Hyperspace (aka Gremloids, 1984)

Hey there guys, gals, and enby pals, it’s time for another B-Movie Enema and, this time around, I think it’s safe to say that the legacy of the movie being featured way outweighs the movie itself.

First, the basics. We’re looking at the 1984 sci-fi comedy Hyperspace, which also goes by the title Gremloids in the United Kingdom. It is an early example of Star Wars parody, but not the first by a long shot. Nothing about that is exactly unique. Parodies of the massive hit that is Star Wars go all the way back to shorts like Hardware Wars. That’s not even mentioning the various sci-fi movies that were simply trying to utilize George Lucas’ space opera as a template for their own quick buck cash-ins. Then, of course, that’s not even mentioning all the Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and Turkish versions of the movie too.

Hyperspace was created by Todd Durham. Durham is a comedy writer. He mostly worked as a script doctor. It was in that role that he conceived the idea for the incredibly popular Hotel Transylvania franchise which is one of the few credits he actually does receive. You see, being a script doctor means you can claim credit for a lot of movies actually working, but you rarely really get on screen credit.

Hyperspace is not without some star power, though maybe not exactly the most recognizable in 1984. This movie stars Chris Elliot and Paula Poundstone. These two were making a name for themselves in the 80s, but maybe not quite this early. Elliott would have recurring appearances on David Letterman’s talk show as a comedy player. Poundstone would later go on to really cash in on HBO when they started doing regular stand-up comedy specials.

But they aren’t the real legacy of this movie… Not by a long shot.

The villain and Darth Vader stand-in for the movie is Lord Buckethead. Okay, yeah, that’s funny. He’s a guy dressed in black and has a big bucket for a head and has a modulated voice. Great. Okay. That’s a good parody on paper. But starting in 1987, Lord Buckethead became a pseudo-political figure in the United Kingdom. No shit.

The Gremloids Party was formed in 1987 and Mike Lee, the video distributor in the UK for Gremloids, donned a Lord Buckethead costume and ran against Conservative UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in her Finchley, London constituency. He got over 100 votes. His big platform idea? Wipe out the city of Birmingham and replace it with a space port. He ran again in 1992 against Conservative Prime Minister John Major in Huntingdon. Again, he got over 100 votes.

In 2017, he got his biggest amount of exposure. Buckethead, again, ran against a Conservative Prime Minister, this time Teresa May. This time it was comedian Jonathan Harvey who was under the bucket. Now get this… Buckethead went viral because of a picture showing him standing at a public appearance with the various candidates opposing May.

2017 was Lord Buckethead’s strongest showing yet receiving nearly 250 votes. However, there was a little bit of behind the scenes trouble. Buckethead got a lot of attention because he was featured on Last Week with John Oliver. This grew a big following on Twitter. This drew the attention of creator Todd Durham. Durham contacted Harvey and demanded the access to the Twitter account. Harvey had little money to go into a copyright battle in courts. That said, Durham did say that he gave his permission for people in the UK to use Lord Buckethead in future elections. This happened in 2019 when Buckethead raised money to try to defeat radical right winger Nigel Farage, but dropped out in fears that he might actually hurt the legitimate candidates who could defeat Farage. Once more, Buckethead ran against a Conservative Prime Minister in 2019, this time it was against Boris Johnson. David Hughes had taken over the role in 2019, but Harvey came in with a new character, Count Binface.

Some of Buckethead’s platform in recent years is fantastic. He wants to abolish the House of Lords, except for himself, of course. He wants to really ramp up nuclear weapon production to a ludicrous scale. He thought free bicycles for all was a good idea because that would fight obesity, traffic congestion… and bike theft. He wanted to make it legal for people to hunt fox hunters. He wanted to exile right-wing columnist Katie Hopkins to the Phantom Zone. And one of his ways to deal with misbehaving school children was a three strikes and you’re out system in which after the third time a child misbehaves, they are blasted into deep space. The parents of that child would be given a fruit basket to stand in as condolences or celebration – depending on the child.

1992 was the only election in which Buckethead appeared on the ballot and he did not defeat every non-major UK party running for election in a constituency.

Okay, enough of this… Let’s dig into it. Naturally, the movie opens with a word crawl. It not just says this is Episode IV, but it’s “The Last Resort” instead of “A New Hope”. The crawl basically says something about stolen radio transmissions. Also, it appears that Princess Serina’s being chased by Lord Buckethead. There’s a navigational error and the bad guys are flung to the far reaches of space. This of course is how you bring Star Wars to Earth.

It’s not just any ol’ place on Earth either. Oh no. You gotta have a couple old hillbillies in a boat on the lake fishing with shotguns and dynamite to be the first witnesses of the intergalactic travelers. However, they just shrug it off like nothing happened. Instead, two little kids spot the spaceship and decide to go on a little Spielberg-style investigation. In fact, the little kids are even wearing Star Wars and E.T. shirts. So yeah, they’re probably going to be into this flying saucer business. They get scared back home by a ferocious growling animal they lock it in the basement and tell their parents. The dad hears the growling and decide to call an exterminator the next day. What comes out of the basement is a tiny little Jawa like creature.

The exterminator is Max. He’s being offered a cushy salary job as an executive, but his business school mentor thinks he will be making a big mistake if he takes the promotion. Meanwhile, more of the little guys that look a lot like Jawas are heading into town with their boss, Lord Buckethead. Their trek into town is accompanied by orchestra music that can be heard by the people in the town too.

Now, it seems as though Lord Buckethead here is kind of a bad ass, right? Plus, he has a whole gaggle of minions too. He’s not to be messed with. Or so you’d think. There’s a little bit of a problem…

Lord Buckethead is kind of an idiot.

He confuses an old baker for being the hero Captain Starfighter. Now… Hang on a second. If an old guy that dresses anything like a pastry baker is able to defeat you, you might be in the wrong business, Buckethead. Anyway, this old Chester guy gets interrogated by Lord Buckethead and Chester has no idea what he’s talking about with these transmissions or plans. He does get all his fritters confiscated when it appears Lord Buckethead is curious about the pastry.

Chester, under threat of being killed by the alien warlord, tells Buckethead that he will find all the transmissions he wants down the street. This takes him to AAMCO Transmissions. The guy who works there says that, “Heck yeah, we got all the transmissions you want!” When Buckethead brings up Princess Serina, the guy at the front desk says he must be looking for Karen. He calls Karen (Poundstone) out to speak to Buckethead.

As you might figure, this doesn’t clear anything up for anyone.

The little minions make off with Karen so Buckethead can torture her to find out where she hid the secret intercepted transmissions. Back at Terminix, and yes, it’s wild they have AAMCO And Terminix in this movie, Max doesn’t realize that the little minion is still in his van from the family’s house the day before. He follows the minion who ran out with a folder it took off with to AAMCO where he comes face to face with Buckethead who is interrogating Karen.

Buckethead’s focus turns to Max who he gets strung up and the minions hit him with some sparking wires to try to make him talk. Basically, one thing leads to another and they mistake a shop-vac for a droid that must be containing the stolen transmissions. Max and Karen escape by basically stealing one of the AAMCO customers’ cars. Lord Buckethead and his minions follow in a VW Bug.

It’s pretty funny seeing Buckethead and his minions all piled into a Bug. When Karen and Max’s car breaks down, they’re forced to run. The minions and Buckethead pursue.

Back at the police station, Chester tells his story to the authorities about Lord Buckethead. He was also one of the drunken fishermen at the start when the bad guys came to Earth to begin with. During the police interview, William Hopper (Chris Elliott) interrupts by scratching his nails on the chalkboard like he’s Robert Shaw from Jaws. He asks about what the men saw. Chester says they they had all sorts of curse words for America and Earth and country music and stuff. Hopper says he’s not too surprised by any of this. Chester says that a giant space spider came out carrying a giant space bomb.

Hopper immediately buys into the alien story and he’s going to get to the bottom of all these shenanigans.

There’s something I need to say about this movie. This is actually really smart to play this fairly straight. They could go for wild parody and try to go the route of making grand, broad jokes, but they don’t. Lord Buckethead honestly believes he is in the right place. The hillbilly alien witnesses are just kooky characters. Paula Poundstone and Alan Marx (playing Max) are both pretty much relying on smaller jokers and not using slapstick. On the opposite side of Buckethead, Chris Elliott’s Hopper is 100% believing the alien stuff even if the hillbillies’ stories are wildly dumb and obviously overblown. Now, granted, Hopper is right. There ARE aliens on Earth, but his zeal is the joke. It’s actually a decently written comedy.

It’s also not a badly made movie either. Okay, it’s mostly made similarly to indie movies of the 80s. But it’s mostly competently made for what it is. It also knows what Lucas was doing with Star Wars. There are lots of wipes transitioning from one scene to the next. There is even a great wipe that leads into Buckethead and his minions chasing and shooting at Max and Karen that has very John Williams-esque music and movement like you’d see and hear in a real Star Wars movie. Color me surprised by that transition, and this movie as a whole.

Buckethead and the gang show up to capture Max and Karen. To try to get the word out about the impending invasion by aliens and get tips on who might have seen some, Hopper goes to the radio station to field calls on a talk show. None of the calls ask about aliens. They only ask about guns, hunting season, and whether or not they can actually just shoot the aliens if they see one.

The little minion guys find out that they are not in the part of space they thought they were originally. They have to figure out how to tell Buckethead this knowing that he’s not going to take this news well at all. They nominate one of the minions to tell their leader that they are way off course… a course their leader set himself. He refuses to believe he could have made a miscalculation with the navigation and kills the poor minion for telling him that things got a little screwed up.

After knocking out a couple minions, Karen escapes and saves Alex who was hooked up to a brain drain machine so he’s stumbling around like an idiot. They escape Buckethead’s ship, but they are soon pursued. Hopper is interviewing locals to hear their alien stories, and he’s getting all sorts coming out of the woodwork with wild stories and one guy is even dressed as an alien and trying to issue demands for things he wants under threat of blowing up the Earth.

Maybe a scene that would be considered one of the most memorable, and, to this point, pretty broad in terms of comedy, is next. This concerns a flying shopping cart dogfight in a supermarket. Yeah, it’s pretty silly. You know what, though? It’s actually kind of charming.

All the while with this chase going on, Max has been trying to get back to school to take a big business school exam so he can get his promotion. After seemingly doing away with the minions and Buckethead himself, Karen delivers Max to the test on time so he can take it.

But uh oh… Lord Buckethead has found Karen and he brings her into Max’s class and demands that he turns over the transmission in the next 24 hours.

Max asks a really good question: “Or what?” What’s Buckethead really going to do? Is he going to blow up the planet? Is he just going to kill one guy? What then? He still wouldn’t have what he came for. Lord Buckethead is surprised at the question. He doesn’t really have an answer for Max. He supposes he could blow up the planet. Max says why not just obliterate all the living things in the city limits.

When Buckethead’s minion shoots Max’s business school teacher, the teacher tells Max that he finally has something to fight for, Karen. This was what he was trying to tell him earlier. This makes him more than just another schlub at a desk in business. If he isn’t going to stand up for anything he might as well just resign himself to be a corporate loser.

Max goes to where Buckethead’s ship is and finds the military setting up camp and attacking the ship. In an interesting twist of the usual trope, a preacher pleads with both Hopper and the military to cease their activity against the aliens. He says it’s immoral to continue to try to destroy them and that they need to attempt to communicate with them. Hopper, after seemingly taking into account what the priest said responds, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening.”

It’s the little jokes like that, played straight, done understatedly, that make this an actual enjoyable parody as opposed to most of the parodies released in the last 30 years.

The priest decides to make an attempt on his own and Max follows. When Max says he should go instead of the priest, the priest says no because offering communication and piece is far more powerful than a hundred spears… until an explosion goes off near them, and the priest decides that Max would be a much better candidate for the mission of trying to make peace with the aliens. So what does Max do after making it across the battlefield? He knocks on the door, beats up a minion, and takes his cloak and gun to sneak around.

Initially, it seems as though Hopper has negotiated a cease fire to talk. As Lord Buckethead comes out to meet with the humans, Hopper says he needs to freeze and don’t come any closer or they’ll shoot. He stops, and one of the army guys shoots him anyway. This immediately starts hostilities again. Shortly after, Hopper meets with Buckethead again and asks if it’s okay if the humans just surrendered. Buckethead says he won’t take any prisoners and tries to blow up the humans with their death ray. However, the death ray breaks down and that gives the army a chance to advance.

Inside the ship, Max and Karen roam the corridors. They run into some of the minions and they have a laser battle. Outside, Lord Buckethead signals a cease fire and Hopper belittles and mocks Buckethead. However, while they talk, the minions report the death ray is fixed and everything the army gained is lost again. Hopper catches the first Jeep out of there.

Max and Karen get off the ship just before it takes off. Lord Buckethead demands the ship not take off, but the minions, finally tired of his shit, kick him off the ship and take off without him. Buckethead continues to chase after Max and Karen as they crash into the home of the family from the beginning of the movie. Karen gets knocked out and it seems as though Buckethead is about to kill Max when he gets shot by another person in the house. It turns out that the old man Chester from the donut shop is indeed Captain Starfighter just as Buckethead accused him of being earlier.

This has literally come out of nowhere. Captain Starfighter ends up shooting Lord Buckethead to death and cackles in delight of saving the day.

Karen, Max, and the two kids just appear appropriately dumbfounded.

I mean, right?!? That shit came out of nowhere in this movie.

And that’s how the movie ends. With a cackling old man killing the best hope the UK has at being the best it can be. Anyway, this movie isn’t really all that bad at all. Not every joke lands perfectly, but there’s a lot here that does work, especially with Chris Elliott. Yeah, it’s a big ol’ pile of dumb, but sometimes that’s exactly what you want in a movie.

I do have to wonder though… I know that the little minion guys in this movie was a total parody of Jawas, right? Sure, Jawas speak a specific language that is a lot of sounds and so on that really doesn’t sound like normal words. The little guys in this movie speak more like gibberish than anything. Could there also be a connection to the Minions characters that are now starring in their own movies too? They do seem to have personalities like those little yellow bastards. I’m just kicking around the idea.

I will say that I only really heard of this movie over the last five years. That said, this movie seems to have some sort of life beyond its 1984 release. It probably got a lot of play on TV. Certainly by the end of the 80s, when Poundstone and Elliott were much more recognizable, I suspect this got some attention. I also say the movie really isn’t that bad and really isn’t shot or produced all that badly at all either. You can see this on YouTube. There’s no quality above VHS so some of the darker scenes make it very difficult to see exactly what’s going on, but if you like silly 80s parodies, I recommend Hyperspace, aka Gremloids.

Okay, tomorrow, check out the penultimate episode of the third season of B-Movie Enema: The Series, The Oblong Box. You can find it here at this site or you can use the links on the top of the right hand column on the page you’re looking at right now and find where you can follow B-Movie Enema and subscribe to B-Movie Enema’s YouTube and Vimeo channels. That will get you in the know for all the good B-Movie Enema stuffs.

Now, I need to hop on a fundraising call with Lord Buckethead. He’s got some pretty good ideas about how we can clean up a lot of problematic people in the world by simply catapulting them into space. Come back next week when I take a look at a 2021 movie that is not just the most recent movie I’ve ever covered on the blog, but also the shortest title I’ve ever covered before.

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