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.
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.
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.
*”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.