Friday, November 26, 2021

Mars Needs Women

Mars Needs Women
Larry Buchanan

Mars Needs Women is such an evocative title. The words alone conjure images of tentacled horrors descending from flying saucers to capture screaming women while blasting death-rays at cops. The film however thinks you’d much rather see Tommy Kirk hanging around an airport for 90 minutes while wearing a nice suit and talking to Yvonne Craig about very little whatsoever. I understand that there are money and time concerns when making a low-budget film that exists to take up time between commercials on a television station, but Buchanan is no stranger to this challenge and he has certainly made more ambitious productions.

Five Martians arrive on Earth with the aim of collection some human women to bring back to their dying planet. A genetic deficiency results in only male children being born and the race is dying out. They seem to be able to teleport in and out as they wish, and they also seem to be able to stop any weapons directed at their ship, so why they decided to employ the stealth action of getting suits and stealing a car is beyond me. More intriguing would be the Martians just asking. Their arrival on Earth is no secret. People seem aware that aliens might have landed and I’m willing to bet more than one person would have happy to go into space and save an entire race.

"This portable illumination unit will allow us to
better see everyone who is laughing at out outfits."

So, it’s cheap and pretty dull but there are a few bright spots. Far and away the best scene is Tommy Kirk aka Dop narrating facts about Mars to a group of school kids in a planetarium. It’s well-acted and good character moment in a paper-thin story. It should come as little surprise that this scene was rewritten by Kirk himself since it is quite good compared to the rest of the movie.

The most interesting element of Mars Needs Women is its most subtle and subversive. Yes, there are no grotesque aliens snatching women off the streets, but these are still beings of power looking to treat women as a resource to be taken as needed. It’s a sexist and unfortunately typical outlook for many films, especially from this era. So, when Dop falls in love he sees women not as things to harvest but as beings with inner lives, he changes his worldview to the point where he is willing to sabotage the whole mission. It’s not much but for a made-for-tv movie in 1968, I’ll take what I can get.

"Applying cherry lollipop to subject's forehead."

 Mars Needs Women serves as a companion piece to the far superior I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958). Neither is great at giving women their own agency, but they are both about strange men looking to use women to their own ends only for things to change once they see that women are beings with inner lives too. Mars Needs Women isn’t campy or exciting enough to be high on most people’s cult film lists, but it does manage to subvert in little ways. 

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