ON DVD & BLU-RAY
Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) Blu Ray & DVD (101 Films)
A spoof of late-night television
A feature-length, star-studded series of comedic sketches which spoofs the experience of flicking through channels on late-night TV. Some of the sketches feature various hapless characters winding up in strange and embarrassing situations. The others here satirise cheesy infomercials, sensationalist TV shows and old movies. The film’s title refers to one of the featured sketches, a recurring spoof of 1950s sci-fi B-movies.
It’s a follow-up to the similar, John Landis-directed The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977). Here, however, five different directors were involved including Landis himself, Joe Dante, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton and Robert K. Weiss.
Watch a trailer:
A fair number of the sketches in Amazon Women on the Moon are genuinely hilarious, whereas others…are not so much. Below, I go through each one individually and appraise them on their respective merits. First of all, a disclaimer: a person’s sense of humour is quite a subjective thing so some of the jokes that I found funny might not be your cup of tea… and vice versa. However, broadly speaking, this review should give you an inkling of what to expect (without spoiling the surprise of some of the better gags here).
Arsenio Hall plays a yuppie who comes back to his condo, only to find every household item going hilariously haywire. It’s a strong opening, with a heavy emphasis on slapstick humour.
A Playboy-style nude model talks about her life in California. Presumably, this one was attempting to skewer the male mentality of viewing softcore models as objects to leer over rather than as real people going about their daily lives. However, it ultimately comes across as little more than an excuse to throw a naked woman into the film - not that there’s anything wrong with nudity per se, it’s just that it’s not funny in of itself.
Murray in Videoland
Lou Jacobi plays an ageing slob named Murray who spends his whole life in front of his TV flicking through the channels. However, when he turns the zapper on himself, he ends up trapped inside one of the shows. His wife frantically attempts to flick through channels to see if he will come back the the real world. However, he remains trapped in whatever is being shown on each given channel, be it a baseball game, a Huey Lewis and the News video or an old monster movie. What could have been a really clever and creative sketch ends up being just so-so, with too many of the scenes merely involving Jacobi being superimposed on top of stock footage. This is one of a few sketches which intermittently recurs throughout.
One of the funniest sketches here. It features Michelle Pfeiffer and Peter Horton as a yuppie couple who give birth to a child in hospital. Unfortunately, they have to put up with an obnoxiously snarky doctor. Great fun with a marvellously acerbic performance by the underrated Griffin Dunne.
A spoof infomercial featuring Joe Pantoliano as a man who has patented a rather unusual cure for hair loss. More silly than funny.
Amazon Women on the Moon
It’s the centrepiece of the film - a recurring multi-part sketch which sends up cheap SF B-movies such as Fire Maidens from Outer Space (1956). While it captures the cheesy look and equally cheesy dialogue of those films pretty well, it’s no more than moderately amusing.
Blacks Without Soul
The legendary blues singer B.B. King presents a helpline service for blacks who have lost their soul. Some of the jibes at African-American stereotypes seem rather dated nowadays. There is ample compensation, however, in the shape of David Alan Grier as Don ‘No Soul’ Simmons, a musician who sings twee musical numbers such as Chim Chim Cher-ee from Mary Poppins while tinkling away on a Hammond organ. I found it impossible to keep a straight face during his performances. He pops up again later on in a spoof advertisement for two of his LPs.
Steve Guttenberg plays Jerry, a bachelor who goes to the home of his hot date for the night - Karen (Rosanna Arquette). To his amazement, she asks for his ID and credit card to run some background checks on him via a fax-based service. His whole dating history is quickly presented right before her eyes, and it ain’t pretty. It’s a wry and hilarious look at the pretentious aspects of the dating scene. Definitely one of the better sketches here.
Bullshit or Not
This is a wonderful spoof of a long-running American TV series Ripley's Believe It or Not! which examined various urban myths and pseudoscientific claims. Henry Silva presents this mock episode which posits a bizarre theory that Jack the Ripper was, in fact, the Loch Ness Monster in disguise!
An ordinary middle-aged man named Harvey Pitnik (Archie Hahn) sits in front of his TV watching a Siskel & Ebert At the Movies-style movie review show. Suddenly, the two presenters announce a new section of the show where they review the life of a member of the public. Their first subject is who else but… Harvey himself. Quite a witty and droll little sketch, although its follow-up (which I will look at further down) is better.
This one is a mock advertisement set at a party where the guests are entertained by a pate that doubles as a Silly Putty-alike substance. It fails to hit the mark.
Roast Your Loved One
It’s the follow-up sketch to Critic’s Corner. This time, Harvey’s wife Bernice (Brenda Balaski) and her children are mourning the loss of Harvey at a funeral with a twist… the twist being that it is hosted by six ageing comedians. It’s bad taste humour of the best possible kind.
A spoof of old seafaring swashbucklers featuring a gang of pirates (led by William Marshall of Blacula fame) who discover a haul of golden VHS tapes. It’s another lesser sketch, albeit with a fairly witty ending revolving around those copyright warning cards which always appear at the start of playback.
Son of the Invisible Man
A black-and-white spoof of the old horror classic featuring Ed Begley Jr. as an Invisible Man who, well, isn’t as invisible as he believes to be. It’s a fairly funny idea but ends up over-stretching itself.
A museum goes into bankruptcy and ends up selling its priceless contents at knock-down prices. It’s another weak advertisement-based sketch.
First Lady of the Evening
Another mock advertisement, this time revolving around a Mills & Boon-style romantic potboiler featuring a First Lady (Angel Tompkins) who moonlights as a private dancer. This might conceivably have seemed outrageously irreverent in the days before Melania Trump came along. Nowadays, however, it just feels kind of redundant.
At last! A truly great sketch comes along after a run of rather lacklustre ones. Matt Adler plays George, an awkward adolescent who pays a visit to a pharmacy in order to buy some Titan condoms, thus enabling him to make it with his date Violet (Kelly Preston) in the back of his car. He ends up receiving a rather embarrassing surprise (which I won’t spoil).
Marc McClure plays Ray, a young man who goes to the video store to receive a back shelf tape with his name on it, courtesy of the store owner (played by the legendary sexploitation director Russ Meyer). It’s a sexy video with a rather unsexy surprise twist at the end. As with the earlier Pethouse Video, this one feels like an excuse to throw in a bit of nudity. To make matters worse, it features a cameo by the largely unfunny Andrew Dice Clay.
The end credits roll at this point. Don’t switch off just yet, however, as there is one more sketch to come…
This one is a parody of those sanctimonious old black-and-white (in terms of both film stock and morality) message movies such as Reefer Madness (1936). It features Carrie Fisher as Mary Brown, a young lady who visits her doctor (played by Paul Bartel) to confess that she has picked up a so-called “social disease” (STD). It’s not the best sketch here but I’ll give it a passing grade anyway, if only because of the presence of the late Fisher.
As you can see, Amazon Women on the Moon is a real mixed bag in terms of both the style and quality of the sketches. In its favour, however, none of them last for longer than a few minutes - and enough of them hit the mark to mean that, if one doesn’t make the grade, a better one is usually just around the corner. Admittedly, too many of the lesser sketches are bundled together in the final third but, nonetheless, those in search of some belly laughs will certainly get their money’s worth here.
Runtime: 85 mins
Dir: Joe Dante, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton, John Landis, Robert K. Weiss
Script: Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland
Starring: Arsenio Hall, Monique Gabrielle, Lou Jacobi, Erica Yohn, Huey Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Peter Horton, Griffin Dunne, Joe Pantoliano, Steve Forrest, Robert Colbert, Joey Travolta, Sybil Danning, Lana Clarkson, David Alan Grier, B.B. King, Rosanna Arquette, Steve Guttenberg, Henry Silva, Archie Hahn, Brenda Balaski, Robert Picardo, William Marshall, Ed Begley Jr., Angel Tompkins, Matt Adler, Kelly Preston, Ralph Bellamy, Marc McClure, Russ Meyer, Andrew Dice Clay, Carrie Fisher, Paul Bartel
Blu Ray Audio-Visual
The quality of both visuals and sound is very pleasing here. Nothing to complain about in terms of colour, detail and sharpness. N.B. some of the sketches feature black lines and other visual defects. However, these are intentional stylistic touches.
To the Moon & Back! The Story of Amazon Women on the Moon is an essay by Calum Waddell, who discusses the film’s enduring appeal despite it being so incredibly 1980s. We also get two interviews here: one with actress Sybil Danning and the other with composer Ira Newborn. Danning reveals that she was originally submitted for the titular role in the First Lady of the Evening sketch. However, she when she read about the Amazon Queen role, she decided to go for it instead. Considering that the actress had previously been best known for films like Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and Hercules (1983), she was obviously a natural fit for the part!
Audio Commentary with Mondo Digital’s Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer
Putting a commentary track over a gag-based comedy of this ilk is something of a questionable proposition since it does, inevitably, obscure most fo the jokes. That said, Thompson and Greer do put in some sterling work here. The mention that the film was going to be a major theatrical release. However, since Universal didn’t know how to distribute it, it sat on the shelf for sometime before, eventually, coming out in just a few cinemas. However, it fared much better on video.
They also go into some production details. Apparently, the film used 62 speaking parts, 100 sets and 32 locations, with five different units shooting concurrently. Steve Forrest, who played the lead in the Amazon Women on the Moon sketch, apparently turned down Leslie Nielsen’s role in Forbidden Planet (1956). Ironically, one of the costumes he wears in the sketch is a re-tailored version of the same one that Nielsen wore in that film!
We’re Gonna Need Bigger Skits: An Interview with Carl Gottlieb
Gottlieb, who directed a number of the shorts (including Pethouse Video and Son of the Invisible Man) discusses the production. He mentioned that filming Ed Begley Jr. naked without revealing his genitals was challenging. He also briefly remembers Lana Clarkson, whom he says was a very talented comedian before she was shot by Phil Spector (whom he quite rightfully describes as a “weasel”).
Cinematographer on the Moon: An Interview with Daniel Pearl
Pearl (who started got his big break shooting Texas Chainsaw Massacre) talks a bit about what attracted him to Amazon Women on the Moon; he liked the opportunity to dabble in different styles according to five different directors and the varying styles of homage. He admits that he is more interested in working on horror films (where he gets to play with contrast and angles) than on comedy (where he simply has to, in his words, “catch the fucking joke”). He also reveals that the film was going to be called Kentucky Fried Movie II. However, Landis decided to go for a different title to avoid having to purchase the necessary rights. Pearl’s a lively and opinionated enough character to make this one an entertaining interview.
Six cut scenes
This is the essential extra of the set. It features six scenes which were removed from the cinema release. Some of these were included in an alternate version created for TV scheduling. While it’s not hard to see why most of these scenes were cut, they are still well worth a look for curiosity value alone. The scenes are as follows:
- An alternate opening sequence featuring an astronomer talking about the hidden secrets of the moon in an archetypal B-movie manner.
- A sketch called The Unknown Soldier which was directed by Peter Horton. It features Wallace Langham as Private Puckett, a soldier who is ushered into the command bunker to meet a trio of generals (Bernie Casey, Robert Loggia and Ronny Cox). They tell him that the war is over. However, what would be fantastic news comes with a bit of a catch. It’s not surprising that this one was removed from the original cut since its tone is overly dark without really hitting the funny bone.
- An extra scene for Roast Your Loved One featuring a young Bryan Cranston as a paramedic and some dialogue involving Rick Raddnitz (Robert Picardo) talking Bernice through the funeral’s celebrity “roasting”. While it offers a couple of chuckles, it feels rather superfluous in context to the overall sketch.
- The French Ventriloquist’s Dummy, directed by Joe Dante, featuring Dick Miller as a ventriloquist picks up the wrong suitcase at the airport. This results in him going on stage with the dummy belonging to his French counterpart. As a result, the dummy speaks French! There could conceivably have been a funny sketch made from this idea but sadly, in this case, it largely fumbles the ball.
- Peter Pan Theatre directed by Carl Gottlieb. This is the funniest of the cut sketches. It’s a mock promo for a theatre company whose productions feature actors flying around on Peter Pan-style stage harnesses in completely inappropriate contexts e.g. during Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra and Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. Jenny Agutter makes a brief cameo appearance.
- A brief love scene between Steve Forrest and Sybil Danning which was removed from the Amazon Women on the Moon sketch.
There are almost 6 minutes’ worth of flubs here. The best involve a fake bat crashing into Paul Bartel’s head while filming Reckless Youth, and some (literal) monkey business on the Amazon Women on the Moon sketch.
There is also an image gallery on the disc.
This is a 1980s favourite which still holds up enjoyably today. While the sketches don’t always hit the mark, there’s enough of the good to make it worthwhile.