SPACE MUTINY

space mutiny

SPACE MUTINY (1988)

IMDb rating: 2.0/10

Tagline: “There is nowhere to hide from the enemy within!”

In July 1988, South Africa was a powder keg. There was fury on the streets. Tensions threatened to spill over into violence that might tear the country apart.

Yes, Space Mutiny had been released onto the country’s unwitting cinema audiences.

African sci-fi is a slender movie genre.

Space Mutiny might be the cause.

In many ways, it is one of the ultimate, and most satisfying of Bad Films- no aspect of Space Mutiny is ruined by even a slight whiff of competence. There are no unwelcome surprises from a supporting actor with talent. No line of dialogue is clothed in logic or wit. The technical requirements of film making are dutifully ignored. It truly is a delicious all around shambles.

Space Mutiny

“The vet made me wear it to stop me scratching myself”

There is some sort of plot, which in the finest Bad Film tradition, must be researched when viewing is completed, to try to understand what was supposed to have taken place. ‘Terrorists’, ‘Sabotage’, ‘Hostages’ and ‘Space’ are all keywords fished out of a rusty mini-mart skip in a dicey part of Durban by the desperate writer.

A crippled starship is locked in orbit around a hostile alien planet. A mutiny is underway. But a hero is already aboard the craft, the interior of which looks like something even the production team on Blake’s 7 would have rejected as a bit tacky.

However, the exterior space battle effects are excellent. Though this is not a surprise as they have been stolen entirely from 9 year old episodes of Battlestar Galactica, including at least one instance when the name of the titular craft is clearly visible. It’s a pity that, when it came to designing vehicles to be used inside the ship, the filmmakers didn’t again steal someone else’s better work.

Presumably, the script called for hovering pods that glide effortlessly across the deck of the spaceship. However, from the way they and their pilots move, we suspect that they’re actually children’s pedal cars wrapped in cardboard, ice cream tubs and foil. Either that or there’s no bottom on them and the actors are being forced to Flintstone their way through the scenes.

Space Mutiny

“Pedal faster, damn you! They’re escaping..!”

Whatever the source of their ambulatory momentum, watching a low speed, low height, high-energy chase between adults trundling around in space-age baby walkers could be one of the greatest pleasures found in the realm of Bad Film. The fact that so often, these Bugsy-Malone-In-Space pursuits end with a spectacularly incongruous explosion is just the icing on a very sweet cake.

Lead actor Reb Brown, here playing the be-vested hero Dave Ryder, has since retired from acting and is now a sheriff’s deputy. His first action as an officer of the law was presumably to arrest himself for crimes against cinema.

Cisse (spelled differently in opening and closing credits) Cameron is meant to be Reb’s love interest. She actually looks old enough to be his Mum. Which makes her invitation to make out “in my special place” even more disturbing.

Our gurning villain, the duplicitous Flight Commander Kalgan, needs do little more than cackle maniacally for 90 minutes, and dribble out some the film’s finest dialogue. Fortunately, with considerable wild-eyed effort, he’s just about able to do both. Though only just. To whit:

 

Space Mutiny

Kalgan: Acting- villainous.

“I have a weakness for pain… of others.”

 

“Take that, you space bitch.”

 

…and the movie’s standout line that would have Aaron Sorkin jumping to his feet and applauding:

 

 

“I’m being undermined by my own disciples!”

It’s why God invented the English language.

Now, Bad Film hair is something about which the Brides of Crapula care a great deal. Few films can ascend toward the pinnacle of turd mountain without at least one of the cast looking like a wookie falling down a lift shaft.

Although it must be all but impossible to ever top Samurai Cop’s large, angry badger mullet, there is a serious argument to be made that, collectively at least, Space Mutiny features the most egregious assembly of hairdos ever witnessed on screen.

From peroxide flat tops to luxuriant slick backs, from caught-in-industrial-threshing-machine manes, to canyon-wide snowy beards akin to a kid in a bubble bath trying to look like Ben Kenobi, the follicle foibles on offer are simply breathtaking.

Space Mutiny

Frizz a jolly good fellow

But it’s the teased, crimped and malevolently back-combed barnet of the ship’s chief pilot Lt. Lemont – a character who dies half way through, only to be reappear later operating a computer on the bridge – that must really bristle the colons of stylists everywhere. Her colossal Leo Sayer bouffant makes her entire head look like a giant microphone sponge that’s been chewed on by a feral pack of rodents.

But there’s obviously some sort of tacit competition taking place between the wardrobe and hair departments. Seeing how their styling counterparts have raised their game, the costume designers refuse to be outdone.

When Dave Hero first appears in his silver jumpsuit, the immediate reaction is that a swarthy Sarah Brightman tribute act has entered the fray. And are these enormous plastic shoulder pads to stop the crew wearing them from scratching themselves? Like a dog coming home from the vet?

A bizarre scene in the ship’s electro-disco sees the dance floor filled with spandexed hula hoopers, and dancers in weightlifting belts. In the future, no women will be permitted to wear anything flattering. Joy and spontaneity appear to be outlawed. It’s like Tiger Tiger nightclub in Leicester Square.

Membership of the Costume Designers Guild apparently requires the agreement that in the future, mankind will be clothed in nylon leotards and plastic MC Hammer trousers. In Space Mutiny, the potential static electricity issues with both hair and clothing imbue every action scene with additional peril- the fear that someone could be electrocuted or burst into flames at any moment.

Space Mutiny

Grey hair orbiting a face

The movie is, without doubt, a delightful travesty right across the board. Not a single element is allowed to remain unmolested by filmmakers for whom ineptitude may as well be the name of the alien planet around which the ship orbits.

What personal and professional bravery. What courage- not only to make this film- but to release it into the public realm. It makes Krull look like it was directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Until Space Mutiny, we thought apartheid was the worst thing to ever happen in South Africa. It’s a historical fact* that after a viewing of the film in 1990, President FW De Clerk expedited the release of Nelson Mandela, appreciating that after such an intense national cinematic trauma, only the great man himself could begin the healing.

*Possibly untrue.

 

There are no comments, yet.

Why don’t you be the first? Come on, you know you want to!

Leave a Comment