There’s a definite pattern emerging in the films that we have to watch recently, and for regular readers you may have noticed that a lot of the films we’ve had to watch have been featured on Mystery Science Theatre 300. Our next film is no exception, and like Pumaman (see here), Space Mutiny is one of my favourite MST3K episodes. So what would watching it without Mike and the bots be like? There’s only way to find out…
When the Cylons launch a sneak attack on the human colony worlds with the help of traitorous Count Baltar (John Colicos), the surviving humans form a fugitive fleet in search of a new homeworld, the legendary planet Earth. This fleet is protected by the last battlestar class warship, the Galactica, as it searches the galaxy still pursuesd by the Cylons who are intent on wiping out the last of humanity…
No. Wait. That was Battlestar Galactica, the classic late 70s sci-fi show which gave the brilliantly named Dirk Benedict his big acting break. It’s an easy mistake to make, not due to the plots being similar, but due to the fact that Space Mutiny actually stole the spaceship effects directly from Battlestar! We’ve mentioned many times in our reviews about movies never seeming to learn the lesson that putting footage from a vastly superior movie into your own crappy film is never a great idea and just highlights how bad the movie you’re watching is, but to actually take effects from another source is taking this to a whole new level. Anyway, shall we try again?
Some of the inhabitants on the spaceship The Southern Sun are a bit miffed that they were born on a ship whose purpose is to colonise a new world and so necessitates that many generations of it’s inhabitants will be born and die without ever getting to experience life off of the ship. Leading them is Kalgon (John Phillip Law), who conspires with pirates from a nearby star system to take over The Southern Sun. Kalgon mucks about with the Suns navigational systems in an attempt to force the ship towards the pirates system . He is aided in his mutiny by the ships police force, but clearly not by the ships hairdressers or stylists (more on that later). Fighting to stop him and save the ship, are shuttle pilot David Ryder (Reb Brown), and the daughter of the ships Commander, Dr Lea Jansen (Cisse Cameron). Will they succeed? And exactly whose side are the hairdressers and stylists on anyway?
As you may have guessed, this is the movie that fashion forgot. The men generally wear white or silver lamé uniforms that look like they could be the inspiration for Zapp Branigann’s velour uniforms on Futurama. Some (the police force) wear beige uniforms, which I think are supposed to make them look more army like, but instead make them look like boring Thunderbirds (I’m sure it goes without saying that the Thunderbirds were less wooden in their acting than the cast of Space Mutiny though). David Ryder prefers the silver lamé trousers coupled with a white vest that never gets a mark on it. I suspect that this is partially down to the fact that the bad guy in this movie may have started off work in the ships laundry room, proving the advertising jingle that washing machines do indeed “live longer with Kalgon”…
As for the women onboard the ship, it seems that the makers of this movie decided that sometime in the future many women will decide that clothing is just too restrictive, and will decide that one-piece swimming costumes (with added futuristic shoulder pads) are an appropriate choice of clothing for a ships bridge, or when performing their doctor duties. Of course some women still wear the same uniforms as the men, which just makes the presence of the swimsuits more baffling.
The terrible fashion choices aren’t the only thing that make this vision of the future look like it was written by kid in the 70s, who was trying to complete his homework in ten minutes before their English lesson, but it’s the other lazy features typical from bad 80s sci-fi (this movie was actually released in 1988, but it looks a lot more dated than that). There’s a disco scene that looks as though Studio 54 was still way off in the future, where half the dancers are using hula hoops for some reason. In another scene that hugely popular novelty, the plasma ball, is used as it was in so many other low budget movies/tv shows as a means to show this is the future. The fact that you could walk into a store and buy one for yourself never seemed to occur to these film makers. They just seem convinced that if you can see beams of light, that must equal science. Amazing future science that you just can’t comprehend. SCIENCE!
Lastly on the design aspect of this movie I really need to point out two more things. Firstly that the guns are possibly the worst I’ve ever seen in a sci-fi movie. They would have been better off buying some cheap toys and spray-painting them black. Instead they have these clunky looking pistols that look like they’ve been made from balsa wood and painted silver, or tiny bazookas that look like they’ve just ripped out the plumbing from the bathroom and used that. Secondly the set designers seem to have procured a job lot of bumper cars, that are used in some of the worst chase scenes I ever witnessed. The way they’ve been built up to make them look futuristic makes, and the way the driver sits in them them look like Davros has had a midlife crisis and has traded in his regular Dalek body for a more sporty number.
Now I did say that the acting was as awful as we’ve come to expect this far down the list, but special mentions must go out firstly to the John Phillip Law and secondly to Reb Brown. Reb Brown reminds me a little of Kurt Russell, if Kurt was a little drunk and slurred his lines out of mouthful of kebab. Also he occasionally screams like Homer Simpson for no good reason, which just makes you wonder what sort of action hero he was trying to be. As for John Phillip Law, he surprised me a little. He’d had plenty of experience acting, taking the lead in the classic The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, also in Danger: Diabolik and playing Pygar in Barbarella amongst others, you’d think that a seasoned actor would still be able to put in a solid performance, but like Donald Pleasance in Pumaman, he manages to take playing the villain into previously unexplored levels of over-acting campness. He actually reminds me of Calculon in Futurama (if this movie wasn't an influence on that show, then this is all strangely co-incidental) with his dramatic hand gestures and over projected speeches. Like Brown's occasional screams, Law randomly bursts into evil laughter, which makes me wonder whether the two had some sort of weird competition between them. A truly dreadful performance that really needs to be seen to appreciate it to its fullest.
Having said all that, I didn’t hate this movie. It’s awful, but in that way that is so inept that it has a strange charm. Even if I hadn’t seen the MST3K episode first I still think I would have enjoyed this movie. It was perfect for Mike and the robots to rip to shreds, purely for the fact that if you watch this movie with a few mates and some beer that’s exactly what you’d end up doing too. I just wish they’d called it Battlestar Craptacular, as that is a much more fitting name!