Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cave Women of Mars (Saint Euphoria Unlimited, 2008)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2017 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Cave Women of Mars was better than Zombie Cats from Mars — almost anything would have been — as we can tell from the initial scene, in which after a set of opening credits that not only spoofed the 1930’s Flash Gordon serials but even used the same theme music (Franz Liszt’s “Les Préludes”) as the last of them, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, Captain Jackson (Josh Craig), commander of the first manned (or should I say “piloted”?) mission to Mars, calls Mission Control officer Jackson (also Josh Craig — the two are supposed to be father and son so it’s O.K. they look so much alike the same actor is playing them) and requests permission to land on Mars. From the moment Josh Craig speaks we heave a sigh of relief — at least if we’re watching this movie right after Zombie Cats from Mars — that we’re finally hearing an actor who knows how to deliver a line with some authority and dramatic credibility. Alas, he’s an O.K.-looking guy but his partner on the mission, Lieutenant Elliott (Daniel Sjerven), is a stocky, homely, not particularly interesting man. The conceit is that once the two male astronauts land on Mars, they learn that not only is there a local population, but the leaders are all women. Martians are divided into two tribes, the Zill and the Liek; the Zill are blonde, dress in white and are more or less the good Martians, while the Liek have black hair, dress in black halter tops and leather things and look like they just auditioned for Russ Meyer, only he turned them down because they didn’t have big enough tits. Still, they have the bad-ass attitude of Meyer’s buxom heroines down pat. Martian women have basically enshrined themselves as the absolute rulers of the planet; Martian men exist, but they’re there only to work as slaves in the coal mines and, presumably, to have sex with Martian women just to propagate the Martian race. The women carry staffs and use them as weapons — the good blonde Zill Martians carry white staffs and the bad brunette Liek Martians carry black ones — and both have no particular trouble outwitting our rather dim Lieutenant Elliott. He ends up at the home base of the white-clad priestess of Mars (Stephanie Mihm), who tells him that he’s supposed to mate with a Martian and father the child that will bring the Liek and the Zill back together and end the conflict between them — and as a result, when Captain Jackson is ready to fly home, Elliott elects to stay on Mars with his Zill girlfriend Eina (Brooke Lemke).

The film was produced, directed and written by Christopher R. Mihm, presumably Stephanie Mihm’s husband (his self-penned imdb biography doesn’t mention him having a spouse), and apparently he’s been doing a number of these deliberately retro movies, starting with The Monster of Phantom Lake (2006), It Came from Another World! (2007), Terror from Beneath the Earth (2009), Destination: Outer Space (2010), Attack of the Moon Zombies (2011), House of Ghosts (2012, and apparently a deliberate homage to William Castle in general and his weekend-in-a-haunted-house movies like The House on Haunted Hill and Homicidal in particular), The Giant Spider (2013), The Late Night Double Feature (2014, a faux-double bill containing two shorts, X: The Fiend from Beyond Space and The Wall People), Danny Johnson Saves the World (2015) — starring Elliott Mihm, presumably the son of Christopher and Stephanie — and Weresquito: Nazi Hunter (2016). Mihm’s page, probably written by Mihm himself, describes him as “the king of ‘new old, good bad’ movies,” though quite frankly Cave Women of Mars simply isn’t good enough to be “good-bad” — it’s just “bad-bad,” and suffers from the fact that the films the Mihms are parodying simply weren’t that interesting to begin with and the comic “spin” he puts on them isn’t funny enough to make up for that. To my mind, Larry Blamire’s The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra (2001) is the touchstone for modern-day attempts to ridicule the abysmal 1950’s sci-fi cheapies (though I somehow missed the 2009 sequel, The Lost Skeleton Returns Again), and neither Cave Women of Mars nor Zombie Cats from Mars even came close to Cadavra as either filmmaking or comedy.