Tee-Hee, I'm Naked!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Nude on the Moon

(1961, 70 min.)

Starring Marietta, William Mayer, Lester Brown, Pat Reilly, Ira Magee, Lacey Kelly, Shelby Livingston, Robert W. Kyorimee, Joyce M. Geary, Charles Allen, Evelyn Burke, Joyce Brooks, Hugh Brooks, Mary Lassey, Captain R. C. Lassey, Robert B. Lassey.

Written by Doris Wishman and Raymond Phelan (collectively as O. O. Miller)

Directed by Doris Wishman (collectively as Anthony Brooks)

“I’ve never quibbled
If it was ribald
I would devour
Where others merely nibbled”
-from ‘Smut’ by Tom Lehrer

Jeff (Mayer) and the Professor (Brown) are independent astronauts, working on their own rocket to the moon. Jeff is the young idealist and the Professor his wizened mentor, a role emphasized by the streaks of gray in his hair, although there’s something funky going on there. From a distance it kind of looks like he’s been in the shower and hasn’t sufficiently rinsed the suds off of his head. Closer up, it begins to resemble aluminum siding; I swear there was one moment when the light actually reflected glaringly off the side of his cranium.

Their company has one more employee: secretary Cathy (Marietta). The Professor notes that she works a lot of overtime, which he chalks up to her feelings for Jeff. Unfortunately, she may be doomed to disappointment, as Jeff tells the Professor that his work is all that matters to him, and that he’s not looking to get married. But enough about all that, because his Uncle Eric has just died, which is good news for everyone except Uncle Eric. He’s left Jeff three millions dollars, exactly what they need to complete their rocket and realize their desire to go to the moon, Alice.

When they land on the far side, they find the place to be much more verdant than most lunar photographs would suggest, throwing a severe wrench into Pink Floyd’s metaphor in the process. It’s also much more occupied, for living there on the moon is a small tribe of people, and they’re free spirits to boot, as evidenced by their love of games, mischief and, um, naturalness.

Now, contrary to the title, none of these folks are actually full-out nude. The men wear loincloths. The women are topless and most wear these odd panty/shorts combos that ride low in the back, affording a glimpse at the upper corner of their vertical smile*, so they’re close, but technically… (Hey, if I were going to be pedantic about something, is it really so surprising that it would be this?)

Theirs seems to be a fairly egalitarian society, although they do have a queen figure who looks quite familiar (Marietta again). And, in spite of his claims of disinterest in romance, Jeff finds himself noticing her in a way he never noticed poor Cathy. This hardly seems fair. My experience is admittedly limited, but I would imagine most offices discourage the female employees from walking around with their balloons on display.

What’s more disturbing is that Jeff’s infatuation with the Queen leads him to insist that he wants to stay or, failing that, to take her with them. The Professor insists that neither of these is an option and eventually manages to coax Jeff back to the rocket. They begin their return, only to realize that Jeff has left his camera behind, and with it all evidence of what they have seen. (Could have been worse. He could have left the lens cap on.) The authorities back home subsequently refuse to believe that they’ve even left the ground. But it’s not all bad. Jeff sees Cathy and his demeanor towards her has suddenly become far more warm. He even speaks to her in such a way as to suggest he may believe she is, in fact, the Queen.

I have to wonder – and this is genuine intellectual curiosity talking here, not crank-ism – if the youth of today have any notion, what with the internet having made nudie pictures and graphic depictions of sexual acts so readily accessible, what people used to have to resort to if they wanted a dose of erotica/smut/porn/all of the above and all things in between. And despite the software designed specifically to make it more difficult for kids to see such things, we all know that there are some out there who are getting around these strictures. That’s kind of my point. Regardless of the era, for most of us, if we really wanted it, we found a way to get it. But let’s see these clicker/strokers wrap their Mountain Dew-addled minds around the idea of having to watch a movie to see a pair of breasts. At the theater. The adult theater. The adult theater in the scary neighborhood.

And now, for the kill: make that movie Nude on the Moon.

(Incidentally, I am aware that I wandered into crank territory there. Kind of an odd moment to do it at that, seeing as how Nude on the Moon saw its theatrical run nine years before I was born.)

Okay, ‘kill’ may be a bit melodramatic. Nude on the Moon isn’t good, but it’s harmless enough. The ‘nudie cutie’ genre to which it belongs began as a kind of con. Producers knew people wanted to see naked girls, so they would shoot footage at nudist colonies (as is the case here) and throw up a Potemkin Village of respectability by claiming they were making documentaries about the nudist lifestyle. Nice try. Eventually the gimmick got old and they began adding threadbare stories, such as this one. Still, you have to pity the poor horndog who had to sit through thirty minutes, almost half the picture, including a scene of Jeff and the Professor babbling back and forth about the scientific variables of their mission, before the first unclad lovely shows up.
Thankfully, in that respect, it’s pretty much worth the wait. The women featured are attractive, and have naturally beautiful bodies. I was particularly taken with two blondes, one of whom is lithe and likes to dance and another who is impish, tearing a segment of leaf off of a plant and putting it under her nose to mimic the Professor’s mustache.

Despite all of the nudity, the film never seems leering, possibly because of the presence of Wishman, one of the only, if not the only woman working as a director in the exploitation field at the time, and the whole thing has a generally benign air to it, even veering into kicky kitsch with the use of a song called ‘Moon Doll.’ Apart from one isolated moment when Jeff asks the Professor about the movie he attended the previous evening and the camera cuts to a marquee advertising a film in ‘Nude-a-rama,’ there really isn’t the slightest hint of sleaze about any of it. (Sleaze is fine, but playful sexiness is nice too, and I could find sleaze from any number of other sources, including later Wishman films.)

Plus you have to appreciate any movie in which true love in the form of possible mental illness conquers the day.

* It has been pointed out to me that this most frequently refers to the front lower part of a woman’s anatomy, but I personally have seen it used to describe either the front or the back. And after all, which side looks more like a big smiley face?

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