Blu-Ray Review – Amazon Women on the Moon

Amazon Women on the Moon is a curious beast of a movie. It came out in 1987, with not a huge amount of fanfare at the time, but over the years it has gained a small cult following. It’s an anthology film, which is never an easy feat to pull off, even when the greatest directors of all time are involved: just look at the many made in the ’60s with various European directors. This film has five directors, but only two of any real note, namely John Landis (who was the producer as well) and the always wonderful Joe Dante.

The basic set up is that it’s a series of skits that have some connection to a fictitious ’50s B-movie, Amazon Women on the Moon, the factor that connects them all and which is heavily based on Queen of Outer Space. Landis wanted to make a film that was like surfing through late-night television, and it most certainly succeeds in doing that. Given the nature of the project’s format, it’s considerably hit and miss throughout, and almost all of the best sketches are either from Dante or Landis (specifically, Landis’s skits involving David Alan Grier as Don ‘No Soul’ Simmons.) The most notable segment not by Dante or Landis is “Son of the Invisible Man,” directed by Carl Gottlieb, which if you didn’t check you would swear was one of Dante’s because it’s a solid sendup of the Universal Invisible Man films and so very in tune with Joe’s work. However, even in that one the gag is that he thinks he is invisible so he takes all his clothes off, but in reality, he isn’t. This is such an old gag; in fact, if I’m not mistaken it’s actually in one of the Invisible Man films.

Given that I’m a person who has watched hours and hours of Unsolved Mysteries during my life, Joe’s “Bullshit or Not” skit with Henry Silva doing the Robert Stack role is gold. The funny thing is that Unsolved Mysteries had only just premiered at the start of the 1987 (the year Amazon Women was released) and it wasn’t till after the film came out that Stack became the host, but there were plenty of shows of its ilk beforehand anyway.  It’s completely spot-on, including the way it connects Jack the Ripper to the Loch Ness Monster. Dante follows that sketch with a perfect send-up of Siskel and Ebert at the movies with “Critics’ Corner.” Ebert gave Amazon Women on the Moon half a star out of 4, so I think he might have been a bit thin-skinned.

The penultimate segment is one directed by Landis’, and it’s a homage to both Russ Meyer and to David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. Landis is known for casting film directors in cameos, as seen in Landis films like Into The Night or Spies Like Us. Here, he casts Russ Meyer as a video store clerk. Meyer’s video clerk hands a young man a video because it’s a Saturday night and he doesn’t have a date, and what seems like a softcore porno becomes more real than he imagined. The final one is another Dante offering, which is a homage to the old horror films he loves so much. It features both the much-missed Paul Bartel and Carrie Fisher, and includes a shot from the great Island of Lost Souls.

Overall, it’s a very fun anthology sketch film, which is as anarchic and messy as you imagined it would be. Naturally, it’s full of cameos including everybody from old Hollywood stars, then-contemporary stars, and many actors who hadn’t quite made it yet, and even Bryan Cranston in his feature debut, although I can’t spot him in “Roast Your Loved One,” as much as I tried. Initially Landis wanted it to be a sequel to his earlier Kentucky Fried Movie, but he opted out because he would have had to pay for the rights to the name. Maybe it would’ve been a bigger success as KFM2, but who knows-anyway, when it works, it’s great.

The release by 101 Films includes interviews with co-director Carl Gottieb and cinematographer Daniel Pearl. Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson supplies a commentary track, and there is a booklet with star Sybil Danning and composer Ira Newborn. The disc also includes trailers, six cut scenes, bloopers and a picture gallery and it’s a dual format release.

★★★½

Ian Schultz

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