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Woof! Did this dog ever get any actual plays in public? I can't imagine
anyone sitting through it, unless they were in a drive-in theater
snogging and not paying any attention to the movie.
First of all, I'll mention the items that many others brought up: the endlessly repeated flamenco guitar riff that comes back DOZENS of times throughout the movie to the point of insanity. The flashback that can't possibly belong to the person describing it. The narrator who isn't part of the story. The fact that the whole lab blew up, but they still have to get the oil company to drive out there "before they escape." The fake-looking giant spider. The dutiful valet who calmly goes to his death. The fact that they don't try to subdue the gun-wielding maniac who kidnapped them once he hands the gun over to the Chinese valet. The ridiculous "you must go get that comb, it's a family heirloom" motivation. The wooden acting. The questionable motives. The gratuitous dwarfs.
As the cherry on the top of this bad movie sundae, I'd like to add that a veritable all-no-star cast from z-grade movie history comes together here. Let's run down all the real-life characters in this Rogue's Gallery.
You've got several Ed Wood alumni, though Ed had nothing to do with this film (as far as we know, but it would not surprise me if some previously hidden involvement by Ed was revealed well after the fact. MOLW was produced by indie production company Howco, who also released Ed's "Jail Bait.") There's Ed's former girlfriend Delores Fuller. There's Mona McKinnon (one of the Spider Women) and Lyle Talbot (the narrator), both future cast members of Plan Nine From Outer Space. The bizarrely "Wooden" direction in this film is quite appropriate for a flick loaded with Ed Wood players; they must have felt right at home.
You've got Jerry Warren stock player Katherine Victor (Jerry was a legendary bad director, and Katherine's husband. This is her first film, and one of her few appearances outside of a Jerry Warren production... she also had a later career as a continuity coordinator for Disney animated features!)
You've got George Barrows, the legendary Ro-Man from Robot Monster! (George played a gorilla in the vast majority of his screen credits, here he's just George the nurse from the Sanatorium...no gorilla suit in sight at any time).
Playing the bartender you have character actor Fred Kelsey, who has 395(!) film credits starting in 1911! In the thankless role of "Pepe" you have Chris Pin Martin, who had 135 credits, but MOLW was his last film (what a way to go out...).
Then you have co-director Ron Ormond, who produced and director numerous grade-Z flicks before getting religion and producing Fundamentalist Christian Grade Z flicks, such as the insane "If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?" (Seek that out if you can if you are a fan of extreme cinema and think you've seen it all.) You also get producer Joy N. Houck, whose son, Joy N. Houck, Jr., is responsible for such non-favorites as "Night of Bloody Horror" and the deriviative "Women and Bloody Terror."
Then, of course, finally, you have Jackie "Uncle Fester" Coogan as the mad scientist Doctor Aranya. Whew! What a meeting of the lack of minds! Is this a recommendation to actually WATCH Mesa of Lost Women? Well, you need a certain kind of rugged individualism to stomach it. But I will state with certainty that having watched this film is much better than actually watching it. And if you understand that, then you're way ahead of me, because I think this movie actually made me quite crazy.
I saw this movie TWICE within the same week. Yes I did, believe it or
not, but I do not ordinarily subject myself to such pure torture, but
the main reason was (other than sharing my find with a close friend) -
I wanted to count the number of times that the exact same chord
sequence and jangling flamenco guitar riff repeated (plus, I kept
expecting a villain to appear from behind the bat-wing doors of an old
western tavern). I confess that I gave up and threw my notebook at the
screen after only about ten minutes in. Yet I continued to watch it
again, slowly tugging at my hair, whilst my friend stared at the screen
with his mouth open during the amazingly weird voice-overs that may
have found a place in a commercial for men's cheap cologne...
Okay, it isn't a movie solely about an infinite flamenco guitar motif as it also has someone banging a key or two on the piano here and there at inopportune moments throughout... I confess that I still heard parts of the soundtrack in my head about three days after I last saw this, so be careful if you value your sanity.
Anyway, it's about a mad doctor who seemingly doesn't even know the difference between spiders and insects, which is no surprise, really. His experiments, other that making giant mutant spiders that are shy and need to hide behind a folding dressing screen, is producing beautiful strong women, and very short ugly men. Why the women turn out beautiful instead of more spider-like (unlike what is implied) is anyone's guess.
I would guess that the dance of Tarantella is supposed to be somewhat erotic and I guess it is, in a way, and probably the only thing worth watching other than laughing yourself sick at Masterson's gleeful stare whilst pretending to be quite mad. (I assume he was just pretending, anyway.)
Seriously, if you want to hear an endless flamenco guitar motif that deeply embeds itself in your brain forever and ever, this is the one to watch!
The amazing, and as yet unmentioned, stroke of genius about this film
is that it invents a totally new and, as far as I know, never again
used narrative device: best described as "Someone Else's Flashback"
At the opening of the movie a man and a woman staggering across the Mexican desert are rescued from certain death by handsome hunk Frank the surveyor - thus setting him up as the hero but, as the couple start to recover in the oil exploration company's base, he goes back to work and he's never seen again - so he isn't.
As he recovers the man starts to tell his story - a strange garbled tale of crashed aeroplanes, monstrous Spider women and a man called "Dr. Aranya" - the camera focuses in on Pepe, the Mexican driver who, on the surface, looks like he's going to be the funny foreigner comic relief of the flick but doesn't appear again after this opening scene - so isn't.
As the camera dwells on Pepe listening to this tale there is a fade to a wide shot of the desert and a car driving towards the camera. The narrator says something to the effect of - "Yes it's an interesting tale isn't it Pepe? You could tell them more about this mesa and the strange things your people tell about it couldn't you? But this isn't where the story starts, a month before, doctor Leland Masterson..." and we're into the 'story' at last.
The whole film is then played out as a flashback - but whose? It starts before the pilot has arrived on the scene so it can't be his flashback. Because of the focus on Pepe and the fade it looks like it should be Pepe's but he wasn't there! So it must be the Narrator's. If it was the Narrator's flashback why go to all the trouble of setting up at least two false starts to the film?
You are so busy pondering the meaning of this multi-layered, layers within layers, Like an Onion!, Russian Doll of an opening that it takes some time before the simple truth reveals itself. Sheer unmitigated incompetence! This movie is so bloody awful and lacks any structure whatsoever... It's hilarious. I especially love the bit where after surviving the air crash they traipse off into the jungle to rescue George all holding hands like school children crossing the road. Into the darkness they creep - on and on and on and on till they reach the studio wall (and George's body) then they turn around and all creep back again on and on and onzzzzzzzzzzz. Not one second of shot footage was wasted. It's totally surreal. The best boring, zen-like, creeping through the jungle holding hands scene in the history of the movies.
Other highlights include the huge spider leg coming out from behind the screen in Dr Aranya's lab. What was that spider doing behind the screen? Getting dressed? - another movie first! a modest giant mutant spider!
This film also contains a candidate for the worst excuse for sending someone off to their certain death ever - "Where is the comb I gave you?" asks the rich man of his wife. "It is a family heirloom! Wu, take the only flashlight we have and leave us huddling in the dark around this pathetic fire and go into that monster infested jungle and find it!" (Wu it should be explained is Chinese and a bit creepy therefore falls into the "People who are't going to make it to the end of the movie" category. If he had been a Chinese happy scared-cat cook he might have made it).
So Terrible it's worth watching.
This mess is one of the worst science fiction movies of the 1950's. It
makes Ed Wood's films look good. It does have its moments
The acting is terrible and too daft to laugh at. The guitar/piano music score, which hardly stops throughout the movie, is utter rubbish and drove me mad. The only good points about The Mesa of Lost Women are the giant spider scenes. Even the spider looks terrible.
This is grade Z rubbish. A real golden turkey.
Rating: 1 and a half stars out of 5.
I just saw this gem on the big screen and it is terrible! The audience laughed with glee. It has what may be in serious contention for the worst sound track of all time! A constant Mexican Guitar that plays really obnoxiously for dreadfully long periods. There is one scene that is supposed to be scary but is very funny. Some Spider Women and midget Spider men are sneaking up on the films heroes and suddenly someone turns to look in their direction and the scantily clad spider women and midgets have to scamper to hide and it is just an outrageous sight seeing these grotesque midget men scampering around for cover...if you love horrible B films then you have a winner here!
One of the best of the so-bad-it's-beautiful movies. MESA OF LOST WOMEN
tells the story of a mad scientist (Jackie Coogan with a wart the size of a
Roosevelt dime!) who creates beautiful dancing girls out of spiders. (most
likely to help out the struggling Rockette industry!) I absolutely loved the
scene with the mad doc's victim, a scientist driven insane by a spider-woman
encounter. He goes around bars, quoting something close to the Bible, in a
silly Elmer Fudd voice.
What I really loved about this movie was Tandra Quinn, as Tarantella, the mad doc's best spider to mucha-cha creation. She's something like a brunette Jayne Mansfield with a little bit of Vampirella thrown in. Ms. Quinn, you made film history with your really strange spider dance.
Director Ron Ormond has quite a reputation for his wild and wacky exploitation films before he had a near-death experience and made wild and wacky religious films. This is a film that will drive most people out of their skull because of one reason: the music score is made up of a short flamenco guitar piece that is repeated over and over and over. Surely an absurd plot can be accepted my most but the constant recurring flamenco motif is enough to send the feeble-minded into fits of madness. Besides the big spider, you won't forget Tandra Quinn's bizarre and exotic dance in a bar that whips one guy into such a frenzy that he shoots her. Image's DVD from Wade Williams isn't much better than VHS with a shaky picture, soft contrasts and muffled audio but it's nice to see cheap obscure B-movies like this being released on disc at all.
This movie is just plain fun. I consider it a budding cult classic. I say "budding" only because it seems to be relatively unknown. Jackie Coogan, who rocked as Uncle Fester of The Addams Family TV series, rocks as a mad scientist. Harmon Stevens is just as much a hoot as the insane doctor. Tandra Quinn, who plays Tarantella, is a major babe and her dance number shows it. Samuel Wu, who oddly enough plays the character Wu, speaks only in what sounds like an ancient Chinese proverb dialect and comes off as ludicrously funny. The deadly spider-girls are all pretty, the dwarfs are actually all dwarfs, the voice over is cool and crazy, and parts of it are over the top in ways reminiscent of Plan 9 From Outer Space. I love this thing. Its in a class of its own and ought not be compared to other films. It is what it is and needs to be viewed that way. Its a gut buster. Want your own personal cult classic that no one else knows about? Adopt the Mesa of Lost Women.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Where to begin? The plot is so convoluted that I don't know if I can do
it justice. I'll give it a brief try. Dr. Leland Masterson, intrigued
by the work of Dr. Aranya, visits his secret underground lab to gain an
insight on the work he is performing. He is shocked to learn that Dr.
Aranya is injecting spider fluids into humans and human fluids into
spiders. The result indestructible spider-women (or dwarfs in the
case of the men) and giant, deadly spiders. Masterson is attacked and
goes insane. He later escapes from the asylum and hijacks a plane
carrying a couple on their way to be married, an Asian servant,
Masterson's nurse, and the pilot. The plan crashes on a deserted mesa
not far from Dr. Aranya's hideout. Can anyone escape alive from the
Mesa of Lost Women?
I thought about doing one of those reviews I've done in the past where I list what worked in the movie and what didn't work. It would look something like this:
What Works: - Nothing.
What Doesn't Work: - Everything.
Mesa of Lost Women is so inept that it would take pages to cover it all. Acting, plot, pacing, special effects, dialogue, and everything else you can think of are as bad as anything Ed Wood ever made. Here's a laundry list of just a few of the things that didn't work:
1. The voice-over narration. The narrator tries to be clever but just comes off as ridiculous when none of his jokes hit their mark. 2. The relationship between the pilot and the woman. This bride-to-be is way to quick to dump her frumpy husband-to-be once the hunky pilot shows up. Their kiss is nausea inducing. 3. The spider-women. Are these things supposed to be menacing? 4. Dr. Aranya. The movie tries hard to let us know that Dr. Aranya is evil. Just take a look at the guy. He's got a bad eye, a wart, and seems more interested in his high school test tube rack than in human life. 5. The Asian servant. His double cross of the others on the plane would make the team of Mission Impossible proud. The fact that he not only knew the plane would crash, but that he knew exactly where the plane would crash obviously took some incredible planning. 6. Tarantella's dance. I suppose it's meant to be seductive, but to whom, I'm not sure. 7. Do I really need to go any further?
None of this is meant to imply that there aren't moments in the movie to enjoy. This is one of those movies that I do not hesitate to call "so bad it's good". For those in the right frame of mind, there's a laugh to be had around almost every corner of Mesa of Lost Women.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Mesa of Lost Women" has two early hooks that make it seem that the
movie is actually going somewhere. Even before any opening credits
roll, there's the seductive scene with Tarantella (Tandra Quinn) using
her nine inch nails on a hapless victim. The nails are never seen
again. While in a mountaintop surrounded by desolation, Dr. Arana
(Jackie Coogan) explains he's isolated the growth hormone of the
anterior pituitary, the substance that controls the growth pattern of
humans. The writers must have been so impressed with this line that
they used it practically verbatim twice.
You can turn off your player right there. The rest of the film implodes in a veritable nightmare of nonsense and head scratching goofiness. With monotone voice over narration complemented by inane dialog, and a soundtrack composed of an incessantly strumming Mexican guitar, the viewer is challenged beyond physical endurance. Hey, here's an idea. Maybe someone could develop a video game based on the concept of the dwarf heads that pop into view every few minutes to eyeball the stranded group on the mesa.
At least Dr. Arana had the right idea. His experiments were successful in staffing the mesa laboratory with a bevy of Miss Universe contestants. Wow, didn't Tarantella's anterior pituitary go into overdrive during that dance at the Mexican cantina? I was mesmerized until the guy on the phone says - "Sheriff, the body just got up and walked out of here."
Contrary to all leading indicators however, this movie does NOT make my Worst Ten list. For that, a film has to be so egregiously bad that you can't even make fun of it. "Mesa of Lost Women" at least qualifies as feature of the week at the Muerto State Asylum.
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