Mesa of Lost Women (1953)

Mesa of Lost Women

Directed by Ron Ormond

Written by Herbert Tevos

Tagline: "A race of deadly spider-women luring men to their death!"

Run Time: 70 min

Other titles: "Lost Women of Zarpa"

“In the continuing war for survival between man and the hexapods, only an utter fool would bet against the insect.”
– Narrator


Imagine an alternate universe if you will. Now, in this imaginary universe, try to envision Ed Wood Jr. and Francis Coleman meeting at a dive bar in Tijuana. They introduce themselves, have a couple of cervezas, and then guzzle a bottle of tequila. (Ed gets the worm.) Upon Coleman’s suggestion, the two men head out into the desert and eat a few peyote buttons. At the height of their mescaline/alcohol induced fervor, Ed and Francis come up with a story about mad scientists, giant spiders, busty women, and dwarves. When they awaken the next morning, Ed, in a rare fit of lucidity, realizes the monstrosity they had created, tears the script from Francis’s trembling hands, and hurls it into the desert winds.

Now imagine that the script somehow popped through an inter-dimensional door into our universe.

This is the only explanation for such a movie as Mesa of Lost Women.

Ed and Francis could only dream of such lofty heights of ineptitude…well, Ed at least…Francis came pretty close. (Although Ed Wood had nothing to do with this movie, there are a few connections between him and this flick that I will point out after the review.)

This astoundingly awful film is a tale of a mad scientist, Dr. Aranya, who secludes himself in a secret lab atop "Zarpa Mesa". To wile away the long desert hours, Aranya spends his time injecting spiders with a Super Special Mysterious Magical Growth Serum. The female spiders become beautiful, busty women, and the male spiders transform into dwarves. Go figure. Anyway, people die, go crazy, wander around in the desert, the jungle (a jungle in the desert?), things blow up, and, well, you get the picture. There are ‘bad’ films, and there are bad films…movies that seem not of this Earth…"Mesa of Lost Women" is one such film…an inhuman creation.

Let’s put it this way: If movies were boxers, a bout between Mesa of Lost Women and The Beast of Yucca Flats would be a pretty even bet.

Jackie Coogan Dr. Aranya (Jackie "Uncle Fester" Coogan)

The mad, mad, Dr. Aranya. Actor Jackie Coogan was one of the highest-paid child actors of the 1920’s. By the 1950’s, however, Jackie’s career was in decline, and he was nearly broke after a nasty lawsuit between himself and his parents. Desperate for work, Jackie was forced to take parts in low-budget dreck like this film before his career finally recovered in the 1970’s…most notably as Uncle Fester in The Addam’s Family TV series.

Harmon Stevens Dr. Masterson (Harmon Stevens)

The once great scientist who loses his mind after seeing a giant spider. Much like the viewer loses his mind after seeing this movie.

Tandra Quinn Tarantella (Tandra Quinn)

One of Dr. Aranya’s more successful experiments. The beautiful Tarantella struts around in her halter top, performs the "Tarantula Dance" at a local dive bar, and not much else. But hey, it’s enough for me.

Chris-Pin Martin Pepe, the jeep driver (Chris-Pin Martin)

Hey, anybody credited as "Pepe, the jeep driver" deserves a special mention, eh? Actually, Arizona born Chris-Pin Martin was a prolific character actor, appearing in over 130 films, almost exclusively portraying Mexican bit characters. Oh, and by the way, the only time Pepe is seen with a jeep he’s in the passenger seat. ("Pepe, the Passenger"?)

George Barrows George, the male nurse (George Barrows)

Yes, the one and only George "Ro-Man" Barrows of Robot Monster infamy. I just thought you might want to see what he looked like without his gorilla suit and diving helmet. George tracks down his escaped ward, Masterson, and ends up getting killed by a giant spider in the jungles of the desert. (Don’t ask.)

Before I begin, I want to warn you about the soundtrack: It will drive you insane. It makes Torgo’s theme song sound like Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. How to describe it? Well, it’s a Flamenco guitar chord over and over and over and… No, I take that back. It’s like a Flamenco guitarist tuning his guitar…over and over and over and…For variety, somebody strikes a couple of piano keys once and a while. (By the way, Ed Woods used this same soundtrack in his 1954 ‘film noir’ attempt Jail Bait.)

Mesa of Lost WomenOk, let’s see here. While the incessant strumming of a guitar fills the sound track, we see a man being caressed by a woman’s hands. Her fingers are adorned with what looks like the tips of black candles.

As the camera pulls back we see that the woman is none other than "Tarantella", whom we shall shortly learn is one of Dr. Aranya’s mutant spider-women creations. After a brief kiss the man falls lifeless to the floor. (By the way, the man who is bitten by this spider-woman appears later in the film, but he never comes near any of the spider-women…so when this scene was supposed to take place is beyond me.)

"Have you ever by kissed by a girl like this?" asks a disembodied voice. (I’m assuming this is a rhetorical question.)

Cut to opening credits and pan across a desert landscape. The narration begins with a voice over provided by none other than Lyle Talbot, aka, ‘General Roberts’ of Plan 9 from Outer Space fame. (Another Ed Wood connection…spooky. Needless to say, Lyle proves to be the prudent member of the cast by limiting his contribution strictly to narrating, i.e., he never shows his face on the screen during this fiasco.)

"Strange, the monstrous assurance of this puny race of bipeds with overblown egos: the creature who calls himself ‘man’. He believe he owns the Earth, and every living thing on it exists for his benifit…yet how foolish he is."

Well, after that heart-warming opening, we see a man and woman struggling across the hot sands…struggling with each step, as they gasp for breath under the torturous heat of the midday sun. The confusing, rambling narration continues,

Mesa of Lost Women"Consider, even the lowly insect that man trods underfoot outweighs humanity several times and outnumbers him by countless billions. In the continuing war for survival," Lyle adds in a melodramatic, yet nearly monotonic voice, "between man and the hexapods, only an utter fool would bet against the insect." (This film, as with most sci-fi cheapies, continually confuses spiders with insects, as if the two terms were interchangeable.)

"Let a man or woman venture from the well beaten path of civilization…let him cross the threshold of the limited intellect…and he encounters amazing, wondrous things. The Unknown…and terrible. If he escapes these weird adventures with his life, he will usually find he left his reason behind."

If you’re still watching the movie at this point, and God bless you if you are, you may have noticed that a young man, an oil surveyor, has spotted the 2 stragglers. Tossing his tools into a nearby jeep (complete with "Pepe" in the passenger seat: a sombrero-wearing Mexican, of course), he hops in and drives off to help them.

"Perhaps that is what happened to these two souls. [The couple walking in the desert.] Lost in the great Mexican desert. But then, ask yourself: Why would anyone trod from the usually well traveled roads of this modern age. From the luxury of an air-conditioned automobile. It’s difficult for our modern world of statistics and electrics [?!] to accept miracles…but you could almost call this a miracle. A genuine miracle."

Mesa of Lost Women(Not to beat the whole Ed Wood ‘thing’ to death here, but this narration just reeks of that infamous wordsmith.) And…the narration continues…

"Out of hundreds and thousands of square miles of heat and seared wasteland, where the vultures wait for the other vultures to die, an American oil surveyor has chosen to explore this particular terrible corner of the Earth…the ‘Muerto Desert’…the Desert of Death!" [Oh brother!]

"This surveyor can hardly credit his eyes [as he spots the pair with his binoculars]…perhaps they’re only elusive images produced by roasting the optic nerves. But, if they do exist, if they are living things from somewhere [?], one fact is certain: miracle of not, they will not be living things for long."

And…heading into the forth solid minute of narration,

"The Muerto Desert, true to its name, will soon convert them…into dead things."

Alas, the couple is picked up and transported to the "Amer-Exico Field Hospital", and I’m not making that up. (Since the hospital is in Mexico, shouldn’t they have had the courtesy to call it "Mexi-rican"? These are the questions that keep me awake at night.)
Once the dangerously dehydrated couple has been brought into the examination room, one Dr. Tucker takes charge. Without warning the Scorched Man begins to cough and come back to his senses. (To make things easier, I’ll cheat and tell you Scorched Man is named Grant Phillips. The narrator drops this little tidbit several minutes in the future, and I just don’t feel like writing ‘Scorched Man’ every time he says something.)

"I think he’s coming around then," Tucker notes, being a medical professional and all.

"I doubt it, Doc," replies Dan, the camp foreman, "Even if they got across that desert, why, the sun’s bound to have cooked their brains."

By the way, I’m pretty sure Dr. Tucker is the same guy we saw getting kissed by ‘Tarantella’ in the opening scene, but it’s hard to tell. So whether Tucker’s death at the hands (or lips, actually) of Tarantella happened in the past or future is your call.

Returning to our feature presentation.

Frank the Surveyor takes his leave by saying, "Well, I better get back to work", as he walks out of the door and disappears completely from the rest movie. Hmmm. OK, so long, Frank.

"Maybe they’re from that missing plane we read about," Doc Tucker says while wiping his hands on a cloth, "Where did you pick them up Pepe?"

Pepe lowers his voice and says, "On the road to…Zarpa Mesa." (Bum! Bum! Bum!)

As the woman also begins to revive, Dan the Foreman turns, stares at her, and remarks that she’s a "pretty girl under all that sunburn." (What a guy.)

Grant finally sits up his stretcher as Dan turns to him and sneers, "Who did you think you were…Superman?" Grant rubs his eyes and gasps for breath as Dan continues, "Nobody’s ever been able to walk across that desert and come out alive…and you tried with a girl!" (You know, I’m starting to like Dan, I mean, at least he’s a consistent ass.)

To make a long story short, Grant begins babbling about "super-monsters…or bugs" as Pepe, Doc Tucker, and Dan listen in amazement. Almost wild with panic, Grant begs the Director to load up a truck with oil and burn out the "bugs" before they scatter. He continues his morbid tale by telling the others about Dr. Aranya and his "underground lab" where he works on "glands". (I feel a headache coming on about now.)

"Let’s listen to his story, we have nothing to lose" suggests Dr. Tucker as we begin Grant’s flashback.

Oh, and say goodbye to Dr. Tucker, Pepe, and Dan the Foreman because they disappear from the story as well.

It turns out that Grant was a pilot for a "financier" named Jan van Croft…and…and…wait a minute…the camera now zooms in on Pepe’s face as the narrator breaks in,

"Quite a story, isn’t it Pepe? You’ve heard from your people about Zarpa Mesa…and the mysterious Dr. Aranya…even though your bosses haven’t. So…why tell them?"

Mesa of Lost WomenWe suddenly fade into a flashback showing a car driving across a barren desert. Now…is this Pepe’s flashback or Grant’s? We’ll assume it’s still Grant’s even though the camera was on Pepe before the dissolve into the new desert scene. But wait a minute…Grant was never there! What the hell?…How can he "flash back" to it? Stupid movie.

"They would only laugh at you and say, ‘Poor Pepe, you’re getting old.’ But you heard for years about the grotesque and misshapened [sic] people. About the women. Strange women who do not die. No, Grant Phillips doesn’t know the whole story. You see, he came into it late. It actually began, oh…almost a year ago."

OK, then, so the new scene on the screen took place a year ago, and as the narrator points out, before Grant was even in the story. So then, just who in the hell’s flashback is this?

"The night Doctor Leland Masterson, the world famous specialist in research [?], found himself in the middle of the Muerto Desert…the Desert of Death!"

We see a car come to a stop and a man and woman exit the vehicle. Shots of an insane looking dwarf perched on some boulders and looking out over the desert (!?) are occasionally interjected into the action. <Sigh>, the narration continues,

Mesa of Lost Women"He came in answer to a rather mysterious summons from a man he admired, but knew only as a name signed to a series of brilliant scientific treatises…Aranya."

Dr. Leland, who turns out to be "the world’s foremost organotherapist" (The what?), looks up in silent concern at the dwarf’s bizarre figure hanging from the rocks above,

"Your eyes must be playing tricks on you…is that what you think, Masterson? What was it you thought you saw?[Quick shot of a scantily clad woman dashing behind a boulder.] Apparently, they’ve come correctly. But to Masterson it seems strange: A man with the genius of Aranya building his laboratory on an inaccessible mountain top in the middle of an uninhabited desert. But why Zarpa Mesa?"

I can’t help but laugh at the film’s continued insistence that the lab is completely "inaccessible". I guess that’s why Masterson was able to drive up to the very foot of the mesa and comfortably cover the remaining 500 meters on foot even while wearing a three-piece suit. (It reminds me a lot of the horrid movie The Beast of Yucca Flats where supposedly the only way to reach the "beast’s" lair was to parachute in, yet when the one guy actually did parachute down, his partner was already at the top waiting for him, leaning against his car and drinking a bottle of water!)

Anyway, back to narration and that FU!!¤**!"#*ING theme song (that is driving me mad!)

"Why Zarpa Mesa indeed? A natural question, Doctor, and one that will soon be answered…though in a way so fantastic and horrible as to make a man of science doubt his senses."

You know what? There is a lot of freakin’ narration in this film. I feel better now.

Masterson eventually reaches the "inaccessible" mountain hideaway where he’s met by the rock-climbing dwarf and Tarantella. Inside the cave, the good doctor strolls around while awaiting Aranya’s arrival. Masterson’s curiosity grows as he notes that cave is staffed by a bevy of strange women silently at work peering into microscopes and such. Hmmm.

Mesa of Lost WomenDr. Aranya eventually makes his appearance, complete with white lab coat and stethoscope stuffed into one pocket. (Oh boy.) Introductions are made and pleasantries exchanged. Masterson enthusiastically wants to get to work and "examine [Dr. Aranya’s] theories."

"These are not theories," Aranya sternly corrects him, "I have successfully proved every point over and over again in my laboratory."

"You expect me to believe that you’ve created these things through experimentation?" Masterson exclaims.

"And many more," Aranya adds.

Eager to demonstrate the fruits of his labor, Aranya leads Masterson into his laboratory. (Strange how Aranya’s lab has a host of blipping oscilloscopes, glowing neon lights, crackling Jacob’s ladders, and so on…where the hell is he getting the electricity from? The Muerto Power Company?)

Moving right along, Aranya leads Masterson over to the far end of the lab where a woman lies motionless atop a gurney. Ok, look, basically Aranya has experimented with the human pituitary gland and isolated the hormone responsible for growth.

"What would the effect be," Aranya continues, "of this hormone, or a complete human pituitary, being transferred into the body of another creature." (Um, transferring a human pituitary gland into a spider? Boy, that sounds like a fun procedure.) We learn that the early experiments didn’t go so well. ("A complete failure among birds," Aranya points out.)

Aranya then went on to experiment on "hexapods" most notably the tarantulas. (I hope you are smacking yourself in the forehead and shouting "Hexapods are insects! Tarantulas are spiders! WTF?!"…at least that’s what I’m doing.)

"The tarantulas yielded amazing results, some grew as large as human beings." (Why yes, Dr. Aranya, I would say that fits the definition of ‘amazing’.) "I then found I had the telepathic power to communicate with them." (Errr…?) Still not satisfied with merely being able to telepathically communicate with human-sized tarantulas, Dr. Aranya explains that he went on to "reverse the process" and plant the spider’s growth hormone into humans.

"Doctor, observe this girl," Aranya says to Masterson with a sly smile.

"I call her ‘Tarantella’. She has human beauty and intelligence, yet still possesses the capacities [?] and instincts of the giant spider."

Mesa of Lost Women"How do you mean?" Masterson asks."She has the indestructibility of the insect [?!]…if she were to lose an arm or a leg she could grow a new one." (I’m not an entomologist, but I don’t think that’s how that works, oh…never mind.) "I expect Tarantella to survive for hundreds and hundreds of years."

Male humans, unfortunately, turn into dwarves. (Bummer.)

Anyway, at this point Aranya pulls back a folding dressing screen (!!) to reveal a gigantic (read: goofy) spider. (I guess the spiders also retain the human female’s sense of modesty.)

"You’re evil!" Masterson shouts, "You must be destroyed along with all the foul things that you’ve made!"

Well, no Masterson, you won’t. As luck would have it, Masterson is found wandering in the desert…reduced to a madman.

(A headline in the <cough> "Southwest Journal", reads "Doctor Saved From Desert Death"…"Leland Masterson’s Mind Snaps Under Ordeal: Confined to Asylum.")

Cut to the "Muerto State Asylum" (I thought that was pretty funny actually: "Death State Asylum"!) where we quickly discover that Masterson has escaped. Noting that the unlocked window in Masterson’s cell was secured only by a set of wooden venetian blinds, I have to wonder about the newspaper’s definition of "Confined".)

Mesa of Lost WomenSometime in the future, exactly when is anybody’s guess, we see a dazed Masterson back in a three-piece suit (Where did he get that from?), entering a crowded bar. Lively music fills the air as people dance and have a good ol’ time. For some reason Tarantella is sitting at a table against the wall. (I guess even spider-women need a night out on the town from time to time.)

As Masterson orders a drink from the bar, in walks financier, Jan van Croft and his fiancé, Doreen . The wealthy couple are lead to the "best" table in the house, although Doreen is far from happy to be there. "You would have to come down to this flea-bitten border town," she gripes, "and you would have to drag me to this dive…this…unupholstered sewer!" (Gotta love that one.)

What are these two doing here you might ask? Why, nothing a wad of exposition couldn’t clear up: "Why, if it wasn’t for that forced landing we’d be getting married in Mexico right now." (Thanks Doreen!)

Masterson, despite being on the other side of the room, and despite the loud music and a bar full of talking people, overhears the mention of the airplane and, as if in a trance, saunters over to van Croft’s table to join them. Out of nowhere, in fact approaching the table from the side of the bar where there is no door, van Croft’s man servant, Wu, reports that the plane won’t be ready for a while. We then see Wu give a furtive nod to Tarantella.

Whoa now. Time out. So Wu is in cahoots with Tarantella? How in the hell do they know each other? More mysteriously: how did they just happen to meet in the same bar at the same time? I mean, van Croft is there purely because of engine trouble, so how the hell did Wu and Tarantella pre-arrange this meeting?

Mesa of Lost WomenOh wait, now we see that Tarantella is going to perform her dance number. What?! She’s a dancer at the bar? What the hell? Does Dr. Aranya know that his spider-babes are out moonlighting on the side?

Anyway, Tarantella performs a spirited number, often referred to as the "Tarantula Dance" by those who have seen the film. Let’s say that her dance is unique, and she does give an enthusiastic effort while performing this choreographic oddity. (And her halter top must have anti-gravity suspension…ay caramba!)

As Tarantella scampers around the floor, in walks George, Masterson’s nurse back from the asylum. It turns out that George has spent the last 2 days tracking down the errant Masterson, and has finally found him here, in the bar, with Tarantella, and the financier, and the devious Wu. (As mentioned above, George is played by George "Ro-Man" Barrows. To hear his baritone ‘Ro-Man’ voice while watching him talk to Masterson is rather odd. )

After a few moments, Masterson becomes uneasy while watching Tarantella dance. Finally remembering who she is, Masterson pulls out a gun and blows Tarantella away. (So much for the "insect’s indestructibility", eh?) As the stunned crowd looks on, Masterson forces George, van Croft, and Doreen out of the bar and eventually commandeers their airplane, taking everybody along as hostages. The pilot, Grant (from the beginning of the film, remember?) refuses to take off since only one of the airplane’s engines are in order. "I command and thou shalt obey!" Masterson orders with a wave of his pistol.

Oh wait, as the bartender reports the murder to the police, Tarantella gets up off the floor and strolls away. I guess insects can both regenerate lost limbs and resurrect themselves from the dead. Never knew that. No sirree.

As the airplane flies along, suddenly Grant notices that somebody has been tampering with the "gyro-compass." In fact, they’ve been flying "One hundred degrees of course." (Cut to a tight shot of Wu giving a mischievous grin.) Now, even with a faulty, er, gyro-compass, wouldn’t a pilot be able to tell that he was flying 100 degrees in the wrong direction? Oh well, let’s just get this over with.

Anyhoo, the plane’s engine conks out and Grant has to crash land the plane on top of, where else, Zarpa Mesa.

So seriously, what’s with all the sneaky looks from Wu? It’s pure chance that the engine went out just as they were flying over Mesa Zarpa, it’s not like Wu could have arranged that. So let’s get this straight:

First: Wu arranged for the engine to fritz out over the border town so he could keep a pre-arranged meeting with Tarantella at the bar.

Second: He then arranged for a deranged Masterson to arrive at the bar at the exact same time van Croft and the others were there and to commandeer the faulty plane, taking them along as hostages.

Third: Finally, Wu calculated that the plane would be forced to crash land a second time, this time directly atop Mesa Zarpa.

Wow! James Bond, eat your heart out!

In a not-so-exciting sequence, Grant manages to land the crippled plane on top of the jungle covered Mesa Zarpa. Wait a minute. Jungle covered? Seriously, what the hell? Wow.

Mesa of Lost WomenOnce the plane comes to a stop, the battered passengers scramble from the wreckage and take shelter in the jungle. (Tight shots of various nutty-looking dwarves indicate that Grant and the others are being watched from the wilderness.)

"Our voices sound strange up here," Doreen notes upon hearing an odd echo whenever anybody speaks.

"It must be the echo of our voices," van Croft replies, "thrown back at us from the forest."

Umm, let me get this straight: Mesa Zarpa is festooned not by a normal jungle, but an echoing jungle?! (By the way, this incredible "echo" never occurs again. I suppose it was too expensive, and too annoying (even for this film!) to continue using.)

As Doreen and van Croft discuss the extraordinary jungle acoustics, Grant and George step aside and exchange a few whispered words regarding Masterson.

"Why did he kill [Tarantella]? How did he get that gun?" Grant asks.

"Nobody knows why [Masterson] kills: he just wants to and he does," George replies. (Who has Masterson killed besides Tarantella? Did I doze off and miss something?) "Where he got that gun…he probably bought it. He has lots of money all the time." (?)

Truly, truly, is this a confused movie.

To wrap things up, they decide to try and get the gun from Masterson as soon as he’s off his guard. Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.

Well, as is the norm in cheapo movies, day immediately turns into night via a sudden jump cut. Thankfully, Wu had collected some wood for a fire. To everybody’s further delight, Grant also breaks out a bottle of booze. "But first, let’s get these up into the air," he says as he fires a flare gun. (To realize the flare, the editor simply spliced in some stock-footage of a pair of Fourth of July fireworks exploding in the sky.)

I would think that normally you’d want to save your only signal flare until there was another aircraft in the vicinity instead of just shooting it up so you can start drinking…but what do I know.

George decides to explore the jungle on his own using a small pen-light.

"Will that give you enough light?" Grant asks.

"Sure, I use it at the sanitarium all the time."

(I’m not sure what George peers into with that pen-light at the sanitarium…and I don’t want to know, but the words ‘cavity search’ do come to mind.)

As expected, a long, boring Walking Through The Wilderness sequence takes place, eventually culminating in George being attacked by a giant spider leg. (The film makers wisely chose to keep the rest of the giant spider off-camera.) Hearing George’s screams, Grant and the others take off into the darkness to help him.

(Cut to a gaggle of spider-women and dwarves watching from the bushes. Scary! Oh, and why is one of the dwarves wearing a safari Pith helmet?!)

Man, this soundtrack is driving me fekkin’ crazy! My God! Let it end!!! I’ve been hearing the same damn Flamenco guitar for the last 20 minutes! Enough, you bastardos! Enough!

After a while, Grant halts in the near complete darkness and says, "This is the end of the trail." (To be fair, the shots of the group walking through the darkness of the jungle are indeed dark: you can barely make out the people’s faces and nothing else, which makes for some pretty dreary viewing.)

As the others watch in nervous anticipation, Grant shimmies along the edge of the sound stage, sorry, I mean the huge chasm. A dark shape sprawled on the ground confirms Grant’s fears: It’s George’s body. Grant returns to the chasm and helps the others across so they can see for themselves. A pair of gigantic fang marks in George’s neck convinces the group to return to the plane.

"George is beyond help," Wu astutely observes, "We should all go back and tend the fire for the living."

Mesa of Lost WomenCommence another long, boring trek across the sound stage, sorry, jungle. (On the way back to the crash site, Doreen stumbles and falls into Grant’s arms. A Significant Glance is exchanged.) Back at the plane, Grant suggests they all get some sleep. No worries, he’ll take the first guard shift. Back in Aranya’s lab, one of the spider women has reported the presence of the intruders. "Very good, soon their nerves will break," Aranya says. (I know the feeling, my nerves broke about 10 minutes into this movie.)

Meanwhile, Doreen awakes to see Grant tossing sticks onto the fire instead of, say, taking the gun from Masterson who is sleeping like a baby. Idiot. Whatever. Doreen and Grant have a horrendously awkward conversation. For example: Doreen: "I’d like you to understand me." Grant: "I think I do understand you." Doreen: "Oh no you don’t. You can’t." Grant: "Oh, yes I can."

Needless to say, Grant and Doreen’s interminable romantic exchange, accompanied by the never-ending strumming of that DAMN GUITAR THAT NEVER FREAKIN’ STOPS <ayeeeee!!!>, leads to, Ta-Da!, a kiss.

Suddenly, due to poor editing, everybody is awake and Doreen is describing what she saw in the jungle: "Some women and little men…"

"Where’s your comb?" van Croft asks Doreen out of the blue. (!!!)

"Oh, I guess I lost it out there some where."

"But I gave it to you," van Croft says with indignation, "We must find it. That comb is a valuable heirloom of my family."

What the…?

You have to find that…comb…now!? In the jungle? At night? With a giant spider on the loose? Am I really hearing all this?

Mesa of Lost WomenWell, van Croft ends up sending Wu out into the jungle to find Doreen’s comb. (Holy shit. Sorry for the explicative, but really, man, what the hell?!)

"I hope you realize," Grant growls to van Croft, "that if Wu doesn’t come back, then you’re responsible."

"I won’t ever touch that comb again..even if he finds it." Doreen adds.

Well, the treacherous Wu makes his way to Aranya’s lab.

"You brought Masterson?" Aranya asks.

"Yes, he is here."

(See notes above on how Wu could have never arranged all this…not in this universe at least.)

Now the movie gets a little confusing here. (Believe it or not.) Wu turns to leave and Aranya orders a couple of spider women to kill him. Fair enough. Cut to see Grant stomping through the jungle. (Why?) He immediately discovers a body laying on the ground. (Wu?) In one of the body’s lifeless hands is Doreen’s comb. (Eh? How did that get there?) Yes, it must be Wu’s body because Grant plucks up his flashlight and Masterson’s pistol, both of which were loaned to Wu when he embarked on his Quest for the Comb.

Mesa of Lost WomenOk, back at the plane Grant tosses the oh-so-precious comb into van Croft’s face and tells him that Wu is dead. Doreen goes into pseudo-hysterics and throws herself into Grant’s arms as van Croft covers his face and weeps in self-disgust. This Oscar® winning moment is broken up by a ruckus in the trees.

His nerves at the breaking point, van Croft finally cracks and runs into the woods where he is bitten by the giant spider. The others are taken prisoner by a group of dwarves and spider-women, and are swiftly hustled off to Dr. Aranya’s hideout.

Inside the lab, an unconscious Masterson lies on a gurney while Doreen and Grant watch on. Masterson looks around and realizes where he is…"Doctor Aranya!" he shouts.

"Aranya…that’s Spanish for ‘spider’," Grant whispers to Doreen.

Oh, like that’s the first thing that would come to mind in a situation like this. Like somebody about to be tossed off a bridge would say "Doctor Du Pont!"…"Hey, that’s French for ‘bridge’!" Egads, what a film.

Almost done, people.

Aranya gives Masterson another chance to join him; Masterson refuses. Doreen breaks free of her guards and attacks Tarantella. (Unfortunately, a much desired cat-fight sequence between Doreen and Tarantella is over all too quickly. Damn.) Taking advantage of the confusion, Masterson hops off the gurney and snatches a beaker full of colored liquid from a nearby bench.

Masterson orders Grant and Doreen to flee the cave as he casts the beaker and its explosive contents onto the floor resulting in some more bad special effects as everything burns up, explodes, and so on.

Fade back to the hospital where Grant is winding up his extraordinary tale. (What the hell? So all this was his flashback? How would he know what happened to Masterson? The events that happened in the bar? He was never there! Just whose flashback was that?!)

"Well…that’s about the story," Grant concludes. (Although just whose story that was will remain forever undefined.)

Mesa of Lost WomenGrant rushes over to Doreen who has also awoken. Pepe believes the story, but Dan the Foreman refuses to send a bunch of oil trucks "up a mountain to burn imaginary spiders."

Alas, we wrap up the film as we began: narration accompanied by the Flamenco Guitar From Hell:

"Yes…you’re right Dan, common sense tells you that there isn’t anything to his story…doesn’t it? Giant spiders on a desert mesa…fanstastic! Pepe is just a superstitious native. True, no one has ever been on top of the Mesa, but it’s just like any other bit of table land…not a thing different about it…or is there?"

Fade to blonde spider-woman clinging to a boulder.

Cut to credits as the last bit of your sanity evaporates accompanied by the incessant strumming of a Flamenco guitar.

The End.

Dennis Grisbeck (July 2006)

Afterthoughts

OK, fine. This movie is really, really bad. Yet, it’s so hopelessly muddled and misguided that I can’t help but feel a guilty affection for it. All in all, I thought the actors tried their best, given the script and the budget, not to mention that the "Tarantula Dance" is something to behold. Still, I wouldn’t want to watch this movie again any time soon. I think of it like a 3-legged stray dog that shows up on my porch. I may feel sorry for it but I sure the hell won’t invite it into my house.
Maybe I’m way off base here, but I think this movie had a bit of an influence on Ed Wood. Evidence:

1) Ed used the soundtrack in his Jail Bait film.
2) MOLW narrator Lyle Talbot showed up in Ed’s Plan 9.
3) One of the "lost women" in the film is Ed regular (and girlfriend) Dolores Fuller.
4) The narration in MOLW simply reeks of Ed Wood-esque prose. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when the narrator mentions "man’s limited intellect"? Why, Eros’s infamous Solarbenite Speech from Plan 9.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m nuts, but what else do I have to think about?

Read more about Mesa of Lost Women at

IMDB

Comments are closed.