WICKED WARRIOR WOMEN! ENSLAVED CORPSES RUN AMUCK! A HOSTILE UNIVERSE FULL OF UNTHINKABLE HORRORS! ALL IN GLORIOUS 2D!
A Triple Feature Review Of "Cave Women on Mars," "Attack of the Moon Zombies" and "Destination: Outer Space"
By The B Movie Avenger Originally posted at B- is for Best
I see alot of nasty stuff working for this site, from slashers with penises coming out of their chins to killers with leaky bowels and more sex then you can imagine, and I'd be a liar if I said I didn't enjoy the vast majority of it all...but sometimes I want something a bit more...wholesome.
You see, even though I was born in '86 it wasn't the viscera-flinging, tits-sprouting horror and sci-fi of that era that first brought me into the wonderful world that is "B" cinema, it was a much more innocent introduction.
When I was a young kid my Dad used to work at a mill and usually came home around 3am. Being an insomniac even at that point in my life, nine times out of ten I'd be up waiting for him. While part of the reason I waited up was just wanting to spend time with my father before he headed to bed and I headed to school, I had another, much more consuming reason...MONSTER MOVIES!
Back then the channel to watch if you wanted some excellent B-grade schlock was AMC (channel 30 at the time) and every morning from 2am to 7am was when they pulled out the big guns. From "The Giant Gila Monster" to "Them!," "Fiend Without a Face," "20 Million Miles to Earth" and everything in between, we must have seen it all...and then some.
My Dad showed me these movies instead of the horror of the '80s and '90s because he felt it was more wholesome, more intelligent and all-around more enjoyableand as much as I love '80s horror nowadays, he had a point.
I've seen dozens of films that claim to be homages to the era. Other than a handful ("The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavera" films, "The Ghastly Love Of Johnny X" and "Space Zombie Bingo"), all of them were derivative at best, and most went further than that to the point of insulting the wonderful era the filmmakers said they loved by creating pun-fueled shitfests that were more worried about using scratchy 35mm film than they were capturing the feel.
Then, the other day I received a package in the mail that really brought me back. It contained the films of Christopher R. Mihm, better known as the Mihmiverse. Christopher, like myself, got his love of '50s genre movies from his father, and for that reason has a deeply rooted love for the era and the genre...and it shows!
The first film I saw from Mr. Mihm, was a wonderful edition to the "Warrior Women" subgenre entitled "Cave Women On Mars."
"Cave Women on Mars" takes us to the far away future of the year 1987, where for the first time in history, two men are leaving Earth for the mysterious red planet Mars! Captain Jackson, along with Lieutenant Elliott, must climb aboard the spaceship MARS-1 and travel to the deserted planet Mars. Upon arriving, however, Lieutenant Elliott hears something he never expected...A man's cry for help! Elliott splits off from Jackson to investigate and soon finds that Mars is not so deserted after all! Captured by a pair of beautiful tribeswomen, Elliott must battle hideous monstrosities, other warrior women and the hardest foe of all...love! But, can a man bring love to the heart of a war-hardened bloodthirsty warrior on a planet where men are nothing but emasculated slaves to their vicious female captors? Find out in "Cave Women on Mars!"
Engaging, subtly humorous and with an atmosphere that far exceeds it's jaw droppingly low budget, "Cave Women on Mars" is a wonderful gender-role-reversal film that's so 1950s you can practically smell the hair pomade!
The acting here was by far the best I've seen in an homage, getting everything from the way people of the era spoke and moved, all the way down to getting the facial expressions exactly right. Lieutenant Elliott showcased a swagger and pompous masculinity, and yet also had that polished wholesomeness that the era was so famous for. He's the type of man that wouldn't flinch at killing a horde of monsters with his bare hands, but most likely doesn't go a night without saying his prayers. He's a '50s Bruce-Campbell-meets-Buck-Rogers, with a bit of "choir boy" thrown in for good measure. In contrast, Captain Jackson is more the quiet type. Intelligent, cunning and deadly, he seems a man of few words, but is also a devout solider who never leaves a man behind regardless of the odds. Eina (the main warrior that captures Elliott) works really well as a believable alien. She is intelligent, logical and, as she has never experienced human emotion other then hatred and fear, lost when dealing with Elliott.
Christopher R. Mihm did excellent with writing and casting Elliott and Eina they way he did, as Elliott's overly emotional tendencies play superbly off Eina's coldness, and as a result, these two characters make for some excellent gender role reversal.
The special effects here were another point that was completely on par with the era, with props crafted with everything from cardboard to old pieces of wood with stickers on them and what appears to be a modified gorilla costume. But, rather then make fun of this within the movie, Christopher was smart enough to instruct his actors to play it as straight as possible. Do the seams show? Absolutely...and rightly so! But, unlike most "homages," the props aren't the main focus. Christopher is smart and in tune enough to realize what REALLY made films like this so wonderful: THE STORYand this one has it down pat!
The cinematography here is usually where the fucking snobs start to complain...FUCK 'EM! Yes, this movie is shot on a digital camera in black and white, but great skill was used here to add that slightly foggy quality and small natural-looking "film defects." Only the hipster assholes will really complain as this could easily pass for digitally enhanced 35mm film from the '50s.
I don't typically talk special features, but here I really have to. These aren't just lame little add-ons like most of the discs I get. This movie came with an epic extended scene that fills in the origin of the Mars women in an awesome way, has a featurette that really blew my mind by showing behind-the-scenes info on the digital effectswhich, by the way, were so damn well done that I didn't even notice them...and that says a lot for a stickler like me! The disc also contains an epic photo gallery and some great commentaries.
Overall, I give this film "2 middle fingers chopped off and sanded to the bone." If you're a lifelong fan of '50s sci-fi schlock that misses the films of that era, then you NEED to buy this one!
The next film from Mihm brought together two of my favorite beasties, zombies and killer plants, with his horror/sci-fi insta-classic "Attack of the Moon Zombies."
"Attack of the Moon Zombies" takes us to Earth's moon base where Dr. Vincent Edwards is preparing for his retirement and awaiting his replacement's arrival. Edwards is getting on in age and is ready to retire, but is also saddened to be leaving Dr.Hackett (a young doctor who he thinks of as the daughter he was never able to have) behind. He isn't sad for long though as news of her engagement to the strapping Dr. Collins fills the old man's heart with joy. The excitement rises even further when Dr. Edwards' replacement, Glen Hayes, arrives and the two men go out on a routine exploration of the moon's surface only to discover something truly miraculous: an unknown plant species! Excitement turns to tragedy, however, when the plant shoots deadly spores into young Glen's face, killing him instantly. The crew doesn't have much time to mourn his death, as the spores reanimate Glen's body and turn him into a half plant/half walking corpse monstrosity with one desire and one desire only: to spread! Soon, the base's entire crew is in a losing battle for their lives and bodies as the moon zombies continue to multiply by spraying their deadly spores into the faces of their helpless victims!
After watching "Cave Women on Mars," I knew I'd be getting a great, era-accurate film with some subtle humor and good performances by all (which I got on all counts), but I found some things I didn't expect here as well. Firstly, I found a genuinely engaging tale of two young people who find love against all odds in a place that couldn't be more foreign. I also found the tale of an older man at odds with his emotions. Most surprising of all, I found movie monsters with honest-to-God "creep factor!" Yes, the moon zombies are appropriately...thrifty, but something about the simplicity of their design and their dead ping-pong-ball-like eyes (which made them look like the love children of "The Killers from Space" and a thrift store version of "Swamp Thing") made their presence on-screen...unsettling. Even more unsettling, though, was how they replicated. These things don't even have to get close enough to bite you. All they have to do is be within spraying distance and you're done...no cure, no hope. This is the first time I've seen an homage to the era that actually managed to stay true to the era and still capture the fear-inducing power these films had on the kids and adults of the actual 1950sand for that, Mr. Mihm deserves a whole lot of credit!
The acting here was about the same caliber as what we got with "Cave Women on Mars," only less campy and more dramatic. Here we have some wonderfully theatrical performances, perfectly mirroring the acting of the age, far before the dead faced whisper-talking "cool" approach we see in every Hollywood film today. My favorite character in this one was Dr. Vincent Edwards, who came across as Winston Churchill with a bit of James Bond under the surface. He's the perfect gentleman...but don't let his age and health limitations fool you, this man is a bonafide hero!
The special effects here were once again of the (appropriately) thrifty variety, but showed quite a bit more skill compared to previous films, most likely due to the simplicity allowed by having the film take place on an isolated moon base. I loved that simplicity, with the sliding doors and airlocks reminding me alot of the original "Star Trek" TV show and numerous sci-fi movies.
The cinematography here (like in "Cave Women on Mars") was black and white digital with a a subtle aging effect, but here the mostly white and gray base setting really made the black and white pop, making it all the more striking to look at. Naysayers be damned, Christopher Mihm is not only a great storyteller who knows his era of choice, but a spectacular cinematographer and film editor. I challenge the hipsters who argue differently to try to do better...if they can stop trying on women's pants and three-size-too-small suit jackets while sipping Penny Royal Tea and listening to Frank Zappa records long enough to try!
Overall, I give this one two middle fingers chopped off, sanded to the bone and sand blasted into non-existence. This is the first film I've seen since I started this site that made me wish I had another finger to chop off. If you love '50s era sci-fi and horror or are just into zombie flicks and looking for something new, buy this movie! Hell, buy five copies as you're bound to want to share this one with friends!
The last film I'll be discussing here is the Mihmiverse's answer to "Star Wars," a story that returns us to the life of Captain Mike Jackson!
"Destination: Outer Space" opens years after Captain Jackson returns from his mission to Mars. While Lieutenant Elliott's story ended happily with him finding love and bringing peace to Mars, Captain Jackson was not so lucky. Upon returning to Earth without Lieutenant Elliott, Captain Jackson's mission is deemed a failure and he is dishonorably discharged. Worst yet, his own father is the leader of space command and was the one to do the firing! Losing the respect of his colleagues and even that of his own father throws Jackson off the deep end and he turns to the bottle for solace, becoming nothing but a bitter drunk. Just when it seems all is lost for our favorite Captain, a chance for redemption presents itself. A new spacecraft capable of traveling at faster-than-light speeds has been invented and a Captain is needed to take it on it's native voyage into space. When a malfunction occurs, Captain Jackson finds himself hurled to the other side of the universe! Lost and desperate, Jackson must travel to new planets, battling fearsome creatures, treacherous slave traders and impossible odds. Along the way, Captain Jackson finds an unlikely ally in the form of an ancient artificially intelligent robot named A.D.A.M. who carries within him a very human sadness for his own lost planet. Can one broken man and one homeless robot survive against the countless foes that they'll face? Can Captain Jackson ever make it home? Find out these answers and more in "Destination: Outer Space!"
As I said before, this film is considered by fans to be The Mihmiverse's "Star Wars." In fact, in the introduction to the film Christopher R. Mihm himself says that he asked himself what "Star Wars" would be like if it had been directed by Ed Wood and made in the '50s. The following statement I'm going to make is likely to make a number of sci-fi nuts raise an eyebrow and ask if I'm crazy...but I feel the need to come right out and say this: "Destination: Outer Space" is, at the very least, equal to the greatness of the original "Star Wars" films and is countless times BETTER than episodes one, two and three. This film possesses a humanity that George Lucas hasn't been able to capture in a long time. Here we have an immensely engaging, action-packed saga about one man rediscovering his humanity in a way that can only be done when he becomes a stranger in a strange land (or lands rather). It's a story of hope, a hope that even the most down trodden, flawed, angry person can rise to the role of hero in a time of need. It's this powerful and all-too-often optimistic approach to filmmaking and storytelling that makes Christopher R. Mihm one of the best and most underappreciated filmmakers of our time!
The acting here was wonderful, particularly in the case of our star character, Captain Jackson. While watching "Cave Women on Mars," I was fascinated by this character and wondered if he would work as a leading man. "Destination: Outer Space" proved that the answer to that question is a big "hell yeah!" Beginning the film as a self-serving, mean spirited, drunken Nihilist but slowly re-blossoming into the intelligent, brave, diligent hero he once was, Captain Jackson is a brilliantly acted, multilayered character that I was able to identify with on a refreshingly visceral level.
A.D.A.M. was another great character, with his hyper-intelligence and childlike hunger for more input and human interaction. He's what C-3P0 would have been like if he were straight and had a soul! Seriously though, the level of depth this character managed to achieve while maintaining a monotone voice was nothing short of amazing.
The special effects here, (like in Christopher's other films) were era appropriately thrifty without being stupid looking. Here Christopher got to show off a bit more though as he had a variety of beasties and baddies to throw into Captain Jackson's path, as well as various ships, planets, and even an alien bar scene! This epic really showed the scope of the abilities of the Mihmiverse team, and color me impressed! I can only imagine what Christopher and his team could do with a multimillion dollar budget!
The cinematography here was once again crisp black and white digital with grit added in, but here the effect seems even more genuine, capturing that special kind of black and white that's more like various shades of soft grays and faded blacks.
I was entranced by this film, and I don't say that lightly. I really felt as if I had somehow turned back into my five-year-old self to the point that at regular intervals I caught myself turning to comment about something on screen to my father (who, of course hasn't lived with me in quite sometime).
I can only imagine how this (and the other films of the Mihmiverse) would look on a drive-in screen. I do know one thing though, it has to be incredible.
Overall, I give this film this film 2 entire hands blown off with a nuclear bomb. I know that rating doesn't exist on this site, but 2 middle fingers chopped off and sanded to the bone just isn't enough for this one. It's beyond a classic, it's a movement on disc and God bless Mr. Mihm for sharing it with us and the rest of the world!
I'm really hoping that one day we'll see all these films on limited edition VHS releases, as I think they would be perfect for that.
To check out Christopher R. Mihm's films, toys, posters, burger dogs and to buy yourself a ticket to the sure to be epic "The Late Night Double Feature," head on over to sainteuphoria.com. Be sure to keep your eye out for our very own Super Nes-S's upcoming double-feature review of two more of Christopher's awesome films, "The Giant Spider" and "House of Ghosts!"