The 1987 spoof flick Amazon Women On The Moon will undoubtedly come to mind when seeing the newly distributed Mutant Swinger from Mars from Rising Sun Media. UFOs hanging from visible strings, every day items used as set pieces (only slightly masked from their regular duty) and wooden dialogue, in both delivery and inception, are par for the course in Mutant Swinger. And certainly, this comparison to Amazon Women On The Moon will provide you with the exact tone you should expect to encounter (close encounter?) with Mutant Swinger from Mars.
Larger-than-life personality, Orton Z. Creswell (Pete LaDuke) was a filmmaker, an actor and a psychic back in the day. His cinematic output mirrored that of William Castle or Roger Corman (in both quality and quantity). But one of his triumphs, the titular Mutant Swinger from Mars, has sadly gone unseen, lo these many years, its brilliance seemingly lost…until now.
You’ll be treated to interviews with Creswell himself, as well as frequent collaborators, looking back (fondly, and sometimes not) about their time with this prolific film director. And once that’s all firmly established, you’ll be transported to 1950’s Michigan, and a mission from Mars, as (framed by an old-timey television set) Mutant Swinger from Mars begins.
Three Martians have come to Earth to pick up women. They’ll use the help of recently risen from the dead, snazzy lounge singer, Fez Fleckman (also Pete LaDuke) to get all that they will need from Earth’s fairer sex. Rusty Rave (Michael East) must save his best girl Mitzy (Colleen Nash) from Fleckman’s other-worldly advances. Oh, and should there be any confusion – Creswell and his film catalog, are all very fake.
What makes a film of this ilk stand out from its competitors is when the cast and the crew as a whole, get it. I’m reminded of the time I had to review one of the Sharknado films and how everyone on the cast roster knew exactly what kind of film they were in… that is, everyone except Tara Reid. There was something off about her performance and it didn’t quite match with what Ian Ziering and the other actors were doing. They had a grasp on the absurdity. And if there’s one performer who doesn’t “get it”, it’s a distraction.
What does that mean? Well, as a cast and crew, you all have to be on the same wavelength. You’re not taking things too seriously, but you’re also not really winking at the audience. But then you are sort of taking it seriously, even though you’re not. Make sense? Probably not. When making a film like this it’s a fine line. Cast and crew of Mutant Swinger from Mars (led by writer/director Michael Kallio, who also appears as Dr. Hypnotic-O) know precisely how to deliver this particular story’s ridiculousness. And when everyone is firing on the same cylinder there is magic.
What makes the film truly great (and endlessly enjoyable) are the posters, props and footage from Creswell’s lengthy film career. The fact that Kallio and company had to brainstorm, create and shoot all of these is in itself quite a feat. There are so many little Easter Eggs of creative goodness – many which flash by far too quickly- that it would be worth a repeat viewing just to make sure none of these kooky and inspired details were missed.
And the production design is glorious. Miniatures galore, all done with great care and creativity. Set design (as mentioned above) includes so many recognizable items, possibly available in anyone’s garage, reused as – as an example – an operating table in Dr. Smirnoff’s laboratory. This inventive “cheapness” further engages you in these worlds (the film and the film within the film). Fun performances from the cast as a whole, but special kudos must be shouted from the heavens to properly recognize Pete LaDuke as Orton Z. Creswell (and in Mutant Swinger from Mars, singer/swinger Fez Fleckman). He shines in both roles – as Creswell, the smarmy, narcissistic filmmaker and as douchey and hypnotic (literally) Fez Fleckman. LaDuke’s lip-sync performance to continue his schmoozing of all the human females must be seen to be believed!
I also thoroughly enjoyed the work of Robert Emmett Young as actor Gary Dunn (and within the film, Xedor the Martian). While LaDuke’s Fleckman is actually a fantastic and legit schmoozer, Young nails the “bad acting” one would expect from a film like Mutant Swinger from Mars. It’s a sort of monotone, sometimes fumbled delivery and perfectly matches Xedor’s equally terrible make-up.
Particularly joyous are references to other sci-fi film favorites with call-outs to Planet of the Apes, War of the Worlds and Star Wars. Why, there was even a bartender in the film, doing his very best William Shatner / Kirk from Star Trek. And my personal favorite? One of Dr. Smirnoff’s apparent ongoing experiments – a little fly in jar desperately chirping, “Help me. Help me.”
In light of our screening of this film my other half suggested we take in Mars Attacks! the following evening. Despite the film’s release in 1996 I have somehow missed it. It felt appropriate to the prior night’s screening as a subject matter continuation. And I can say without a doubt, that Mutant Swinger from Mars was a more enjoyable movie-going experience.
For the most part Mutant Swinger from Mars succeeds but it does have its limitations. The film’s biggest shortcoming is one which I’ve seen time and again in films which are basically a colossal joke, a spoof.
Can you make this – what seems to be a simple, perhaps one-note idea on paper – translate to a full feature film? It’s a tough thing to achieve, and Mutant Swinger from Mars is entertaining but definitely flirts with that “one-noteness”.
All that being said, the best joke of the entire film (and briefly revisited in the film’s closing credits) is the introduction of the Martians to Dr. Smirnoff (Scott Dixon), specifically that of Pam (Rhonda Belcher).
A bit of fun trivia: Jack White (of The White Stripes) appears as Mikey -one of Rusty Rave’s bar – hopping buddies.
So while not every joke landed, Mutant Swinger from Mars is still quite a good time – a fun romp with several laugh-out-loud bits, impressive production design and a “let’s just go for it” cast who truly understands what is expected of them.
Shot in 1998 with a world premiere at San Diego Comic-Con in 2009, Mutant Swinger from Mars is now available on Amazon Prime and Vimeo. Check it out!