Thursday, March 09, 2017

Fire Maidens Of Outer Space

There’s something quaint about Cy Roth’s obvious pride concerning FIRE MAIDENS OF OUTER SPACE. Credited as the film’s director, producer, and writer (story and screenplay!), Roth’s name is given an ostentatious signature font in the opening titles, as if to mark the film definitively as Un Film De Cy Roth. What makes it so quaint is that FIRE MAIDENS OF OUTER SPACE is quite bad, mainly because of Roth’s direction, which is leaden, unimaginative, and devoid of adequate pacing. Roth directed two other films — military-themed B-pictures — that are forgotten today. Thanks to loyal science fiction fans, FIRE MAIDENS OF OUTER SPACE will always exist. Some of them don’t even mind that a “stone” wall wobbles when a tree branch is propped against it.

Anthony Dexter, the lead in Columbia’s VALENTINO, stars in this British production as an American scientist in charge of Expedition 13: a space flight to the newly discovered 13th moon of Jupiter, which amazingly looks like Earth. Like those classics MISSILE TO THE MOON and CAT-WOMEN OF THE MOON, Dexter and his men find a civilization of sexy women and one old dude (Owen Berry), the last of the original inhabitants of Atlantis, who left Earth to colonize space many years earlier. The so-called Fire Maidens, er, spend all day dancing near a flaming hearth. The only maidens we get to know are Berry’s daughter (Susan Shaw) and head dancer Jacqueline Curtis.

Oh, there’s also a creature, referred to only as “the creature.” Hammer makeup man Roy Ashton (THE MUMMY) created the creature’s look, which isn’t wildly convincing, but since Roth really only shows the creature in long shots (and it serves no purpose in the story, along with everything else), the makeup is okay. Despite the premise of astronauts meeting dancing girls and a monster in outer space, auteur Roth only has about 20 minutes of material in an 80-minute movie, so three out of every four scenes are padded with shots of people walking, sitting, dancing, staring, smoking — god, all the smoking — anything but telling a story.

Most of the visual effects are swiped from earlier films, including KING DINOSAUR and ROCKETSHIP X-M. No attempt is made to present its science with any degree of verisimilitude (“their gravitational laws and magnetic poles are contrary to ours” sounds like bullshit to me), and Roth’s direction is so sloppy that you can see British motorcars driving in the background of “the 13th moon.” Outside of Dexter — hardly a household name — the actors are obscure and were likely chosen for their low asking prices rather than their screen presence. Roth was no director, but judging from the massive product placement (TWA, Chesterfield, Coca-Cola, Longines…), he must have been a heck of a salesman.

1 comment:

Grant said...

" can see British motorcars driving in the background of the 13th moon."

It's hard to believe Joe and the Bots missed that.