Space Mutinyrecommended viewing

Glimpse the hula-hoop disco of the future
★★★★★
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
1988
Director: 
David Winters, Neal Sundrom
Starring: 
Reb Brown, John Phillip Law, Cameron Mitchell, Cisse Cameron
The Setup: 
Really amusing super horrible but hilarious space adventure.
Discussion: 

I forgot how this came up, but it turns out one of my staff at work lives and breathes MST3K, and he recommended this one to me. I had never heard of it, but Netflix had it, and I hadn't watched any really bad movies in a while. I made preparations by entering into the enhanced viewing state that used to be a feature of this site, but went by the wayside as we made a grasp for respectability, and I can state with confidence that an enhanced viewing state is an invaluable asset to grasping the several levels of reality one is forced to contend with here. If you know what I'm sayin'.

So this movie is a South African production, is said to be from AIP, and stars Cameron Mitchell (but of course!), John Phillip Law and Reb Brown. We have credits that look as though they we produced on an Atari 2600, then join this huge spaceship, the Southern Sun. If you are of a certain age, it may be a delightful surprise to discover that all of the special effects are lifted straight from the original Battlestar Galactica! In some instances, the story is bent to fit the effects, for example, the original show featured a fighter crash in the landing bay, so therefore this one must include that--even though the footage that remains from the original show doesn't look like anything. Then some villainous henchman tells the villain proper, Kalgan, played by John Phillip Law, that this was all according to their plan. Kalgan has arrived in his modified golf cart, which looks every bit like a golf cart that has been made "futuristic," and stays to cackle ludicrously for way longer than sensible, while making insane faces. Poor John Phillip Law has graced such super-horrid but ultimately über-cool movies Barbarella and Danger: Diabolik, and even though they were awful, gee, somehow it seems he deserves better than this. Cameron Mitchell deserves what he gets, but JPL, he seems somehow a cut above.

On the crashed ship was hunky blond Dave Ryder, played by Reb Brown, who is a sex-foot muscle hunk who seems to be late for his stint as a bartender at the local gay bar. He survived the crash, but apparently killed someone that was close to Lea, Cameron Mitchell's daughter, who is about forty and looks like an ex-stripper. She hates him on sight! Then he comes in, outfitted in his silver lame outfit that is more ridiculous than I could possibly do justice to in words, and tells her off for maligning him unjustly! THEN: SUDDEN HULA-HOOP DISCO! Yes, the 70s brought us roller disco, but it would seem that what the future has in store for us is hula-hoop disco, which means that we are also hearing my favorite thing, which is the music of the future. Which sounds a lot like shitty generic synth-funk from the 80s. So just as you are trying to overcome the cognitive dissonance created by what you are seeing on screen, Lea comes out and does a slutty hula-hoop disco routine, rubbing her big, rigid hoop all over her sensitive erogenous zones. I suspect that her hula-hoop is ribbed--for HER pleasure. She targets the hunky Ryder with her charms, then bops over to him and asks if he's still mad. Ummm, aren't YOU still mad? Weren't YOU the one who was mad in the first place? Yes, she is apparently quite mad. Then they spot their associate Lamont, and run off to find out what's up with her. Okay, so now they're like PARTNERS.

Lamont, who has obviously discovered a shampoo/creme rinse combination that gives her hair VOLUME, meets up with the bad rebels or whoever and is notably killed. Next we're up on the bridge, where Mitchell is pacing contemplatively--right past Lamont, safely at her station! That's one of the big laughs. Poor Mitchell is done up to look like how Santa might appear if he had discovered Barry White's hair care products, with shellacked gray hair and a pasted-on white beard. He looks like future Santa. That's going to be my low-budget movie: FUTURESANTA. My friend who is familiar with Mitchell's oeuvre speculated that perhaps he made a deal with the devil in which he would be famous, but he had to accept every single role ever offered to him. And actually, it would be fascinating to learn which roles, if any, Mitchell TURNED DOWN.

Meanwhile Ryder and Lea have wandered into this place where a robot freezes people and hangs them up for safekeeping, which caused me again to wonder at the enduring, pervasive influence of Logan's Run. Now, as with most truly bad movies, the is simply too many individually ludicrous moments for me to absorb, let alone convey to you, so we needs to start summarizing. For one, all of the spaceship interiors are shot in some kind of big industrial factory, which looks nothing like a spaceship and every bit like an industrial factory. It also features large windows that let in streaming sunlight, incongruous with being in the bowels of a vast spaceship. Apparently the filmmakers were aware of this, and color-shifted the light to look orange, so they could say it was the glow of the ship's engines, but then the processing lab thought it was a mistake and color-corrected it right back! There are numerous laser battles in this factory, which feature SO MANY guys falling off of upper railings that this becomes a distinct avenue of mockery. During these numerous battles, Ryder shoots back with his shoulder-mounted laser bazooka. There are also numerous chases and battles on the future golf carts, which, as you can imagine, reach some pretty breakneck speeds.

But what of the Bellerians? These are this group on about eight scantily-clad women who apparently have mind-control powers, which they harness by doing suggestive dances around those glowing energy balls like anyone can buy for $8.95 at that weird, dimly-lit store in the mall that sells black lights, paste-on glow in the dark stars, and lava lamps. They dance around and are supposedly controlling events from afar, but eventually you realize that they never actually intact with any of the heroes--and never WILL interact with any of the heroes--and are in the movie pretty much only to boost up the boob factor. Perhaps because someone realized that their heroine looks like a particularly dim-witted 40-year-old stripper? There is one scene in which the leader of the Bellarians appears to Mitchell through astral projection or some shit, and gives him a power meld or something, which looks to be ever-so-slightly sexual, then tells him to use what he has learned. I got a huge laugh out of Mitchell's horny delivery of "I will!" That's at 38:25, don't miss it.

So what is the evil, cackling Kalgan up to anyway? He wants to reroute the ship to Corona Borealis, for some reason. I didn't catch what he expects to do there. THEN--cut to Dave and Lea making sensuous love, on the ASTROTURF, with this big bright red industrial wheel in the foreground. Please consult the accompanying picture.

Now, in every movie this bad, there comes a point where you just can't pay attention to everything anymore--there's just too much. And we've reached that point, so now I'll just give you a bunch of highlights till the end. The ship is attacked by "pirates," which gives us an opportunity to use the Battlestar Galactica shots of the cylon motherships being destroyed. Then Dave, who is rather angry and foul-mouthed for a hero, and has several angry outbursts, has a notable speech around 52:26 in which he tells the men to go "kick some ass," and then we cut to the assembled crowd of about seven dorks who go "Rah!" Don't miss the guard with the beard and massive mullet, the kind of guy who would have been an out-of-touch über-douche even in 1982. Be attentive at 55:10 (or thereabouts) as a call says "Have Ryder sent to the bridge!" and an offscreen voice responds "Mmm-Kay." Soon you have one technician talking to another in thick Brooklyn accents. Every so often we just cut to the Bellerians, dancing, then cut away again. Kalgan has several utterances on the lines of "Idiots!" and during the climactic golf cart chase, Dave shouts out "Bastard!" and Kalgan responds: "Meddling fool!" I also got a special joy out of the way poor Cisse Cameron as Lea tried to make expressions as though she is "thinking." She's also not exactly swift and graceful, and there's a particular moment when she slides down a rope, lands on her high-heeled boots, takes a moment to adjust herself, then raises her gun to FIRE that is just so clumsy, but is executed with such concentrated determination, that you kind of have to love her [see photo]. Incredibly, she and Reb Brown, who plays Dave, married after acting together in this movie! That's REAL chemistry you're seeing on screen! Which is enough to put you off chemistry.

Then, as a lovely parting gift, there's an 80s rock ballad over the credits. Ah, this is bad movie satisfaction. This movie gets it right by being JUST coherent enough, JUST watchable enough to retain one's interest, which is not something that can be said for every terrible movie (witness Supergirl). It also, for people like me, connects you back with that 14-year-old feeling where you would watch ANY science-fiction, no matter how terrible.

And this is just a cavalcade of terrible elements. So many that I doubt you can really grasp them all. Several times as I would look away to write something down, I would be missing OTHER hilariously ludicrous things unfolding on screen, and had to remind myself to just WATCH THE MOVIE, just KEEP my eyes on the screen. You are QUITE safe in inviting I friends over and making an evening of this, especially if you were of an age to be raised on Star Wars. You are certain of being rewarded. Thank you, South Africa. You nailed it.

Should you watch it: 

If you love awesome bad movies, you must.