Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Glutton for Punishment: AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON

 by JB

Like anthology films in other genres (Yes, I’m looking at you, horror!) comedy anthologies can be a mixed bag.

I remember how excited I was to see Amazon Women on the Moon when it was finally released in 1987 after sitting on a shelf at Universal Studios for three years. I was already a fan of John Landis’s previous anthology film, The Kentucky Fried Movie. Joe Dante’s name was featured prominently on the poster, and I was a big fan of his too. In my neck of the woods, Amazon Women on the Moon opened in a single screen: the late, lamented Skokie Theater. It was an inconvenience to drive all the way there late one Wednesday night to see it on the last night it played.

My initial reaction was complicated.
I felt ripped off that I needed to drive to a movie theater and pay money to see something that looked like it was designed to go straight to basic cable. I will admit that I laughed a few times. The ratio of skits that hit to skits that miss (#misskits) is far too small. In all, the film contains 21 skits and bits (23 for some television airings*) and by my personal count, only four of them—“Mondo Condo,” “Bullshit or Not,” “Son of the Invisible Man,” and “Reckless Youth”—are keepers. The rest of the material varies from tedious (“New Baby,” “Blind Date,” and the title sequence) to “hasn’t aged well” (“Blacks Without Soul” and “Roast Your Loved Ones”) to snickering (“Pethouse Pet” and “Video Date” seem to have been written and directed by twelve- year-olds who’d never seen dirty lady parts). The film is only 85 minutes long; that gives us a ratio of 20 minutes good to 65 minutes bad or roughly 31% of cream to curdle.
“Mondo Condo” features a young Arsenio Hall coming home from work to a domicile that’s trying to kill him. The timing in this sequence is impeccable and some of the sight gags are inspired. “Bullshit or Not” is a parody of the 1980s hit syndicated television series Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, hosted by Jack Palance. Here Henry Silva does the hosting duties, and it’s funny to see this action movie staple satirizing his own celebrity. Silva introduces us to the dubious premise that Jack the Ripper was actually... the Loch Ness Monster. “Son of the Invisible Man” features Ed Begley, Jr. as the title progeny, not quite as adept with chemistry as his late father.

My favorite is “Reckless Youth.” In the disc’s accompanying “making of” featurette, the bit’s director, Joe Dante, admits it was so good that wherever they put it in the line-up, it highlighted how weak the surrounding material was, so it was almost dropped from the movie. Instead, Landis stuck it halfway through the end credits. Yes, viewers who got up and left when the credits started to roll (and God knows, Amazon Women on the Moon justifies that reaction) likely missed the best segment of the film.

Dante actually came into the project late when, in his words, “all the good stuff had already been taken,” and he ended up directing four of the film’s segments. Proof that Dante should have been allowed to direct more: “Reckless Youth” is a mini-masterpiece, featuring Carrie Fisher and Paul Bartel in a painfully accurate recreation of a Kroger Babb 1930s VD scare movie. Bela Lugosi has a cameo; we’ll call him “Pete.” Dante pulls out all the stops on this one and crams in 180-degree rule violations, jump cuts, eye-line mismatches, stock footage silliness, and tedious pacing. Bartel and Fisher seem to be channeling the spirits of Edward LeSaint and Dorothy Short in Reefer Madness. The whole thing is so crazy accurate, you would swear it was real if not for the comic hyperbole.
If a cast alone was enough to sell a film, then Amazon Women on the Moon would be one of the top-grossing films of all time. Because of its episodic nature, it features the god-damnedest cast ever assembled, including (in alphabetical order): Forrest J. Ackerman, Steve Allen, Roseanna Arquette, Ed Begley Jr., Ralph Bellamy, Belinda Balaski, Charlie Callas, Andrew Dice Clay, Bryan Cranston, Steve Cropper, Sybil Danning, Griffin Dunne, Steve Forrest, Monique Gabrielle, David Alan Grier, Steve Guttenberg, Archie Hahn, Arsenio Hall, Phil Hartman, Howard Hesseman, Peter Horton, Lou Jacobi, BB King, William “Blacula” Marshall, Mike Mazurki, Marc McClure, Russ Meyer, Joe Pantoliano, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Picardo, Kelly Preston, Henry Silva, Rip Taylor, Joey Travolta, Angel Tompkins, Jackie Vernon, Corinne Wahl, Slappy White, and Henny Youngman.

That’s crazy, but as the film’s poster and opening credits promise us: “Lots of Other Actors.” This film might be the single handiest “ace in the hole” for any game of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” ever played. The connection? Kevin Bacon was in Animal House, which was directed by… John Landis. BOOM.
Watching the film again on Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray disc, I was of two minds. I’m glad this disc was released. It features an improved transfer, a lazy and laid-back audio commentary with Mike McPadden and Kat Ellinger, a dandy but too short “making of” featurette, and outtakes and deleted scenes thanks to Joe Dante’s penchant for saving everything. Yet I’m also disappointed that this new release wasn’t enough to change my opinion of the film. I finished the whole shebang but ended up thinking that this entire disc, including the main feature, somehow should have been the BONUS FEATURES FOR SOME OTHER, BETTER MOVIE.

*”The French Ventriloquist’s Dummy”** and “Peter Pan Theater,”** both directed by Dante, are included in some television screenings.

**Both of these segments are included in the new Kino Lorber disc as bonus features.***

***I love asterisks.


  1. As a 16 year old in 1987, I loved this movie on cable. I'll always remember Son of the Invisible Man. I still laugh and smile when I think of that. I can't believe you saw it at the old Skokie Theater, you were a 3 minute walk from where I grew up!

  2. After all these years, this movie is still hilarious! If you like the Kentucky Fried Movie that John Landis directed in the late 70s then you will laugh your funny bone by watching this movie!

    Ford 7.3L Injectors