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"the worst SF films ever made"
Fire Maidens From Outer Space (1956)
review by Glyn Williams
There's a scene at the beginning of this ultra-dull British SF movie which gives fair warning of the yawns to follow: a rocket is about to take off from a rocket base in the heart of Surrey(!) and the edge-of-your-seat countdown sequence consists of a group of bored looking extras standing around looking at a clock. For 60 seconds! Yup, no expense spent here.
The predictable plot sees a motley crew of B-movie actors blasting-off in a stock footage rocket on Expedition 13, a voyage to the 13th moon of Jupiter which has an atmosphere similar to that of Earth. The rocket is apparently controlled by two levers, communication with Earth is via a telephone and any movement is suggested by the actors swaying from side to side whilst the set remains stubbornly static. A clock on the wall tells us that 50 minutes after take-off the rocket has travelled to the other side of the moon and is deep into a meteor shower (cue much crew swaying and whooshing sound effects). When the rocket nears the l3th moon it is guided to a safe landing by a mysterious voice from the planet, an occurence of such momentous scientific significance that the crew break open another pack of cigarettes and commence to chain-smoke their way through the rest of the movie.
Alighting onto the 13th moon, which looks just like the Surrey countryside they left three minutes - sorry, three weeks ago, they immediately rescue a girl in a short skirt from a tall man in a roll-neck sweater and a monster mask. The girl leads the crew's captain, Luther Blair (Anthony Dexter making only his second movie but already on the way towards anonymity) and his second-in-command, Larson (ex-ice hockey player Paul Carpenter), to the city of New Atlantis which is populated by a group of not very glamorous, but nevertheless skimpily attired, maidens and ruled over by the last surviving male, Prasus, who understandably looks past his sell-by date.
From here on predictability rules: Blair and Larson are held captive with a view to becoming studs to ensure the survival of New Atlantis; Blair falls in love with maiden Hestia (played by Susan Shaw, real name Patsy Sloots, destined for a string of increasingly minor roles before dying in poverty in 1978); the other maidens, who spend much of their time dancing (badly) to the music of Borodin, become jealous and decide to sacrifice Hestia to their God of Fire (a-ha, hence 'Fire Maidens'); the monster kills Prasus; Blair and Larson escape and kill the monster; the Fire Maidens gratefully allow the Expedition 13 crew to leave with Hestia; and the rocket blasts off in a cloud of tobacco smoke on the arduous return trip to Earth - with Blair promising that other explorers will return. Sans condoms one assumes.
So, unless you are related to director/scriptwriter Cy Roth, or want to waste time wondering, like me, which of the Fire Maidens was played by 'actress' Marcella Georgius, this movie really has little to recommend it. Life, as they say, is far too short. Rather like a fire maiden's skirt, really.
tZ - Big Planet: the worlds of Jupiter in SF - by Steven Hampton
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