Movie Recommendation- Amazon Women on the Moon
The sketch-comedy film is a form that hardly exists any more, and never really did. In general, the anthology format has several built-in disadvantages. Framing stories notwithstanding, the lack of narrative throughline can be alienating, viewers forced every 10-15 minutes to reset and reacclimatize themselves to a new set of characters in a completely different situation. As an audience member, such demands can be stressful and upsetting. Add to that the inevitable peaks-and-valleys inherent in sketch and your chances for a consistent and rewarding viewing experience become pretty dicey—especially in the YouTube era. After all, why sit through an entire episode of SNL or Conan when you can cherry-pick the best moments online the next day?
Historically, anthology movies have worked most successfully in the horror genre, with films like Creepshow or Tales From the Crypt aping the structure of old EC Comics. The other option is to simply bundle together a number of stand-alone dramatic shorts catering to a specific audience or special-interest group, and go tour the film festival circuit. The anthology format can work just as well for short-form comedy, even though the preponderance of options on TV and online for bite-sized nuggets of funny makes the genre more or less irrelevant.
However, some sketch anthologies do occasionally find an audience. Robert Townsend’s Hollywood Shuffle is one of the funniest films of its era, as well as an important landmark in the history of both independent and African-American film. Another was 1977’s Kentucky Fried Movie, featuring the talents of both John Landis and the Zucker-Abrams-Zucker directing team. Landis and the ZAZ squad would go on to dominate film comedy for the next decade, bringing to screen such classics as The Blues Brothers, Airplane, Trading Places, The Naked Gun and basically anything else you’ve ever half- paid attention to on an early Sunday afternoon while it played on TNT.
Kentucky Fried Movie generally gets the most love, but for my money the greatest sketch film is its 1987 semi-sequel, Amazon Women on the Moon. Like Fried, Women is anarchic, deeply irreverent skewering of the (then-) modern media environment, loaded with parodies and pastiches of terrible soap operas, cheesy local TV commercials, bad movies, self-serious news programs, and low-rent pornography.
Like all anthology movies, it suffers from a lack of consistency, which is why I’ve decided to pick the film apart and offer an appraisal of its merits and failings on a strict sketch-by-sketch basis. Consider this your Amazon Women on the Moon user’s guide. Here we go…
Mondo Condo (d. John Landis): Arsenio Hall’s apartment tries to kill him. Sort of boring. Not the strongest way to start the film.
Penthouse Video (d. Carl Gottlieb): parody of the ‘80s-era Penthouse Pet videos. More tonal comedy than outright jokes, but who cares because OMG TITTIES!!!
Murray in Videoland (d. Robert K. Weiss): old man gets trapped inside his TV. Mediocre premise glacially paced. Landis: good at decapitating Asian children, bad at editing.
Hospital (d. Landis): New parents have a shitty doctor. Once again kind of slow, but Griffin Dunne is very funny as the screwball doctor.
Hairlooming (d. Joe Dante): commercial parody of the “hair looming” process for bald men. Quick and funny, starring Joey Pants. Here is where the film begins to pick up speed.
Amazon Women on the Moon (d. Weiss): the film’s titular sketch is a note-perfect parody of Z-grade 50s-and-60s sci-fi films, as exhibited by local TV networks. Fun fact: features future Phil Spector murderee Lana Clarkson as one of the slutty moon women.
Blacks Without Soul (d. Landis): B.B. King raises awareness of a debilitating condition affecting a certain subset of African Americans. Dave Chappelle owes his entire career to this sketch. Super hilarious.
Two IDs (d. Peter Horton): a woman runs an unusual background check on her date. OK short film that doesn’t really fit the tone or rhythm of the rest of the movie. Features Toto muse Rosanna Arquette and Steve Guttenberg.
Bullshit or Not (d. Dante): parody of Unsolved Mysteries. Dante totally nails the milieu. Features a hilariously committed Henry Silva as the Robert Stack-ish host. Excellent.
Critics’ Corner (d. Dante): a Siskel-and-Ebert type duo critique an average man’s life. Can see the jokes coming from a mile away. Makes me nostalgic for the old school At the Movies.
Silly Pâté (d. Weiss): commercial for silly-putty/pâté hybrid. Stupid as fuck, but makes laugh like a big dumb bastard.
Roast Your Loved One (d. Dante): Friars’ Club roast breaks out at a funeral. Goes on for way too long, but great treat for fans of old-timey showbiz. Featuring Rip Taylor, Henny Youngman, Charlie Callas, and Steve Allen, among others. Also: a young Bryan Cranston.
Video Pirates (d. Weiss): literal video pirates sail the high seas, scoff at the FBI copyright warnings before VHS tapes. Like “Silly Pâté,” both deeply dumb and deeply hilarious.
Son of the Invisible Man (d. Gottleib): parody of the Universal horror classic, except that this time, the invisible man is visible. Utterly perfect. The film’s high point. Gottleib nails every detail. Amazing.
French Ventriloquist’s Dummy (d. Dante): ???. I have no memory of this one at all. Could be that Wikipedia (which I’m using to pull this info) is incorrect. I suspect that this sketch doesn’t actually exist.
Art Sale (d. Gottleib): commercial for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s going-out-of-business sale. Funny in sort of a punk rock kind of way. Very brief.
First Lady of the Evening (d. Weiss): erotic thriller book trailer parody. Neither here nor there. I’d put it somewhere in the middle, as far as the film’s sketches go. Again, very short.
Titan Man (d. Weiss): a young man is too embarrassed to buy condoms. Stale premise, okay execution. A slow point late in the film.
Video Date (d. Landis): a first-person POV porno film goes awry. Not super funny, but who the shit cares because OMG TITTIES!!!
Reckless Youth (d. Dante): parody of Reefer Madness style educational film strips. Another high point. Perfect facsimile of tone-deaf, technically incompetent mid-century fearmongering. Carrie Fisher and Paul Bartel knock it out of the fucking park.
So there’s your Consumer Reports rundown of Amazon Women on the Moon. Do yourself a favor and check out the DVD. Or at least do a search for “Don ‘No Soul’ Simmons” on YouTube. You won’t regret it.