Mesa of Lost Women
A spectacular and dynamic foray in the realm of Deep Camp, "Mesa of Lost Women" (1953) is a complex tale of scientific ambition, menacing little men and creepy vixens who haunt a place called the Desert of Death. It opens with a couple staggering under the killing sun; after they are rescued by a surveyor, we're taken back a year to the time when Dr. Aranya welcomes esteemed colleague Dr. Leland Masterson to his hidden lab in a Mexican desert. The meeting starts cordially enough, though Masterson is clearly curious about Aranya's buxom lab assistants. Soon he learns that the silent ladies are the result of Aranya's successful attempts cross humans with tarantulas. What happens next involves a cantina, a private plane and a handful of mismatched comrades spending a terrifying night on Zarpa Mesa with Aranya's Lost Women closing in.
If filmed today, the nasty Dr. Aranya would likely manipulate DNA to create his spider-ladies, but since "Mesa" was filmed before deoxyribonucleic acid was a household term, Aranya resorts to transplanting tarantula glands into his victims' bodies. The process of transplanting material from one species to another is called xenotransplantation (as opposed to allotransplantation, the transplanting of material between parties of the same species). It may sound like crackpot science, but xenotransplantation has its advocates, perhaps none so colorfully as Serge Voronoff, whose procedure of grafting thin slices of monkey gland tissue to his male patients' testicles earned him fame and fortune in the early 20th century. His "rejuvenation by grafting" treatment had fallen into disfavor by 1953, but the powerful ick factor of his methods no doubt inspired more than one sci-fi author to pen scripts like "Mesa of Lost Women."
Jim Goodman and Jaimi ButlerStudent researcher Jim Goodman and coordinator Jaimi Butler of the Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College talk about spider research and the film Mesa of Lost Women.
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