Of possible interest to Orthosphereans, my essay concerning Sex, Movies & Traditionalism on Mars has appeared at Angel Millar’s invariably edifying People of Shambhala website. The essay concerns independent Minnesota-based filmmaker Christopher Mihm, whose Saint Euphoria Studios has found a niche – and an audience – in the production of low-budget black-and-white retro-pastiches resembling the B-grade science fiction and horror movies of the 1950s. I argue in Sex, Movies & Traditionalism on Mars that Mihm’s Cave Women on Mars (2008) is a cryptically non-politically correct film that employs a studied rhythm of low-comic japes and serious storytelling to argue for sexual dimorphism, with all its attendant and historically understood differences, as the basis of social life, expressing itself most essentially in the formation of the customary family, with its aim of bringing procreation under morality.
The essay also explores the question whether, in a politically correct environment, it might nowadays only be possible to articulate traditional insights, in public, by indirection. Mihm’s film-festival audiences are undoubtedly liberal, and it appears that he has found a formula for making his dissentient points subliminally and covertly.
Cave Women belongs to a generic tradition of chivalrous sagas, those not only of the medieval tradition, but those also of the North-American “pulp” tradition of the mid-Twentieth Century, as exemplified in the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and in the innumerable stories by Burroughs’ followers that appeared in the monthly entertainment magazines of the interwar period up until a decade or so thereafter. I try to show the relation of Mihm’s film to that variegated tradition. Here are three excerpts:
To recall the framing thesis of this unfolding exposition about Cave Women: “Mihm’s planetary romance – casting its net of allusions both widely and deeply – suggests that, in this rare case, a deliberately cheap production, made to be risible for its apparent incompetency, might become the inadvertent carrier, so to speak, of a culturally serious insight.” In light of the thesis… Mihm can be seen to have made a number of [bold] identifications. He has identified male independence in the milieu of his story with strangeness; he has identified the mentality that sees male independence as strange with Amazons at a tribal level of social development for whom technology is so much incomprehensible magic; and he has identified the male stranger as a chivalrous person who responds instinctively to a cry for help. Mihm has likewise made several distinctions: His dark-haired dominatrix-type Amazons willingly use bloody violence against their male slaves and scheme to betray one another; his blonde, Artemisian Amazons, on the other hand, see themselves as superior to men, but they display nothing of the sadistic misandry characteristic of the brunettes…
Throughout Cave Women, Mihm [exploits] comic japes preemptively to deflect a certain type of attention from the meaning of his story. The point is an important one. Mihm gained early publicity by entering his films, including Cave Women, in various independent film festivals and juried competitions with public screenings. He made an impression and swiftly acquired an audience. What is the probable audience of an independent film festival or juried competition with a public screening? It is young, college-educated, and therefore badly educated, pseudo-bohemian liberals. Had Mihm highlighted the distinctly anti-feminist narrative of Cave Women, he would have been booed out of court on the first screening – or rather he would never have made it into the event. He therefore constantly prestidigitates; he asks his audience unexpectedly to look quick at the bunny-rabbit! In this way he distracts all but the most perspicacious viewers from following the moral continuity in his tale. He permits the other portion of his followers to laugh at the jokes and think them the entirety of the film. The deliberate clumsiness and poverty of the production conduce to the same end…
Cave Women might usefully be compared with several more-or-less recent Mars-themed films, starting with Ridley Scott’s entry The Martian (2015), a Matt-Damon vehicle and would-be summer-season blockbuster. Cave Women lets on candidly about its heavy indebtedness to earlier films and the literary sources of those films. The Martian, heavily freighted with politically correct tropes and images, lamely remakes Byron Haskin’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) – a gem of a film, in which the human drama, or even the spiritual drama, is in the foreground – without any credit-giving gesture. Aside from lacking a Man Friday, an aspect of Daniel Defoe’s novel that Haskin deftly incorporates, The Martian is merely a materialist problem-solving drama… None of the variegated treasure-trove of Martian lore enters into the story. Cave Women surpasses The Martian by many orders of merit both as a story and as an item of genuine cinema. Antony Hoffman’s Red Planet (2000) with Val Kilmer and Carrie-Anne Moss actually incorporates an erotic subplot, but otherwise subserves the cynicism and nihilism of its scriptwriters. Brian de Palma’s Mission to Mars (2000) was anything but nihilistic; it included an erotic theme, but the director had no idea how to end his story once he got it started.
I invite commentary here at The Orthosphere.
I enjoyed Cave Women on Mars. It was a fun hearted movie and you could tell that Christopher Mihm is a real fan of 1950s to 1970s science fiction movies and TV shows. I thought the sets, props, and special effects were great for the type of movie he was making. I did not realize that Josh Craig was playing both Captain Jackson and his father, Director Jackson. I thought the “Dad” was being played by someone like, say, Josh’s older brother.
I only had two complaints. I felt that after Lieutenant Elliott was knocked out for the second time, he would learn to avoid getting hit in the head by a staff. I also felt that Elliot with his earth-born strength, similar to John Carter’s on Barsoom, should have defeated the fierce ojjo by himself; instead of Eina knocking out the ape-like creature with a 12 inch diameter boulder.
First of all, I’m terrifically happy that someone followed up my lauding of the film by taking the trouble to view it. Thank you, Fred. Lieutenant Elliott is slow on the uptake concerning Eina’s stick because he is basically chivalrous: He wishes neither to enter into combat with women, nor hurt them, nor distrust them; he is not an expert at articulating his sense of things, but his actions intimate his state of mind. In the other case that you mention, it would be a shame, I believe, if the story were to reduce Eina too much in comparison with Lieutenant Elliott. Their moment of existential cooperation is more or less the equivalent of their marriage although neither arrives at full awareness of his new status until later, when the High Priestess has spoken to Elliott.
Josh Craig makes appearances in all of Mihm’s early films. Daniel Sjervan makes another appearance, again as the male lead, in Giant Spider, in which the theme of marriage is also prominent, believe it or not.