The 1960s were a time and place with a different set of rules and expectations, and the special effects were only as good as they could produce for their time. They didn’t have the luxury to see into the future to revel in how far we would come with advances in makeup, special effects, or stories (although not everyone would agree that we have “advanced” in all of those areas). Movies couldn’t have improved throughout the years without something to inspire future filmmakers from which to catapult. Sometimes, then, it feels like a bit of a cheap shot to review an older movie due to the fact that it might have been far better received in its day than whatever opinions we may have about it now. So, depending on who you are: go into this new review knowing that opinions on older films may be different based on the time and place you first experience a film.
Earth being visited by an alien species has been the topic of many horror and science fiction movies throughout the movie industry. ‘Mars Needs Women’ is no different. It is a story of five Martian men who come to Earth to kidnap single women for re-population purposes. They go to this extreme due to a genetic anomaly that has occurred within their race which has led to a ratio of men-to-women being severely off-kilter on their planet. Seeking a pleasing balance between “Goddess” like appearances and intellect, they begin to acquire their targets until one Martian goes against protocol and endangers the mission.
With some big names of the day including Tommy Kirk and Yvonne Craig, the movie was directed by Larry Buchanan within a two-week time frame. There seems to be some discrepancy as to exactly when the movie was released, as some sources range from 1966 to 1968, but most information seems to suggest that it was a made-for-TV science fiction movie between that time.
You may be wondering why the name of the movie rings a bell. It could be because Disney released ‘Mars Needs Moms’ in 2011, a kid-friendly adaptation of this movie. The kid’s version didn’t seem to do too well with the critics, but to be fair, the original ‘Mars Needs Women’ didn’t really do well in my review either.
‘Mars Needs Women’ is dull. A bunch of Martians do nothing but observe the city and hypnotize people to find a peaceful way to kidnap women they want as baby-making factories. There was very little action throughout the movie but there is a lot of staring and forced intensity sometimes for no real reason. When I think about it, those parts were entertaining, but not for the right reasons. Some of the aliens’ facial expressions and banter made me chuckle.
There is no real science as to why human women would be compatible with the Martians. Just because they look similar, they’re compatible? Can a fox and a cat breed naturally? Just because they might appear similar on the outside does not mean they have the requirements necessary to breed. While this could be said of many alien movies – “where’s the science?” – it remains a valid question here as well. If Mars truly had such a skewed ratio of men to women, wouldn’t you think they would want a larger cache than just five human women to have more children? And the idea that the Martians would think the military would simply hand over five women on the basis of an encoded message, “Mars needs women,” without a fight is silly. So…there is no “realism” – it just makes for entertaining the right crowd. Which is okay – it is science fiction, after all – but it’s still flawed.
This type of story has been told before in different ways. While ‘Mars Needs Women’ is lackluster compared to recent attempts, it is a film that has a basis in science fiction. Even if not everything makes sense – the ideals of the story hold up okay. As previously mentioned, the effects crew had what they had to work with at the time. You’re supposed to believe the five adult male aliens crawled out of the ridiculous little gold spaceship model. You’re supposed to believe that shots of seemingly random airplane stunts in the sky are the military being unable to control their airplanes. You’re supposed to believe that the five aliens are “serious” and are not just acting like blocks of wood and that Doctor Bolen (Craig, who played Batgirl in the TV series ‘Batman’ in 1967) was aloof because she was a sexy, “smarter than everyone else” type of scientist. For its time, the presentation most likely made the audience to believe these things. Compare this to Keanu Reeves’ performance in ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (2008), I do believe that the actors who played Fellows #1-5 in this film intended their performances to appear as wooden as Reeves does when he portrays Klaatu. So I get it.
In conclusion, in my humble opinion, to really enjoy ‘Mars Needs Women’ it needs to be one of those movies that you might have grown up with, be a part of your collection as a piece of film history, or you specifically enjoy the actors featured in the film. Classic cinema is not everyone’s cup of tea!