Mesa of Lost Women

The bright parentage of The Island of Dr. Moreau (Island of Lost Souls, dir. Erle C. Kenton) presides over this entomological variant, which is probably most usefully regarded as a sketch for Michael Garrison’s The Wild, Wild West. A fantasy on “the chameleon-insect that is at the heart of Dali’s Olympus,” the morros de cony, with a somewhat excoriating, self-aware, Baudelairean script, or perhaps an evocation of the desert Southwest with its pale beauties. The narration is markedly in the style of radio’s The Whistler, and the performances are keyed by Jackie Coogan’s marvelous Araña, a species of scientist that has become familiar of late.

The crew is notable for the presence of Orville H. Hampton and Theodore Offenbecker from CBS. Hoyt S. Curtin’s score is very able, a sustained inspiration on the theme, for guitar and piano.

The centerpiece of the film, and the key to understanding it, is the dance number interrupted by a pistol shot in the cantina. This is nothing less than Mallarmé’s “Phénomène Futur”, that vision of “an epoch that has outlived beauty.”

And all the rest of Mesa of Lost Women is an explication and justification of Mallarmé’s prose-poem, crammed into the beautiful artifice of an abandoned couple in the badlands, who (it may be) have merely passed a restless night.