Updated: Jul 18
Abbott and Costello were the first movie space travelers to grapple with the challenges of an entire planet ruled by women in Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953). Despite the title, no one in that film goes to Mars. Without going too deep into a madcap plot description, Bud and Lou spend much of the film in New Orleans thinking they have landed on Mars.
Finally, in a hard to explain plot twist, escape convicts force Bud and Lou to fly to Venus, which of course is a “Women Only” club. The film made a lot of money, but it didn’t prove to be as influential as a low-budget, cheesy special effects “Women Only” club movie released two months later.
Cat-Women of the Moon (1953) created the templet and set the guidelines for such intergalactic encounters. For example, here are a few rules for future space travelers established by Cat-Women of the Moon and entered into B-movie law.
Make sure you carry plenty of cigarettes, guns, and hand grenades for your trip. They will pose no dangers if used properly in the pressurized confines of an interstellar spacecraft. You will also find a soothing puff on an unfiltered Camel or Winston a comfort of smoking pleasure after a stressful landing or in an environment with no oxygen to light a match. Oh yeah, and never fall in love with a cat-woman of the Moon. Sure, cat-women of the Moon seem harmless, naïve, and excellent dance choreographers and at first. They will tell you they long for the company of a man on a Saturday night, a walk along the beach “and maybe what you call at coke.”, that’s an actual line in the film. Not even the Moon can escape the Coca-Cola marketing department.
The unitard-clad cat-women always have an ulterior motive. In 1953, which means some unspecified year of the future according to the B-movie space-time continuum, Cat-Women of the Moon revealed the horrible lunar female plan to conquer Earth men.
“I love you, Doug
and now I must kill you.”
According to the B-movie rules of etiquette, if there is an Earth woman traveling to the Moon or a distant planet, there should always be a giant spider waiting to greet her once she arrives.
“I loved that spider, I loved all the special effects things.”
All those B-movie rules were followed to the letter in Cat-Women of the Moon with the added touch of 3-D, music by Elmer Bernstein, and narration by Charles Bronson. Although a critical disappointment, it became one of “the most influential Science Fiction films ever made.” according to The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. It created a sci-fi movie subgenre of Decadent Females in Outer Space.
“On Cat Women on the Moon we ran over schedule, so they just tore up the other pages, so if it doesn't make sense, that's one of the reasons why.”
“We went up in space in chairs that had roller things on them! And a lot of little things like that were so ridiculous! But it sure became a film buff's favorite.”
A little farther down the universe road on the 13th moon of Jupiter, a brave band of chain-smoking star voyagers stumbled upon a tribe of 16 lonely females looking for husbands in Fire Maidens from Outer Space (1956).
There are two local men on this moon, one is an old geezer the 16 daughters call Father. He’s either their adopted father or caused the death of their mother by forcing her to give birth to the 16th child. Either way, he’s not up for having any more kids and is hoping the studly astronauts will take the women of his hands.
The other local guy on the 13th moon of Jupiter is more of a half guy. He a little on the thin side, dark features and the women call him the “man with the head of a beast.” So, the Earth men grab the hottest woman and a few packs of Lucky Strikes and head back home. They tell the other sisters they will send back husbands for them. How much do you bet that was the last time the women heard from any Earth man?
“This and Queen of Outer Space (1958) may be the best know examples of the frustrated societies of intergalactic horny honeys, but this is 1956, so it’s a pretty chased affair.”
-Mick Garris, director and screenwriter of Critters 2: The Main Course (1988)
Since Mick Garris brought it up, let’s go ahead and talk about Queen of Outer Space (1958). It is part Abbott and Costello Go to Mar, Fire Maidens from Outer Space and a lot of Cat-Women of the Moon. The story was by Ben Hecht who gave us Stagecoach (1939) and the script tweaked by Three Stooges screenwriter Elwood Ullman. It has humor, glamour, and of course a planet of women longing for the companionship of men, whom they also hate and kill every time they have the chance.
Zsa Zsa Gabor is the star, but Laurie Mitchell is the Queen of Outer Space. She hides behind a mask because men ravaged her face with radiation during the War of the Sexes 10 Earth years earlier and it left her with loathing not love for the male gender. However, Zsa Zsa and her friends miss the old days of hoochie-coochie between the sexes and with the help of the astronauts, they overthrow the queen and crush her death ray aimed at Earth.
“What we end up with is probably the most sexist movie of all-time starring a woman who is famous for being famous. The Paris Hilton of her day, Zsa Zsa Gabor. What I really like about this movie are the sets. Imagine an entire planet decorated by Bob Mackie.”
-Allen Arkush, director of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979)
Two months after the release of Queen of Outer Space, the cat-women of the Moon and their giant spider returned in a 1958 remake called Missile to the Moon. This time two of the crew members are escaped convicts, *see Abbott and Costello Go to Mars (1953). Other than that, the plot is basically the same as the original, except the tyrannical overlord of the beautiful moon women is blind and everyone has to battle Moon rock creatures that move and look like an overgrown Gumby.
“Missile to the Moon' is nobody's idea of a good movie ... a hoot, a real knee-slapper, born MST3K material ... how can the worst space movie ever made, be the worst space movie ever made, if it's such a delight.”
-Glenn Erickson, film review CineSavant
Now we come to by far the most salacious and stupid movie inspired by Cat-Women of the Moon. In fact, Nude on the Moon (1961) is probably the goofiest film ever made. It was co-written and co-directed by a couple of nudists using the pseudonyms “O.O.” Miller and “Anthony Brooks”. I don’t blame them for wanting to hide their identities.
The plot revolves around a scientist who uses his inheritance to build a rocket and go to the Moon. Once he and his mentor arrive on the lunar surface, they discover the Moon is a tropical paradise inhabited by, you guessed it, NUDISTS! The topless utopia is ruled by a large-breasted Moon Queen with telepathic powers. She allows the Earth men to take pictures of the half-naked, cellulite-stricken extraterrestrials doing their half-naked daily activities. Of course, when the men return to Earth, they realize they left their cameras and film on the Moon.
The Moon sequences were shot in Homestead, Florida. The spaceship is just a tight shot of the door on a World War II DC-3 and its cockpit. The force of gravity on the astronauts during liftoff looks more like an orgasm.
"Nude on the Moon does what it says on its cover. What other films succeed only on account of their own low standard?"
-Dark Corners Review
Finally, we come to the last of the films directly influenced by Cat-Women of the Moon and it was directed by Peter Bogdanovich using the pseudonym Derek Thomas.
Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women (1968) was Roger Corman’s second attempt at making the 1962 Russian film Planeta Bur (Planet of Storms) for an American audience.
Corman’s first attempt was in 1965 when he dubbed it into English and added grossly mismatched scenes with Basil Rathbone and Faith Domerque. For his second attempt, he hired a very young Peter Bogdanovich and told him to go out and find some hot women to put in the film. So, Bogdanovich was able to secure the acting talents and sex appeal of Mamie Van Doran. He surrounded her with other hot prehistoric woman, shot additional scenes, narrated the film himself and bam, they had a movie fit for American teenage boys.
“So, I figured out a way to work some women in it and shot for five days, and we cut it in. I narrated it, because nobody could make heads or tails of it. Roger wouldn't let me add any sound. It was just a little cheap thing we did, and people think I directed it when I really only directed 10 minutes of it.”
The influence of Cat-Women of the Moon has gone way past the B-movie world. It was the title used for two BCC radio documentaries about sex in Science Fiction and it has inspired several songs by the British alternative pop-rock duo Shakespears Sisters.
Maybe the film’s most grateful famous fan is Rock legend Pat Benatar. According to her, on Halloween in 1977 when she was still a struggling musician, she decided to change her stage appearance.
She dressed as one of the Cat-Women of the Moon and it landed her a deal with Chrysalis Record. The rest…is cat-woman history.