12/15/06

416 Fire Maidens of Outer Space

(1956, SciFi, b&w)

There’s more action in the wallpaper.

Rating: *

In a nutshell:

Staid astronauts discover Atlantean babes on the thirteenth moon of Jupiter.

Summary:

I get the 'maidens' part, but they're not really all that fiery.A standard-issue narrator provides standard-issue blather about space exploration and the bold men who use the latest technology to expand the boundaries of human knowledge, etc., etc., rapeta, rapeta, and so on, and so forth. Bold and badly recorded men smoke and growl at each other in an English observatory that, judging by the background noise, seems to double as a freeway overpass. A bit of expository patter, cleverly disguised as the sexual harassment of a slow-moving shorthand secretary, reveals their intention to visit the thirteenth moon of Jupiter.

A rocket takes off with five astronauts aboard, while a whole team of men (and one somewhat mannish woman) waits anxiously by the control room phone for their call. The men do call, and after a short, tense moment with a hail of popcorn-shaped asteroids, they all settle in for a long ride of sitting around, smoking, and occasionally calling home.

A strange voice hails them on the radio when they approach the Jovian moon and gives them landing coordinates. Soon (a relative term) they’re running across the countryside, following a trail of screams. The source of the screams is a young blonde woman in a gauzy toga. The reason for screams is a wispy little man in a black bodysuit (zipper and all) wearing what looks like a hairless gorilla mask. They drive the creature away and two of them follow the girl into a leafy wall while the other three stand guard.

Inside they meet an old guy who explains that he and his two dozen really hot daughters are all that remain of the Atlantean refugees. The really hot daughters drug them and make them spend the night, so the three on guard duty go home to the rocket. The next day they go out again, running into the wispy beast thing. They scare it away with a smoke grenade and start digging under the wall.

Meanwhile, the astronaut commander convinces the gauzy blond to help him escape. She switches his wine with that of the long-winded old guy, who falls victim to his own sleeping drugs. Apparently this is some sort of crime; the rest of the hot daughters lock him up and take the gauzy blond away for sacrifice.

The ladies catch the three digging astronauts as they emerge from under the wall and tie them up to make them watch the sacrifice. The beast thing follows and kills the old guy on its way past. The two prisoner astronauts find the secret doors out of their cells and recover their weapons. The beast thing and the prisoner astronauts break up the sacrifice. Though bulletproof, the beast turns out to be highly flammable and is easily disposed of. When they discover the old guy’s body, the Atlantean women declare the gauzy blond as their new queen. She defers to someone else and goes back to earth with the astronauts, who promise to send back plenty of men for everyone.

Introduction:

Timmy will eat your soul.Joel gives Tom and Crow pointers on how to stand from their silhouettes, a la the short Posture Pals. Rather than being crowned King and Queen of posture, Tom wants to be the Dauphin of posture. Crow just wants to marry into posture. Crow’s silhouette comes to life as Timmy the Dark Crow.

Host Segment One:

The Mads have invented the really big checkbook for golf tournaments and sweepstakes winners. Joel has invented an athletic shoe with delicious spreadable cheese in the heel. Frank has written a lot of checks and forgotten to write them in the check register, provoking a fit of fury from Dr. Forrester. Joel tries a bit of shoe cheese and is disgusted.

Host Segment Two:

Unimpressed by the impersonal sexism of the astronauts in the film, Joel and the ‘Bots decide it’s not what you say, but how you say it. They say a number of ordinary phrases in really suggestive tones, such as, “Lincoln’s not president anymore.” Timmy suggests a few things through Crow, but they’re too filthy to repeat.

Host Segment Three:

Based on the rocket controls in the movie, Joel has created a pair of levers that control absolutely everything, like the lights, Tom’s opinion of Steve Guttenberg, and objective reality as we know it. Timmy crashes Crow into Joel, who sends Crow into “time out.” While his back is turned, Timmy messes with the levers, knocking reality hopelessly out of whack.

Host Segment Four:

Timmy has stuck Tom to the wall in an Alien-esque cocoon. Tom begs his friends to kill him, but they can’t. They’re locked in a death-struggle with Timmy. Eventually Joel corners Timmy with a broom and blasts him out of an airlock.

Host Segment Five:

The ‘Bots try to make sense of the film. They boil it down to sitting around, followed by running across the countryside, followed by more sitting around. They read a letter. Down in Deep 13, Frank has found Timmy on the doorstep, who bites his finger with the tiny jaws on his tongue.

Stinger:

The astronaut commander finds a way out of his cell.

Thoughts:

Why did I throw that cup, and why is it significant?To summarize: an all-male crew of astronauts lands on a planet populated almost solely by sex-crazed, miniskirted young women. That sentence alone is at least eight or nine times more titillating than this film. The ‘Bots sum it up perfectly in the last host segment. It all boils down to a lot of sitting around, a little bit of running, and them some more sitting around. And let’s not forget the smoking. The cigarettes in the movie get more screen time than anyone else. Leave it to the British to make a standard feverish adolescent fantasy less exciting than a middle school Sex Education film.

The host segments are pretty entertaining, mostly because of Timmy the Dark Crow. Joel’s universal control levers were pretty good too, and Tom’s pleasant suggestion that they kill him made me laugh. Though it wasn’t technically part of the host segments, I was also very amused when Timmy sneaked into the theater during the film segment and attacked Tom during a period of time when his friends would think his shouts and pleas for help were comments on the film.

The Timmy attack was pretty much the highlight of the film segments as well. The film is abysmally slow, so much so that when one character leans forward to light his cigarette near the end, Crow exclaims, “Hey, an action sequence!” During one of the many, many scenes where half-a-dozen men and a mannish woman stand in the control room and stare at the phone, Crow says, “I question the relevance of this scene,” to which Tom replies, “I question the relevance of every scene.” When a plane come in for a landing Joel says, “Please remain seated until the movie has ground to a complete halt.” If you want to see Timmy the Dark Crow, then this is the episode to watch, but aside from that there’s not really much here to recommend.