:: Saturday, November 22, 2003 ::
Nude on the Moon
With this film, we conclude our rockets-to-the-moon marathon. I've tried to show how the category includes a broad spectrum of cinema. As you know, we've covered the classics, the cat-women, the comedies and others in-between. We've covered all the genres but one: the nudie flick. Today we can cover that lacuna with a really looney lunar movie.
Nude on the Moon (trailer) isn't just an exploitation film; it's a Doris Wishman movie. Her movies are really something special:
Doris Wishman was a filmmaker who wasn't ashamed to admit that she was in it only for the money and that her top priority was "what will sell". Of course, what sells is nudity, but the obscenity laws of the '50's prohibited its public exhibition. However, an obscure law on New York state's law books made an exeption for films that featured nudist colonies, deeming them "educational". So Doris shot several films on the property of a nudist colony and wrote screenplays whose plots somehow included groups of topless women. Her screenwriting method involved coming up with a title and poster tag line, then coming up with a story to go along with it. Since her budgets were about a buck-fifty, she really set up a challenge for herself when she came up with the title "Nude on the Moon". But Doris came through and, by the looks of it, under budget.
Wishman never let her lack of training get in the way of her moviemaking career, though; she directed a prolific 28 movies between l960 and l978. Her seat-of-the-pants style often features a hand-held camera prowling the room, focusing on a clock, shoes, or table legs while the dialogue continues; other times the camera shakes and jerks around violently during action segments. Her stories often have moral overtones as wayward, naïve females fall victim to predatory males in vice-ridden journeys through the sexual revolution of the Sixties. However, her themes also frown on the swinging bachelor lifestyle of the time as well. Her movies are distinct from those of her contemporaries due to their direction and plots (Wishman often employed the country-songwriter ploy of coming up with a title and then writing the film's story around it). The wildly improbable plots and the trashy look of her films has since made her a favorite with sleaze connoisseurs (the sharp-eyed viewer will even see a tribute to Double Agent 73 in John Waters' Serial Mom).
Before we get started, I want to assure you that while Nude on the Moon is an exploitation flick, it isn't sleazy. Proof?
Is it worth checking out?
Yes, only for the sheer absurdity of it all. Funny thing is, the nudity is actually quite wholesome. There's nothing lewd or lasivious about it. This would be quite comfortable on "The Wonderful World of Disney" (but with black bars covering the naughty bits).
Never has nudity been more wholesome. This is a nudie pic for the whole family. Your children can sit and watch it and laugh right along with you. There's nothing offensive. What a great way to dispel unhealthy attitudes towards the human body! You can teach your kids not to have a snickering, lewd attitude towards their bodies and to accept them as a natural part of life. Then they'll get bored and leave to go do something else while you sit there amazed that such a wiggy movie ever got made. With a Doc Severenson theme song!
I also appreciated how this movie so accurately depicts what life is like on lunar nudist colonies. If any of you have ever been, you will understand. Don't you get sick and tired of Hollywood misrepresenting nudity in outer space? I do.
Heh heh. Finally a film that gets space nudity right. Let's have a look:
Our film begins as Dr. Jeff Huntley (William Mayer) arrives at the airport to pick up an important telegram. It's got such great news, he rushes back to his lab to tell his friends.
And here are his friends: the Professor (Lester Brown) and Cathy (Marietta). Cathy's Jeff's secretary and she really has the hots for him. She even keeps a picture of him in her desk drawer, so she can gaze longingly when Jeff's not around.
The Professor's no dummy: he can see what's in Cathy's eyes. He jokes with her about the torch she's carrying, rubbing in the bad news about Jeff's current girlfriend Mary. Ouch!
Jeff shows up and delivers the good news: his rich old uncle just died, leaving a two million dollar fortune to him. Is that enough money to build a rocketship to the moon? Read on to find out!
The Professor's skeptical. Even if he can perfect his miracle rocket fuel, traveling to the Moon is a young man's game. Note the lard smeared in his locks to simulate age. He's about to decline the honor of copiloting the craft, but Jeff is insistent
With the matter of the crew settled, Jeff announces it's party time! He grabs Cathy and asks her to invite over all their friends, including the hated girlfriend Mary. Mind, this is a really low budget film, so the party takes place off screen. The next day it's back to the lab. Over the next six months, Jeff and the Professor slave away in search of the right ingredients to build a rocket to the Moon.
In the above picture, you can see the Professor working on the fuel mixture. The flask has a couple of yellow and red Warning: Radiation stickers on it. Should the Professor be sitting so close? It's practically in his lap -- the last place you'd want something radioactive.
With their work complete, Jeff and the Professor share a pensive moment (and cigarette) on the beach. Then it's off to the launch pad and on to the Moon!
Jeff drives them in his big purple Cadillac. It's probably the best thing in this movie. Do they still make purple cars anymore? I hope so. Anyway, the drive takes forever. This is a short film, and one wonders why Wishman chose to waste precious time here. Whatever the reason, Tarkofsky would steal this idea and include it in his own science fiction opus Solaris. As they drive, they chit-chat about mundane stuff, like the movie the Professor will have to miss on account of this trip.
Hideout in the Sun in Nudearama: Doris Wishman's very first film (Nude on the Moon is her second). This is one of the film's funniest moments. Just two guys driving to their rocket and chatting about adult cinema. Priceless!
The rocket scientists arrive at the unlikeliest of launch pads (off-screen, but somewhere in that forest, I guess) and climb aboard their craft.
And with that, it's rocket day!
By the way, the rocket footage is obviously "borrowed" from another film. Can anyone identify it? I'm guessing it's from an industrial or educational film. Either way, I'd love to know.
Jeff and the Professor fake the gees. This is a rocketship movie, so it's obligatory. But then, for some mysterious reason they fall asleep. They doze right through the obligatory meteor shower.
Fans of the rocketship genre can spot this obvious cinematic error. What is the point of a meteor swarm? To heighten the dramatic tension via the crews' reactions to the danger. And here our crew is asleep. Tsk. tsk, Doris!
Our heroes spaceship detaches the crew module lands automatically. That's either an impressive spaceship or some sloppy writing. And did you know the Moon is green? Neither did I. As the ship touches down it jolts our heroes awake. As they contemplate their tremendous luck, they ponder whether they have truly arrived on the Moon. After all, they were asleep and could have ended up anywhere.
No matter. Our heroes suit up and survey their surroundings. Don't they look dapper in their spacesuits? Those are the *best* *spacesuits* *ever*. I especially like the air-hoses that go up into their unenclosed helmets. That's a nice touch.
The Moon (or whatever they've landed on) doesn't look very lunar. In fact it looks suspiciously like the Florida they just left. Jeff and the Professor take a stroll around, and find large gold nuggets just lying around on the (obviously mowed) lawn.
Upon discovery of the gold, the two debate the goals of the expedition. Jeff's for ignoring the rocks in favor of more scientific measurements. The Professor turns avaricious. He's just seen Jeff blow his inheritance on a Moon junket and is thinking about funding future expeditions. Jeff points out that they don't know what will happen to the gold if they take it back through the radiation belts -- it might change into another element. Is this film accusing Van Allen of alchemy? I think so.
After another stroll, Jeff and the Professor come across signs of civilization. There's a city in the distance. They walk over, climb up a ladder and look over the wall (opening their helmets to get a better view!). What do they see?
Lots and lots of half-nude people with antennae on their heads. I'd post a wide shot of the crowd, but this is supposed to be a PG-13 web log. Therefore the slides must be extremely selective.
While Jeff and the Professor stand there with their jaws gaping, a couple of Moon men in their bathing trunks sneak up and capture our heroes. Each is brought before a Moon maiden whose magic wand renders them unconscious. For the second time in this film, our heroes sleep through a critical scene (i.e., they are carried off to a Moon jail).
By landing on the Moon, Jeff and the Professor have provoked a crisis among its residents. The Moon Goddess (also played by Marietta) assembles the grand council to debate the disposition of the intruders. By the way, because they have antennae, the Moon people are telepathic. The Moon Goddess merely has to think her question to the council.
The council votes to give the Earthmen a chance. And with that, our heroes are freed from their confines.
The Professor goes off to take some notes on a blonde girl. While he's away, Jeff chats up the Moon Goddess. Or tries to: he doesn't have antennae, so he isn't much of a smooth talker.
Despite the language/antennae barrier, Jeff and the Moon Goddess really hit it off. At least Jeff thinks so. When the Professor finishes taking his notes of the Blonde girl, he returns to find Jeff giddy as a schoolboy. Sternly, the Professor reminds Jeff he's a rocket scientist and should get back to taking more notes (of more blond girls, perhaps?).
But not even the Professor can resist the charms of the lovely Moon maidens. Oh he takes more notes. Lots more notes. And that's really all he and Jeff do during their time on the Moon. Meanwhile the Moon people go about their regular business: tossing around medicine balls, canoeing, sharpening their swords...
You know: plain old ordinary Moon activities. The Professor ponders what it all means. Jeff makes sure he gets everything on film as proof for the folks back on Earth.
At the first chance he gets, Jeff runs back to the Moon Goddess.
He's just ga-ga for her, and like any good American he offers her a candy bar. She eats the wrapper. Comedy!
Because he is the film's killjoy, the Professor interrupts our little love birds to announce an oxygen crisis. He and Jeff have only have just enough air to get back to their rocketship. Jeff announces he's staying behind with the Moon Goddess. While the Professor tries to talk some sense into him, the Moon Goddess declares her love for Jeff. Can these star-crossed lovers find a happy life together?
No. The gulf is too great. And what will happen when Jeff's tank runs down to empty? With reluctance, the Moon Goddess unsheathes her magic wand and conks Jeff on the head. The Professor drags him back onto the rocketship before either of our heroes suffocates.
With the oxygen question resolved, our heroes are out of danger. Yet the audience is left feeling unsatisfied. Why? It's a false crisis. Go look over the above pictures. Jeff and the Professor were walking around the Moon with open masks, and were thusly breathing Moon air. That really makes the whole 'dry tanks' conflict difficult to accept.
Jeff certainly won't accept it. He still pines for his Moon Goddess. The Professor cuts him off, reminding him that Jeff and the Professor have plans for the future, too y'know. Um, subtext?
Back on Earth, Jeff's a wreck. He's lost his fortune and lost his heart to a Moon Goddess. Worse: nobody on Earth believes he actually went to the moon. It seems all is lost, until Cathy comes over to comfort him.
Hey! Isn't she...? Doesn't she...? She's a dead-ringer for the Moon Goddess! Jeff takes one look at her (and imagines her with antennae and no clothes) and suddenly he realizes: in a certain, superficial way the love of his life is here on Earth after all.
Love (or at lease look) conquers all as the two embrace. Recall that Cathy always had the hots for Jeff. Now, if she can only put up with his strange antennae fetish she can live happily ever after. The end.
Folks, you've just seen a highly expurgated version of the film. To get the full Nude on the Moon experience you'll have to rent it or buy it. ...with cash. ...in a paper bag. And live with your guilty conscience forever.
Kidding! Nude on the Moon is a really silly film, but it's such a weird premise you can't be a real rocketship aficionado without having seen it once. Sure it's an exploitation flick -- but it's an exploitation flick with a daring vision. It's an article of history: back in the sixties, everybody was thinking about going to the moon. Even the makers of nudie films. That's how deep an impression the space race left on our society.
Oh, and where is the Russian answer? Though so. Nude on the Moon is a bold endorsement of the American free market. To think that someone like Doris Wishman could self-finance her own nudie film (Hideout in the Sun), and then set the next one in space? That shows how far you can go in the free world. Nude on the Moon reminds us that in just about every category through which it is possible to judge a culture, America is unmatched.
Friends, this is the time of year we visit our families and give thanks for what we have. And watch movies together. If you can think of a film more fully encompassing the true spirit of America (e.g., pioneers and nudie-watchers), you obviously are some damn dirty communist. Be a real American: bring it home.
You can always live with your guilty conscience tomorrow..
Two Ears Up on camp and kitsch alone.
:: Anna 3:34 PM [+] ::