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DVD SAVANT

Savant Back-to-School Review:
NUDE ON THE MOON


Nude on the Moon
Image Entertainment
1962 / Color / 1:33 flat full frame
Starring Lester Brown, William Mayer, Marietta, Doc Severinsen
Cinematography Raymond Phelan
Film Editor Ivan McDowell
Original Music Daniel Hart, Doc Severinsen, Ralph Young (song: "I'm Mooning Over You")
Writing credits Doris Wishman (as Anthony Brooks)
Produced by Martin Caplan, Doris Wishman (as Anthony Brooks)
Directed by Doris Wishman (as Anthony Brooks)

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Savant has tackled some lofty cinematic assignments, but Nude on the Moon is a new summit of film journalism. Actually, like any other schmoe faced with a 40-year-old soft-core feature directed by a cult female director, Savant was curious. Nude on the Moon is a curiosity all right, a time capsule of naughty entertaiment that will please some viewers and have others hoping their families don't catch them watching it. Since this is the summer of rocket-themed Savant reviews your fearless reviewer gave it a looksee (and kept his clothes on, too.)

Synopsis:

Jeff Huntley, a brilliant nuclear physicist (Lester Brown) receives a three million $ inheritance that allows him to complete his long-delayed moon rocket. His older friend and partner The Professor (William Mayer) urges him not to go. His secretary Kathy (Marietta) is forlorn because Jeff is too preoccupied with science to notice her.

They launch and soon land on the moon where, goshalmighty, there's plants and trees and walls just like back on Earth. This, reasons The Professor, must be one of the more unknown parts of the moon. Dressed in colored tights, plastic toy space helmets and parts of medieval costumes, the two astronauts find a landscaped terrain strewn with golden rocks. Peeking over a wall they also find a group of Alien nudists! Well, topless nudists anyway, with little gold pants and cute antennae on their heads. The Aliens do not talk. Actually their leader talks in an echoey voiceover. The Earthmen are subdued by a topless blonde with a magic wand, but their Moon Goddess leader tells her comrades they should be allowed to explore in peace.

The pair wander around collecting pictures and plant samples but mostly they observe the nudists. They watch them pose, take baths in steaming cisterns, play catch and pose some more. Jeff gets chummy with the Moon Goddess, who touches him on the shoulder (this is as steamy as things get). He offers her a candy bar. She tosses it aside and eats the wrapper. This is the most dramatic incident on the moon. One of the moon girls does a brief dance. A redhead who wears an extra white cloth 'something' around her belly (is she shy? is she hiding stretch marks?) does a curious 'pose 'n squirm' impromptu while seated on the lawn. Jeff doesn't want to leave his new love the Moon Goddess, but both she and The Professor have cooler heads and Jeff ends up awakening on the space ship on the way home. The authorities don't believe they flew anywhere because they left their samples and camera behind on the moon. But Jeff's depression doesn't last long: he suddenly realizes his clothed secretary Kathy is remarkably similar to the unclothed Moon Goddess, and the show ends with a chaste hug.

Nude on the Moon was made at a time when nudity of any kind couldn't be found in any but the sleaziest venues in American culture. There was Playboy and a rack of crummy stag magazines but apparently the average lonely guy either became a secret porn dog or frequented the few remaining burlesque houses to watch strippers. Out of this repressed situation was maintained a small but constant sub-industry of soft-core nudie moviemakers, of which Doris Wishman was a prolific member. At one point during a pointless driving scene, the astronauts see a theater marquee for a nudist film and make approving remarks. This self-promotional moment would seem to be the only one in the film with the director's stamp on it. Nude on the Moon is a primitive nudist film, but instead of showing us sexless volleyball for an hour while a narrator drones on about hygiene and the natural beauty of nudity, here there is a rudimentary plot.

But don't confuse it with a movie. There is little or no direction to speak of and the acting is strictly of the 'stand still and say the words' kind. Voices are post-dubbed, sometimes fitting the lips of the actors. The spaceship is seen in five or six mismatched cutaways. In one angle of a fuzzy Pla-doh Earth the continents are backwards. Our space jockeys climb a painter's scaffold to enter their unseen rocket. An airplane door and an ordinary airplane cockpit are the only sets. They talk to each other over radio headsets even though they are sitting side-by-side. The pace is very slow and the proceedings padded: the film begins with a gloppy love ballad sung over a static painting of the moon. Savant guesses that almost every useable foot of film Wishman exposed is here in the final cut.

So, surprise, surprise, the topless-only nudity is the only thing Nude on the Moon has going for it. It's the whole show, folks. The healthy-looking 'actors' are basically attractive but nothing special to look at, especially given the low standard of photography which is in 35mm but has the static, Kodachrome look of an old travelogue. The camera is locked down and the sunlit, no-fill lighting grossly uneven. The main actress could be described as having a nice build but her thighs are chubby and her flawed complexion is undisguised by the poor makeup. Am I making this sound attractive? Several of the women are pretty enough to be models and a couple would seem to be professional, but professional what? Models? strippers? Adventurous housewives? The mind boggles.

The men wear little gold and silver shorts and make amused faces but don't seem to want to have much to do with the women. There's nothing resembling sexual activity, not even a hint of any gay tension. These people are basically moving statuary or mannequins. Was this required to get the films past local censors? The result might be entertaining and it's historically relevant, but since the whole affair resembles a family home movie on LSD one gets the weird feeling that the next poised nudist walking carefully onscreen (whatever you do, don't wiggle!) will turn out to be a great aunt, or something. Grandma! What are you doing in this old movie? Since Nude on the Moon was filmed in Florida, the redheaded Moon babe with the nice smile somehow reminds Savant of the Project Mercury good-time bargirls in The Right Stuff. Vague associations are going to have to do because Savant has no intention of researching the zeitgeist of the Doris Wishman years. She's apparently made a lot of these sleaze-twilight pictures. The next one will have to catch me.

If the Internet Movie Database is to be believed, Johnny Carson's musical sideman Doc Severinsen contributed music to Nude on the Moon and appears as an actor! Hold the presses. Was Doc a nudist? America probably wouldn't have cared then, and won't care now.


Image's disc flatters this movie and helps make it even more curious. The film element is undoubtedly the original and is practically pristine, even if a splice rides from time to time. The awful theme song and the innocuous muzak heard over the rest of the film are clear, as is the dialog. I had heard that Wishman's movies were crude and slipshod: within the limits of what's achieved here Savant would say that Nude on the Moon is crude but not without some polish.

A short subject is provided showing a professional ecdysiast stripping on a stagebound moonscape. She's so fresh-faced, she looks like she belongs on Dobie Gillis. There's no explanation or notes offered for what all this means or the original kind of exhibition either film would have been given in 1962. There's also a still montage of advertising material and pressbook pages for many Doris Wishman films. A trailer rounds out the package, which sports a surprisingly attractive original artwork cover. I'm sure Doris would smile and say she was just making a buck with this carnival career. I know there are those who would proclaim her an auteur, and more power to 'em. Heck, it's as noble as Ed Wood's calling, and Doris at least put bread on the table.


Nude on the Moon was filmed and distributed practically underground when it was new. Now it comes to DVD as a cultural curiosity under the Something Weird banner, which is appropriate. The film's attraction is obvious and basic. Technically it's Science Fiction, and may be the only Earthmen-meet-Aliens movie before Spielberg where the close encounter is entirely peaceful. But Nude on the Moon is unlikely to share a double bill with 2001 anytime soon.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Nude on the Moon rates:
Movie: This is a movie?
Video: Good
Sound: Very good.
Supplements: Trailer, still montage, short subject Moon Strip
Packaging: Snapper case
Reviewed: August 9, 2000




DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

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