Field Guide to Invertebrates in Film: Mesa of Lost Women

Mesa of Lost Women (1953)
Critter: Hormonally altered men, women and a spider
Size: Female humanoids- approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall; Male humanoids- approximately 3 feet 5 inches tall; Female spider- approximately 25 feet tall
Modus Operandi: The spider-women dance or stare menacingly, the spider-dwarf-men leer and scurry, the giant spider with a woman’s pituitary gland sometimes bites people
How the Menace Emerges: A mad scientist exchanges the pituitary glands of humans and spiders to create 1) sexy, violent-looking women that rarely harm anyone, but make great lab assistants, 2) grinning, menacing dwarf men that jump a lot and 3) one man-sized super spider that he can talk to telepathically
End Goal: World domination

And now it’s time for an entry into the Guide that makes Ed Wood look like a craftsman. The Mesa of Lost Women is quite possibly one of the worst movies ever committed to film. Even at only 70 minutes you will miss that chunk of your Saturday afternoon. The film opens with a very talky, ominous narrator warning us of the power of nature over humanity: “In the continuing war for survival between man and the hexapods, only an utter fool would bet against the insects.” That, however, has nothing to do with this fractured narrative at all. In fact, there are no insects involved in this film.

One-eyed Dr. Aranya (Jackie “Uncle Fester” Coogan) working in his underground lab stocked with wild-eyed, intense spider-ladies in togas is playing around with hormones. His piece de resistance is a giant she-spider with reasoning skills that may someday control the world with Dr Aranya at the helm. We also have a rag tag bunch of characters who enter his domain: the despicable rich man and his gold-digging fiancĂ©e, their Chinese servant who is only allowed to speak in poetic, fortune-cookie proverbs, the dashing and pointless young pilot, the male nurse from the asylum and the scientist turned lunatic who holds them all at gun point. This could be fine, but there are just too many unanswered questions for even this jaded B-movie aficionado: 1) How is there a lush jungle on the obviously barren mesa we see in long shots? 2) How did the super-spider get back into the underground lab just in time to be blown up? 3) Why do the guitar and piano continue playing the same structure-less tune? Despite scenes of ominous dwarves and evil looking sexpots sitting in groups watching the camera, then scurrying off, this film isn’t easy to watch.

Mesa of Lost Women is plagued by terrible dialogue, an incoherent narrative and nonsensical edits. Why would anyone decide that the line: “I’ve had to work ever since I was a kid, and of it wasn’t very much fun.” should be punctuated with the leering face of one of the mutant dwarves?
But it may be that moments like these make Mesa of Lost Women one of your favorite movies of all time. Some people are like that, you know.
Just as a side note, the superstar of the un-credited little person’s role, Angelo Rossitto (Freaks, Spider Woman (Yes, that’s poor Angelo in the suitcase), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome) makes an appearance as Dr. Aranya’s main henchman.

Nit-picking Science: 1) Mr. Narrator and Dr. Arayna, you both surely recognize that tarantulas couldn’t possibly belong to the subphylum Hexapoda. That classification is reserved for our six-legged pals. 2) Spiders certainly do not have pituitary glands, so I have no idea what you actually transplanted, Dr. Arayna.

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