Nude On The Moon  (1961)

Lord, we thank Thee for the blessings and bounty You have bestowed upon us, and for the gifts You have granted us through the work of Your servant, Doris Wishman.  May her spirit overflow with Thy grace, for the great and generous service she has done in Your name.  Amen.

Oh man, this is the stuff that makes a bad movie hobby so rewarding.  I’d have to call this one of my favorite bad movies of all time.  The finest silly astronaut movie ever made.

Doris Wishman, as some of you know, was a leading maker of “nudie cutie” flicks in the sixties.  The idea is, you set up some thin premise and then you show, like, naked ladies playing volleyball.  They would be given a title something like “the secret world of nudist camps”, so all you really needed for a plot was to have somebody go “There’s a camp of (gasp) nudists, let’s find out what’s really going on in there.”  Nude On The Moon follows that form, but it’s different.  What gives the film its magic is that the “thin premise” part got out of hand.........

They actually try to do a serious story about building a moon rocket!  With a special effects budget of $0.00, and no idea what they’re talking about except from one or two popular-science magazine articles.  (At that time the magazines and sunday papers were overflowing with education and speculation about the solar system and Outer Space.)  In spite of these limitations, they spend fully a third of the film’s running time getting the rocket off the ground, and they’re only a few minutes short of the midpoint when they encounter the first nudism.

They couldn’t build a rocket for us, but one thing they could do, by gum, was make the actors some space suits.  And damn me if these are not the BEST... SPACE SUITS... EVER!  These have got to be truly the goofiest laugh-out-loudiest space suits ever captured on film.  The exposed skin... that hose hanging from the face... the pointy shoulder pads and matching groin guard...!!  And in their overall fashion sense, I almost wonder if these suits helped inspire the design of the Power Rangers.

And then there’s the older protagonist’s silver-smeared hair...!

This is not a review in the sense of criticism; a film of this greatness deserves only praise, not critique or deconstruction.  So, having praised, all that is left to me is to share some of the highlights:

The opening credits.  They have an original song!  “Moon Doll”.  They sing it along with the credits.  Wait, no they don’t — they sing it before the credits, with no overlap.  And with the screen entirely static.  Gee, do you think the running time of this film might turn out to be kind of padded?

Here come the actual credits, which include:

“A Moon Production Presentation”

“Idea for Film: Jack Caplan”                        (give that man a medal!)

“‘Moon Doll’ Sung by: Ralph Young”

“With deep appreciation we
wish to thank the management of
Coral Castle, Homestead, Florida,
for their cooperation in allowing
us to use their facilities”

“Song ‘Moon Doll’ Words and Music by Judith J. Kushner”

That song credit gets a whole screen to itself.  Paying a real songwriter and a crooner to perform it probably ate 20% of their shooting budget.  (Ralph Young, as part of the duo Sandler & Young, would go on to fairly major success in television, but if you look at his movie credits, they’re mostly for Doris Wishman movies.  He even has an onscreen role in one of them.)  The producing, directing, and screenwriting credits are all different, but all pseudonyms of Doris Wishman.  Behind these credits we see still pictures of the nude moon people... who, one notices, are not in fact nude.  They’re wearing lamé shorts.

A dashingly handsome guy who looks kind of like Billy Zane comes out of an office grinning and holding an envelope.  You just know there’s a fat check in it.  He gets into a badass convertible with tailfins...  Hey, why is he wearing a gray jumpsuit?  And... why was he receiving a fat check at, of all places, an airport?

Billy phones his colleague to tell him there’s good news, and the colleague, addressed as “Professor”, is wearing an identical jumpsuit.  And... what’s up with his hair?  Are those blonde highlights?  No, wait, they’re not yellow, they’re silver... the guy’s got streaks and patches of silver smeared on his head!  That mofo is flocked like a christmas tree!!

Enter stage right: Ugly Secretary.  Oy!  You have a choice: you may wince, or cringe.  The professor decides to hector Ugly Secretary about having a crush on Billy.  She finally admits it, but wails “He doesn’t know I exist.”

The words “rocket scientist” are spoken.

The movie is eleven percent over, and we’ve gotten as far as Billy showing up and telling the Professor what the good news was: a rich uncle died and left all his money to Billy.  (An inheritance hearing — that explains why he was at the airport.)  Professor: “All?  Enough to build a rocket?”  Billy: “Three MILLION dollars!  (After taxes.)”  Plenty enough to go to the moon with.

Professor brings up the question of whether maybe Billy ever wants to settle down, and maybe let somebody else risk his ass in an untested moon rocket.  “Marriage?  Me?  No sir!”

Okay, with the funding in place, it’s time to DO SOME SCIENCE!

“There’s much we don’t know about the moon....  We know that the character of the moon’s surface is relatively sketchy....  The unbroken rock surface may be EXOLIATED by repeated expansion and contraction!”  He even cites some Mt. Wilson astronomers by name, guys who measured the moon’s surface temperature changes.  What the Professor is trying to say (at great length) is, there might be too much loose rock to safely land and take off again.  But Billy has confidence in his ship.



The rocket is just about ready!  “I’m glad you decided not to notify the press.”  “It’s better we leave quietly.”

A leisurely drive through Miami to “the field”, with the top down and swinging jazz on the radio... Professor praises a movie that’s up on a marquee: it’s called Hideout In The Sun (in nuderama).  By Guess Who.

21:02         (yes, that was indeed quite a leisurely drive)
“Well, there she is.”  They admire the rocket.  We don’t see it.

From the inside, the rocket looks remarkably like an old airliner.

They’re sitting at the controls in their gray jumpsuits (they have yet to wear anything else).  They don’t have any space suits or helmets, but they do have headphones on, and every time they say anything to each other, they pick up a hand mike and speak into that, so that it’ll reach the other via the headphones.  Dude, he’s sitting right there next to you!

Finally, we see our film’s moon rocket.  Or rather, we see some other film’s moon rocket...  I am disappointed with myself that I have no recognition of where they cribbed that rocket footage from.

I love how every old astronaut movie has a countdown from ten, but the intervals being counted down are never in seconds.  This one uses units of about 0.6 seconds, which surprises me in that everywhere else, there always about keeping the pace as slow as possible.

They groan under the brutal acceleration... actually, the Professor looks as if he’s being anally pleasured off camera.  Really — I dare you to view the scene and not immediately think the same thing.

22:51         (four whole seconds later)
Brutal acceleration all finished.  “We’ve made it!”  Detaching nose cone... now why are there two nose cones flying away?

Goofiest planet Earth EVER.  It appears to be made of play-doh.  But credit must go to the unknown donor film...  We also see the moon: it’s dark green.

They both fall asleep when it’s time to land!  And, there are whirling meteors!  Nevertheless, the ship lands itself perfectly, on a wasteland of barren dark green rock.

The moment you’ve all been waiting for, when they open the (airliner) hatch for the Big Reveal.  Not of the moon’s surface — the reveal of the BEST SPACE SUITS EVER.

My ass has been officially laughed off.  Call the ass-bulance!  And they haven’t even stepped off the ladder yet.

There are trees and grass and blue sky and a lake.  Wha?  “It must be the moon, I know it is!”  They seem to take it pretty much in stride, though.

Shiny rocks are littering the grass...  “The meter indicates it’s GOLD!”  Billy speculates that space radiation could transform it into something else if they try to haul it back.  “Suppose it turns to worthless dust?”  “THAT COULD HAPPEN.”  They bicker at length about whether to haul back gold to pay for another flight.

A wall, clearly built by intelligent life!  And... “Professor, a ladder!”  “Same construction as on Earth.”  They look over the wall... are we gonna see nudists?  Not quite yet, they tease us a bit...  To get a better look, the astronauts flip up their dark space-helmet visors, leaving their faces entirely open to the air.

There they are, the lunar nudists.  I mean, lunar lamé-shorts-ists.  Some good tans there.  And a Queen, lording it over the rest in toplesssly regal splendor.  And...  Wait, is there something funny on their heads?

Our first closeup of a moon person... male, unfortunately... by gum, he’s wearing a plastic hairband with pipecleaner antennae sticking up from it!

Our heroes are spotted and captured!  Once the men grab them, a blonde moon lady I’ll call, uh, Naomi taps each of them with a plastic wand and they go all wobbly and docile.  (Billy never notices the Professor being wrestled into submission right behind him...)  Naomi’s antenna hairband matches her shorts: electric blue.  She stuffs them down into a hole in the ground, and we see what kind of nudity these moon people have besides just breasts: her shorts have got plumber butt.  Once they’re both down, Naomi operates a big crank for some reason.  We see that though she ain’t pretty, she’s got a fairly perky rack, which is something... particularly since she gets lots of screen time.

Another of our lunar principals: a flouncy redhead we’ll call Gwyneth.  She has no plumber butt shorts, she’s got grandma shorts pulled up over her rather prominent stomach.  Sort of like the men’s trunks, which hitch up pretty much to their belly buttons.  Gwyneth is often seen with two pals: Doris and Wynona.

Our first good look at The Queen.  My, doesn’t she remind you of someone we’ve seen before?  Maybe an ugly secretary.

The queen confers telepathically with her subjects.  Actually, they don’t confer back, they only nod or shake their heads, the boss does all the talking.  They table the discussion until later.  “Gooooo nowwww” (waves her people away).  They don’t move.  “IIII haaaave spooookeeen.”  They still don’t leave.  “Goooo!” (with another waving-away gesture).  Finally they leave.  At the later conference, with disagreement over whether the visitors are friendly or dangerous, the Queen pronounces them friendly and commands that they be let loose. 

The queen, unlike her lesser subjects, is allowed to change to different shorts.  And having fashion sense, she’s changed her antennae to complement them.

The moon people are mostly well tanned, except for the Queen and Gwyneth, but Naomi appears to have some kind of uneven piebald albinism that afflicts the area around her mid chest.  And her plumber butt area, for some reason, looks reddish and inflamed.  What strange medical malady is she victim to?  Anyway, the astronauts come out and start observing everyday lunar life, including their one and only otherwordly special effect: some dry ice fog.  “Look at that vapor.  I must get a record of that.”

Hey, my parents had one of those cameras: a Yashica twin-lens reflex... it’s a tall box that you hang down at waist level.  Anyone using one will, of necessity, look like a dork.  Also, it really is a pretty lame piece of photographic equipment.  But there’s Billy, snapping away with it at the strangest sights ever seen by human explorers.  The explorers exchange dialog such as “Notice anything strange?”

Billy and the Queen take a liking to each other.  He convinces himself that she’s understanding his English.

Professor is taking notes, and three ladies come up and start fondling him and exploring his clothes.  This is intercut with closeups in which he’s taking notes with no ladies present.  One lady feels his mustache with a fingertip...  yet they are still worrying about how much longer their bottled air will last!

Lunar athletics apparently don’t include anything as strenuous as volleyball.  They stand in a close circle and toss a ball around, clockwise... then tire of that and start handing the ball around the circle.  But Gwyneth, Doris, and Wynona have their own version of the game: stand within two feet of each other and play catch with near-vertical tosses.  Those three must be the hardcore Xtreme Sports crowd in this populace.

A man sharpening a hatchet.  Wha?  He’s got a rusty chain draped over his shoulder...

Doris makes fun of Professor’s moustache.  How cruel!  She and Wynona laugh soundlessly, like Harpo Marx.  Because they’re telepathic, see.  Or maybe because it’s cheaper to film with no sound equipment.  (Wynona, by the way, is about the only woman in the movie I consider cute.)

Exactly one moon woman has children: two small boys.  The older one has plumber-butt shorts, the younger one is the only lunaranite who is nude as advertised.

It’s here that I began to notice that most of the closeups of the astronauts, where they exchange scientourist dialog such as “Get a shot of that... that should be picture number eleven”, are shot from about knee height, so nothing else is in the shot with them except blue sky.  I guess that minimized their shooting days at Coral Castle.  How unfortunate that the costume designer didn’t anticipate this, and gave them space helmets with no undersides.

Gwyneth is on the receiving end of some girlish high spirits from Doris and Wynona.  She’s trying to snooze, and they tickle her with leaves and sprinkle her with water droplets.  Oooh, I’m so turned on now.

A guy rolling some kind of heavy bottomless wheelbarrow frame.  Whaa?

“Well, we’ve gotten some highly useful data.”

Billy and the Queen come face to face... and there’s so much electricity in the air that it causes sounds: namely, the song “Moon Doll”.  As usual, the closeups of Billy bear no resemblance to the long shots...  (And somebody tell the cinematographer that when photographing boobies in sunshine, you need to use a fill light.)

Naomi shows off her ballet moves.  Which ain’t much.  At least it wasn’t Gwyneth.

One lunar lady’s favorite toy is a squirting pipe...

She’s bathing in a pool full of dry ice!  Uh, no, she’s bathing safely behind it.  Drily.

Another encounter between Billy and the Queen once again causes “Moon Doll” emission.  He urges Professor to stop bugging him with scientific duties.  He has eyes only for Her Majesty.

Sigh, here come Gwyneth’s dance moves.  Half middle-eastern, half burlesque... as the second most unattractive cast member after the Queen, I guess the duty of doing the burlesquery naturally falls to her.

Billy feeds the queen a candy bar.  She spits it out and eats the wrapper!

Billy tells Professor “I’m not going back with you!”  He’s completely besmoten with the candy wrapper eater.  “If you stay here you’re doomed!”  “I’m in love.”

Telepathically: “III toooo feeel somethiiing straaaange and wooonderfuuul.  Is thiiis the loooooooove yoouu speeeak abooouut?”  But then she clouts him with the plastic wand, which enables Professor to walk him passively back to the rocket.  The lunaranites all wave as it takes off from the barren green rockscape.

Back on the rocket, in their jumpsuits, talking to each other with microphones and headphones despite being two feet apart: “Why’d you do it?  Why’d you make me go back?  Waaaaaah!”  Then they realize — oh crap!  the camera... the samples... we forgot them — we have no proof!!  They approach the play-doh Earth (which, by the way, is well lit on both sides)...

“The moon?  We really don’t know WHERE we went!”

Back at the lab, Billy meets Ugly Secretary... and notices something!  The camera fades from U.S. to the Queen standing in the same place, and back... they’re the same!  (The Queen had U.S.’s garish lipstick on — that may have helped him figure it out.)

“I can’t believe it!  You’re here on Earth!”  (That’s right, showing us how he realized the similarity of the Secretary and the Queen took a full sixty seconds.)

...Aaaand the song plays one last time over the closing credits.  I mean, before the closing credits.  The End.


In conclusion: THANK YOU JESUS!