Amazon Women on the Moon is a 1987 American satirical sci-fi comedy film that parodies the experience of watching low-budget movies on late-night television. The film, featuring a large ensemble cast including cameo appearances from film and TV stars and even non-actors, was written by Michael Barrie and Jim Mulholland, and takes the form of a compilation of 21 comedy skits directed by five different directors: Joe Dante, Carl Gottlieb, Peter Horton, John Landis, and Robert K. Weiss.
The title Amazon Women on the Moon refers to the central film-within-a-film, a spoof of science-fiction films from the 1950s that borrows heavily from Queen of Outer Space (1958) starring Zsa Zsa Gabor, itself a film that recycles elements of earlier science-fiction works such as Cat-Women of the Moon (1953), Fire Maidens from Outer Space (1955), and Forbidden Planet (1956).John Landis had previously directed The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), which employed a similar sketch anthology format.
Fictional television station WIDB-TV (channel 8) experiences problems with its late-night airing of science-fiction classic Amazon Women on the Moon, a 1950s B movie in which Queen Lara (Sybil Danning) and Captain Nelson (Steve Forrest) battle exploding volcanoes and man-eating spiders on the Moon. Waiting for the film to resume, an unseen viewer begins channel surfing—simulated by bursts of white noise—through late night cable, with the various segments and sketches of the film representing the programming found on different channels. The viewer intermittently returns to channel 8, where Amazon Women continues airing before faltering once more.
These segments feature:
Arsenio Hall as a man who nearly kills himself in a series of mishaps around his apartment;
Monique Gabrielle as a model who goes about her daily routine in Laguna, California, completely naked;
Lou Jacobi as a man named Murray, zapped into the television, wandering throughout sketches looking for his wife;
Michelle Pfeiffer and Peter Horton as a young couple having trouble with eccentric doctor Griffin Dunne delivering and then concealing their newborn baby;
Joe Pantoliano as the presenter of a commercial recommending stapling carpet to a bald head as a hair loss prevention measure;
David Alan Grier and B.B. King in a public-service appeal for "blacks without soul" featuring "Don 'No Soul' Simmons";
Rosanna Arquette as a young woman on a blind date, employing unusual methods of investigation to reveal the qualifications of Steve Guttenberg;
Henry Silva as the host of a show entitled Bullshit or Not?, clearly intended as a spoof of Ripley's Believe It or Not! with Jack Palance and In Search of...;
Archie Hahn as a man who dies after a critical mauling of his life (by Roger Barkley and Al Lohman, mimicking Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert), then is roasted at his funeral by a variety of people, including Steve Allen, Henny Youngman, and even his own wife;
William Marshall as the leader of the Video Pirates, who hijack an MCA Home Video ship, uncover a vast amount of videotapes and laserdiscs, and promptly begin illegally bootlegging the media;
Ed Begley Jr., as the son of the Invisible Man, having trouble with his formula;
Angel Tompkins as a president's First Lady who is also a former hooker;
Matt Adler as a sexually frustrated teenager trying to purchase a pack of condoms, with unexpected results;
Marc McClure renting a personalized date video that spills over into real life;
"Reckless Youth" — an epilogue at the end of the credits, with Carrie Fisher and Paul Bartel in a black-and-white ephemeral film warning about the spread of "social diseases" in the style of Reefer Madness.Alternative versions
An alternate version of the "Pethouse Video" sketch was filmed for the television broadcast of the film, with Monique Gabrielle in lingerie instead of appearing naked throughout the segment. However, most European television broadcasts of the film retained the original theatrical version. Bullshit or Not? was retitled Baloney or Not? for the television version.
The American television edit, in addition to the alternative "Pethouse Video" sketch, features an additional bridging sequence between the death of Harvey Pitnik and his subsequent celebrity roast. In it, the mortician successfully cons Pitnik's widow into having the celebrity roast as part of the funeral, and her performance gets such strong positive feedback, it becomes a continuing performance series lasting for weeks.
The DVD release features an unreleased sketch titled "The Unknown Soldier", starring Robert Loggia with Ronny Cox, Bernie Casey, and Wallace Langham. Some television broadcasts of the film featured the sketches "Peter Pan Theater" and "The French Ventriloquist's Dummy", which were not present in the theatrical version.
The majority of critics agreed that the quality was inconsistent throughout the film. Variety called it "irreverent, vulgar and silly... [with] some hilarious moments and some real groaners too." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times felt that the exercise was somewhat unnecessary: "Satirists are in trouble when their subjects are funnier than they are."Janet Maslin of The New York Times, in a largely positive review, described the film as "an anarchic, often hilarious adventure in dial-spinning, a collection of brief skits and wacko parodies that are sometimes quite clever, though they're just as often happily sophomoric, too."Certain portions of the film were singled out for praise. "The funniest episode probably is 'Son of the Invisible Man', directed by Carl Gottlieb, in which Ed Begley Jr. plays a man who thinks he is invisible but is not", wrote the Chicago Sun-Times. "The film's best sight gags come from Robert K. Weiss, who deserves kudos for the inspired idiocy of his Amazon Women segments", was the opinion of The New York Times.In a retrospective article for Entertainment Weekly, Chris Nashawaty called this film "the beginning of the end of Landis' career". He cited the episodes featuring Monique Gabrielle, Archie Hahn, Ed Begley Jr. and David Alan Grier as "inspired", but criticized others for their failure: "You'll never see Michelle Pfeiffer look as trapped as she does in her skit with Thirtysomething's Peter Horton, or Joe Pantoliano and Arsenio Hall as unfunny as they are in their skits."Amazon Women on the Moon has a rating of 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 19 reviews, with an average rating of 5.6/10.
The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), a similarly formatted anthology comedy from John Landis
Disco Beaver from Outer Space (1978)
Amazon Women on the Moon at IMDb
Amazon Women on the Moon at AllMovie
Amazon Women on the Moon at Rotten Tomatoes