Director: W. Merle Connell
Writer: George Wallace Sayre
Cast: Not terribly important
Warning: Spoilers.... Not that it matters.
Whenever talk turns to tenth-rate badfliques of the past, one can expect to hear named such classic moron-movies as Robot Monster, The Giant Gila Monster, and the entire Ed Wood canon. Rarely does one hear of a film every bit as terribly entertaining as those: 1952's Untamed Women. The clerk at the video store meets my eyes with blank stares when I ask for it, and directs me to the Adults Only section. Relegated to occasional appearances on late-night television, this film nevertheless deserves a cult.
The plot: a bunch of soldiers who can't act are stranded on one of those lost islands where prehistoric creatures have survived. These monsters come not from the distant past of the Mesozoic era, but the more recent past of Hal Roach's One Million BC. The ripped- off effects are particularly silly, even for those who are used to seeing Roach's blown-up, slow-mo'd lizards w/fins in the zillion or so 50s flicks for which they were borrowed. A fierce dinosaur chases our heroes. One of them climbs a tree to escape. We are treated to alternating shots of the creature shaking a shrub, and the Untamed actor up a tree that doesn't even try to match, quaking with fear as the cameraman vibrates the camera. Drive-In special effects got worse than this, but not much worse.
As one might guess, the monsters share the island with some untamed women: a tribe of fur-clad Xena descendants. Unsurprisingly, the film skips such minor mysteries such as how they've managed to reproduce over the centuries (some male Neanderthals do live on the other side of the island; it's sort of like sex-segregated gym classes in high school), or what razors they use to keep their bodies shaved to contemporary North American beauty standards. Surprisingly, however, it tackles, as such films rarely do, the question of why the lost people speak English-- specifically, here, mock Shakespearian.
Seems they are actually descendants of a Druidic group which left England a couple thousand years ago. Of course, the Druids didn't speak English. Of course, Shakespeare's English dates to a much later time. Of course, the writers couldn't even get the language right, and they have the warrior queen say things like, "Thou art all great warriors." This film tries.
Unfortunately, that's its problem. Untamed Women takes itself too seriously. The director was making a film about prehistoric monsters, Saturday-afternoon heroes and wild women who misspeak Elizabethan English. These factors might have suggested to him that he was making, at best, a b movie. He apparently thought he was directing Citizen Kane. One character gets a rambling and largely irrelevant speech on his troubles with his mother, and he delivers it in full Shatnerian mode. Stupid explanations for stock b movie situations get offered with the earnestness and conviction of a bright child affirming his belief in Santa Claus. Incompetent filmmaking can be funny; earnest incompetent filmmaking is hilarious.
The framing device, echoing such classics as Moby Dick, Heart of Darkness, and The Curse of the Mushroom People, has the lone survivor rescued and telling his tale. His auditors react sceptically, and assume he's delirious. But wait, one says. What about the medallion he's holding, a gift from an island babe? Why.... that inscription is.... It's from the time of the Druids! Maybe the story is true! And the film ends with a close-up on the medallion, which sports what appears to be a Latin inscription.
If you see this one listed in your TV Guide, inevitably at, like, 2:00 am on channel 67, do yourself a favour and stay up, or pop a tape in the VCR. A bad film is just bad; a bad film that thinks it's great is an evening's entertainment.
A variation of this node was written by this author for Bad Movie Night several years ago.