03rd Apr2018

‘Amazon Women on the Moon’ Blu-ray Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Rosanna Arquette, Michelle Pfeiffer, Arsenio Hall, Donald F. Muhich, Monique Gabrielle, Lou Jacobi, Erica Yohn, Phil Hartman, Corey Burton, Peter Horton, Griffin Dunne, Joe Pantoliano, Steve Forrest, Forrest J. Ackerman, Sybil Danning, David Alan Grier, Steve Guttenberg, Henry Silva, Robert Picardo, Rip Taylor, Ed Begley Jr., Dick Miller, Matt Adler, Kelly Preston, Howard Hesseman, Russ Meyer, Andrew Dice Clay, Carrie Fisher, Paul Bartel | Written by Michael Barrie, Jim Mulholland | Directed by Joe Dante, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton, Robert K. Weiss, John Landis

amazon-women-moon-blu-cover

One of many, many anthologies to have graced the silver screen over the years (another of which, the horror anthology Nightmares is also being released on Blu-ray by 101 Films), Amazon Women on the Moon features madcap sketches and shorts centred around the eponymous film-within-a-film, a satire of low-budget, 1950s-style sci-fi. Featuring appearances from Rosanna Arquette, Carrie Fisher, Steve Guttenberg, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sybil Danning and Ed Begley, Jr., among many others, and with Joe Dante, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton, and Robert K. Weiss sharing directing duties with John Landis, this weird and wacky spectacle lampoons 1980s American late-night TV in all its uproarious glory!

Amazon Women on the Moon is one of those movies that seems to have been in my filmic vocabulary for years, ever since I caught it late night on BBC One (back when they used to show movies and US TV shows before the final closedown for the night – yes closedown, it was THAT long ago). Since then I’ve quoted the film ad nauseum a la decade-mates Airplane and The Naked Gun, movies which share the same oddball humour and slapstick action as this near-perfect parody.

A seemingly odd choice for a UK Blu-ray release, it will be interesting to see how Amazon Women on the Moon fares with a generation unfamiliar with some of the performers and the subject matter, both of which have dated quite badly… Even back when I first saw the film I didn’t get ALL the references as they are very 80s and very US-centric – things like late-night Cinemax-style adult cable TV programming, etc. But today? Hell, does anyone under 40 even know who Arsenio Hall is, or half the cast for that matter?!? On the plus side, the wacky humour translates very well, especially the slapstick and the more out there jokes which will hit modern audiences more on a “WTF” level today than they did back when the film originally debuted: the cringe factor and the overall wackiness amped up thanks to the passing of time – though surprisingly the David Alan Grier running sketch featuring the actor as Don “No Soul” Simmons is STILL remarkably relevant in terms of representation in the media.

101 Films’ presentation of Amazon Women on the Moon is, obviously, the best the film has looked outside of HD broadcasts of the movie (a rarity in itself) and certainly is a huge improvement over the previous retail editions of the film. Whilst a movie like this doesn’t really need the full 2K high-definition treatment – after all its a film centred around old TV broadcasts in all their 4:3 glory – what this release does bring to the table are a wealth of extras that only heighten my love for the film and provide further context to what is, IMHO, a stone-cold 80s classic: a number of bloopers featuring B.B. King, Carrie Fisher, Steve Guttenberg, Henry Silva (trying hilariously to find the right intonation for his “Bullsh*t Or Not” tagline) and more and six cut scenes.

The six cut scenes, sadly not restored in HD, are probably of the most interest to longtime fans of the film – these include the original opening for the movie, a deleted scene from the wrap-around film-within-a-film Amazon Women on the Moon, and a number of cut segments:

  • The Unknown Soldier, a sketch not seen in the UK version of the film (at least to my knowledge, and certainly not in any print I’ve seen previously) but apparently added to some TV screenings in the US. I can see why it was cut, this is a rather unfunny sketch  – directed by actor Peter Horton (Thirtysomething) who also appears in the film in the hilarious “lost baby” hospital segment – that sees the US Army “creating” a fallen Vietnam hero, the titular unknown soldier, to be praised back home for morale purposes.
  • An extra scene from the Roast Your Loved One sketch, featuring Robert Picardo informing the deceased’s wife that his funeral will be part of a televised roast in the rudest possible manner. Though not that funny, it’s certainly more gag-filled that the segment it was originally removed from.
  • The French Ventriloquists Dummy, a Joe Dante directed segment featuring longtime collaborator Dick Miller as a Las Vegas ventriloquist who mixes up his luggage and his new dummy, Pierre, turns out to be French… Meanwhile his dummy, Dave, is stuck in Paris doing stand-up with a French ventriloquist!
  • Peter Pan Theater, a hilarious TV ad for a stage play of Anthony and Cleopatra and Uncle Vanya – both of which are inspiredd by Peter Pan and feature characters flying across the stage a la Peter Pan!

There are also two fantastic, if brief, brand-new interviews: We’re Gonna Need Bigger Skits: An Interview with director Carl Gottlieb – where he discusses how he got involved in the film (apparently spun off from the director cameos in Into the Night fact fans) and how even he thinks this kind of comedy no longer works in Hollywood and the rest of the world as comedy is no longer universal; and Cinematographer on the Moon: An Interview with Daniel Pearl – who discusses the fun of making a series of vignettes that didn’t look the same and working with many different directors under one filmic umbrella.

Amazon Women on the Moon is out now on Blu-ray from 101 Films. Definitely an essential purchase for fans of the film, hard to see how this release could be bettered.

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