History of the Project
Women Need Martians is one part loving homage and one part sendup of those low-budget alien invasion films of the 1950s. The idea is to make a film that looks and sounds like one of those B-sci-fi exploitation flicks, so much so that it should almost seem as if it was made back in that era. To achieve this, the film is intended to be shot in black and white, with cars, props and costuming sutiable to 1957 or 58. Even the script is antique in tone, where the worst curse uttered is "Gosh darn it all to heck!"
So, what's the film about? You could say it's Where the Boys Are meets a flying saucer flick, but that only scratches the surface.
Giving Credit Where Due
Giving credit where credit is due can be a tough thing. In my case, I want to make sure anyone who made a significant contribution to a project gets proper recognition. At the same time, I have to be fair to myself and not create the impression that work that I did is the work of someone else.
In the case of Women Need Martians, the idea for a sci-fi parody film began with David "The Penguin" Banach. Dave's initial idea began life as an offshoot of his idea of making a cheap video that would be sort of a sci-fi Airplane. I started discussing this concept with him, and argued that an Airplane type spoof would be very difficult to make. Instead, I suggested doing an "Ed Wood"...making what would look like a low-budget '50's sci-fi film. it would be one part loving homage and one part satire. As things developed, I sort of usurped the development of the story and characters, as Dave was more interested in the technical end of things (editing and mixing, etc.).
In addition to getting the ball rolling, Dave's most significant contribution to the script was the film's central sight-gag sequence: the frisbee routine. I don't recall who first came up with the idea of the frisbees (I suspect it was Dave), but a laugh-out-loud back and forth between us resulted in the gag structure that survives more or less intact to this day.
Sherri Briggs became involved not long after. She made significant contributions into research for the film, accompanying me on location scouting, hunting for vintage automobiles, costuming, hairstyles, and props. Beyond this, her most significant contribution was her reading of Bobbie Jo's dialogue during the writing of the first draft. Her readings gave me such a solid handle on the character that Bobbie Jo threatened to take over the story!
As the script was being written, an occasional line would come from a suggestion of a friend or colleague. Sherri wrote a bit of one scene in a germinal draft. Sherri, Dave and Karen Callahan all made suggestions for plot events and gags. While many of these were not ultimately utilized, the process of considering them often led me in directions I had not expected.
Other SourcesHere are the sources/inspirations for some other elements:
The film's title is significant in that it actually determined what the film would be about. The title itself emerged from one of those early brainstorming sessions with Dave. I liked the goofy titles of old cheap sci-fi flicks, and hit on the unlikely idea of inverting the title of the 1966 film Mars Needs Women. What I liked about this was that it had "exploitation flick" written all over it. Additionally, the title immediately suggested what the story was about: women who need Martian boyfriends! I don't recall having considered writing a 50s sci-fi Themla & Louise prior to hitting on the title.
Although I don't recall where her name came from, she's inspired by all the tough girls in those late 50s, early 60s exploitation flicks. Mamie Van Doren, etc. Add a sprinkle of Stockard Channing as Rizzo from Grease and you get the picture.
Queen Zha Zha
Zha Zha Gabor appeared in a film called Queen of Outer Space, although not as the title character. When Dave and I were kicking around early ideas, the title of this film came up, and it was too good to ignore. Naturally, we had to put a spin on it, hence our "queen" is a raving gay queen.
A visual inspiration was the actor who played Pilate in the 25th Anniversary production of Jesus Christ Superstar that Sherri and I attended. Pilate made his entrance, back to the audience, with a huge cape draping behind him, that billowed as he spun to face the audience. I swiped this entrance for Zha Zha.
The Martian Hunks
Oddly enough, it was my friend Cody Lawson doing impersonations of monotone action-flick "actors" that inspired the martian hunks. I thought it would be funny for the girls to meet these seemingly perfect men, who, no matter how exciting the situation, always spoke in this drab, deep monotone.
The Martian Monster
This came directly out of my feeling that the first draft was mising something important (besides the missing climactic action scene!). In thinking back on all those sci-fi movies from This Island Earth to Fair Maidens of Outer Space, I realized what was required was some totally bogus scene where one of the girls was threatened by a hideous alien monster that served no other purpose in the story.
The Road to Mars
The film's "road picture" structure was a wholly practical consideration on my part. In order to minimize set-construction/dressing/lighting issues, I suggested that the bulk of the film settings be outdoor locations. To move the story along and to allow us varied locations in which to set scenes, it seemed logical to have the characters on some kind of trip.
Additionally, and this just occurred to me as I was writing this, I think an additional inspiration was an early 90s interview with Eric Idle, who was discussing a script he was trying to sell, entitled The Road to Mars (which was to be a Hope & Crosby style road picture with sci-fi elements). I seem to recall that title popped into my head at some point when Dave and I were hashing out ideas, and the title itself (I've never seen the script) may have contributed to the idea of doing a "road trip" film.
Texas T Oil Co.
While writing the second draft, I was trying to come up with a fictional gas station chain for Earl's station. I played with various Texan motifs (TexarkanaCo, etc.), then recalled the theme song for the Beverly Hillbillies, which refers to oil as "black gold" and "Texas Tea". The latter immediately suggested a logo, so it was done.
I had at one point considered making the girls of various ethnic backgrounds. However, as I thought back to the films I was spoofing, it struck me that the casts were, almost without exception, strictly caucasian. At first I chafed at the idea of writing such a "white bread" movie, but then I realized that this whiteness was yet another spoofable element, thus I began looking to see how I could lampoon the bleached caucasian worlds of those films.
The second draft script introduces this element in the foodstuffs and avertising that appear throughout the film: white bread, salt, bleach, mayonaise, all reinforce the plain, bland nature of the worlds of these films, and the 50s as immortalized on film.
I Don't Recall...
Unfortunately, my memory isn't perfect, and it's possible I've inadvertently neglected to give credit where necessary here. If I have missed something significant or am incorrect on any of the above, please let me know.
Additionally, if any of those involved in early stages of the script recall the genesis or origin of elements of the film, please remind me. For example, I can't recall what inspired the names of the girls (although I suspect Bobbie Jo's came from Petticoat Junction").