Aliens Crash the Pajama Sixties, or...
Mars Needs Women (1967)
is another story of the Sabine ladies—and that too, I thank heaven, is
Let's talk about rape.
Now, assuming your ISP isn't filtering out this article because of the "R" word, let's continue.
As our more sophisticated readers know, rape wasn't always a dirty word. The word meant to take or seize by force. The root rapere meant plunder; it also became a word for a bird of prey: raptor. Grab it and go. The story about the rape of the Sabine women wasn't (directly) about forced intercourse; it was about a mass kidnapping. (A similar event is described in the last chapter of the Book of Judges. There are other references to "bride capture.") Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" (1712) wasn't about an unnatural attraction to a security device, although it is taken as some to be about a hair fetish. As I've already declared within the specific context of another article, the West has relatively recently begun to understand that rape is not a sex crime nor a crime of passion but a crime of violence. Therefore, we seem to be coming full circle.
So read this article and tell your friends. Mars Needs Women is about alien rapists. Sort of..
We open with a game of tennis on a sunny day. Guy serves to a girl. She returns. (We get a tight close-up of her smile. Kind of scary.) He misses. While he's turned around looking for his ball (uh, hem), she vanishes. No. I mean vanishes. Instantly gone. We'd say, "Poof!" but there was no sound. (For a moment, we thought that we were just looking at a pretty poorly planned film splice.) The guy looks around for her. (Continuity alert: Between cuts, his sunglasses seem to vanish, too.)
Spin to the next scene.
(No, that's not an O'Reilly reference. We will explain. Those of you who've seen movies and TV programs from the late sixties may have encountered a "spin transition." Instead of a cross-fade or a cut or a wipe, the editor would cut in a brief piece of film from a camera panning quickly. Result: A blur that suggested the next scene was happening elsewhere. While reading this article, you can recreate this fine cinematic effect in the comfort of your home/office/library by spinning around in your chair each time you see the words "Spin to the next scene." We at B-Notes admit no responsibility for carpet cleaning, especially if you should make this a drinking game.)
Restaurant at night. A man gets up from a booth and goes to a cigarette vending machine. While he's leaning over for his purchase, we see his date vanish. (That's odd. Used to be a girl would say she was going to the go powder her nose before ditching a date.)
Spin to the next scene. A girl is taking a shower. And she is gone in the inverse of sixty seconds.
Day. A car with a motorcycle escort approaches some odd looking buildings. They pass a sign.
Inside the car sits Air Force Colonel Page (Byron Lord). They stop at a building called Monitor One. The colonel goes inside. After passing some techie stuff like oscilloscopes and reel-to-reel tape cabinets as used by computers, he enters a room and asks a technician, "When did you decode it?" Just a few hours ago, says the tech. Another technician (Ann Palmer) turns to type something. What does it say? asks the colonel excitedly.
The tech hesitates, explains it's only three words, and then announces the message: "Mars needs women!" Go to opening credits, white superimposed over shots of a flying saucer with a tail fin prominent enough for a Cadillac, followed by shots of the decoder office.
After the credits, the colonel looks through a window to another room. The other room is empty but for a reporter called Stimmons (Roger Ready) and an intercom. The reporter is the designated journalist for this story. The colonel turns on his own intercom and tells the reporter that they've been receiving a signal for three days and they didn't know where it was from. So the reporter asks what the message said. And the colonel sings, "Science Fiction Double Feature." Nah. The colonel is not capable of doing an anachronism for something in the future. And he is incapable of a sense of humor. And he's incapable of trusting openness, too. He turns off the intercom and leaves the agitated reporter.
The colonel goes to another office. The Secretary of Defense (Neil Fletcher) is waiting for him. When the colonel tells the secretary about the message, the secretary thinks it's a joke. (The secretary seems to live in a world closer to our own.) The message has been repeating over and over; the colonel suggests it could be a code phrase. The secretary says the story released to the public will be that a malfunctioning communications system is generating the message.
Back to decoding room, and the tech tells the colonel that the people sending the message want to communicate. Only catch is, the colonel has to turn off every thing that scans except for radio. The colonel hates this but complies. After a moment, a voice comes from a speaker (presumably tied to a radio). The voice explains that they tried to get three subjects by transponder but failed. So now they are coming in person. Then the voice asks them to step away from part of the room. After a moment, a man in black (Tommy Kirk) suddenly appears in the room. He throws up one arm up and shouts, "Reach for me and I will vanish as I have appeared." (It has the same tone as any other white guy playing a god gambit for the primitives.) The other people in the room back off.
(Now that the shock of the instant materialization has worn off, let's get down to basics. Mr. Kirk, who is moderately chunky, is sporting a black body suit. On the front there's a broad gray stripe like a chevron, point down. The ends of the V are at the shoulders; the point at the sternum. Impressive. Dramatic. Bold. And then you realize you are looking at a wetsuit with a couple of strips of duct tape.)
Introduction time. The visitor says he is called Dop and explains that he has been out from Mars for seventy days. He also says that he wants people to stop scanning for his ship. And then he explains his job: He and his crew are on a medical mission. (Actually, he says they are "medical missionaries," but we don't envision any copies of, say, "Gray's Theology," so we let it go.) On Mars, a genetic problem has caused a preponderance of Y-chromosomes, leading to too many male births. The gender gap is now about 100:1. (It's tough enough to accept that the two-gender system is a constant throughout the Universe, let alone gender via lettered chromosomes.) They've run out of ideas, so now they've come to Earth on a long shot. Their ship has a crew of five with room for five more as passengers. They would like five free samples, er, female volunteers, please. Said ladies must be unmarried, in good health, and able to bear children. (At least he didn't begin by introducing himself as "Dropo" and finish by saying that he was in town to kidnap Mr. Santa Claus.)
The colonel becomes angry. (Now, let's clarify this. So far, Colonel Page has gotten angry at everything. The man is an anger spammer. He is to ire what McDonald's is to cheap hamburgers. This guy does more for wrath than Starbucks does for caffeine. He is Deadly Sin Number Three with a bullet. Forget "Coals to Newcastle." Now it's "Pique to Page." Therefore, to get the full effect of this performance from reading this article, simply preface everything the colonel says with a choice of "The colonel becomes angry/angrier/angriest.") He accuses the Martian of committing acts of abduction. (Yeah. Nobody gets their chicks for free.) But Dop says they're going ahead with this plan anyway, with or without cooperation. He vanishes. And via the radio, Dop announces that they are shutting off their radio until they leave.
Cut to Stimmins. He has been listening to this in the adjoining room. The colonel (angrily, dammit!) says to him via the intercom, "Tell it!" Go to a montage of the world's reaction. The UN decides the Martians are a threat. All over the world, the news of the Martians is broadcast. (Actually, we are just given news of the Martians as broadcast in French presented over footage footage of the Eiffel Tower. We suspect there wasn't enough in the budget for cooking up shots of other countries. Therefore, we ask: Does it count as a montage if you have only two things in sequence?) A news reporter on television (ok, three things) mentions the cylinder over Houston. (Cylinder? Well, a disk (saucer) is a very, very short cylinder. That or they were so used to talking about space capsules as cylinders….)
At Monitor One, they overhear transmissions from another mission, one
that's launching the X-15. Cut to two and a half minutes of footage
of the X-15 launching from a B-52 and eventually landing; mix in dialogue
from a pilot saying that something is blocking him from climbing above forty
thousand feet. Elsewhere, the reporter on the news explains that an
interceptor has been launched to shoot at the Martian ship. Cut to a
minute and a half of footage of an F-111 doing some rather ordinary flight
ops. Mix in dialogue that their gauges and readouts suddenly stopped
working. Cut in a shot of an F-111 doing a barrel roll.
(Accuse the filmmakers of using footage to bump up the running time up to
the minimum? That would be such a cheap shot.)
Spin to the next scene. Night. On a pier, two tipsy fishermen (one of them is Bill Thurman) see a weird light and beat feet. The flying saucer, bathed in a mysterious fog, gracefully descends from the sky into a nearby industrial complex and glides to a landing inside one of the buildings. (Or, rather, we are shown a seemingly disjointed sequence of (1) shots of the saucer model with a stringy mist, (2) shots of a building, and (3) shots of an interior. Not enough money in the effects budget to connect the dots? Here's a pencil, audience. Have fun. Meanwhile, we wonder what might've been lost in the translation from widescreen to fullscreen.)
A transparent dome on top of the saucer opens. Out comes Dop, but this time his fantastic Martian uniform (wetsuit with duct tape) has a hood with funky earpieces. Four other Martians exit the saucer. They're wearing utilitarian silver uniforms (spray painted wetsuits). Two of them carry highly advanced portable illumination devices (Eveready brand flashlights). One of them brandishes an intimidating Martian rifle. (It's a spear gun. Well, why not? They've already got the wetsuits.)
They do a quick inventory of the chemicals in the building. Sodium. Ammonia. We learn this building is an old, unused ice plant. (Could have been worse; they could have landed in Geena Davis's pool.) Before executing this mission, The Martians made elaborate plans involving models of this building.. So here's the rest of the plan, as explained by the group's doctor (Warren Hammack) to the rest of the group: They have only twenty-four hours on Earth. Since the gravity is twice normal, don't over exert. Don't eat the food. (Cripes, they planned a mission in extremis for the sake of a building they might use, but they didn't tell these guys ahead of time about this other stuff? Thank you, dubious exposition.)
As they speak, we learn they are now referring to each other by numbers. Dop is Fellow Number 1. The doctor, Fellow Number 2. Number 3 (Tony Huston), who has been keeping a grip on his frightening Martian blaster (a.k.a. spear gun), asks about what they should do if they encounter resistance. Dop, er, 1 says to use hypnosis. (Not a joke. He explains it via additional dubious exposition.)
Fellow Number 1 tells the others they will need some things before they continue. He and 2 must stay and set set up a few things, so he sends the others out on some errands. He tells 3 they need money and maps of the area. Go to a fuel dispensary, he says, which the humans call a filling station.
Spin to the next scene. It's still night. Fellow Number 3 materializes at a gas station. He sees the attendant inside. After a moment, he jumps on the signaling line a few times and hides behind a vending machine. (Signaling line? Well, kids, there used to be a day when you didn't have to get out of your car, you didn't pump your own gas, and not everybody had stores with motion detectors at an entrance. Back then, you'd drive up to the pump, and the wheels of your car would run over a durable rubber line. The pressure on the line would close a switch, and that would ring a bell so the attendant would know someone had just arrived at the pump. Observation: We've just now had to explain this to our younger readers. So how in the hell did an alien, who had to be told what a filling station was, know about this?)
The attendant (Bob Hazlett) comes outside and stands with his back to the vending machine. (He's got something that could be a "Those darn kids!" look on his face.) Fellow Number 3 steps out and karate chops him into unconsciousness. Then he goes inside, cleans out the cash register, grabs a few maps, and teleports away.
Spin to the next scene. Fellow Number 4 (Larry Tanner) has been sent to get a car. (They can teleport all over the place, but they need a car? I dunno. Image, maybe.) 1 told him that they can't rent or buy a car, so they have to steal one that won't be missed for a while. 4 hides in the parking lot at a airport. Someone gets out of his car with a suitcase and walks away. 4 gets in. It starts right up.
Spin to the next scene. Fellow Number 5 (Cal Duggan) has been sent out for some clothes for the group, so he's at the front of a department store. He holds a small gadget next to the lock. 1 told him that the primitive locks on the stores should be no problem for the air knife. (What, no sonic screwdriver?) 5 opens the now unlocked door and heads for the menswear department.
Cut back to the icehouse. The out-of-towners are neatly dressed in suits and ties. (OK, so maybe they really are missionaries like Dop said earlier.) Fellow Number 2 is not happy about wearing a tie; they quit wearing ties on Mars fifty years ago because it was stupid and pointless. (Um, heh.) 1 tells 3 he's not happy about the violence. But now, to the task at hand: They have all been briefed on human customs and languages, so they will all fit in. (Yes, this is explained via clumsy exposition.) The have twenty hours. Each of them must find a suitable woman and bring her back here. (Waitaminute. Sailors pull into a city and, within a very short deadline, each must find a girl? This so rips off On the Town (1949).)
They all get into the car. Spin to the next scene. They drive around for a while, so we are treated to about a minute of footage of Houston at night. After some time, one of them says he's not happy about moving so slowly. (Ditto from the audience).
The Martians get out of the car at various locations. One of them, Fellow Number 3, gets out at an exotic dance theater called Athens Strip. (Sounds like it'd be a dance show club. "Athens strip" probably isn't a piece of meat. Or maybe it is. We digress. Bada-bing....) 3 enters and takes a seat. On a slightly raised platform, a redhead (Bubbles Cash) slinks out of a long, tight, shiny black dress for about two minutes. (Given the intended audience of this movie, this is probably a better celluloid choice all than the aircraft footage earlier.)
Spin to the next scene. Fellows 1 and 2 go to a hotel. They need a room, but the hotel is booked solid because of all the reporters in town covering the Martian story. They go up to the bar to wait for a cancellation. While they wait, they catch a news story on the TV. (More exactly, the TV has "plot relevance sensors" and chooses that moment to turn up its own volume.) A news reader (Chet Davis) describes the activity and arrivals in Houston. There's footage of the young Dr. Marjorie Bolen (Yvonne Craig), a scientist specializing in space medicine and genetics. Her book on the subject won a Pulitzer. And she has an Audrey Hepburn thing happening for her. The newsman mentions that she'll be at a press conference tonight.
Fellows 1 and 2 leave. They pause when they see a sign describing the press conference they just heard about. (On a positive note, it could be seen in the background of the lobby when they first arrived.) It says where, when, and press credentials required. The two agents decide she would be a good prospect: She is an expert on space medicine and genetics and awesomely hot as all get out, er, likely meets the optimal criteria specified by the mission parameters.
But now they need both a room to set up as a base and a press card. 1 goes to a phone and calls the front desk. He scams the name and room number of a recently arrived reporter, a Mr. Fast from Seattle. Then he tells number 2 to be at the room in five minutes because Mr. Fast is going to think he was given the wrong room.
Fellow 1 goes to the room and knocks. Fast answers. (Um, heh.) Fellow 1 says someone left behind a hat, could he please come in and look for it. The reporter, occupied with a phone call, lets him in. 1 does a fast, er, quick check around the room: One suitcase on the bed, unopened. No one else here. After the reporter finishes his call, 1 gets him to look out the window to the gently rippling pool below. He soothingly says to Fast that the water "has persuasion... suggestion... deep...do my will...." Fortunately, the reporter doesn't turn and stare at 1 like the creepy wacko he has seemingly become. No, he is now in a deep hypnotic trance. (Do you feel a mocking little "The force is strong on the weak minded" coming on? Go ahead. Can't stop you.)
Fellow 1 takes Fast's press pass. In return, he gives him the post-hypnotic suggestion that he was given someone else's room and he might've left his press pass at home. The agent brings the reporter out of his trance. Fast agrees; the water does look nice. 2 arrives and apologizes to Fast for the mix-up, giving this man's room to him by accident. Fast realizes he's missing his press card. Must've left it at home. He picks up his suitcase and leaves. (We assume he doesn't check out of the hotel. What a French comedy of errors might've followed when new guests arrived....)
Fellow 2 sets up a base radio. It's got five pairs of lights and a button for each pair. He pushes the fifth from the left button. Corresponding red light and green lights go on. 2 says that 5 is receiving but not answering. He pushes the fourth button. Result: Corresponding red and green lights again.
Fellow 4 has received the signal. He's was at the airport checking out a stocky older woman. She's got a ring on the proper finger. Since this cuts off her circulation, he moves on. A tiny light flashes on his wristwatch. He goes to a phone booth to answer his watch. SITREP: He's got his eye on a prospect. Cut to a shots of a blonde stewardess.
Fellows 1 and 2 try to call 3. He's not answering. Spin to the next scene. The redhead at the Athens Strip is now down to a rhinestone bra and a G-string. (Has she been dancing all this time or is this a later show? If it's the former, then the lady's got a lot of slinky stamina; if latter, then 3 must've run up a devastating bar tab.) She exits. Enthusiastic applause follow. (Remember, kids: Support the arts.) In her dressing room, she touches up her lipstick. Fellow 3 enters. She asks him his name, but he's not much of a talker. He approaches. She freaks and screams. (And no one in Houston is gonna show up when a woman screams? What the...? You'd expect at least three of four guys spoiling for a fight, especially in a strip club. Ah, well, c.f. a similar scene in Situation Hopeless... But Not Serious (1965).)
2 calls it a night. He's going to look for coeds tomorrow
morning. 1 leaves for the press conference. Fast (we think) is waiting
for an elevator. (What the? Did this hotel used to be a
hospital? It's got such slow elevators.) He runs at the mouth
for a while about thinking this whole Martian thing is a hoax like the War
of the Worlds broadcast from thirty years earlier. It gets
annoying. 1 says nothing. (We'd feel the irony of the lines if
the intentional annoyance of the performance didn't get in the way.
Fortunately, this is about as close as this movie comes to odious comic
At the news conference, the gentlemen of the press are derisively making sexual innuendos to embarrass Dr. Bolen. Stimmons is there, and he is not impressed with the behavior of his colleagues. Dr. Bolen has become downright flustered. She says she's going to allow one more question, and if it isn't relevant, this interview is over.
Fellow 1 arrives and says he's Fast. (Um, heh.) He asks a technical question about chromosomes and how the problem on Mars might be a mutation. Dr. Bolen picks up on this with some relief and generally agrees. When Stimmons asks if this mutation means the Martians are weird looking monsters, Dr. Bolen says probably not. It would be presumptuous of us, she says, to think that the Martians are going to be different from us. (Odd. Throughout this movie, we were thinking that the opposite was more correct.)
The press conference concludes. Stimmons introduces himself to 1 and asks him to join him at Monitor One. (Man, talk about fortuitous placement.) Stimmons leaves, so now it's just 1 and Dr. Bolen. She thanks him for the relevant question. They make small talk. She says she'd like to get away from science for a little bit right now.
Fade to Fellow 1 and Dr. Bolen walking in a park at day. (Kind of a jump in time, wouldn't you say? They were just at an event at night.) They pass by a sign advertising a "trip to mars" show. They go inside. It's a planetarium with theater seats. Aside from an operator and a manager (David England), they're the only two here. How cozy. Oooops, never mind. The floodgates open, and into the room comes a rushing flood of about twenty excitable, screaming children on a field trip. They quickly settle into some seats.
Showtime. The operator hits a few switches. The lights dim. A performer (Larry Buchanan) on a reel-to-reel tape player announces they are about to take off. He begins a countdown at seven. The children excitedly join in and count down in unison. The sound effect of rocket motor plays over the sound system. A screen shows footage of an Atlas rocket taking off. (Y'know, the last time we saw something like this, the theater really did fly into space.)
After a moment, the taped performer says they are twelve days out and says they must transit via the sun. Cue shots of the sun, followed by shots of Mars (from telescope imaging back then, ya know). The performer begins to describe Mars. And then the tape breaks.
The children let out a (suspiciously overenthusiastic) wail of disappointment. The pictures of Mars continue and the room grows silent. Fellow 1 offers some spontaneous narration. Mars, he says, is the one planet that shows evidence of being habitable. He follows this up with descriptions of the weather and the ice caps plus some suppositions about a dying race. Dr. Bolen is impressed. His voice becomes very sincere and deliberate; he says if the inhabitants of Mars can't solve their problems, then someday humans will find the ruins of a once fine race. The end. After a moment of stunned silence, and after the operator turns off the projector and turns on the lights, the children respond with (suspiciously overenthusiastic) applause and cheers. (We assume that was for Fellow 1's heartfelt performance and not the operator doing her job.) They all shout Thank you! and leave.
Fellow 1 and Dr. Bolen leave the planetarium. It's sunset. (What the...?) They make cutesy science small talk. Later, 1 returns to the hotel. 2 is crashed out.
Fellow 4 is at the airport, sitting in a waiting area. A woman next to him is reading a copy of the Houston Post with the headline "Mars Needs Women." (A closer examination of this page shows stories about politics. A picture shows a relatively photogenic couple with an American flag in the background. My God! Is that George H.W. and Barbara?) He is also looking at a newspaper, but is interrupted when the stewardess we saw earlier passes by. (Dang, does she ever actually get on a plane or does she just sashay around the airport in her uniform?) The stewardess seems to be unaware of her follower. Spin to the next scene. 1 tries to call 4, but he doesn't answer. Cut to 4 standing right behind the stewardess. Bright sunlight streams through the windows behind them. He stares into her eyes. She doesn't resist.
(Continuity note. Given the way the story has been presented, it obviously has been more than twenty-four hours since the time the Martians were told that they had twenty-four hours. Recall: They announced the time limit at night, we've been show a day (Fellow 1 and Dr. Bolen go for a walk), a night (which would be hitting the twenty-four hour mark), and now it's day again. See notes below for what might've gone wrong and how they could've fixed this.)
Cut to a shot of the numeral 5. As the camera pulls back, we realize we are looking at a stenciled number in a football stadium (in broad daylight). Fellow 5 enters and finds a seat. After a few minutes of game footage, a band takes the field. An announcer says it's time for the presentation of the homecoming queen. A float rolls out onto the field. (Run your own "marching band refused to yield" joke; I'm too tired.) The girls on the float are the candidates as selected by the students. The winner, says the announcer, will be chosen by the judges. There's the sound of a pistol. The announcer says that the firing of the gun means the judges have decided on a winner. (Now there's a disturbingly Freudian thought.)
And the winner is Brenda Knowlan (Sherry Roberts). She does the typical shock of joy. They crown her and parade her around a little bit. (There's also a brief patch in here where the sound seems to go dead, which is a bit incongruous at a football stadium during an event. At first, we thought this meant something dramatic was about to happen. But no.) The announcer says she'll be the pride of her sorority, Delta Gamma.
Cut to a shot of her going to her sorority house, the big Delta and Gamma facing the street side. An FTD van pulls up. Out gets Fellow 5. He quietly picks up a long white box tied with a red ribbon and walks slowly and deliberately toward the house. (We know what some of your are thinking. Sorry, no shotgun in the box here.) He knocks on the door. Naturally, out of all the girls who probably live here, it's Brenda who answers. He locks his eyes into hers.
At Monitor One, an nameless older man (we're not sure, but this might be Barnett Shaw) makes a presentation for a group of assembled experts. He thinks the Martians are using hypnosis. He tallies up the missing: The strip artist, the airline hostess, and today, the homecoming queen. (Word gets around fast....) Then he recalls that the colonel said the Martian he spoke to had a hypnotic voice.
Spin to the next scene. In the press room at Monitor One, Stimmons has been listening to the meeting. He announces the part about "three missing" to the others in the room, including Fellow 1, who is sitting there next to him.
A clock shows it's two. At a museum, a blonde walks outside with artist's gear, including an easel. She passes by Fellow 2, who is reading a newspaper with the headline "Martians Strike Again." (My, what fast newspapers they have in Houston. Stories include the abduction of a baby from the hospital and the murder of four women and a girl. Yes, we know we're looking at regular paper with a new headline pasted under the masthead, but it makes us wonder sarcastically what else the Martians have been blamed for lately.) A few paces later, she sets up her stuff, putting a blocked canvas on the easel. She puts a piece of paper on the canvas. But when she starts to draw on the paper, the wind blows it off. She reaches down for it frustrated. Enter Fellow 2. He shows her how she can stick the paper to the canvas with a dab of white paint. She's been drawing a tree. He gets her to look at the tree while remarking on the hypnotic quality of the light through the leaves....
Cut to the experts at Monitor One. They've just been told the fourth woman is missing. (What the...?) There's a map showing where the girls have disappeared. From noting the grouping on the map, they determine that the Martians are operating near a lake. One of the locals at the meeting says there's nothing there but some old wharfs, a closed icehouse, a few other things. Dr. Bolen asks about the icehouse. Does it still have its chemical inventory. The local says it's been padlocked for sometime. Dr. Bolen says that she thinks the Martians need refrigeration for "sleep freeze." That is, they'll freeze their captives and themselves to achieve suspended animation for the long trip back to Mars. (We might've thought it was so they could have a place with the same weather as home, but no go.)
In the press room, Stimmons takes away his earphone and says they must have figured out something important; they've just cut him off.
At the meeting, someone remembers that there is a canal that goes directly into the icehouse. It's a big enough opening for a vehicle. The colonel is pleased with this. (He's still angry, but it's a pleased kind of angry.) He feels certain the Martians won't go anywhere until after sunset. (How he came to this conclusion is not explained.) Therefore, they will wait until dark and then move fast. (And why delay until the out-of-towners are active? Ask any vampire hunter.)
In the pressroom, Stimmons realizes that Dr. Bolen is in on whatever it is
they've just figured out. He tells Number 1 that he must get her
confidence. Sudden pan to 1 and zoom in. He strikes a serious
pose and says, dramatically, "I must!" (It's as overplayed
as Jim Carrey in Liar Liar.)
Go to a car driving at night. It's Fellow 1 and Dr. Bolen. They make small talk, like what are they going to be doing tonight. The conversation turns the her career and her father, who is dead She asks him if she'd like to meet her father.
They go to a museum. A label on a wall says they're in the Bolen wing. As they walk, a recorded voice talks about Gustav Bolen, geneticist. (My, what an amazing coincidence that they just happen to be in a city that has a museum with large section named after her father.) The exhibits are mostly models and illustrations of female reproductive anatomy, including a series of cut-away views of a pregnancy in sequence. (Genetics or obstetrics? Sure, the two are related, but you'd think people would know for a distinction between the two.) As they walk, Dr. Bolen begins to noticeably warm up to Fellow 1. (Dang, he is Fast.) Then she holds him and gives him a big, passionate kiss.
(OK, personal note: I am deeply weirded out by this. She's been pleasant and all untill now, but (1) she takes a date to meet her dead father. We know it's a metaphor, but it's still kinda creepy. And (2) this "moment of her choosing" is tied to anatomical models of female reproductive organs and embryos. As a guy, I can see how this might make a woman think more about being a woman, but I'll be darned if I'd feel comfortable with a date who suddenly wants to play "sink the well" after seeing large, detailed, full color images of babies in wombs.)
He asks her what time it is. She looks at her watch and tells him it's 8:02. Then she gets mad at him for responding to her passion by asking the time. That's when she lets it slip. She says that they may not see each other after tomorrow. Fellow 1 asks what she means. (We can't tell if he was thinking about his return trip to Mars; the irony is not indicated. Sigh....) She says the story will be over and he'll go back to his hometown after the troops raid the Martian hideout tonight. He asks when. She says she can't say where. He asks again, when? At nine, she says. He says he's got to go and that she shouldn't come with. He goes. She comes with.
After a few extraneous moments of "driving at night" and at least one "spin to the next scene," they're at the ice house. Inside, the other four Martians are in their wetsuits again. One of them says the exotic dance is secured. (You usually don't hear about girls in show'em business feeling secure.) They've got three girls on a gurney each. A fourth gurney is unoccupied. They're taking their vitals before freezing them.
Enter Fellow 1 and Dr. Bolen. 1 says abort the mission. 2 looks up and says in a stern voice, "We've been concerned for you, Fellow 1!" 1 tells them to abort the mission because a raiding party is on the way. Dr. Bolen goes to shocked enlightenment (as opposed to angry betrayal). 2 says they can't go without the girls. 1 says there isn't time. Oh, and he's staying. 2 reminds him of what will happen to them if they return without the girls and the team leader.
Fellow 3 picks up his hideously advanced portable death ray (spear gun) and declares nobody is leaving the room. 2 breaks the standoff by saying there is isn't enough time to freeze the three on the gurneys. 3 suggests they take Dr. Bolen and freeze her along the way, their failure won't be so bad. (Hey, what about the stripper? She ain't chopped liver, ya know.) 2 demands a decision. 1 or Dr. Bolen or both must come.
Fellow 1 doesn't like the idea of Dr. Bolen being the subject of an artificial insemination experiment. He declares that she stays. Then he takes her by the hand and says that they don't have love on Mars anymore, but that's what he must feel for her now. (Insert canned "awww"s here.)
Meanwhile, Colonel Page and a small platoon of olive-drab troops have arrived outside the icehouse. They trickle into position. (The platoon leader takes cover behind what looks like a large propane tank. Interesting choice.) One of them starts shooting. (At what? We don't know. We note that Waco isn't too far from Houston.) The Martians decide it's time to go. Down the hatch on the saucer they go, one at a time. As he gets into the saucer, Fellow 2 tells Dr. Bolen that the girls are sedated; they'll come out of it. The shooting continues outside. (We still don't know what he or they are shooting at. We also didn't see Fellow 1 get on board. Sequel? We should kill you for thinking it; might be legal.)
The saucer gradually backs into a mysterious fog, levitates into the air, flies through the opening in the building, and sails into the night sky. (Or rather, they show a sequence of few disconnected pictures again and hoped that the audience got the idea. Dr. Bolen runs outside. (Nobody accidentally shoots her. Did anyone else in the audience call that wrong?) Colonel Page asks her what they were like. She can't say; she's busy crying. Turn up the dramatic chords in the sound track, and fade to a picture of a nebula with a superimposed title card that says, "Earth is the cradle of man, but he cannot live in the cradle forever. - Konstantin Tsioulkousky" The End. No end credits.
Unlike other alien invaders, the Martians in this movie are fundamentally clean, decent, ethical people. That's a refreshing change of pace, especially given their task. They're (mostly) nice guys with a job to do. You really can't hate them. You might as well root for them. They're set up as the protagonists, and the script tries to earn your sympathies for them. And there's no intention to make you think that they're annoyingly perfect. Recall: They probably sent the first three women to an accidental non-existence, and Fellow Number 3 seems to have a couple of social adjustment issues. Understandable imperfections allow the characters some credibility. Not enough, but some.
There's also a ready made audience for characters in this situation: A group of mostly young men arrive in a town a strangers. They are only going to be there for a while, but they need to fit in socially during their stay. College students (especially the athletes), members of the military and their families, and traveling businessmen have all had their own sense of alienation caused by regularly changing their locale. They could see where these guys are coming from.
On the other hand, we note some similarity to The Day the Earth
Stood Still (1951), wherein the protagonist is a clean, decent, ethical alien (with a
funky tailor). He arrives and must blend in among the locals. Some of
the scenes in Mars Needs Women, like the planetarium, don't
directly borrow from Day but do give you a sense of déjà vu.
In fact, most of this movie feels like something that should've been made
ten years earlier.
To Buchanan's credit, there are also a few bits of cinematic creativity. For example, take the scene at the football game. Without digging into the production history of this movie, we'd suspect that the filmmakers were able to shoot the football footage as a favor. So you get some spectacle for a little bit of money.
But there are impressive small touches during that sequence. It starts with a stenciled numeral 5, and the camera pans up to Fellow Number 5 entering at a distance. Later, when the homecoming queen goes inside her sorority house, and while the camera lingers on the door, the delivery van driven by 5 pulls up to and stops in front of the camera -- at the exact spot for the camera to continue seeing the door. 5's face is now in the shot, and the image is framed by the driver's side window. The camera pulls back as he gets out with the box of roses and he walks toward the door. All in one shot. Sure, this isn't Citizen Kane, but at least it isn't totally devoid of inventive storytelling with a camera
As highlighted in the plot description, this movie has fatal problems getting stated time to match presented time. We've seen a similar problem before. In that case, it was probably due to what also went wrong in Mars Needs Women: Post production fiddling while not paying attention to other details.
The most blatant problem is the announcement of the twenty-four hour deadline. Although the events in the story could've taken place in twenty-four hours, the apparent day/night cycles are more frequent than one day. And it gets worse as you pay attention to the dialogue. Fellow 1 and Dr. Bolen meet at a press conference at about 10 p.m. The next scene, during the day, Dr. Bolen comments on how they've only known each other for five hours. You do the math. Later, when they leave the planetarium, it's nightfall. Hypothesis: They shot the scenes with Ms. Craig on a different shooting schedule from the scenes at the hotel, forgot if it was a.m. or p.m. while writing the script on the fly, and couldn't get a reshoot or a rerecord for the dialogue. Since those bits in the planetarium and park gave it the extra day, it's tempting to suggest that Fellow 1 just dreamed that whole sequence.
But another problem is the timing, as presented, between two of the kidnappings and their respective announcements at the Monitor One meeting. We are shown the kidnapping of the homecoming queen. Cut to Monitor One, where they are talking about it. From the point of view of the audience, the kidnapping just happened. Aside from "Amber alerts," there's more than a minute between a missing person and a missing person case. People in the audience wonder, how did they find out about the abduction so fast? We can appreciate that the filmmakers wanted to present events with cause-effect proximity. It's a very natural choice for letting the audience connect events as they flow.
But then for an encore of questionable time continuity, we are shown
it's just now two o'clock. In a moment, we'll learn that this is
another cool presentation gimmick for announcing that this next sequence
will be about Fellow 2. But people in the audience are likely to
think that the homecoming queen wouldn't have been crowned so early in the
day, let alone at home and alone so early in the day after being
We can't really say nice things about the acting in this movie. There are several scenes with actors stumbling over lines. This move was made not long after Dick Van Dyke made verbal stumbling an endearing character trait. But this is only endearing when you're watching someone who is supposed to be self-consciously awkward. Here, the characters are not so, but the actors themselves seem to be. Rehearsal and multiple takes might've helped, but if you know for Larry Buchanan's reputation as a filmmaker, then you can assume that those luxuries weren't likely.
We have a few more notes on the acting in this movie in the "Notes
on the Cast and Crew" section below.
As you watch this movie, you pick up that Buchanan seemed to appreciate science. When the Martians arrive at the icehouse, they do an inventory of the chemicals they'll need to make the machinery work for them, and we have no problems counting this as credible. The narration for the planetarium show (as read by Buchanan himself) is chock full of convincingly selected jargon with statistical backup. Given both those scenes, then it's a fair assumption that Buchanan must've done some research. Good on him. He's miles ahead of several other screenwriters from the time.
Let's talk hypnosis. There are a couple of scenes where the Martians carefully soothe their subjects into a hypnotic state. We might give it the benefit of the doubt and suggest that the Martians were so well trained at this technique, they could do without the subject's full awareness of being hypnotized and instantly guide a subject to suggestion. But at least two of the hypnotic trances seemed to be done by the twin clichés of "Look into my eyes" and "You will now do my will." Unless the Martians are supposed to have some weird telepathic ability (which seems to work for only two of the Martians), then calling the eye trick "hypnosis" is only a perpetuation of mystic superstition, which, ironically, was the subject of a complaint by one of the characters. We'd hate to think that all Mr. Buchanan knew for hypnosis, he learned from the script of The She-Creature (1956) while reshooting it as Creature of Destruction (1967).
Then there's the sex. (Not to worry. We mean the form and function kind, not the entertaining kind.) For humans, a Y-chromosome determines male gender. That's one chromosome in a set of 46 chromosomes. Other species have different numbers, and 46 isn't the highest number out there. Carp, for example, have 104. And Y doesn't always mean male. Among the birds and the butterflies, a Y-chromosome determines female; to avoid confusion, biologists call it a W instead. The point of this little jog down a lane of high school biology memories? Given how much variation you get on Earth alone, it is very unlikely Martians would be so randomly compatible with humans. This should be intuitive on its own; we only went to the trouble of explaining it. Maybe humans and Martians had a common ancestry. This is not in the script. And if you, member of the audience, put that into the script, then you're doing the screenwriter's job. We would hate to think that Mr Buchanan learned about biological diversity (or rather, the seeming lack thereof) from Star Trek.
The Martians as physical aliens are not completely credible, either,
for the same reasoning as the sex. We'd could accept this if they were
like us, but these guys are us. (Well, maybe not
each of us. A couple of you guys over there, that kind of us.)
But to make us think they are not us, the filmmakers put in that hackneyed
dialogue common to poorly written science fiction. You know the
drill. An alien isn't an alien unless he does something weird.
He does so, and now he and another alien must explain what would be common
knowledge for why they do what they do. (Looking back on it at this
moment, we are amused by the fact that the alien doctor tells the team
that they will weigh twice normal on Earth; he tells them this after
they've been standing on Earth for a few minutes.)
A movie can't help it if it's cheap, but it can try to keep people from noticing. In Mars Needs Women, we notice. A lot.
This happens often in B-sci-fi. An incredibly economical filmmaker has some good ideas but can't effectively present those ideas in a story on film. Rather than abandoning ideas which may seem unworkable, he films them anyway -- usually in a very limited way. Edward D. Wood Jr. was notorious for this. Buchanan wasn't so bad as Wood, but he, like many others, is worth citing.
Citing the things in this movie? Sticking to the production values and not mentioning the supporting talent, we have:
And all this is very early in the story. There's more as the movie goes along, but let's focus on these while we recall that old maxim from Roger Corman. If you have a cheap monster, save it for the end. That way everybody in the audience can have their own imaginary monster to scare them. If you give the audience the cheap monster up front, forget the scares and suspense.
Likewise, giving the audience examples of your miniscule budget up front cheapens the rest of the movie. There are some slightly more ambitious production artifacts in the movie, like the Martian wrist radios But by then it's too late. The armchair movie producer recommends saving wetsuits for later.
Larry Buchanan (writer, director, producer, editor, narrator at the "Trip to Mars" exhibit) made exploitation films. Or so it would seem. He made movies about racism, sex, monsters, celebrities, and conspiracy theories. No matter how low the bankroll on a Buchanan movie, the finished product looked like it was made on twice it's budget. They looked awfully cheap, so you can imagine how small those bankrolls were.
He'd started out in the majors, working as an assistant director for George Cukor and Fred Zinnemann. He moved to the minors. He was capable of more. One story (as he tells it): He shot some film in black and white with three characters around some hill country in Texas. It was stark, bare filmmaking. And then he put Igmar Bergman's name on the completed film. No one caught on until the distributors picked it up and he properly credited it to himself. A few years later, some people thought he'd hijacked a Bergman movie.
But destiny had another calling for Mr. Buchanan. Looking back to the 1950's, the master of cheap that people remember was American International Pictures. Ten years later, Buchanan was not only working the same cinematic neighborhood, he was making, under the Azalea trademark, sanctioned remakes of AIP's earlier movies. These remakes are the ones most associated with Buchanan's "grade-Z" reputation. We note that Mars Needs Women was better than most of those, but you know that isn't saying much.
But you'll probably want to know more.
Tommy Kirk (Dop, Martian Fellow 1) was a child stage actor when he became one of the elite selected for Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club. While working for Disney, he appeared in some honest family movie classics. He owned a dog in Old Yeller (1957), became a dog in The Shaggy Dog (1959), dogged a scientist in The Absent-Minded Professor (1961), and dogged a few locals as a junior mad scientist in the Merlin Jones movies. But in the mid-1960's, Disney let him go. Word got around that he was a homosexual. Word also got around that he was having an affair with another cast member. Some sources suggest that he was blacklisted for such inclinations, but it should also be noted that he'd already had some problems with substance abuse. (Cause-Effect? Effect-Cause? We don't know. We don't want to know.) Amphetamines had gotten him into trouble a few years earlier, but after he got busted for pot possession, he got fired from The Sons of Katie Elder (1965),
Down he went, but he was still "the nice guy" in the movies. Nice guy in Pajama Party (1964). (Come to think of it, he was a nice Martian guy in that one.) Nice guy in Village of the Giants (1965). Nice guy in Catalina Caper (1967). Nice guy in "It's Alive!" (1969). Nice movies? Progressively not so. See Al Adamson's Blood of Ghastly Horror (1972, a.k.a. a bunch of other ghastly titles). He dropped out of acting as a career and became a cult icon for what he had been.
Within the context of Mars Needs Women, Kirk is not so awkward as most of the rest of the cast. He delivers his lines as well as you'd expect for a man who'd been a successful actor for most of his life. Unfortunately, he is miscast here. The script and direction suggests that Fellow 1 is someone who is dramatically sincere, preferably profound. Sure, Kirk could take "nice guy sincere" to heights unattainable by others, but if he had profundity, then something happened to it; it isn't on the film. The scenes calling for him to be powerful have acceptable writing and staging, but the final effect inspires more nervous giggles than impressed ooohs.
Given Kirk's sexual orientation and the attitudes of the time, one might suggest that Mars Needs Women contains subtle homoeroticism. I don't see it, but then, I didn't see it in the first three or four episodes of The Ren and Stimpy Show, either. You can cite points from this movie (they come from a population of mostly men, most of them don't seem romantically attracted to the girls they abduct, they're into form-fitting costumes), but those are fairly circumstantial. So I assembled a panel of experts: Mrs. Apostic and her boss, who have worked and partied with gay men for several years. I showed them this movie. Their gaydars didn't go off. As far as they're concerned, the average Three Stooges short is more homoerotic. People can read into anything almost anything.
Yvonne Craig (Dr. Bolen) puts in a credible performance. And she's likable without noticeable effort. Ms. Craig started out as a ballet dancer, but in the late 1950's she quit and was sort of lured into acting. During the remainder of the fifties and through the sixties, she appeared in a few movies and various TV shows, usually getting small parts, often playing bad girls. She had more fame as Elvis's girlfriend than as an actress -- until she was cast as Batgirl in Batman (1966-1968). She achieved cult status, but when the show was canceled, it was back to the small parts in various movies and TV shows. (Trekkers will remember her as the homicidal green dancing girl in "Whom Gods Destroy.") She gradually stopped acting, became a producer for a while, and then went into real estate. She doesn't deny her cult status. Her official website is at www.yvonnecraig.com.
Most of the rest of the cast were regulars for Buchanan. As points of interest:
Ronald Stein (music) composed and arranged the themes heard in
most of American International's B-movies throughout the 1950's and
'60's. He put together some surprisingly Prokofiev kind of tunes
for this one.
As we've mentioned before, Mars Needs Women feels like a move that should've been made ten years earlier. "Aliens abducting women" was a common theme on pulp sci-fi magazine covers, particularly when the aliens were bug-eyed and the victims were dressed as showgirls. Naturally, due to a pulp tradition, historical examples (like the rape of the Sabine women), or whatever Freudian or Jungian impulse you'd care to cite, the theme with variation made its way into the movies. Here are just a few of our favorites.
Devil Girl From Mars (1954) -- Title character with a big pet robot goes husband hunting in Scotland. Why couldn't she just put an ad in the personals like everyone else? Or maybe use an agent like that other freakish visitor.
Chikyu Boeigun (1957, a.k.a. The Mysterians) -- Refugees (and their bigger pet robot) from a destroyed planet announce that they want to live on Earth and intermarry with Earth women. Hostilities and a few abductions follow. Read all about it at The Bad Movie Report.
The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) by John Wyndham -- In a small village, all the women capable of bearing children become pregnant, apparently due to an alien influence. Made into Village of the Damned (1960, 1995).
I Married a Monster From Outer Space (1958) -- This is a good example of how a bad titles can happen to reasonable movies. Alien spies disguise themselves as humans. Don't bother with the remake (1999). Cf. instead It Came from Outer Space (1953).
The Horror of Party Beach (1964) – Radioactive waste turns corpses into sea monsters. Check out that one passing line about the monsters carrying off women for recreational (ree-creational, dammit!) purposes. Cf. Humanoids From the Deep (1980).
Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965) -- Aliens drop in at a pool party to acquire a few girls in bikinis as breeding stock. Astounding, but not in a good way. Would you believe you can read all about it at The Bad Movie Report, too?
The Night Caller (1965, a.k.a. Blood Beast from Outer Space) -- OK, bikinis it is. Alien takes out an ad for models so he can meet some ladies. It's been reviewed at Jabootu.
The Stranger Within (1974) -- Made for TV movie. When this came out, it was seen as a kind of a latter day Rosemary's Baby. Barbara Eden's character is having an frighteningly unusual pregnancy. Her baby is an alien. Last scene shows her and several other women, all in a trance, carrying their babies to a flying saucer. (Yes, that was as silly an image as it sounds.) See also, Xtro (1983), Breeders (1986), Breeders (1998), and Progeny (1999).
Martians come to Earth on a mission to bring back five women. The
Martians are generally nice guys led by professional nice guy Tommy
Kirk. Some inventive storytelling, but the story itself feels
unoriginal. Unforgivable flaws in continuity and timing.
Surprisingly poor acting among the supporting cast. Convincing
science; unconvincing science fiction. Cheap. Recommended
for fans of cult icons of the 1960's and Larry Buchanan compleatists.
Need Another Opinion of This Movie?
Try B-Masters Professor Emeritus Rob's review
in Oh The Humanity!
How About a Few Opinions About Larry Buchanan?
Visit our dreaded B-Masters roundtable called "paLeimitations: The Indeterminate World of Larry Buchanan"
Originally published on 8 July 2003.