REMEDIAL SF 101: Way...Way Out

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Repeat after me: a silly sixties sci-fi sex farce starring Jerry Lewis and Connie Francis.

And Jerry Lewis is playing it straight as an eleven-year veteran of the Weathernaut program, who's always managed to weasle his way out of having to go to the USA's weather station on the moon. Men go mad up there; just look at what's happened to Hoffman and Schmidlapp, who have been trying to kill each other for the last three months of their tour.

It also doesn't help that the Russian weather station next door is run by strapping Igor Baklenikov and the slinky Anna Soblova. Comrade Soblova has fended off a lewd attack by the sex-starved and psychotic Schmidlapp, which has turned into an international incident, with the Russians accusing the Americans of sending unqualified jerks to their lunar station.

In order to smooth things over, the director of the lunar weather station program, Mr. Quonset (played by Robert Morley--don't ask me how a Brit got to be in control of an American space program) announces that instead of two men being sent up to relieve the embattled Hoffman and Schmidlapp, a married couple--he a weathernaut, she a space scientist--have been chosen and trained to go.

However, the couple turns out to be completely incompatable, fighting furiously upon returning from their honeymoon, and refusing to have anything more to do with each other, let alone the Moom mission, which is due to lift off within a matter of days.

In desperation, Quonset turns to the back-up weathernaut--Peter Mattemore, who has something of an unfortunate reputation as a ladies' man. Peter does not want to go, but Quonset leans heavily on him, and further insists that Mattemore must find and marry a qualified female astronaut to take with him as his partner and wife.

Mattemore is unwillingly swept along by Quonset's schemes, but becomes a little more amenable once he is shown a photograph of one of the eligible women--Eileen Forbes, played by the adorable Connie Stevens. Eileen is, really, the only suitable candidate for Peter, since one of the others is already married, and the third girl turns out to be a plain, unappealing no-nonsense type who is willing to go, but with whom Peter refuses to work.

He attempts to convince Eileen to accept the offer, striking out repeatedly, particularly after the romantic dinner he had planned for her goes horribly awry when his actual girlfriend shows up at the restaurant. Later on, though, he finds out that Eileen is really dying to go to the moon; she just doesn't care for the conditions Quonset is putting on them.

Peter gives her his word of honor that although they will go through with the wedding, it will be a marriage in name only, and begs her not to force him to go with the other girl.

They are rushed through the ceremony by Quonset on the way up the gantry to the waiting rocket. Upon arrival at the weather station, they walk into the deteriorated situation between Hoffman and Schmidlapp. Hoffman is trying to clean up the place, while Schmidlapp sits around drawing pictures of naked women and taking swings at Hoffman. When Eileen walks in, it's just about all Hoffman can do to keep Schmidlapp from attacking her. When she goes into the bathroom to freshen up after her three-day journay, all three men fall to fantasizing about what she might be doing in there.

Hoffman and Peter realize that it's in everybody's best interests to tie up Schmidlapp and get him onto the capsule for home as quickly as possible. The two astronauts depart, leaving the new Mr. and Mrs. Mattemore alone.

But not for long. As they're having a heated debate about what their bunking arrangements are going to be, they are interrupted by the arrival of a being in a space suit, which turns out to be the female cosmonaut, Anna (played by Anita Eckberg.) She is there to welcome her new neighbors, and to get away from her partner, Igor (played by Dick Shawn) who soon turns up and inspires a good old-fashioned Russian party, complete with instant-mix vodka.

The four are soon drunk as skunks and having a grand time, until Peter drinks way, way too much vodka, and
challenges Igor to a fight over a perceived slight to Mrs. Mattemore's honor--or possibly the price of yaks, it's kinda hard to tell what they're saying with all the drunken slurring. Of course, on the Moon, "let's step out side and settle this like men" involves space suits and microgravity, neither of which are particularly easy to manage when you're plastered.

Two days later, Peter awakens with a monster hang-over, only to be yelled at by Quonset via the videophone connection. His little party with the Russkies has nearly sparked another international incident, but that soon takes a back-seat to the needs of General "Howlin' Bull" Hallenby, played by Brian Keith, who orders Peter to try to do something to secure the Moon, as the US is on the brink of a war with Russia over some unspecified issue on Earth.

Since Anna is still camping out in the Mattemores' bedroom, having left Igor because he refuses to marry her, they lock her into the bedroom, and when Igor shows up, Peter clocks him with a tray. Proud of having so swiftly accomplished his mission, he calls Hallenby back, only to be told the war is off, and he shouldn't have taken the two Russian cosmonauts prisoner.

When Igor comes to, the Mattemores tell him he slipped and fell entering the space station, and hit his head. He asks where Anna is, and when he finds out she's alseep in the bedroom, he slinks in to try to seduce her. She asks him if he's there to propose, and he laughs at her. She tells him they must get married because she is pregnant. Igor's laughter turns to tears.

Igor and Anna are wed via videophone by the Premier of Russia, with the Mattemores standing by as witnesses. Everyone is crowing about all the Russian "firsts"--first wedding on the Moon, first Moon baby...

Of course, this prompts a very aggreived Quonset to contact the Mattemores, sighing about how awful it is that the Russians keep pulling ahead of the Americans in this space race. He makes a rude comment about how the Americans didn't stand a chance, put up against those strapping, lustful Russians--just say "boo" to them and they get pregnant. Eileen snaps, "Well, just say 'boo' to me--I'm just as pregnant as she is!"

Quonset is surprised and delighted, but Peter is confused. After Quonset signs off, Peter asks her why she lied to Quonset, since they've only been married five days. She replies she didn't lie--she is "just as pregnant as Anna"--who isn't pregnant, either. Eileen coached her to say that in order to get Igor to marry her.

So it seems the Americans may still have a chance to beat the Russians...

Commentary:

This is a weird, weird little film. It's set "at the turn of the century," meaning around the year 2000. "Not a lot has changed since 1960, though." There's a lot of cute little jokes, the production values are pretty good, and it boasts a cast of name actors.

The main problem is that it's like an episode of "Three's Company" drawn out to an hour and a half running time.

Quonset is so obnoxious you just want to punch his lights out. Jerry Lewis is actually surprisingly handsome and charming as Peter Mattemore--the only time he lets his trademark goofiness come out is when he's drunk on the instant vodka. Connie Stevens is just too cute, Anita Ekberg is every space nerd's dream girl, and Dick Shawn is...well, Dick Shawn.

The sequence where Hoffman, Schmidlapp, and Mattemore start fantasizing about what Eileen is doing in the bathroom is just too creepy, at least by today's standards.

Narrated by John "Shorty" Powers, who had been the mission commentator for the Mercury program, this movie tries to give you the impression that it's a straight-faced projection of the future of the space program. NASA helped out by providing footage from their Saturn 1-B rocket and gantry to help lend authenticity.

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with this film, it just has some sequences that tend to drag a bit. There are worse ways to waste ninety minutes. The special effects aren't that bad--they sure beat giant spiders made out of Volkswagens. And hey, the retro-futuristic sets and costumes are pretty cool!

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