John Jos. Miller’s CREATURE FEATURE

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MESA OF SEXY SPIDER-WOMEN

How’d I miss THE MESA OF LOST WOMEN for so long? Just lucky, I guess.

This legendarily bad movie had potential, but in the end, I can’t really recommend it, and here’s why. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a script that makes less sense. While this in itself is not necessarily a reason to give MESA a thumb’s down, taken with its lack of action and a headache inducing sound track (a cacophony for guitar and piano), the few good bits (mostly Tandra Quinn as the spider-woman Tarantella) are, in the end, far too few.

MESA opens with a man and woman dragging themselves across a desolate stretch of landscape called the Muerto Desert, as we’re told by the unnecessary, overblown, and overbearing voice-over sneeringly narrated by Lyle Talbot. They get rescued from certain death by a passing oil company geologist, brought back to civilization and nursed back to health, and the guy tells the story in flashback form.

Only, he doesn’t come into the story himself for the first half hour or so, so how the hell does he know all about Dr. Turner showing up at the mesa where he confers with mad scientist Dr. Aranya (and all the Spanish speakers out there get an idea of what we’re in store for) who tries to recruit him to assist in his interesting experiments in splicing human and spider DNA? Aranya (who is played by Jackie Coogan, a role betwixt his seminal portrayals of Tom Sawyer and Uncle Fester) is so convincing that he immediately drives his colleague insane.

Here’s Jackie, looking not as cute as Tom Sawyer.  Or Uncle Fester, even.

Next we’re in the Muerto State Asylum where an incarcerated Turner uses the classic sheet twisted into a rope trick to escape. Next we’re in some cantina where we meet the millionaire and his wife (well, wife to be, actually). Turner shows up attired in a natty suit

 and gloms onto the millionaire (and his wife). The asylum attendant then shows up and whispers to the millionaire that Turner is crazy (pretty obvious from context, really) but he often escapes the asylum and then shows up with lots of money (how this happens is never explained) and he recaptures him before he kills anybody. In the meantime, alert observers note the sexily sullen Tarantella in the cantina crowd scenes. She’s very easy to note as she’s also very easy on the eyes. She must be part of the floor show, because she suddenly starts doing this dance which is pretty damn hot, yet eerily creepy at the same time.

 Turner gets all worked up and shoots her dead, apparently, kidnaps the whole gang and makes them take him to their plane, which is piloted by, you guessed it (or maybe not) our narrator.

So, they take off, the plane has engine trouble and they crash on Zarpa Mesa where Dr. Aranya’s secret lab is located.

Spider-woman lab assistant.

It turns out that the millionaire’s suspiciously skulking servant, Wu, is really an agent of the crazed doctor and he arranged the crash. How this could be is totally impossible, but then so is combining spider and human genes and getting a babe like Tarantella. Anyway, turns out Tarantella isn’t dead, but because she’s all spidery is able to shake off the fatal wound, and, even more amazingly, beat all the others to the isolated mesa in the middle of the searing desert, even though the others were GOING BY PLANE, and she was, what, walking or something.

I could put up pictures of Tarantella all day long.

The action sequences consists of basically walking around the dark mesa at night and a couple of spider attacks by a big spider who supposedly has a human mental capacity, but never really shows it.

Any drama this crazy story might have contained is drained away by the fact that we ALREADY KNOW who lives and dies, and in any case, it pretty much works out like you’d expect. Except for the fact that there’s this mesa out in the middle of the Muerto desert, inhabited to this day by Tarantella and her sexy but still kind of creepy sisters.

This scene actually doesn’t appear in the movie, but I felt compelled to post it anyway.

I already mentioned the soundtrack. It was awful. Without it, I would have rated this film higher, but with it, it only gets a 2. If you’re into creepy yet sexy spider babes, check it out. It may be worth it. I’m going to look up Tandra Quinn’s only other staring vehicle, THE NEANDERTHAL MAN, also made in 1953. I wonder whatever happened to her. I should check KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES.

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