Mesa of Lost Women

April 3, 2011 at 9:22 pm (5 Heads, Mesa of Lost Women) (, , , , , , , )

Mesa of Lost Women – 1953 – United States

Mesa of Lost Women is a classically absurd B flick in the incomprehensible style of Ed Wood or Coleman Francis (Beast of Yucca Flats, Red Zone Cuba). Likely cobbled together from two incomplete films, it’s confusing and incredible. But like other patchwork flicks (They Saved Hitler’s Brain, Blood of Ghastly Horror), Mesa of Lost Women displays great creativity despite limitations.

A man and woman stumble through Muerto Desert (“The Desert of Death”) while verbose narration drones for ten minutes. The narration is reminiscent of The Beast of Yucca Flats but more forceful and menacing, occasionally channeling James Earl Jones. The wanderers find civilization and initiate a logically impossible flashback that is not from their perspective. Crazed scientist Dr. Aranya (“That’s Spanish for spider!”) engineers a giant telepathic tarantula, plus beautiful and deadly spider-women (looking mostly normal) and spider-men (looking like dwarves).

After another scientist refuses to help, Dr. Aranya injects him, warping his mind until his is a doddering simpleton who ends up institutionalized. But soon the simpleton escapes, hijacking a plane and making hostages of a rich couple, their handsome pilot, and their Asian butler (the butler is Aranya’s crony—a plot fragment never developed). Inadvertently, the plane crashes by Aranya’s mesa-top laboratory. The passengers are stalked through the jungle (?) by spider-folk until the simpleton blows up Aranya’s lab in a moment of lucidity. Rounding it out is a romance subplot that develops to fruition in (literally) five minutes.

Most striking is Mesa of Lost Women’s lack of believability. Events happen for plot convenience, or sometimes no reason at all, and motivations and emotions are unclear. For instance, the simpleton (with a pistol from nowhere) hijacks a plane because he’s crazy and feels like flying. After explaining that the plane has engine trouble and will surely crash, the hijackees go along anyway, never fighting back despite hundreds of opportunities (including as the simpleton sleeps). Nor do they seem scared or concerned. Meanwhile, Sinister Oriental Butler looks sly, insinuating he is in some way responsible, but there is no evidence or purpose to it. The characters toddle about, never impacting the events unfolding around them.

Every aspect of Mesa of Lost Women is similarly jumbled. The plot is a chain of non sequiturs and the messy editing contains no establishing shots. Numerous close-ups are probably compensating for bad coverage or significant rewriting, but mostly it’s just ignorance on the part of the insane creators. Filmmakers seeking to intentionally disorient their audience can find pointers here.

Thankfully (unlike Coleman Francis’ half-assery), Mesa of Lost Women is interesting due to outrageous weirdness. The lazy-eyed Dr. Aranya dotes on his spider-babes as they prowl about in ridiculous wigs. One spider-woman performs a seductive dance in which she eventually sits and scoots around the floor. The heroes (or approximation thereof) are clichés, but hilariously clueless, spouting endless inane and inappropriate dialogue. And the simpleton’s actor is abominable with serious lines, but handles deranged babbling marvelously. Also, don’t miss the trick collapsible cup he totes around to drink from.

Mesa of Lost Women’s Mexican location is well utilized with dusty and rugged sets. Likewise, the soundtrack (mimicking Mexican folk music) is cool (apparently reused in Ed Wood’s Jailbait). Don’t misunderstand me: Mesa of Lost Women is crap. But it’s imaginative and fun, like the better of Ed Wood’s flicks. I sense that Mesa’s makers wanted to do good and got lost. If you try to take it seriously, you’ll find it’s occasionally creative. If not, it’s at least amusing.

Score: 5/10 Shrunken Heads. Campy schlock to rival the best.

Michael Weldon’s always informative Psychotronic Video Guide says this about Mesa of Lost Women director Ron Ormond:

“The Ormond Organization was Ron Ormond, an Italian-American former stage magician, his wife June, a former vaudeville comedy dancer and, later on, their son Tim. Ormond had directed ‘a dozen’ Lash LaRue westerns, some musicals, and several early 50s movies with Jackie Coogan (including Mesa of Lost Women). After a break, when the Ormonds, among other things, took The Three Stooges on tour, they turned to exploitation movies like Untamed Mistress, about a woman’s relationship with a gorilla. They made three 60s country movies in Nashville—The Girl from Tobacco Road, Forty Acre Feud, and the musical White Lightning Road. Many of their movies include the same simple repetitive flamenco guitar music (also used in Ed Wood’s Jail Bait) and disorienting harmonica duets. By the 70s, (after Ron had been born again) they made amazing Baptist religious movies like The Burning Hell and The Grim Reaper (featuring Dr. Jerry Falwall!). Ron died in 1981 but his grown-up son Tim made The Second Coming.”

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