John Landis’ Amazon Women On The Moon

A forgotten John Landis movie that needs a whole lot more love. Jamie redresses the balance.

In my view, the greatest film director in geekdom has to be the legendary John Landis.

Over the years, he has given us such memorable movies as the Blues Brothers, National Lampoon’s Animal House, An American Werewolf in London and the utterly bonkers Amazon Women On The Moon.

First released back in 1986, Amazon Women On The Moon is perfect post-pub fare, which is ironic considering that it recreates that feeling of flicking through the television channels late at night after too many beers and a chicken korma (albeit without the walls spinning around or the desire to start texting your ex-girlfriend).

It’s a stunning homage to some of the greatest B-movies of all time, like the classic Queen Of Outer Space or Cat Women On the Moon. Then there’s a series of increasingly bizarre sketches and fake TV ads, which were directed by folks like Landis and Joe ‘Gremlins’ Dante, shoehorned in to pad out the 90 minute running time.

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It is the sort of movie you watched once, when you were a student at 3am, and remember as a truly great film, but you would never dare watch again in case it doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

But it does. Amazon Women On The Moon is still worth watching, 20 years after it was first made, in the cold light of day on DVD. In many ways, it is the closest the Americans have ever come to recreating the surreal humour of Monty Python.

It feels more like an extended sketch show than a bona fide film and because the sketches come and go so quickly, you soon forget the duff ones, like the bit with Arsenio Hall at the beginning, or the video pirates (well, it was the 1980s – anyone want to bet they will appear in Ashes To Ashes?). Those will have you reaching for the remote.

The black and white “Reckless Youth” parody starring Carrie Fisher is still hilarious. The woman who was Princess Leia keeps a straight face as a fresh-faced ingénue being tempted by the evils of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Carrie Fisher really was made for such a sketch and it remains a mystery to this day how she never became a huge stand-up comic.

A recurring joke about Don Simmons, a singer who has no soul, gets played throughout the movie, and just gets funnier and funnier. The funeral where stand-up comics slag off the deceased is inspired.

The crazy doctor handing new parents a Mr Potato Head because he forgot the baby could just as easily have been from The Fast Show or The Two Ronnies. That’s a complement, by the way.

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And being a cult movie there is a certain amount of satisfaction to be had by spotting all the cameos. See if you can spot Police Academy’s Steve Guttenberg, Voyager’s Robert Picardo, Michelle Pfeiffer, BB King, Ed Begley Jnr. and cult film director Russ Meyer.

The actual Amazon Women On The Moon bit is largely consequential in terms of plot. Three plucky heroes fly to the moon, blah blah blah. It is all in the attention to detail with scratches on the film, bad editing, dreadful special effects and acting so wooden, it’s in danger of catching Dutch Elm disease. No B-movie cliché is left unplundered.

Scenes are missing and on one occasion the film burns up. And you thought Tarantino and Rodriquez were being original with their Grindhouse films last year! John Landis was doing this back in 1986, and he did Kentucky Fried Movie too!

There are a few deleted scenes on the DVD and to be brutally honest, you can see why they were left on the cutting room floor. The gag reel, on the other hand, which includes more stand-up ad-libs from the funeral parlour, is essential viewing. Everyone clearly had a blast making this film.

Amazon Women On The Moon definitely isn’t a date movie. It’s not even the funniest movie of all time, but it is one of the most original. The next time someone says to you “Ah, but Americans don’t do irony” then show then it’s the exact film to pull off the shelf.

John Landis, we salute you…

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