Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space has been often labelled “The Worst Movie Ever Made” but that wasn’t until after it had wrestled that title away from 1956’s Fire Maidens of Outer Space a British entry into the realm of science fiction cinema that consisted mostly of scantily clad women, cardboard sets and an entire cast with a complete lack of acting talent.
When a film is produced, directed and written by just one man you either get a great film of singular vision or in the case of Fire Maidens of Outer Space a film that fails on just about every level, which just about sums up what producer/director/screenwriter Cy Roth achieved with this particular entry in the genre of space adventure. The film’s plot, if what enfolds can be considered to be a plot, deals with astronomer Dr. Higgins (Sydney Tafler) discovering that there is a thirteenth moon orbiting the planet Jupiter and though it is has remained hidden behind a shroud of fog he’s sure it has an Earth-like atmosphere. Who needs science when you have a gut feeling? This leads to the obligatory space mission consisting of a bunch of male asshats who between chain-smoking cigarettes and backslapping each other they will fill much of the film’s tedious screen time with sexist remarks, which is something they get ample opportunity to do when they discover that the planet is populated mostly by half-clad beautiful women. Unfortunately, there is danger afoot and I don’t just mean the threat of interpretive dance.
Question: What is it with filmmakers and their subjecting of viewers to interminable bizarre scenes of women performing interpretive dance? We get the same thing in Cat-Women of the Moon and aside from giving viewers scantily clad women awkwardly cavorting to music I don’t see much point in it but I guess the scantily clad women part this kind of answers that question, so never mind.
Upon landing on the thirteenth moon the crew quickly begins to explore their surroundings, which looks a lot like your average English countryside, but soon a terrifying scream echoes through the air and our stalwart heroes race to investigate. They find a beautiful girl being threatened by some kind of monster, which one of the crew will compare to a caveman though it looks nothing like one but more as if someone in a black unitard was wearing an Easter Island statue as a mask. They chase off the creature and then Captain Larson (Paul Carpenter) and scientist Luther Blair (Anthony Dexter) are escorted through a secret passage by the woman they rescued, who we later learn is Princess Hestia (Susan Shaw) of New Atlantis, where inside this walled castle Larson and Blair are introduced to a feeble old man named Prasus (Owen Berry) who explains to them that he and his daughters, a large collection of beautiful women in Grecian mini-skirts, are all that is left of the lost continent of Atlantis. Prasus informs them that they must remain until the creature that they encountered, which according to him is indestructible, is destroyed but on the plus side because Luthor saved Hestia her life now belongs to him “It is the law of Atlantis.”
What follows is one of the most tedious space adventure films I’ve ever come across as not only is the acting quite terrible, with actors giving line ridings as if they’d been handed the script mere seconds before the director called “Action” but practically every scene is horribly paced and drawn out for the simple reason of reaching its theatrical running time of 80-minutes. Making things worse is that the fact that there isn’t a likable character in the bunch, the men are all two-dimensional jerks and the women are nothing but a collection of shapely legs garbed in Atlantean baby-doll nighties, and what passes for dialogue wouldn’t pass muster at a grade school production A Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Other than learning that Prasus and company fled the Earth when Atlantis began to sink – for some reason they must have assumed the whole world was going to sink along with it – we don’t find out much about this society; we never find out what’s the deal with that creature, which Prasus so wants to be destroyed, or why Hestia’s sisters inexplicably decide she must be sacrificed to the Sun God, and then we have Prasus repeatedly trying to drug Luther and Larson which left me wondering “How exactly is them being unconscious make them better vanquishers of the creature?”
• Doctor Higgins states “We’ve known all along that Jupiter has twelve moons” but with his new telescope he has discovered a thirteenth moon, which is weird considering Jupiter actually has fifty-three moons. Did Higgins get his doctorate off the back of a cereal box?
• This mysterious “thirteenth moon” is hidden behind a fog bank as if it were Skull Island from King Kong, unfortunately, there are no dinosaurs or giant apes in this movie.
• The crew has to avoid a meteor shower which at this point in cinema has clearly become a required scene in space travel movies.
• One of the other rare “special effects” moments in this movie is just stock footage of a V-2 missile super-imposed over a starfield and to say it is less than convincing would be a criminal understatement.
• I’d like to believe that Stanley Kubrick ripped off this film’s extensive use of classical music when he made his space film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
• Once the ship safely lands on the moon the crewmembers all immediately light up cigarettes as if they’d just had sex.
As ridiculous and moronic as the plot of Fire Maidens of Outer Space was it’s not hard to imagine an episode of the classic Star Trek dealing with the same subject matter, with Captain Kirk and an away team beaming down to a planet full of beautiful women who they learn are descendants of Atlantis, in fact, I’m actually quite shocked Gene Rodenberry never gave us a Space Atlanteans. The terrible acting on display here prevents any semblance of screen chemistry between the romantic leads and when Hestia becomes Queen of Atlantis, after the creature wanders in and kills Prasus, we don’t really care when she states to her sisters that “I’ll go with my beloved to earth but I shall return!” all I can say is I hadn’t heard anything so inspiring since General MacArthur vowed the same.
Many people consider Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space to be one of the “worst movies ever made” but I bet you dollars for donuts it had a fraction of the budget this piece of crap had and you can accuse Ed Wood’s film of many things but being boring isn’t one of them while Cy Roth’s Fire Maidens of Outer Space is a meandering monotonous mess that provides only a few unintentional laughs. I have a soft spot for the goofy and often sexist charms of the 50s space adventure films but this particular outing is devoid of any such offerings.
Fire Maidens of Outer Space (1956)
Movie Rank - 3/10
Cy Roth’s Fire Maidens of Outer Space was clearly something he slapped together to ride the wave of the popularity that science fiction films were creating at the time but all he managed to create was a cure for insomnia.