Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Cinematic Dregs: Nude on the Moon

(1960) Directed by Doris Wishman (credited as Raymond Phelan); Written by Raymond Phelan   and Doris Wishman; Starring: Marietta, William Mayer and Lester Brown;
Available on DVD

Rating: *½

“Don’t you understand? I’m in love. For the first time in my life, I care for someone. It’s strange, but it’s wonderful.” – Dr. Jeff Huntley (Lester Brown)


Time sure flies in the movie blogging world (Are we having fun yet?). It’s been nearly a year since my previous edition of Cinematic Dregs, and what better choice for my exploration of cinema’s worst, than Nude on the Moon,* from infamous cheapie Florida-based sexploitation filmmaker Doris Wishman? Ms. Wishman started out with the “nudie cuties” (including today’s specimen), which were strictly look-but-don’t-touch affairs between the characters, and eventually graduated to the “roughies,” featuring graphic sex and violence (such as Wishman’s Bad Girls Go to Hell). When the “roughie” became passé, Wishman and her contemporaries branched out into horror and hardcore sex films – but I’m jumping ahead. Nude on the Moon belongs to a more innocent time, when audiences (consisting predominantly of lonely men, I’d wager) didn’t expect much more than a little jiggling flesh. By these admittedly low standards, Nude on the Moon delivers – sort of. As Michael Weldon pointed out in his Pyschotronic Video Guide, the film’s title is a bit of a misnomer. A more accurate title would have been Topless on the Moon, but that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

* Because I must have a masochistic streak, I asked my dear Twitter followers to help me decide which film I would inflict upon myself for Exploitation Month.

 Sometimes, a rocket is just a rocket.

The paper-thin plot concerns two scientists, Professor Nichols (William Mayer) and Dr. Jeff Huntley (Lester Brown) who decide they don’t need any stinkin’ NASA, and plan a DIY moon mission. Nichols wants his colleague to settle down, but Huntley is all work, proclaiming, “science is my life, and nothing else” (It doesn’t take an astrophysicist to guess the moon won’t be the only heavenly body that attracts his attention before the movie’s over.). Thanks to a convenient $3 million* inheritance, the scientists build their own rocket and arrive safely on the lunar surface, which looks an awful lot like Florida. They proceed to record their observations, and by “record their observations,” I mean ogle various moon women (Or moon people, or whatever the heck they call ‘em. My brain hurts.) cavorting about their “moon” compound. And that’s about it, for two thirds of the movie. Although it’s a scant 70 minutes, you’d swear you were watching a four-hour extended cut.** If nothing else, Wishman vindicates Einstein’s theory that time is relative to the observer.

* Quite a bargain, considering NASA’s Apollo program cost $25.4 billion in 1973 dollars.

** Note: No such cut exists. If it does, I don’t want to know about it, because it would almost certainly violate the Geneva Convention guidelines regarding torture.

The first third of the film isn’t any better, consisting of boring conversations between the two scientists. In a half-assed nod to scientific accuracy, we’re treated to a serious discussion about the temperature range on the moon, but I wonder why they bothered at all. Considering everything that follows, all bets are off. Wishman and her crew spared every expense to ensure any shred of veracity was eliminated. When the two scientists board their rocket, it’s obviously just a conventional airplane. The frolicking moon denizens sport a set of antennae on a head band, which resemble a first grade craft project. The space suits worn by the two men look like they were cobbled together from a dime store. They communicate to each other through radios, although their helmets are open to the air.

Nude on the Moon’s one claim to fame is that it was shot at the famous Coral Castle near Miami, Florida, a remarkable assortment of enormous sculptures, created by one man over the course of 28 years. Alas, the story behind the monument’s construction, long shrouded in mystery, would have been much more compelling than anything in this movie.

It helps to have the proper perspective when watching Nude on the Moon, although that probably won’t stop you from experiencing crippling boredom. It’s the product of a bygone era when watching nearly naked women frolic in a natural setting was more than enough for the early ‘60s trenchcoat crowd to get their jollies. Nothing like it was being produced by the major film companies of the time, so for those who actually paid admission, it was the proverbial forbidden fruit. As a modern-day film watching experience, however, it’s an exercise in tedium. Your enjoyment depends largely on how much kitsch you can stand. Those looking for the more prurient aspects will probably be disappointed.

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