Rixflix A to Z: Amazon Women on the Moon (1987)

Director: Joe Dante, John Landis, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton & Robert K. Weiss // Universal; 1:25; color
Cast Notables: Arsenio Hall, B.B. King, David Allan Grier, Michelle Pfeiffer, Peter Horton, Lou Jacobi, Griffin Dunne, Joe Pantoliano, Monique Gabrielle, Steve Forrest, Joey Travolta, Forrest J. Ackerman, Sybil Danning, Lana Clarkson, Roxie Roker, Rosanna Arquette, Steve Guttenberg, Henry Silva, Archie Hahn, T.K. Carter, Phil Proctor, Robert Picardo, Rip Taylor, Bryan Cranston, Slappy White, Steve Allen, Jackie Vernon, Charlie Callas, Henny Youngman, William Marshall, Donald Gibb, Ed Begley Jr., Kelly Preston, Howard Hesseman, Ralph Bellamy, Steve Cropper, Marc McClure, Russ Meyer, Corinee Wahl, Andrew Dice Clay, Paul Bartel, Carrie Fisher, Mike Mazurki, Dick Miller, Jenny Agutter, Phil Hartman (voice), Corey Burton (voice), Bernie Casey, Ronny Cox, Huey Lewis (himself), Robert Loggia.
Cinema 4 Rating: 6


While Amazon Women ultimately exists as a less successful follow-up to the entirely sophomoric but bellylaugh-filled ZAZ & Landis goof-fest of a decade earlier, The Kentucky Fried Movie, there are many moments in it that people are always bringing up whenever they hear mention of this film. David Allan Grier's still amusing Don "No-Soul" Simmons, who belts out Tie a Yellow Ribbon while blues great B.B. King pleads with the audience for donations to help save a brother who sings and dances like he is completely white, is the chief item amongst the more fondly remembered bits. Ed Begley Jr.'s fantastic take on The Invisible Man, filmed in an almost dead-on approximation of the 1932 James Whale original, and where Begley roams about completely naked, moving objects through the air while the denizens of the inn pretend to be amazed by his "invisible" feats, is my personal favorite in the bunch, though Joe Dante's take on public health scare films in the 30s also approaches a twisted sort of brilliance here.

But for me, one of the more minor gags sticks in my head, not out of that same form of twisted genius (though it is also directed by Dante, it is less successful in its execution), but rather due to the knotted up wiring in my own skull. Henry Silva hosts a spoof of Ripley's Believe... or Not-type shows called "Bullshit... or Not?", where he narrates over a reenactment of the wildest juxtaposition of facts and myth possible. In this case, his "bullshit" story involves the marriage of the Jack the Ripper murders with one of the United Kingdom's most beloved legends, the Loch Ness Monster, asking us to imagine that the horrific splatter murders of five London prostitutes was indeed committed by a 40-foot sea monster. The traditional Ripper murder scenario is set up: crude hooker out for action on dark and foggy alley, gentlemen arrives to give her company, they set off into the darkness, and then we hear a horrible scream. Now add to this the image of a giant plesiosaur dressed like a London dandy out for a stroll, who just leers at the prostitute eerily while she carries on the conversation on the way to her doom... there you go. Ridiculous, isn't it. How can anyone find such a loony bit of business scary at all?

Well... I can. Add Dante's Nessie to the obvious men in Sasquatch suits, people in sheep costumes in advertisements, Star Trek's Gorn and Saturday Night Live's Land-Shark and Killer Trees onto the "List of Mock-Scary Things that Frighten Me Far More Than the Things that Normally Frighten People." I don't know what's wrong with me. Maybe I am not receiving the translation right in my brain. After all the far better-executed monsters created for movies and television over the years, somehow it is the cheapjack and ironic versions of these icons that leave me shaking and cold with fear. I will go into the others as I reach the films and shows in which they appeared, but let's deal with this Nessie thing here and now.

I love the myth of the Loch Ness Monster; I just don't believe in it. I require physical proof. I require a body, or the identifiable remnants of said body, to be produced before I sign up for the Nessie myth. All the same, the Loch Ness Monster exists in my head, and millions of other, simply by dint of cultural immersion. I want to believe that there is a relic of prehistory lounging about in a Scottish lake, and for all intents and purposes, Nessie does. When I make it to Scotland eventually, there is no doubt that I will join the throngs of other Nessie hunters at the loch, and this is simply out of fun. I will eye the lake warily, hoping to catch a corner's glimpse of bumps on the water, and I am pretty sure if I see even the slightest ripple on its surface, my mind will be absolutely convinced that I saw Nessie. Because I love the myth.

That said, I am obviously preconditioned to think that such a thing as Nessie is slightly possible, and in that outside realm of possibility, should a lake monster truly show itself to be a reality, I would be charmed, as much of the world would be, at the prospect. So, why am I so ready to get creeped out by the notion of Nessie as a scheming, sadistic multiple murderer? The staging is too campy to be taken seriously, and while the puppet construct of the creature is well-done if simple, it's a basic plesiosaur and nothing to strike fear in even the faintest of hearts (though Nessie's eye movements are a tad creepy). And Henry Silva mocks everything along the way, so you can't possibly be frightened of it. Right? And yet, every time that I see this scene, a chill goes up my spine, just like when the Jaws music (which doesn't affect me this way in its real place) plays in a Land Shark skit. I could watch a half dozen Ripper films and never once get the same feeling of dread that I do when I see this silly fake creature go to work as the famous serial killer.

It's surely something about the suit of the Shark, or the puppet-Nessie, that causes me to react in this way, and for someone with as much puppeteering experience as I do, it's a little weird. Or maybe, because of that experience in bringing inanimate things to life, I ascribe more life (and therefore, deeper emotion) to animal suits or puppets or animated characters than I do to real people.

And look at it this way: if I wasn't so scared of these suits and puppets, I'd probably be a Furry. Now that's scary...

Comments

I don't really find the Nessie/Ripper bit all that scary(although I can actually SEE it as creepy), but Land Shark always made me uncomfortable as funny as it was. For me I think it's BECAUSE it's so silly and obviously ridiculous. Far Side cartoons used to scare the crap outta me as a kid, because I could only imagine in terror what it would be like to live in a world where those rules existed.
chewy said…
Yes. Furries are frightening.
ak_hepcat said…
This was just on cable a couple weeks ago, and I watched it again.

Yay.

I haven't seen KFM in far too long, tho.

And I still can't remember the movie that was in the same vein, that showcased a talking/singing, upside-down penis.

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