Synopsis: Acclaimed director John Landis (Animal House, The Blues Brothers) presents this madcap send-up of late-night TV, low-budget sci-fi films and canned-laughter-filled sitcoms packed with off-the-wall sketches that will have you in stitches. Centered around a television station which features a 1950s style sci-fi movie interspersed with a series of wild commercials, wacky shorts and weird specials, this lampoon of contemporary life and pop culture skewers some of the silliest spectacles ever created in the name of entertainment. A truly outrageous look at the best of the worst that television has to offer.
For years I’ve been hearing about ‘Amazon Women on the Moon’. I had no idea what it was, or what it was about, but the title was enough to tune out: not only did it sound discrepant (Amazons/Moon), but it gave the impression of a low-budget piece of crap that would typically be made fun of on ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ – but, without the MST3K crew, to me, it’s a moot point.
And yet the reference kept coming at me time and again, dropped into comments and reviews I read, slowly stimulating my curiosity.
When I stumbled upon the Special Edition DVD in a second hand store the other day, I knew that this curiosity needed to be satisfied finally. After ensuring that it was the best version currently available (because, if I’m going to explore a film, I want to get be able to do this as thoroughly as possible), I picked it up – and made a point of watching it as soon as I could.
What I discovered was that this film is not too far removed from the concept behind ‘The Kentucky Fried Movie’ – which is hardly surprising seeing as John Landis was involved with both. ‘Amazon Women…’ is a better movie than the latter, structurally, but it’s not as funny overall – there are far too many lame bits and the gags are often spread out. It sure would make for a super fun double-feature, though.
‘Amazon Women on the Moon’ is like watching late-night television with someone who is a compulsive channel-changer: we get commercials, bits of shows, of old movies, …etc. And it’s a gas. In fact, I wish that there more films such as this one, because I love the activity of channel surfing, but I hate the content and the random results one gets. In a controlled, satirical context such as this one, I couldn’t be happier.
Due to the nature of this project, various people wrote and directed the many segments, giving all of them different styles and comedic touches. Writers Michael Barrie and Jim Muholland both had extensive late night television credits, so they likely had a good sense of what they were exploring. And, between directors Joe Dante (‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’, ‘Gremlins’, ‘Police Squad’), John Landis (‘Animal House’, ‘The Blues Brothers’, ‘Trading Places’), Carl Gottlieb (‘George Burns Comedy Week’, ‘Steve Martin Live’, ‘Paul Reiser Out on a Whim’), Robert K. Weiss (‘The Compleat Al’, ‘Police Squad’, ‘The Kentucky Fried Movie’) and Peter Horton (um.. nothing), the film had great comedy roots.
I would have to say that much (but not all) of the humour is likely too corny for most people – including myself, actually. However, it never ventures into Mel Brooks territory, which, no matter how hard I try, I simply cannot bear. There are some silly, but inspired, bits along the way however, such as the parodies of Ripley’s Believe it or Not!, Penthouse Playmates, the centrepiece ‘Amazon Women on the Moon’ (which is replete with damaged footage and interruptions due to technical difficulties! ), and the many commercials and news segments peppering the film.
There are a number of intriguing cameos from the likes of Rosanna Arquette, Paul Bartel, Ed Begley, Jr., Andrew Dice Clay, Griffin Dunne, Carrie Fisher, Steve Guttenberg, Arsenio Hall, B.B. King, Russ Meyer, Joe Pantoliano, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kelly Preston, Henry Silva and so many others, but I was surprised to find that the most famous of the bunch were usually in the least successful segments (the Griffin Dunne/Peter Horton/Michelle Pfeiffer one, in particular, is especially painful to watch ). Still, it adds a certain charm and factuality to what is essentially a pop culture pastiche – even if it is satirical.
Ultimately, ‘Amazon Women on the Moon’ is mostly enjoyable for its concept, and as a late-night time-killer. It would make for the perfect background filler while visiting with guests – sort of like when you have people over to watch TV and socializing is actually the reason you get together, not what’s on the tube. I appreciate it for its uniqueness and for what it manages to be, even if the humour isn’t nearly as successful as it could have been.