1953 was a banner year
for producer Al Zimbalist. Storyteller Arch Oboler may have
beaten him to the punch by lensing the first 3-D feature,
Bwana Devil, but Zimbalist upped the ante by releasing
a 3-D double shot from which the cult film world has yet
Distributed by the
arguably successful Astor film company, Cat-Women of
the Moon and Robot Monster have each earned their
rightful place in the pulp film pantheon. No one would argue
that both films are indefensibly bad. Robot Monster
is far too easy a target, and little time should be wasted
on chronicling its shortcomings. You don't need the enhancement
of 3-D goggles to spot a dog like this coming down Fifth
benefits marginally from an experienced cast who must be
credited with delivering workmanlike performances in the
midst of what must have seemed insurmountable circumstances.
One glance at the faces of Victor Jory or Marie Windsor
as they strap themselves into castered office chairs, praying
they pass muster as rocket cockpit paraphernalia, is most
revealing. What senses of humor these hearty thespians must
have possessed, maintaining poker faces from blast off to
Veteran director Herbert
L. Strock once noted that Victor Jory drove him crazy with
scene-stealing facial ticks and gestures: nose-pulling,
ear-tugging, etc. The actor is decidedly restrained in Cat-Women. Who’d want to steal such scenes? The usual Jory idiosyncrasies are absent as he and his fellow players strive vainly to lend gravitas to the absurd screenplay.
a skeletal story detailing a platoon to the moon who encounter
a subterranean race of slinky women sporting black tights.
Initially hostile to the newcomers, they settle quickly
into the timeworn filmic cliches of flirting and exotic
dancing. One of the Cat-Women, Betty Arlen, choreographed
the ludicrous terpsichore.
Billed in the
opening credits as "Hollywood Covergirls," the moon's busty
rulers exhibit no feline attributes and are referred to as Cat-Women only once, and that reference is delivered off camera as the film hastily concludes.
Interestingly, the possibilities
of the 3-D process are criminally neglected throughout the
film. You'd think that jutting moonscapes and soaring spacecraft
would be just the kind of eye-popping stuff to show off
the potential of a pioneering process. Yet most of the picture
lies flatter than a rug, stubbornly refusing to leap at
its thrill-hungry ticket-buyers. A gargantuan spider-doll
is tossed at the hapless troop of explorers, then hastily
dispatched, its thrill potential minimally exploited. Marie
Windsor recalls that frustrated puppeteers couldn't quite
manage the stuffed arachnid. At one point, one of its legs
Cat-Women was just one of
three unremarkable turns Arthur Hilton took as a director.
As an editor, he had been Oscar nominated. Hilton spliced
some mighty fine films in his day, including classic thrillers
such as Scarlet Street, Phantom Lady and Robert
Siodmak's textbook noir, The Killers.
A weary-looking Sonny Tufts, midway through a turbulent career playing second-string everymen, looks positively chagrined throughout.
Marie Windsor, a B queen with impressive acting chops, was reluctant to discuss Cat-Women, understandably preferring to cite her appearances in a pair of seminal films noir. She played flinty Sherry Peatty in Stanley Kubrick's
The Killing, and stole scene after scene from nail-hard
tough guy Charles McGraw in Richard Fleischer's The Narrow
A remarkable footnote to the Cat-Women
saga is the fact that someone thought it would be a great
idea to remake it. The job fell to low-budget thrillmeister
Richard Cuhna, who directed Missile to the Moon just
five years later.
Producer Al Zimbalist finished out
the fifties with a forgettable Tarzan flick, starring studly
Denny Miller as the Ape Man and a second jungle jumble called
Watusi. But he'll rightly be remembered for giving the
decade a few of its more noteworthy examples of cut-rate
horror which include the following:
King Dinosaur (1955)
Produced for the notorious
Lippert organization, this filmic blunder is glutted with
laughable gaffs. Seasoned female scientists squeal at the
site of snakes, and T-Rex is portrayed by an abused lizard
with paste-on fins. Wholly inferior and immensely enjoyable.
Monster From Green
wasps menace the African veldt in this threadbare outing,
stitched together with safari stock footage. Dallas' Jim
Davis stalks the giant stingers, accompanied by Jennifer
Jason Leigh's mom, playwright Barbara Turner as a scientist.