So, for people taking notes at the back, here is the original “astronauts discover decadent, all-female (or almost all-female) civilizations on other planets” (according to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction). It’s a 1953 release that was shot in black-and-white and released in 3D, because the cycle of getting people to watch any old rot by bunging on a gimmick was strong back then and 3D is a trend that just won’t die (no matter how many times it shoots itself in the face). And, oh boy, is this a lesson in how things were different back then.
Somewhere in the background of this story is a world where space travel is so commonplace that the onboard spiv Walt (Douglas Fowley) has to come up with Arther Daily level get-rich-quick schemes whilst on a mission to the moon. But that’s far too exciting to think about, so instead, we have a love triangle between fellow mission participants Kip (Victor Jory), Laird (Sonny Tufts), and Helen (Marie Windsor). This mostly consists of Kip being gruff and suspicious, Laird being actually pleasant, and Helen doing her hair and makeup because apparently, that’s what space navigators spend half their time doing.
Once they get to the moon, they meet a giant spider in a cave that’s animated purely by them jumping up and down in terror at it. Then, further, in the same damn cave, they meet a whole race of black catsuit-earing cat-women, whom historians will describe as “just gals being pals” because lesbians hadn’t been invented by then. Their plans are sinister and dangerous: seduce the men, steal the rocket, get Helen to come to a sleepover, and have a two-minute jazz dance session to their dark, horrifying gods. How “exotic”…
There’s random action to show off the 3D effects! There’s random drama to show off the acting! There’s very random slinking about by the cat-women because Playboy was 3 months away from being published and this was enough to get people to watch the film at the time! There’s a whole load of misogyny, both overt and sub-textual, and there is kind of a decent story trying to creep out but it never gets a chance to come to the fore. For example, each of the men is almost undone by their own vice. Until they aren’t, because the day is saved by never trusting any damn evil dame.
There’s also an ending that happens off-screen because the director ran out of time, money, or a will to put any effort in. This is highly indicative of the movie, as it’s all “tell, don’t show” and unbelievably bad pacing. In its defense, there is a certain endearing camp to it that almost still works as there is a general vintage B-Movie feel to the sets, effects, and costumes. This gives it a warmth and level of vision beyond what it deserves, which is probably more by luck than design. Similarly, some of the individual moments are engaging and well-paced, but they are the rarity and the general dialogue is just at a “did they actually say that??” level.
It’s the kind of film you want to love, but just can’t because it is so determined to throw itself into the Trash. There is a lot you can forgive for being “of its time”, but this lazily swings over that line for no reason other than it can’t be aresed to do better. Even with expectations duly set it just misses more than it hits, and you end up getting annoyed with it.