Amazon Women On The Moon

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A highly regarded filmmaker doesn’t necessarily make for a good sketch comedian. This is the lesson of John Landis’ omnibus film Amazon Women On The Moon (1987). The film is a satirical approximation of late night television programming in the mid-eighties. As channels change, so do the sketches. Holding this hodgepodge together is the framing device of a faux fifties sci-fi B-movie Amazon Women On The Moon. With directors Landis, Joe Dante, Carl Gottlieb, Robert K. Weiss, and Peter Horton one would assume that the film would be of a certain pedigree.

Generally speaking Amazon Women On The Moon is a lot of fun to watch, even if only about half the sketches really land. David Alan Grier’s recurring album commercials are consistently amusing, particularly following the sketch “Blacks Without Soul”. By contrast the recurring figure of Lou Jacobi never feels that funny or even half inspired. The most watchable bits of the film either have a heightened energy or a truly inspired twist.

The energy in the sketches “Silly Pâté”, “Art Sale”, and “Pethouse Video” sustain these miniature narratives and their silliness. The brevity of these sections means that, with regards to their concepts, they never over stay their welcome or betray their shallowness. Similarly the shock value of “Critics’ Corner” and “Video Date” are sustained by narrative twists rather than kineticism. Too many of the sketches feel as though there’s no sense of timing to the editing or any substance beyond the gag of the premise.

The absolute best sketches are as much exercises in genre pastiche as they are sketches. Putting aside the all too accurate framing device that gives the film its title, “Son of the Invisible Man”, “Reckless Youth”, and “Bullshit or Not” all evoke a specific genre or aesthetic sensibility to optimum effectiveness. “Reckless Youth” and “Bullshit or Not”, both helmed by Joe Dante, feel as though they are genre works first and satires second. Gottlieb’s “Son of the Invisible Man” on the other hand is a perfect balance of both impulses.

Regardless of the uneven qualities of Amazon Women On The Moon I still prefer it to Landis’ The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977) which is too crass in its grasping for the most low hanging fruit. Amazon Women On The Moon has more in common with Landis’ other omnibus film Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). Like its predecessor Amazon Women On The Moon seeks to recreate television in its formalism while succumbing to the problem of having too many distinct directorial voices in a single film.