next see them, our crew (minus Walt) are busily working at their stations. Commander Laird tries to comfort the heartbroken Doug ( "What's done is done."), but the newbie insists he's fine. When Rocket 4 finally makes contact with White Sands ( which is ground control, not the hotel), the folks on Earth want to hear all about their mission to the moon. "That's a long story," Doug sighs before signing off. "Cat Women Of The Moon", over and out.

Our featured presentation holds a special place in the pantheon of Junk Cinema. Part of this is due to the priceless presence of Sonny Tufts, "The Male Sensation of 1944" and the Godfather of every talentless Hollywood pretty boy who has since come down the pike, from Troy Donahue to Christopher Atkins to Zac Effron.

"When I think, it hurts": Commander Sonny Tufts confers with second-in-command Victory Jory.

Tufts got his start as the eye-catching "Shirtless G. I." in "So Proudly We Hail" and studio execs were hopeful he could be the Next Big Thing in matinee idols. Unfortunately, Sonny's total lack of acting talent kept getting in the way. (Reportedly, when Sonny did a screen test, his dramatic reading was thought to be comedy piece.) By the time Sonny starred in "Cat Women Of The Moon", he was struggling to hold on to his career and his figure (rim shot!). As Commander Laird Grainger, Tufts stumbles around the cardboard sets like a suburban dad who can't remember where he left the Mini-Van in the Park and Ride. On several occasions you can clearly see him reading directly from his script. And more than once a co-star must jump in and finish Sonny's lines.

No wonder, then, that The Golden Turkey Awards chose to nominate "Cat Women Of The Moon" as one of "The Worst Performance(s) By Sonny Tufts", alongside "Cottonpickin' Chicken Pickers" (1968), "Government Girl" (1943) and "The Well-Groomed Bride" (1946). The eventual winner as "Government Girl", a comedy Sonny claimed was "about as funny as three caskets."

Of course, as bad as Sonny is, he gets plenty of competition from his feline co-stars "The Hollywood Cover Girls." These gals just may be the worst acting "group" in motion picture history, besting even The Village People in "Can't Stop The Music" (1980) or the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders when they set sail on a special 2-hour "Love Boat" cruise. Although the script asks The Cover Girls to do little more than perform klutzy dances and slink about, even these tasks appear to be beyond their capabilities. No wonder, then, that after their auspicious debut in "Cat Women", these starlets faded into obscurity, popping up (once in a blue moon) only as a trivia question.

The rest of the cast--Victory Jory, Marie Windsor, Douglas Fowley and Bill Phipps--struggle to hold on to their dignity, but it's a losing battle.

No review of "Cat Women Of The Moon" can over look the sexism that wafts through this flick like odor from a used litter box.

"She's Got...Tammy Faye Baker Eyes?": One of "The Hollywood Cover Girls" tries to act, but her make-up upstages her.

In fact, The Son Of The Golden Turkey Awards nominated "Cat Women" as "The Most Primitive Male Chauvinist Fantasy In Movie History", along with such luminaries as "Prehistoric Women" (1950), "Mesa Of Lost Women" (1953) and "Fire Maiden From Outer Space" (1956). "Cat Women" follows the trope of an isolated community of man-starved females who can't be trusted because, you know, women are two-faced. The flick also suggests that women are happiest tending to domestic duties; when the "liberated" Helen is told she can't go on a lunar camp-out, she protests her exclusion by squealing, "Who's going to cook your meals?!" Perhaps the lowest point in the flick occurs when the ill-fated Walt tells his kitty companion, "You're too smart for me, baby! I like 'em dumb!"

So, kiddies, what have we learned from today's lunar lunacy?

1) Wine and cheese may improve with age, but Sonny Tuft's acting does not.

2) Any female dominated society, regardless of how old or advanced it is, is just a super-snooty sorority run by Mean Girls.

3) Check the fine print! It's Elmer Bernstein, not "Bernstien"! 

Commander Laird tries to comfort heart-broken newbie Doug: "When we get back to Earth, we'll get you a new kitty."

4) Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: the sets for "Cat Women Of The Moon" later popped up in "Missile To The Moon."

5) If you want your spider puppet to inspire real chills, nix its tiara.

So, movie lovers, please always remember, and never forget, cats may shed, they may be picky eaters, they may sleep on clean laundry and they may play havoc with your Christmas ornaments, but they are NOT as bad as those dastardly "Cat Women Of The Moon"!

Thank you for all your support and SAVE THE MOVIES!