8/20/07

FC003 The Wild Women of Wongo

(1958, Fantasy-Sword and Sandal-ish, color)

Greetings, my maggot-gagging friends.

Rating: ***1/2

In a nutshell:

The beautiful prehistoric women of Wongo search for equally attractive mates.

Summary:

More than a dozen beautiful women to choose from, and they put Alligatria McSaggyskin on the cover?Mother Nature kicks off the movie with a little narration. It seems that she and Father Time once decided to experiment with a pair of prehistoric island tribes. In the tribe of Wongo, all the young women are beautiful, but the young men are ugly. In the tribe of Goona, all the young men are beautiful, but the young women are ugly. Let the wackiness begin!

(Having said her piece, Mother Nature now drops out of the film entirely, handing off commentary duties to a preternaturally irritating parrot, which spices up the remaining time with pithy asides like “Awk! Take it easy!” and so forth. The less said about him the better.)

There’s a practically endless scene of a young man with blue shoe polish hair creeping through a swamp to the temple of the alligator gods, but the action really begins when Goona tribesman Engor arrives in Wongo to warn them of murderous ape-men from beyond the sea. He bears an invitation to the Wongo Elders (read: Wongo Teenagers with Blue Shoe Polish in their Hair), asking them to unite their tribe with Goona so that they may better defend themselves. The Wongo Elders refuse and plot to kill him in the morning.

The Wongo King’s daughter Omoo overhears the plot. She creeps away to make love to Engor in the night, and then plots with her fellow Wongo women to save him from death. When the chosen Wongo assassin tries to kill Engor the next morning, the Wongo women swarm him. Engor gets away, but the Wongo women have knocked down the totem of the alligator god in the process. The Wongo King sends the women to the temple to dance spastically for the shrill alligator priestess as penance. Afterwards they must sit all night at the water’s edge until the alligator god chooses a bride (i.e. eats one of them.)

This, of course, leads to skinny dipping and alligator wrestling, but no one is chosen until one night when a pair of ape men creeps up on one of the women during the night. The Wongo women fight them off with spears, forcing them into the water. When an enormous alligator eats the ape-men (or rather, eats an obvious dummy that’s probably supposed to look like the ape men) the women decide their obligation to the alligator god has been discharged, and return to Wongo.

They find Wongo deserted except for a skinny, balding teenager with blue shoe polish in his hair. This Wongo “Elder” dies shortly thereafter, a victim of the ape-man invasion. The women stay in the village for days until it becomes apparent that no one is going to return to them. They decide to journey in search of the beautiful men of Goona.

Meanwhile, in Goona, the King decides to send his beautiful boys unarmed into the jungle to prove their worthiness to wed the ugly women of that tribe. The Goona men drop their spears and venture forth. Also meanwhile, the ugly men of Wongo return to their homes to find it deserted. With their potential mates missing, they decide to journey in search of the ugly women of Goona.

Also, also meanwhile, the beautiful women of Wongo discover the ugly women of Goona, but the Goona women see the Wongo spears and flee in terror. The Wongo women flee the Goona village, fearful that the menfolk will kill them for frightening the women. Shortly thereafter, they discover that the Goona men are unarmed and wandering through the jungle. The men refuse to interrupt their right of passage to dally with them, so the Wongo women capture them and force march them across the island to the temple of the alligator god.

Also, also, also meanwhile, the men of Wongo discover the women of Goona. It’s love at first sight, so they join up and head back to the temple as well. There’s a lot of confusion and protestations of love, but in the end the men of Goona pair off with the women of Wongo, and the men of Wongo pair off with the women of Goona. The priestess gives the various unions her blessings, and the cast sends us off by winking at the camera one by one.

Introduction:

DANCE!  I'll be over here metamorphosing.An air conditioning problem in the Film Crew’s basement office has sent temperatures plummeting towards absolute zero. Mike and Bill huddle in separate blankets as a grim, hooded figure approaches. “Sweet Death, have you come for us?” Bill cries, but it’s only Kevin in a parka. Their boss, Bob Honcho, calls from a tropical island to relate several anecdotes about peeing on the lean-tos of various other captains of industry. He promises to do something about the air conditioning while they watch the Wild Women of Wongo.

Lunch Break:

Kevin interrupts lunch to show his fellow crewmen a map that details how to get to Wongo. Apparently, if you take the Dawn Treader from Narnia, catching the tradewinds from Gondor, you’ll sail past Brigadoon and Toontown (both on the lost continent of Atlantis), carefully skirting Gotham City on the shores of Middle Earth... Mike and Bill interrupt to ask about these locale’s positions relative to, say, Spain. Kevin laughs at them. “You guys still believe in Spain?”

Epilogue:

The Film Crew reiterates the film’s obvious message—that you should never go out with anyone more or less attractive than yourself. To help them keep this valuable advice, Bill has invented a machine that measures your beauty and provides you with a list of romantic options. Mike’s ideal mate is Gertrude Stein. Kevin has a choice between Mother Jones and Fatty Arbuckle. Bill mumbles that he already ran the test on himself and his options are Helen of Troy, Selma Hayek, etc. The others reject these results and run the test on him again. This time Bill can choose between a turnip, a chainsaw sculpture of a bear, and Ernest Borgnine’s butt cheeks.

Special Features:

There are two special features to choose from on this DVD. The first interposes footage of the shrill alligator priestess with the Film Crew members. “Dance!” the priestess shrieks at Mike. So he dances. “Dance!” she shrieks at Kevin. He dances too. “Dance!” she shrieks at Bill. “What?” says Bill. “Why?” “Dance!” she shrieks again. Bill dances. The priestess continues to shriek. “What madness drives her?” Mike cries.

The second special feature is a parody of the film’s ending sequence, as each Film Crewman poses with a Hawaiian girl cardboard cutout to deliver an exaggerated wink. Bill goes last, but he can’t seem to get only one of his eyes to close. After several takes, Kevin solves this problem by spraying rubbing alcohol in Bill’s eye at the appropriate time.

Thoughts:

Now here's a poster I can get behind.Mike sums up the film’s main thematic problem during the final host segment. To wit, “The movie was a little vague about who was attractive or not.” Indeed, the only way to tell the ugly men from the beautiful men is that the ugly men telegraph their ugliness by scrunching up their faces like constipated terriers. The ugly women are a little easier to differentiate, partially because our culture’s standards of beauty are more stringent for women than for men, but mostly because their body types vary more. One of them is heavyset, for instance, while another is seven feet tall. (Still, they look decently attractive to me; at least as much as the “beautiful” women, anyway.) Even the so-called ape-men are only slightly unshaven. These factors often make it difficult to tell who is supposed to be from which tribe. The only truly freakish human beings found in the movie are those curiously underage blue-haired elders and the alligator priestess, whose oddly saggy skin makes her look like a hundred pounds of woman stuffed into a two hundred pound sack.

The film segments start off a little slow, as nothing much happens in the film, and it’s usually difficult to make fun of nothing. About fifteen to twenty minutes in, though, it really cranks up the goofiness, and the Film Crew picks up their pace to match it. Bill notes the staid, traditional Wongo women are “about as wild as a suburban book club.” As the parrot continues to irritate throughout the film, Kevin speculates that “Rob Schneider is the parrot.” After a bout of half-naked manly embraces, Kevin asks, “How do you separate the men from the boys in Goona?” “With a crowbar!” Bill replies. If you can last through the boring opening sequences, the latter two thirds of the film constitute the funniest material seen on the Film Crew so far.

The host segments have vastly improved over the previous Film Crew offerings as well. The introduction works well enough, and the insult humor of the epilogue is amusingly vicious, but it’s the lunch break segment that really shines. Kevin’s merry interpolation of all the imaginary places he’s ever heard of is hilarious. The first DVD extra is pretty sharp as well. There’s not exactly a setup, or even much of a punchline, but the sight of the frightened Film Crew members dancing at the priestess’ commands is gut-bustingly funny. The second extra works well too, in that the scene they parody was ridiculous to begin with, and seeing them repeat it is even more so.

From now on, if anyone asks me if they should watch the Film Crew DVDs, I’ll tell them to start with this one.