Thanksgiving Turkeys: Fire Maidens of Outer Space (1956)
This month we discuss famous turkeys, notoriously bad films. In this installment, we welcome Rodney Bowcock into the fold as he and Adam brave a 1950s sci-fi misfire.
R: When the topic of “turkeys” was floated to me as the theme of the month, this was literally the first title that popped into my head. I was unfamiliar with the notoriety of the film via its appearance on Mystery Science Theater and had likely plucked it off a dealer table at Cinevent or a Cincinnati Nostalgia Con based on the title alone. I can hardly blame myself for that decision. However, I was not aware that, as often happens with this type of picture, the title would be the most interesting part.
A: Somehow this one alluded me despite its garish title. I decided to go into it without reading up first. I realized very quickly that this was a movie of monumental dullness.
R: I am a firm believer in the camp that nobody has ever set out to make a bad movie, but if a person wanted to, they could make a pretty good argument against that statement by mentioning this film. The concept certainly sounds entertaining enough on paper…I mean, some astronauts land on a moon of Venus that’s inhabited by descendants of survivors of Atlantis. Oh, and did I mention that they’re all sexy young women? Yeah, they are. And did you know that Aphrodite was from Atlantis? Yep. Plus, there’s a monster with a fish head. I’m EXACTLY the kind of discerning viewer that would typically be completely on board with this kind of wackiness.
A: The filmmaking on display--everything from the writing to the direction to the acting--is strikingly lethargic. There is a very real sense that the only expectations for this movie was that it be 80 minutes long and carry the title Fire Maidens of Outer Space. What appears on the screen looks to be achieved through minimum effort. One of the best examples is early on: the astronauts are hurtling through space on the first voyage to this newly discovered planet. One of them (I can’t remember which one as they barely have distinct personalities) flatly mutters, “Hey, I wonder what we’ll find on the 13th moon.” Scintillating dialogue, right there!
The girls are eye candy but even they are not enough to carry the film. The monster looked like a beatnik with a rubber mask.
R: I’m a pretty forgiving kind of guy with movies that aren’t exactly masterpieces, but I hadn’t prepared myself for the excessive amount of walking and pacing. Seriously, I bet 50 minutes of this movie is spent watching people walk and pace. When they aren’t walking or pacing, they’re driving or flying. I will give credit to one particularly jaw-dropping musical number that is some sort of a highlight, but that doesn’t say much. I get that it’s all in the interest of padding because the budget was so low, but it’s mind numbingly dull.
A: The scene in the observatory would make a great example of how not to make a movie. It starts with a 2-minute-long medium shot with poorly recorded location sound as the pipe-smoking scientists’ blather away about science stuff. Then the secretary is buzzed in. There is a cut as we follow the secretary’s descent down the stairs. She pulls up a chair and takes notes on the scientists’ further blathering. Then—and I must admit at this point I was impressed with the brazen disregard for the audience—the camera follows her the entire way back up the stairs in silence. Cap the scene off with an unfunny secretary joke and fade to black. All told, this torturous vignette has a sum total of one edit and runs over 3 and a half minutes long. If Orson Welles had been bottle-fed lead paint as an infant, the opening sequence of Touch of Evil may have gone something like this.
R: Considering that I picked this and it’s my inaugural post on this blog, I apologize profusely for this one. That said, I DO encourage our readers to check this one out. Misery loves company after all.
A: No need to apologize! I wholeheartedly recommend this movie to everyone. In fact, it’s totally worth a blind purchase on Blu-ray. Heck, buy several copies to give to friends, family, and your co-workers. Four plump turkeys from me.
R: I'd happily agree that this is a four turkey picture if there ever was one. In the realm of turkeys, Fire Maidens isn't just a turkey, it's a full dinner with all of the trimmings.