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Mesa of Lost Women

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Mesa of Lost Women (1953) starring Jackie Coogan, Allan Dixon, Richard Travis, Mary Hill, Tandra Quinn
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Mesa of Lost Women (1953) starring Jackie Coogan, Allan Dixon, Richard Travis, Mary Hill, Tandra Quinn

Spider-women lure men to their death in this thriller from the golden era of Drive-in schlock!  Mesa of Lost Women is regarded as one of the worst movies ever made.  A mad scientist named Arana (Jackie Coogan) is creating giant spiders, dwarves, and indestructible spider women hybrids in his lab on Zarpa Mesa in Mexico. He wants to create a master race of superwomen by injecting his female subjects with spider glands.


The Mesa of Lost Women is widely considered to be one of the worst movies of all time. Frankly, it’s not hard to see why. It begins with very melodramatic narration, as two people are rescued wandering the desert. The male survivor starts telling the story in flashback …

Which then gets wrapped inside another flashback. And yet another flashback. No, seriously.

The underlying plot deals with a mad scientist, trying to create a “super” race of human/spider hybrids in the desert. With a subplot of a madman, escaped from an insane asylum. Who causes the plane crash in the first place.

Cast of characters

  • Jackie Coogan (The Kid, The Addams Family) … Dr. Aranya. The evil mad scientist. He’s making bizarre human-spider hybrids to …. Rule the world!
  • Allan Nixon (Prehistoric Women) … ‘Doc’ Tucker. The doctor who treats Doreen & Grant after their dehydration in the desert. And, listens to the backstory they tell.
  • Richard Travis (The Man Who Came to Dinner, Missile to the Moon) … Dan Mulcahey. Foreman at the oil exploration company, where Doreen & Grant are taken.
  • Lyle Talbot … Narrator (voice)
  • Paula Hill (The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms) … Doreen Culbertson (as Mary Hill). Our female protagonist.
  • Robert Knapp (Days of our Lives) … Grant Phillips. Our male protagonist. Pilot of Jan’s private plane, until Masterson takes the crew & passengers hostage.
  • Tandra Quinn (The Neanderthal Man) … Tarantella. The beautiful human/spider hybrid. She kills multiple men along the way. Shot by Masterson, seemingly killed, she quickly recovers. Spider powers, after all.
  • Chris-Pin Martin (The Mark of Zorro) … Pepe. Along with Frank, he rescues our protagonists from the desert.
  • Harmon StevensDr. Leland J. Masterson. The famous scientist, invited by Aranya to see his work. But, it disgusts him. Aranya injects with a drug that drives him mad. Which prevents him from telling what he knows. Or being believed. Later, he escapes from an insane asylum, shoots Tarantella, and takes a small plane of passengers captive.
  • Nico LekJan van Croft. Businessman, who’s about to marry Doreen. Until the mad Masterson interferes. Later killed in the desert.

Secondary characters

  • John MartinFrank. The American oil surveyor who, along with Pepe, rescues Grant and Doreen from the desert.
  • George Barrows (Robot Monster) … George. Masterson’s nurse at the asylum. Killed in the desert.
  • Dolores Fuller (Bride of the Monster) … Blonde ‘Watcher in the Woods’
  • Dean Riesner (Paris Holiday) … Aranya Henchman (as Dean Reisner)
  • Fred Kelsey (Speak Easily, O. Henry’s Full House)… The Bartender
  • Samuel Wu … Wu. Jan’s servant. He seems to recognize Tarantella …

Editorial review of The Mesa of Lost Women courtesy of

Plane crash survivors are discovered wandering through “The Desert of Death.” Grant, the pilot, regains his senses in the hospital and relates a tale of horror. A brilliant scientist, Dr. Arana, has devised a bizarre crossbreeding program to create an army of nightmarish creatures. Giant tarantulas, fiendish dwarves and beautiful, scantily-clad superwomen run amuck in his laboratory atop the Zarpa Mesa. Jackie Coogan appears as the mad scientist.

Also in the fantastic cast of characters is manly Z-movie stalwart Allan Nixon (Prehistoric Women), Richard Travis (Missile To The Moon), diminutive actors John George and Angelo Rossitto, as well as Ed Wood principals Delores Fuller and Mona McKinnon. The soundtrack, which features flamenco guitar and jarring piano chords, was written by the prolific Hoyt Curtin and later used in Ed Wood’s Jailbait.

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