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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Space Mutiny

August 28, 2021 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Space Mutiny

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #597: Space Mutiny

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been shot in the chest with a laser and then fallen over a railing to my death, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and ninety-seven, I take a look at the infamous low budget sci-fi action flick Space Mutiny, which was unleashed upon North American audiences at some point in 1988 (or maybe 1989. I’ve seen both years cited).

Space Mutiny

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Space Mutiny, directed by David Winters and Neal Sundstrom, is a low budget sci-fi action flick that has been mercilessly lampooned for decades now, and for good reason. The movie is ridiculous. At the same time, the movie does have an energy and, for the lack of a better word, innocence, that makes it extremely watchable. You can’t take your eyes off it. The movie also manages to sell all of its absurdities, like the alien women that dance in a room for absolutely no reason whatsoever and the whole “computer keyboards attached to the walls” thing. And with everyone in the movie taking things deadly serious, I find it hard to hate it or to make fun of it in the way that Mystery Science Theater 3000 or Rifftrax have done (I also don’t think I could riff on the movie quite like them). No one involved wanted the movie to be ridiculous. Everyone wanted Space Mutiny to be awesome. And it kind of is. It isn’t a “good” movie necessarily, but it is awesome in its own way. It really is.

Space Mutiny stars worldwide treasure Reb Brown as Dave Ryder, a badass space fighter pilot for the Southern Sun, a gigantic spaceship that’s chock full of people that will, one day, colonize a planet. The Southern Sun has been travelling through space for decades upon decades and was set up as sort of its own society. The leader of the Southern Sun is Alex Jansen (Cameron Mitchell), an old professor type that intends to create a new home planet for humanity and will do so by the rules, rules that were established when the Southern Sun was sent out into space. Jansen presses Ryder into service when Elijah Kalgan (John Phillip Law), the head of the Southern Sun’s security apparatus, decides to try to overthrow Jansen’s rule so he can then team up with a group of space pirates and become super rich and sell everyone on the Southern Sun into slavery. Joining Kalgan in his quest to become wealthy beyond his imagination is MacPhearson (James Ryan), one of Jansen’s managers (I think MacPhearson is actually called a commander but I’m not entirely sure about that). Helping Ryder take on Kalgan is Lea (Cisse Cameron), Jansen’s daughter and some sort of doctor or scientist or something (she spends quite a bit of time in the ship’s greenhouse area, growing plants and just hanging around the grass and whatnot). Now, Ryder really doesn’t want Lea tagging along with him as she’s not a warrior and Ryder doesn’t want to have to watch her while also going after Kalgan. Lea, while not a warrior, is not a weakling and manages to hold her own in the midst of battle. And it is a battle. A major one.

And that is, essentially, the plot to Space Mutiny. There’s also a whole thing involving female aliens named Bellerians who show up on the Southern Sun after a space battle. These female aliens stay in one room of the ship for the entire movie, dancing around in leotards and capes and touching these glass ball things that have electricity inside of them for some reason. Why is all of this in the movie? Damned if I know. I did read somewhere online (I think it was on imdb) that the Bellerians were included in the movie because the movie needed to be longer after the first cut was complete. If that’s true, I’d love to know why the producers or the director thought the Bellerians were a good idea. I mean, in a way they do fit into the world of the movie, but were they the only idea that was considered to make the movie longer? Was the whole Bellerian thing the most cost effective way to make the movie longer? I’m just glad that the producers didn’t decide to stretch the end credits to ten minutes or some bullshit like that.

The “inside” of the Southern Sun looks like an abandoned factory of some sort, while the cockpit of the ship looks like a local TV station control room. The movie never tries to make you think that either of these things are actually part of a mega space ship of any kind; it just expects you to accept them. If you can find it in yourself to accept them, then Space Mutiny will probably work better for you as a movie. If you can’t, then Space Mutiny is going to be a major chore for you to sit through. The factory never feels like the inside of a spaceship. It feels like and plays as an abandoned factory that is being used to make a movie. You rarely see any of the technology that a ship like the Southern Sun would need to keep hundreds of thousands of people alive on board. The technology that we do get to see is so hilariously outdated that you can’t help but look at it and wonder what the hell the producers were thinking. A floppy disk is used as an ID card, and a desktop computer that was likely outdated when the movie was made in 1988 is meant to be seen as some sort of cutting edge technology. And then there’s the whole “computer keyboards attached to the walls” thing. I’m assuming that the production couldn’t afford to have a prop maker create a “futuristic looking” control panel or keypad or something and figured that attaching a computer keyboard to the wall with some double sided tape would be good enough. I do like how the various actors sell all of it as futuristic technology. It makes everything ridiculous and not that ridiculous at the same time. If Space Mutiny had been made today the characters would no doubt be commenting on how absurd everything is.

When it comes to the movie’s various space battles, just about everything is lifted directly from the classic Battlestar Gallactica TV show. The directors do try hard to make that Gallactica footage match everything else in the movie, and it sort of does, but there are times where it’s obvious that that footage is much slicker than anything else in the movie. As for the gun battles and fight scenes, these sequences are generally okay. The laser guns used by both Ryder and Kalgan’s henchmen seem to be a mix of plastic prop guns and real guns that were painted silver and then had plastic pieces glued on them. The grenade launchers appear to be plastic and or metal tubes with some paint and whatnot on them. I do think Ryder should have a more substantial handgun (and that’s saying something because a Desert Eagle is usually a substantial handgun, but in Reb Brown’s hand the gun looks small). Some of the hand-to-hand scenes are clunky looking while others look like they spent a few minutes figuring out how to stage them. Reb Brown deserved more time to make sure all of the hand-to-hand scenes look good.

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And then there are the single seat hover kart things that feature in two big chase scenes, including the brilliantly insane final sequence between Ryder and Kalgan. What the hell are those kart things? Are they floor buffing machines with some fabricated pieces attached to the buffer frame, or are they something else? I get why people see them as ridiculous because, in large part, they are, but the buffer vehicles do have a certain “low budget sci-fi movie” coolness to them, and they would probably be looked on more favorably if the inside of the Southern Sun looked like a space ship and not an abandoned factory. Has anyone out in cult movie fandom tried building one of these things to take to a convention? And wouldn’t it be cool as hell to have an action figure toy set with the Ryder character and the buffer vehicle?

Of course it would be cool as hell. Even people who hate the movie would own the toy.

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The performances, despite the movie’s myriad issues, are all generally good. Reb Brown does a fine job as Dave Ryder the badass pilot. His costume is ridiculous, his weapons don’t look quite right, and when we see him operating his space fighter it looks like he’s sitting on a couch in a room somewhere, but Brown manages to make you believe that everything wrong that we see is actually kind of right (this world is supposed to be ridiculous). Brown also manages to sell his truly bizarre dialogue, where he yells and screams and swears at seemingly random times. Brown does a decent enough job with his fight scenes and makes you believe that he’s the hero the Southern Sun really, truly needs. He also has tremendous chemistry with Cisse Cameron, who plays Lea, which makes sense since they were a married couple at the time this movie was made (and they’re still together to this day). Reb fucking Brown rocks. There’s just no denying it.

John Philip Law does a great job as Kalgan the bad guy. Law just oozes sleaze as Kalgan and that’s exactly what you need for this kind of character. There are no real redeeming qualities to Kalgan whatsoever. Kalgan is a bad guy who only thinks of himself and his need to become wealthy beyond imagination, regardless of what that does to everyone else. His eventual showdown with Brown’s Ryder is both ludicrous and perfect (Kalgan should have his own action figure with buffer vehicle, too. You gotta have a bad guy for the good guy to fight). What would have Law done with the Kalgan character if we ever got the sequel the ending suggests is possible? Would he have made Kalgan an even sleazier scumbag asshole? Probably. I mean, that’s what I see happening.

Cameron Mitchell does an excellent job as Alex Jansen, the leader of the Southern Sun. Mitchell rightly plays Jansen as an elder statesman of sorts, the leader that is meant to continue the established rules against the evil that is Kalgan. I also like how Jansen sells every bit of nonsense technology that he interacts with as though it’s all cutting edge and “real.”

James Ryan as MacPhearson tries to out sleaze John Phillip Law’s Kalgan and almost succeeds. MacPhearson is a complete sell out and the worst of the worst, but he tries to make you believe that he’s a good guy deep down. You almost believe him a few times, but, again, MacPhearson is truly awful and he deserves exactly what happens to him.

And Cisse Cameron does a terrific job as Lea Jansen, Alex’s daughter. When I first saw Cameron in her weird leotard costume I thought she would play Lea as a kind of innocent and naïve. Instead, while she does give off some of those vibes, Lea can handle herself just fine when trouble shows up, and her affinity for plants and green space is appealing. I am surprised, though, that there aren’t more people like Lea on the Southern Sun, as the greenhouse that she spends most of her time in is easily the most interesting part of the ship. It’s abundant with life and plants, while the rest of the ship is either an abandoned warehouse or a TV station control room.

I would like to know how many people who, when they first discovered Space Mutiny thought it was some sort of weird beard low budget Italian sci-fi action flick as opposed to a low budget sci-fi action flick made in South Africa by and then released by Action International Pictures? I thought it was an Italian movie when I first saw a clip from it in the company compilation movie That’s Action. All of the movie’s visuals give off that “1980’s low budget Italian genre movie” feel, and the presence of Reb Brown also gives it that “This was made in Italy!” vibe. And yet Space Mutiny is exactly the movie AIP wanted to make and release to the world. It’s insane. It’s ridiculous. It’s bizarre. And it’s real. It’s a real movie. And I can’t hate it, even with its oodles of flaws. Space Mutiny is fun. Space Mutiny is awesome. It really is.

See Space Mutiny and experience its full glory. It’s worth your time. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: At least 30. It may actually be more than that.

Explosions: Multiple, both large and small.

Nudity? : None.

Doobage: A pretty cool opening theme, a voiceover that attempts to explain the plot of the movie, smoke, people walking upstairs, a spaceship interior that looks like the inside of an abandoned factory, multiple women wearing leotards for no apparent reason, fighter pilot hooey, an execution, multiple plastic explosives, multiple explosions inside of a spaceship, potential mind control hooey, table breaking, a severe beating, gut stabbing, multiple railing incidents, a dance club, hula hoops, a gigantic continuity error, floor buffer vehicles, a floor buffer vehicle chase with multiple laser attacks, multiple laser battles with explosions and high falls, an old guy that somehow looks like a cheap Angus Scrimm, men wrapped in plastic shrink wrap and attached to metal hooks for some reason, attempted tea drinking, another laser shootout with explosions, multiple handguns that have four barrels, a ship wide announcement, a big hooha promotion celebration, “sex,” weird pillow talk, a space battle, a kidnapping, neck snap, some weird hand-to-hand fighting, yelling and grunting, attempted teeth destruction, uniform stealing, a hilarious seduction, yet another laser shootout, body slam, kick to the balls, more laser shootouts, some hilarious death screams, a man-on-fire gag, flamethrower hooey, a floor buffer vehicle chase with a head on “chicken” battle, buffer vehicle assault, exploding floor buffer vehicle, greenhouse sex, and the promise of a sequel that is never likely to happen.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Space action scenes from the original Battlestar Gallactica, the interior of a spaceship that looks more like an abandoned factory, Reb Brown, Reb Brown as a space fighter pilot, an annoying computer voice that over explains things, Reb Brown screaming while sitting on what appears to be a sofa somewhere, Reb Brown “beaming down,” “computer graphics,” Cameron Mitchell, multiple floor buffer vehicles, technical dialogue that’s so dense that it’s essentially meaningless, computer readouts, a floppy disk that’s used as an I.D. card, hilariously outdated computer equipment that’s meant to be cutting edge, energy balls, sensuous dream dancing or some bullshit, random computer keyboards attached to the walls, hula hoops, Reb Brown’s erect nipples, Reb Brown swearing loudly, paper reports, a “Methane Gas-Danger” sign, a greenhouse, Reb Brown having “sex,” multiple laser battles, multiple railing deaths, teeth torture, Reb Brown yelling and grunting, a phone with a cord, Reb Brown beating the shit out of multiple people, Reb Brown using a flamethrower, a floor buffer vehicle chase and game of chicken, and the promise of a sequel that is never likely to happen.

Best lines: “Commander Kalgan, can I help you?,” “Shit! We lost power! We lost power!,” “I think whoever did this knows his way around spaceships,” “Our timing was perfect,” “It was cruel fate to be born in space,” “We’ve been in space too long! Let us land the ship!,” “Aren’t there any of you that confuse freedom with treason?,” “Hey, you! The Bellerians are off limits!,” “You have two choices. Join me or the deep freeze,” “Shit! Sonofabitch!,” “An ambush! Let’s get out of here!,” “Would everyone please sit down. Thank you,” “It’s obvious I underestimated them,” “Well, Captain, can you remember when you were that young? Damned if I can,” “Dave, what’s to become of our people?,” “Is this the man? Soften him up!,” “We’re going to put you on ice for a while,” “I hate violence,” “Asshole,” “All right. We will prepare for battle,” “What a shame to burn out these lovely teeth. I want those counter measures!,” “I don’t feel a thing,” “Is the rest of the equipment as good as that?,” “My shoe,” “Have you located the girl? Answer me!,” “Sneaky little shit,” “Get out of my way you idiot!,” “You can’t stop love,” “Lea! MacPhearson!,” Meddling fool!,” and “Take this you space bitch!”

Rating: 10.0/10.0

**

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Things to Watch Out For

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The Misfits: This is apparently some sort of new action flick from director Renny Harlin. Until checking out what was available on home video I had no idea this movie existed, which seems strange. Harlin is still a name director of sorts, and the movie has three stars in it (Pierce Brosnan, Tim Roth, and Nick Cannon). Why isn’t this movie a bigger deal? I don’t get it. Anyway, it’s apparently about a bunch of people who are somehow involved in a big hooha gold heist and it features multiple international locations. Maybe this is one of those movies that was deliberately made for an “international audience” despite being made in America? I don’t know. The movie looks pretty good, though. Harlin, even when he fails, is good for making something interesting.

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Rogue Hostage: This is some sort of new low budget action flick with a plot that sounds like any number of hostage movies (people are trapped insider a big store, apparently). It does have a kickass cast, though, with Tyrese Gibson starring alongside John Malkovich (yes, John goddamn Malkovich) and Michael Jai White. However, inexplicably, MJW’s name doesn’t appear on the poster. What the hell is that all about? He’s Michael Jai White, for God’s sake! He’s a real deal martial artist and low budget action movie star. Why isn’t he getting some sort of recognition to that fact? That makes no sense to me at all. The movie looks decent enough. I will say that it’s nice a guy like Malkovich is doing more and more low budget stuff. And I’m totally okay with Gibson his own action flick. I think his time spent in the Fast and Furious franchise makes him a bankable action guy if he wants to do it. Anyone out there see this?

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The Borrower: Coming to us on Blu-ray from the fine folks at Shout! Factory and its Scream Factory imprint, this is a sci-fi horror flick from director John McNaughton, the man who gave us the disturbing horror classic Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. I vaguely remember seeing this movie on TV in the early 1990’s but, truthfully, it could have been some other movie that I’m remembering. I’m surprised I don’t know this movie as its plot is cool as hell (aliens send a criminal to Earth as punishment, that alien takes over a human body, the body eventually gets damaged, and then the alien has to find a new body. Rae Dawn Chong stars alongside Tom Towles and Antonio “Fly Guy” Vargas. As I always say, the fine folks at Shout!/Scream Factory are going to knock it out of the park in terms of its home video presentation, and for that reason alone the movie is worth picking up. As for the movie itself, I think I need to see it. It sounds messed up and weird, which is exactly what Henry is. Is The Borrower the same kind of deal? I want to find out. Any The Borrower fans out there?

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Next Issue: It’s the low budget horror flick Hellmaster starring John Saxon and David Emge!

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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Space Mutiny

Reb Brown– Dave Ryder
John Phillip Law– Elijah Kalgan
Cameron Mitchell– Alex Jansen
James Ryan– MacPhearson
Cisse Cameron– Lea Jansen
Graham Clark– Scott Devers

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by David Winters and Neal Sundstrom
Screenplay by David Winters (as Maria Dante) and Ian Yule (uncredited)

Distributed by Action International Pictures, Action International Pictures Home Video, Rhino Home Video, Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, Shout! Factory, and Altitude Film Entertainment

Not Rated
Runtime– 91 minutes

Buy it here or check it out on Tubi