Nude on the Moon (1961) (part 1 of 3)
Nude on the Moon is an excellent title for this flick—it describes the movie to a “T”. Having said that, it’s surprising that a movie about a race of nekkid (well, at least topless) people living on the moon can be soooooo boring.
Nude on the Moon is an example of the “nudie-cutie” genre. These were generally pretty tame (if laughably stupid) movies that included lots and lots of female upper-torso nudity. The films usually starred real-life nudists: folks that were more than willing to be nude on film (or Nude on the Moon in this case), but whose acting was somewhat—ahem—lacking.
Nude on the Moon was produced, co-written, and co-directed by Doris Wishman, who was responsible for quite a few movies in a similar vein. Much like Ed Wood, Doris’ films seemed to slide steadily from relatively harmless to more questionable fare: her last credited work on the IMDb is Dildo Heaven, for cripe’s sake! The other Doris Wishman movie I’ve seen is Double Agent 73, starring the horrifically endowed Chesty Morgan. Guess what the 73 refers to? I don’t recommend watching Double Agent 73, especially if you value your retinas. Ick!
Now that I’m thinking of Double Agent 73, I’m regretting using the word “vein” in the last paragraph. Ick ick ick ick…
The movie starts with almost two minutes of nothing but a less-than-convincing “earthrise” view of Earth from the moon, accompanied by lounge lizard music. The song is called “Moon Doll”, and let’s just say Sinatra had nothing to worry about from the singer, one Ralph Young. In a normal movie, two minutes of nothing but music—not even credits!—might be a way to allow folks to get settled in with their popcorn and Cokes. In Nude on the Moon, however, I think the idea was probably to allow the “gentlemen” in the audience to adjust their raincoats.
Once Ralph has finished inflicting “Moon Doll” on us, the main title credits zoom in, one word at a time, as shooting stars. Hey, somebody on the PowerPoint development team must have seen this movie! Then, we get the rest of the credits, shown in front of scenes from the movie. Accompanied by “Moon Doll”, again, although this time thankfully without Ralph’s vocals. Sort of reminds one of being in an elevator at J.C. Penney’s. Except for the nekkid people, of course.
After the credit sequence, we cut to an airport in Miami—or a strip mall, it’s hard to tell for sure—while “busy industry” music plays. “Come to Miami! City of opportunity!” Dr. Jeff Huntley comes out of one of the buildings, visibly happy over a letter he just received. Dr. Jeff hams it up here, trying to convey “joy” with his body, almost like he’s starring in a silent movie; more on that little quirk later. He climbs into a huge car, a veritable acre of classic, purple Detroit automobile, and drives off.
Dr. Jeff pulls up to a phone booth, and calls his lab to talk to the Professor. Here, we notice several things. First, both Dr. Jeff and the Prof are wearing matching blue jumpsuits, with ridiculous crescents on the breast pockets. Someone involved in the film didn’t get the memo, because it is clearly white lab coats that indicate scientists at work, and not powder blue jumpsuits.
Second, the Prof has plastic hair. I think the producers were trying to make him look older, so they had to gray his hair. They apparently put aluminum powder in his Brylcreem to accomplish this effect. To be frank, I had GI Joe dolls with more realistic hair than this guy.
Finally, the dubbing while Dr. Jeff talks on the phone is awful. The silent-era mugging that he was doing in the last scene is starting to make sense: the producers of Nude on the Moon could only afford sound on the one indoor set of the movie, the lab. Everywhere else, footage was shot without sound and then dubbed later. In later films, Wishman would be even more bold about this sort of thing: the camera often focused on feet while the actors were reciting lines, so that the dubbing didn’t even have to match moving lips.
Dr. Jeff tells the Prof that he has wonderful news. He won’t tell the Prof what the news is, but says he’ll be back to the lab in five minutes to spill the beans. What was the point of calling then, exactly? Apparently, rude cell phone behavior actually predates the invention of the cell phone.
Cut to the lab. (Hey, Doris? Why not show us every last minute of Dr. Jeff driving to the lab? We see every other car trip in full detail. I’m just saying.) Cathy comes into the lab and strikes up a conversation with the Prof. We notice that Cathy has a huge, tick-sized mole on her cheek. This will be important later. (Yeah, it’s not there just to enhance Cathy’s incredible beauty, can you believe it?)
Cathy makes excuses about why she should stay late, so she’ll be around when Dr. Jeff shows up. Cathy clearly has the hots for Dr. Jeff, and the Prof knows it. They banter lamely for a bit, but finally the Prof drops the pretense and tells Cathy that Dr. Jeff is too into his work to notice Cathy. And also, he’s involved with another woman named Mary Foster, whom we will never meet. As we’ll learn through the course of the movie, “Mary Foster” is most likely code for “Male Friend.”
Dr. Jeff arrives, eager to tell the Prof about “the greatest thing that ever happened.” Dr. Jeff’s 93-year old uncle Ted kacked, and left him a sizable fortune. The immense sum of—wait for it—three million dollars will allow Dr. Jeff and the Prof to proceed with their moon shot without waiting for government support. “It’s not that I’ve been waiting for him to die,” says Dr. Jeff, “but he had to, sooner or later.” Hey, no worries. Everyone grieves differently, dude. But then again, Dr. Jeff almost looks like he wants to burst into song here.
The Prof half-heartedly tries to convince Dr. Jeff to keep the money and wait for government funding, but Dr. Jeff will have none of it. The Prof also drops a not-so-subtle hint to Dr. Jeff about settling down to get married. Dr. Jeff’s reply? “Marriage? Me? No, sir!” Which of course translates roughly as “Hey! I’m gay! All right? Leave me alone!”
The Prof switches tactics, claiming to be too old for a trip to the moon. Wash your hair, man! You’ll be fine! Then, the Prof worries about the danger, but Dr. Jeff sets him straight with this dialogue that shows a keen insight into the scientific method.
The Prof: But they were on an experimental level!
It’s hard to argue with airtight logic like that. Finally, Dr. Jeff deflects all of the Prof’s reservations, and convinces him that they can be ready to go to the moon in six months. Cathy enters with Dr. Jeff’s messages. He grabs her by the shoulders, stares deeply into her big, brown eyes… and… asks her to call “Mary Foster” (cough) and tell her that they’re going to celebrate. Dick.
Cathy sulks off, and Dr. Jeff turns to the Prof to ask if he said something wrong. The Prof shakes his head with an expression on his face that says, well… “Dick.”
Cathy returns to the outer office, and pulls out her very own photo of Dr. Jeff. Yes, that’s right, the woman keeps a glossy headshot in her desk to pine to. For some reason, the soundtrack now switches to smutty stripper music.
The eagle-eyed will note that the background behind Dr. Jeff’s picture looks nothing like the desk Cathy is seated at. Actually, eagle eyes aren’t required; any old eyes will suffice. Cathy resigns herself to future spinsterhood, and puts Dr. Jeff’s picture back in the desk drawer. We fade out, smutty music still playing.
Fade back in to merrily-bubbling flasks of colored liquids. Science! One flask of blue, foamy stuff is helpfully labeled “fuel”. The Prof examines the chemistry set, while Dr. Jeff twiddles with the other staple of movie science, an oscilloscope. Might have helped to turn it on, though.
The Prof and Dr. Jeff have a stiff conversation—still wearing their smart powder blue jumpsuits, by the way—about how everything is on schedule. Apparently the rocket is almost done. Most filmmakers would show us the rocket at this point, but not Doris Wishman. No, her philosophy is that our imagination is way cooler than any rocket she could show us. Unfortunately, she’s right.
The Prof takes this opportunity to bring up further reservations about the upcoming trip, only a week away at this point. He’s worried about being able to take off from the moon. He cites some World Book factoids about the temperature variances on the lunar surface; apparently, these may have caused the surface of the moon to be unstable, which would prevent their ship from taking off. Interesting point, Professor. Perhaps it’s something you should have brought up sooner than one week before the launch.
Dr. Jeff slaps the Prof’s objections down once again, and asks him what the real problem is. The Prof’s problem boils down to “you’re too young to die, Jeff.”
The Prof again raises the idea of Dr. Jeff settling down with a wife and a family. Dr. Jeff hands a PFLAG brochure to the Prof and yells, “Look, don’t you get it?”
Okay, that doesn’t really happen, but what he does say expresses a certain hard-to-miss subtext. Dr. Jeff’s actual response:
The two eggheads mend their fences, and we cut to more science! More glassware, more switched-off oscilloscopes, etc. And then the Prof feeds a caged monkey. ‘Cause that’s the kind of things rocket scientists do, I guess.