Stream This? is a feature devoted to exploring and reviewing some of the lesser known and often-times weirder films that can be found on various streaming services. Today, Matt Morrison examines the 1990 sex spoof Bad Girls From Mars.
I think most of us have lost someone over the past year, yet it still comes as a shock when it happens. We never know what might wind up being our last conversation with someone. In this case, my last conversation with my friend Michael Cross a few weeks ago involved a bad movie.
In the past few months, I’ve been cohosting a regular gathering of cheesy movie aficionados online to riff whatever cinematic disasters we could find in the bargain basement of various streaming services. Michael had stopped in a few times to join in the fun and discuss the history of various B-movies; many of which he claimed to have paid to see in the theater. It’s thanks to Mr. Cross that I had the occasion to watch Bad Girls From Mars, which he recommended to me as a possible screener for the movie night, describing it as “Fantastically bad. Mostly an excuse to show tits but it’s like really bad Corman.” I don’t think Michael knew the half of it…
Despite the title, Bad Girls From Mars is not a science fiction film. The movie centers around a Hollywood film production crew making a movie called “Bad Girls From Mars,” which has seen three leading ladies die horribly in the middle of shooting. As the film opens, lead Bad Girl From Mars #4 has just been murdered, hung with a celluloid strip in her dressing room and the film is once again in dire straits.
Thankfully, a savior arrives in the form of notorious European madam Emmanuelle Fortes, who agrees to appear in the film while she’s in Los Angeles promoting her new book. Yet the body count continues to rise as every woman involved in the production starts dying horribly, as the producers attempt to cash in on the publicity and the insurance policies they have taken out on the cast and crew.
Personally, I find the story behind how Bad Girls From Mars came to be made far more interesting than the movie itself, which was eventually reworked into a fusion of sex-farce spoof, slasher horror and movies about making movies after several false starts. Prophetically, that story does involve Roger Corman, as Michael suggested. Yet it also involves another legendary Hollywood figure near and dear to Michael’s heart; Adam West.
The story is that director and co-producer Fred Olen Ray had been given a chance to work with several sets previously used by Roger Corman before they were dismantled forever. Given a chance to recycle the same sets used for classics like Masque of the Red Death, Ray pumped out a sword-and-sorcery work called Wizards Of The Demon Sword in record time and suddenly found himself with five days to spare and a crew and recording equipment going idle. This inspired Ray, who adhered to the same “waste not, want not” philosophy that drove Corman’s pictures, to hurriedly write a murder mystery spoof about life in B-movies ala Hollywood Boulevard. Ray also had the inspired idea (perhaps inspired by the success of the 1989 Batman movie) to cast Adam West and Burt Ward as themselves, playing detective to solve the murders. And the movie would be called “Bat Girls From Mars.”
It was a brilliant idea and it might have worked had West and Ward not been unavailable during those five days. Yet the set remained decorated with bat symbols even as Ray had another brilliant idea; emphasize the soft-core element, cast the former Mrs. Russ Meyer, Edy Williams, in the lead, and retitle the whole thing Emmanuelle Goes To Hollywood. Despite the fact that the American-made Emmanuelle films had no relation to the original French erotica franchise, many movies were made using the brand name with no apparent legal repercussions. Yet this movie still wound up becoming known as Bad Girls From Mars.
I don’t know how much of this Michael might have been aware of, yet I was amused to think of the fact that this movie might have had Adam West and Burt Ward in it. For when I think of Michael Cross, I think of Alfred Pennyworth as played by Alan Napier in the 1966 Batman show. Michael was a fixture in the cosplay community of Dallas/Fort Worth for his Alfred cosplay and many was the event he quietly surveyed with a tray in one hand, ever ready to offer the red Bat-Phone to any Batman he encountered. Yet as I go through all my convention pictures, I find myself stunned that I never seem to have gotten a picture of Michael as Alfred. All my pictures are of him in his other guises; the Star Trek captain, the scientist and Groucho Marx.
It’s no original observation that cosplayers dress as characters they either aspire to be like or feel a connection to. I think it’s telling that so many of us envision Michael Cross as Alfred Pennyworth. He was a generous soul who those of us who knew him looked to as an older brother or foster father and he in turn took care of things in the background, organizing charity events for children where costumed folk were needed and making sure everyone stayed hydrated as the day went on, while the superheroes and princesses got the glory. In that sense he was our Alfred. And the world is a poorer place without him in it.
It occurs to me in writing this I’ve said very little about Bad Girls From Mars and, in truth, there’s not much to say. It is, as Michael advertised it to me, a crappy movie that was thrown together from odds and ends at the last minute, with no reason for existing other than to show off some impressive plastic surgery. The performances were as flat as the actresses are round and the jokes are awful.
And yet, this movie will always have a place in my heart as the last bad movie a dear friend suggested to me and one that did bring many of us together when I suggested we watch it in his honor. A lot of newcomers came to the movie riff that night and despite some major technical issues, I hope some of them will come back. That is Michael’s legacy; bringing people together through, be it through costumes or cheesy movies.
Thank you for everything, Michael Cross and Three Cheers For Captain Spaulding!
Bad Girls From Mars is currently streamable through Amazon Prime.