Cave Women on Mars (2008)
By Duane L. Martin
Christopher R. Mihm. He makes independent films. The difference between him and other independent film makers however, is that he likes to make independent films that have the look and feel of the classic old black and white b-movies of the 50's. This all started with his film, The Monster of Phantom Lake. I loved that film, and gave him a Rogue Cinema Cinematic Excellence award for it. He followed that film up with a sequel called It Came From Another World!. While that one had the look of the first, it lacked a lot of the fun, so I only gave it a mediocre review. Now we have Cave Women on Mars. According to Christopher, he took all that he learned from his first two films and used it all in this one to make this his best film yet. But is it? The answer to that is a resounding yes!
This film takes place in the far distant future. 1987 to be exact. A rocket ship with a two man crew is on its way to Mars for a first ever landing on the red planet. Once there, they discover some unexpected things, including an Earth-like atmosphere, plant and animal life...and a human population of women. The women are divided into two tribes, which could loosely be described as good and evil, though most of them act like it's that time of the month, so it's kinda hard to distinguish between them at times. The easiest way to tell though is that even though the planet has a population of around 2,500 people, we only see four of the women, two from each tribe. One tribe dresses in black and the other in white, so it's easy to tell which is which. The only other inhabitants we see are an oracle from the good tribe and the oracle's follower that stands outside of the tree she lives in and greets people. Oh, and there's a horned monkey beast too that was really cool. There's also a male from one of the tribes with a bit part, and of course our two astronauts.
The ship is led by Captain Jackson, played by Josh Craig sporting a bald-headed, goatee wearing Emperor Ming kind of a look. He's the son of Professor Jackson (from the first two films) who's now in charge of Space Command. Josh plays both roles, and as usual, does his part really well. However, he's not the focus of this film as he was in the previous two. He's actually more of a side character in this one, with the main role going to his crew mate Lieutenant William Christopher Elliot, played by Dan Sjerven.
I'd like to take a minute to talk about Dan and his performance. I've never seen Dan in any other film. That's because, at least according to IMDB, this was his first film. He's about to be in his second film though, "Why Am I in a Box?", which is currently in post production and was made by and includes some of his co-stars from this film, who I'll get to in a minute. I'm focusing on Dan first, because something about him really stood out for me in this film, and it wasn't until later in the film that I realized what it was. He's a very likable guy and a great actor, but something about him really stood out for me, and that was the fact that he reminded me of a young Bruce Campbell. I think it's more his look than his acting that reminded me of Bruce, but both aspects definitely played a role in leading me to that conclusion. It was a great idea to make him the focus of the story, and he handled that responsibility brilliantly.
The women in this film are all beautiful, and two of them I've had dealings with before as they were former Rogue Cinema Sleepover Girls and are both just really great people. Now if I could just get the other two to be Sleepover Girls, I'd be extremely happy. I'll have to see about that. Anyway, Rachel Grub (one of our former Sleepover Girls) plays Hagra, the head warrior from the evil tribe's girls, and Brooke Lemke (our other former Sleepover Girl) plays the role of Eina, the head warrior from her tribe. Hagra's cohort Gorga is played by Emily Fradenburgh and Eina's friend Orla is played by Alana Bloom. All four of them did an awesome job with their roles, and their performances were perfectly suited to the old 50's look and style of the film. I couldn't have possibly asked for four better people to plug into those roles.
The main crux of the story is that these two tribes of women are the dominant sex in Martian society. The difference between the two tribes is that the evil tribe treats their men like slaves or animals. The good tribe treats them a lot better. Not as equals, but certainly better than the evil tribe does. We find out later that the two tribes used to be one. That's where Lieutenant Elliot comes into it. Eina figures out that he might be the stranger from a distant land that an old folk song talks about, so she takes him to the Oracle to find out. The Oracle tells him that it has been foretold that he would arrive one day and fall in love with one of the women of the tribes. They would have a son together, and that son would unite the two tribes once more. From this union, they would be reminded what love was as well. Both tribes seem to have forgotten all about it.
The rest of the film goes on and tells the story, but I don't want to cover every little detail of it here. Suffice it to say that it was really well written, brilliantly acted out and true to the feel of the old films that it seeks to emulate.
This film is a huge step forward compared to the other two. The visual effects alone are miles ahead of the previous films, but it goes well beyond that.
The visual effects: The rocket ship looked just great and was really true to how they made them look in the old b-movies. There was some really nice space flight visuals with that, and the interior of the ship had a simple but really nice set design where we're treated to some more nice visuals on the view screen. The Oracle and her assistant with the glowing eyes had some nice visuals as well. As nice as they were, they didn't really cross over into being out of place and too modern. You could tell they were done with modern software, but the look of them stayed true to the old classics.
The costumes: The costumes were incredible. The women all looked especially hot in theirs, but it was a hotness that hearkened back to a 50's kind of hotness that still works extremely well in the modern day. The men looked typically 50's in their space jumpsuits, but what really stood out for me with the men were the space suits they were wearing when they first got off the ship. They were really well done and looked just great. It was nice to see so much work put into them, even though we only see them for a short time in the film.
The music: What I love about these films from Christopher Mihm is that he uses a lot of music from those old 50's films. I can't even begin to describe how much that adds to the overall effect he's trying to create. Trying to create music nowadays that sounds like the originals from back then would just about be impossible. It would have actually ruined everything he was trying to do if he had gone that route rather than using the music from back then. The music is actually the key piece of the puzzle that makes it all work. It doesn't matter how good your film looks, if the music is wrong for what you're doing, it completely ruins everything.
The acting: The acting in this film had a very 50's feel to it and every single person in this film did an excellent job, not only with the physicality of their acting, but also with the line delivery. It helps so much when you have a cast of actors who really understand what you're trying to accomplish, and that's what Christopher Mihm assembed for this film. He had that with his first film as well. Everyone just "got it".
The subtitles: Christopher Mihm adds subtitles to his films. If you choose to have them on, you're treated not only to the dialogue text, but also some really fun stuff with regards to subtitling the sound effects and other things. I really wish more film makers would take the time to add subtitles to their films. They're invaluable in allowing you to pick up on dialogue you otherwise might have missed, but they're also extremely helpful for people like my wife who have hearing issues. She not deaf or anything, but the subtitles really help her catch everything being said in films, so we always watch movies with subtitles on when they're available. I know it seems like a hassle or maybe even a waste of time to a lot of film makers, but it really is a good thing to do.
The editing: Good pacing is so important in a film. If it's too slow, the viewer will get bored. If it's too fast, they'll feel like they're missing something or can't keep up with what's going on. This film got the pacing exactly right. It flows nicely and feels like one solid trip from beginning to end.
The sound: Sound is something else I ding films on quite often. If you can't hear what the actors are saying, then what's the point in having any story at all? That's not a problem in this film, as all the dialogue was recorded properly and is clearly audible throughout.
The lighting: Even in the darker night scenes, everything looks great and is clearly visible. Most of the film was shot outdoors in the woods, so lighting wasn't too much of an issue, but in the places it could have been...it wasn't.
The fight choreography: The fight scenes were rather slow and cheesy looking. This however wasn't a bad thing as they added to the cheesy fun of the movie. If this had been any other type of a film, this would have been a bad thing, but in this film it fits and it's fun to watch.
This is the film I wanted to see from Christopher R. Mihm. He's really good at doing these types of films and there's so much more territory for him to explore. This is one movie that you definitely need to see, and I'm really happy to say that after watching it and absolutely loving it, I'm giving it a Cinematic Excellence Award. I'm also excited to see that he's currently scripting his next film, Attack of the Killer Robot. How awesome is that?!?!
If you would like to find out more about this film, (because if you don't, you don't know what you're missing) you can check out the film's website at http://www.cavewomenonmars.com. Believe me, it's definitely worth your time. The DVD's of all three films can be purchased through the website, so be sure to grab yourself a copy. You won't be disappointed.