Space Mutiny (1988)

Oh. Boy.

Welcome back to B-Movie Enema and the grand finale of David Winters Winter. If you’ve been reading all month, I’ve been kind of teasing what the finale was going to be. If you know what David Winters is maybe best known for, particularly in the 80s, and if I was teasing an 80s film of his that has some questionable decisions made in the production and set decoration, then you had to know it was going to be Space Mutiny.

Of course, Space Mutiny is best known for being one of the funniest episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. And what that episode is best known for are all the muscleman jokes made at lead star Reb Brown’s expense. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve called someone Rip Steakface, or Brick HardMeat, or Crunch Buttsteak, or Reef Blastbody, or Roll Fizzlebeef, or Big McLargeHuge, or Eat Punchbeef, or even Bob Johnson. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said one of those names when I see Reb Brown. In fact, I’m sure I used some of them when I covered the 1979 Captain America movie he starred in! It’s part of my very blood. Those 40 parody names are just some of the best jokes ever written for a TV show.

But here’s the thing… I knew this movie before I ever saw that MST3K episode. It was a regular movie playing on cable TV when I was in my early teen years. So when that episode of MST3K came along, it all looked super familiar. I also want to make sure it’s well documented that there’s another reason why some sci-fi fans will recognize most of the space battle scenes. That’s because every space shot was lifted directly from Battlestar Galactica. Yeah. The “Southern Sun” generation ship that we spend our movie’s runtime on is the literal Battlestar Galactica ship. The fighters that fly around to defend it are the little ships that Apollo and Starbuck fly. The random bad guys who show up to do stuff are the Cylon ships. So if anyone who knows late 70s sci-fi will know those space shots. In addition to that, they try a bunch of space mysticism in the movie that is a direct influence from Star Wars.

But speaking of recognizable stuff, we get some more Cameron Mitchell in this movie as someone who looks a lot like Santa Claus, but he’s actually the Grand Poobah of this Southern Sun. I already mentioned our main star, and beefcake stud, Reb Brown. Also starring in this is Cisse Cameron who plays a botanist (or something), and the daughter of that Grand Poobah. Brown and Cameron had been married since 1979. They are still together to this day. Good for them.

Now… I suppose we gotta talk about this production. We’ve had three other movies this month that showed that David Winters is a fairly competent director. There’s no reason to think that he, of all people, would make a movie that is loaded with incomprehensible continuity errors (like when a character is killed and then seen a couple scenes later in what is either a complete and total fuck up or something that was edited out of order), or shot in a way that obviously makes the engine room of the ship look like an industrial factory with windows that clearly show the movie was shot in bright daylight, or just comes off completely and totally flat in the action scenes – especially when a couple slow-moving carts are used in what is supposed to look like a fast-paced action and thrilling scene. The deal was that Winters had to take off from the set just before filming began. He delegated out directing duties.

Okay, that seems alright, but could an assistant director make that much of a difference in how the movie comes out? Well, maybe. How long was Winters gone? Was he possibly supposed to make some final decisions that might have made some difference in costume design and so forth? Eh… Probably not on that one. This movie was probably a disaster to begin with. This was really early in the Action International Pictures days once Winters went into making his own movies with his own studio and stuff. Remember, he got burned on some decisions made by the studio when he was working on Thrashin’. This was partially financed by South Africa too. So there might have been some choices that had to be settled on and so forth.

So, assuming that Winters did have to leave for a death in the family, and he really was contractually unable to get a Alan Smithee credit (at least that’s the story), it’s likely it would have only marginally been better. It’s unlikely the production design with keyboards and computer monitors and floppy disk readers being put into the set design, or those sets that are obviously industrial factories and not an actual spaceship set had been any better. All those things may have been true, but I’m sure Winters was not proud of this movie. Other things are going to present itself as we continue through this movie, but I think we’ve pretty much set this up as best as we could for now. Let’s get into this low budget South African-American co-production!

I ain’t gonna lie, the score for the start of the movie is pretty great. It’s got a nice beat. I don’t think the kids can dance to it, but it’s got backbeat that sounds like a space opera type of march while horns and other synthesized instruments give us the main theme. So, I guess that’s one good thing about this movie.

We then learn that 13 generations ago, Earth people decided to get off the planet due to overpopulation and environment going to the dogs. So they built the Southern Sun. That’s a ship where most of the people on board were born there, lived there, died there, and their progeny continued on for, I suppose the next several generations. Most people on board kind of accept that there’s no place to go. They can’t go back to Earth for… reasons. They are just gonna live on the Battlestar Galacti… Er… Southern Sun. I think they maybe needed to rework the idea for the badges on the uniforms, though because… Yikes.

Lookin’ a little, uh, SS-y.

Now, Cameron Mitchell says that some people aren’t so cool with the idea of living on this ship all their lives. There is a bit of a conspiracy to commit mutiny going on in this movie that, unsurprisingly, has Mutiny in the title. We’ll meet them in better detail in a bit. But the lady in the, uh, SS-y costume above is a key figure in why this movie is blasted so hard. We’ll get back to Lt. Lemont in a bit because the first piece of kind of stupid subplotting has arrived.

Just before some fighters come in for docking, we see a rescue ship return from answering a distress call. They found this group of, apparently, female humans. These women are part of a race called Bellerians. Now, the Bellerians have some sort of mojo about them and they are all smoking hot. Why they show up here, I cannot say. Why we need them in this story in order for the good guys to fight back against the rising mutiny, I cannot say. Why the good guys can’t actually be, you know, good guys and learn about the plot themselves and win the movie, I cannot say. But we get some sexy chicks doing some sort of voodoo throughout the movie, so I guess that’s something.

So that Viper Squadron, as they’re called, that’s coming in? Well, in that group is the scientist friend and mentor to Lea, the daughter of Grand Poobah, Commander Alex Jansen (Cameron Mitchell). She’s real excited to see her friend return. But uh oh… There are some space pirates that want to cause some problems like a whole hive of bees interrupting your cool little picnic. Due to the pirates attacking, Commander Jansen and Captain Devers, who is another of our heroes, is unaware of our primary mutineer, Commander Kalgan, doing some shenanigans in the engineering sector of the ship. He explodes some stuff which makes for Ryder’s approach and subsequent landing to go wonky. Safety procedures in a situation like this means the pilot is beamed out to safety on board the Southern Sun. And if you think that sounds an awful lot like anyone the pilot is carting around is totally fucked, you’d be right! The ship crash lands in the dock and Lea’s professor friend is flame-broiled. Kalgan takes great pleasure in his little explosion that caused the death of the professor.

Kalgan is played by John Phillip Law. He was actually not entirely a nobody. Not only did he get a lot of work throughout his 50+ year career, but he was in some fairly big movies like The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming. He was positioned to be maybe something of a sex symbol for movies like Danger: Diabolik (which was also done on Mystery Science Theater 3000 – in fact, it was the last episode of the original run) and Barbarella. Both of those 1968 movies were based on popular European comic books. Either way, he worked really steadily throughout his life until he died in 2008.

Kalgan has a lot of people who want to follow his plan – which is to finally go to a planet and finally stop living on a cold spaceship. He’s basically got eyes and ears everywhere. He’s told about the Bellerians coming aboard because they could prove to be an unknown element. Speaking of the Bellerians, they have been shown to an empty storage room and told this is their new home. They all look like they each appeared in every 80s rock music video produced.

They speak via telepathy. That’s going to be important. Probably. I dunno. Is anything the Bellerians do important in this? Again, they are here to tell our good guys things that they should figure out for themselves if we are to believe our heroes are smart. Whatever.

We discover that Kalgan’s sabotage did a great deal of damage. The Viper ship’s missile load basically made the Southern Sun completely isolated. You see, the damage means that the ship’s docking bay cannot be opened. Kalgan takes this as great news because he’s basically made the ship inaccessible and inescapable. Now, he can position himself to offer the ultimatum to go to a planet, set down, and force everyone to live on that world just as he was forced to live in the Southern Sun. Anyone who opposes this plan is subjected to a fate not worse than death. Because it IS death.

Ryder goes to the bridge to meet with Captain Devers and Commander Jansen. He asks to see a video of the crash. It’s like this lunkhead is coming into the film room after a football game to see where he could improve his linebacker skills. While he does that, some stupid shit is going on in the Bellerians’ room. They have one of those static ball things that you can get from Spencer’s Gifts and they also do some interpretive dancing. This almost acts like a siren song. It gets a guy to come to their door, but another officer tells him that the Bellerians are off limits.

Back on the bridge, Lea comes in to give everyone a piece of her mind. She calls Ryder a chicken for beaming out of the cockpit before the crash. Tensions run wild when Ryder then defends himself by saying that there was nothing he could do. This escalates until Ryder leaves in a huff to go file his report which concludes what can best be said the clip that was probably submitted to the Academy for Oscar night when Space Mutiny was nominated for a record 17 Academy Awards.

I like that at one point, there’s a brief scene in which a lady approaches Kalgan and says, “Sir, I think you’ll find this interesting.” He asks what it is and she says, “It’s a list of all the explosives under our control.” That’s more than just a walk up and say you have something that the leader of your mutiny might find interesting. That’s REALLY important information.

Anyway, that’s immediately followed up by some dork who looks like John Denver reporting to Lt. Lemont that he discovered some irregularities in the requisition for explosives. He’s going to go to the bridge and talk with her and someone else high ranking about this. Kalgan and his goons find him and offer him a deal – join Kalgan or the deep freeze. John Denver says he would rather jump than join him. Is… Is Kalgan’s plan widely known? If so, is nobody gonna do anything about that?

Oh fuck it.

So Ryder goes to talk to Lea about the professor. See, Ryder knew and respected him too. That changes everything. Apparently, she now thinks this lunkhead is hot. Because she won’t immediately accept his apology or attempt to smooth things over (seriously, if he gave her a chance to actually talk, they would have smoothed things over immediately), he storms off again saying he doesn’t need this crap from her. Smash cut to disco life aboard the Southern Sun.

Alright, so I guess Lea and Dave are gonna be buddies… and possibly more. But uh oh… Lt. Lemont is getting questioned by a couple of Kalgan’s goons. This piques Lea’s curiosity. Kalgan asks about her conversation with the guy about the explosives. She says it’s her business. He says it’s now his business and shoots her dead. Then! It’s off to the races in breathtaking fashion as Kalgan and his #1 goon is chased by Dave and Lea in what can only be described as passenger floor cleaners.

Remember, this was nominated for 17 Academy Awards. This is why.

Okay, enough joking around about Oscar nominations and what have you. What happens right after that amazing scene above is one of the things that gets lampooned often with this movie. The continuity of one very important fact. Lt. Lemont is killed for knowing too much about Kalgan’s plan. Now, remember, that one guy he killed for finding out that there are missing explosives on the requisition didn’t hesitate to say he’d rather die than join Kalgan which makes me think there are a lot of people who know what the bad guy is up to, but I digress.

The whole point of the chase between Dave and Lea and Kalgan and his goon is due to finding Lemont dead on the floor. Ryder and Lea are now becoming very keenly targeted by Kalgan’s people from this point forward. So it seems like that shooting Lemont dead is a really important, key moment in this movie, yes? Well, in walks Captain Devers to report to Commander Jansen. Who does he walk right by?

That’s next level fuck-uppery. Like, seriously. This is a type of continuity error that is only ever reserved for movies that are totally bereft of talent or know-how. Here’s why… Okay, so the scene is clearly, purposefully, placed in this spot because it would appear that Lea and Dave are now directly in the mix of this mutiny and being shot at by mutineers, and that would be a good place for the conversation that Jansen and Devers has about Jansen’s hunch that the sabotage is meant to drive the Southern Sun to a very specific place inside space pirate territory. A place, mind you, that Kalgan has specifically told one of his mutiny buds that he plans to go to settle. If Jansen and Devers has this conversation before the whole Lemont being killed by Kalgan and instigating a chase for David and Lea to get in on, then it would seem wonky. Maybe not quite as wonky as seeing Lemont alive and well on the bridge, but whatever.

But here’s the funny thing… There was no reason to see her twice in this scene as Devers enters the bridge and exits the conversation with Jansen. We didn’t need to establish Devers walking into the bridge to know that he might have a conversation with Jansen on the bridge. He is the Captain after all. I assume that means he’s on the bridge a lot. All of that lead up to seeing Devers walk onto the bridge and pass by the very presently dead Lemont is totally unnecessary to the flow of the movie. Then, after he talks about the hunch Jansen has and Devers excuses himself to find out who it is that is that wants to speak to Jansen, we don’t need to see Devers walking all the way back to the door of the bridge. I am no editor (I mean, have you seen B-Movie Enema: The Series?!?) but even I know you don’t need all that establishing stuff with him arriving and leaving, both times passing a dead character.

All of that is followed up by a truly bizarre scene. Lea and Dave are looking for more of the goons and the headquarters for the mutineers. They enter this room where Kalgan takes people who disobey or refuse to join him to be put into deep freeze. There are these kind of creepy people in their underwear Saran Wrapped on these poles. This creepy old guy who kind of acts like Boris Karloff tells them that Kalgan will take people who are under suspicion and brings them there for interrogation. They are given a truth serum and if they are of no further use to him, he ejects them out into space. If they can be redeemed in Kalgan’s eyes, they are put into the deep freeze to be unfrozen later and used.

This leads to Lea realizing what we already know, and they should have been able to figure out from the chase, that Kalgan has his own army that is operating under only his command. They escape again as Kalgan and his army figure out where they’ve gone. They are able to escape to the bridge.

Meanwhile, Jansen decides to look into Bellerian behavior to figure out what they might be doing on the Southern Sun. The leader of the Bellerians, Jennera, speaks to him and says that the people of the Southern Sun are no longer able to tell the difference between good and bad or something. They’re teetering on the brink of breaking intergalactic law or something. Interestingly, Jennera is voiced by Cameron Mitchell’s daughter, Camille. Weirdly, the physical Jennera, played by Madeleine Reynal (who we’ll see again sometime down the line as Dr. Caligari in the infamous 1990 remake), makes magic sex with Cameron Mitchell. This was very likely Mitchell’s idea.

Now, what did Jennera do? I mean, other than make Cameron Mitchell extremely happy? Well, she “showed him the way to truth” so he can defeat Kalgan.

Jansen calls together his officers, Devers, David Ryder, Lea, and, unbeknownst to Jansen, Chief Engineer MacPherson. MacPherson asks to be excused after he says that Kalgan obviously has been planning to do this for a long time so there probably isn’t anything we can do to stop him now. Neither Jansen nor Devers find this weird, so they just let him go. More importantly, Jansen names David Ryder the new Flight Commander, replacing Kalgan.

Now, Jansen and Devers know there’s a mutiny going on, but they are pretty laid back and very cool, so they throw a party for firing Kalgan and hiring Ryder. But ol’ David is feeling kind of lonely. He wants to know where Lea is. Jansen tells him she’s in her greenhouse. Ryder excuses himself so he can ride her.

After David and Lea take a roll in the greenhouse, we see more Bellerian shenanigans. They seduce a couple of Kalgan’s guys with their slow-mo magic. Some more of the goons come in and find the guys unconscious. They are taken to be put on ice for abandoning their post and messing around with the space magic girls.

So some goofy editing goes down where the Southern Sun drifts into space pirate territory and get attacked. I think this is just to have more space fights. After all, they bought those fucking clips from Battlestar Galactica and, goddammit, they’re gonna use ’em! So apparently, the pirate space fleet is quickly defeated. But they aren’t in the clear just yet. They need to defend against invaders. David has to make a heck of a speech to rally the troops!

While almost all of the various passage ways are going to be well defended, Kalgan has a new plan… Kidnap Lea. He takes her to one of his offices or strongholds or whatever. Here, he plans to torture her with some old school dentistry without Novocain.

When he leaves her with some of his idiot goons, she is able to gain the upper hand by appealing to their base, horny nature. She is able to quickly use her body and wiles to knock out the goon guarding her.

But she wouldn’t have had to do all that on her own. David Ryder is out kicking ass and killing bad guys. He eventually arrives at Kalgan’s torture office after she’s overpowered her idiot captor. They disguise themselves as a couple of Kalgan’s goons and continue on with their continual kicking of the asses of the bad guys.

A big chunk of the end of the second act and the start of the third act is mostly David and Lea running around shooting guys and beating them up while they try to get out of the parts of the ship, I guess, controlled by Kalgan. I swear, bad guys in comic book or sci-fi movies are hilariously ill-equipped to kick asses. A single hero can wipe out, like, 47 of these guys with very little trouble. It’s kind of funny if not kinda sad for these goons who are likely just doing this shit for a few bucks or to save themselves from being jettisoned out into space.

Some more fun continuity goofs happen in this sequence too. The same set of guys are shown twice being alerted into action from their bunks in the sleeping section of the ship. It wouldn’t have been so easy to know they use the exact same “getting guys out of bed” shot more than once if it wasn’t for a guy with a ridiculous mullet being right there front and center of the shot. That guy was woken up to defend the ship from invading pirates. Then, I guess he went back to bed in the time it took Lea to be kidnapped and Ryder to fight his way through goons to save her. Now, he has to be woken up again because Kalgan needs him to shoot good guys. Also, I’m fairly sure mullet guy in this movie is basically Dog the Bounty Hunter because he has some facial hair too that simply cannot be something that two completely different dudes would have.

Anyway, Ryder tells Jansen and Devers that the Chief Engineer is a traitor. He’s with Kalgan. Ryder decides to go deal with this little weasel himself. Devers offers to come along, but, you see, Ryder declines the offer because he kills alone. In this segment, something genuinely hilarious and perfect occurs. Ryder picks up a space bazooka and starts blowing people away. He hits one of Kalgan’s guys and he’s lit on fire right in front of Kalgan. So this guy is flailing around and Kalgan can’t pass by him. So he calls the goon on fire an idiot and kicks him out of the way. Perfect.

Eventually, MacPherson is cornered in the engine room or somewhere. He hides himself in the gas expulsion sump (or at least that’s what Lea says). Now, MacPherson is handicapped. He’s got a pretty bad limp. He probably got that in Space Vietnam. He’s not very jaunty on his feet. What does Ryder do? Turn on the methane gas in the sump and lights it on fire, which lights MacPherson on fire. Brutal.

Ryder and Lea are going to back to the bridge and she says, “I’ve never seen anyone burned before.” She seems really upset about that, but whatever. Ryder says her father should be able to control her like he does the ship because she was safer on the bridge instead of running off on some fool errand to help him. She tells him that the reports are that Kalgan’s people think Kalgan is dead. There will be no choice but for the mutineers to surrender to Jansen.

Of course we know that is not true. He wakes up and finds himself one of those passenger floor waxing machines and is surprised to find that Lea and David Ryder are about to get on one too and ride back to the bridge. And here we are… The big climax to Space Mutiny.

First, Kalgan knocks Lea over in a hit and run job. Ryder chases after the villain while Lea tries to figure out a way to position herself to maybe shoot at Kalgan. Now, Kalgan has some real zingers in this scene. He says that Ryder will regret coming to the Southern Sun. He calls Ryder a meddling fool. That’s some classic Hanna-Barbera stuff right there. He nearly runs down Lea but not before saying, “Take this, you big bitch!” I don’t think I’ve ever even imagined anyone saying that exact line through gritted teeth in a movie or even in real life. There have been times in which my dad would get so upset he’d fly into a rage-filled, incomprehensible rant loaded with cuss words, and he still never said “You big bitch!” This movie is pretty amazing.

Eventually, Ryder gets the upper hand and it appears he kills Kalgan by blowing up his little Scooty Puff Junior. Ryder and Lea live happily ever after as the Southern Sun’s Flight Commander and his main squeeze. They plan to get married after he gets back from his upcoming mission. However, in the engine room, a burned Kalgan still lives and stares us down until the credits begin.

Space Mutiny is not a good movie. It’s got a very goofy plot. It’s got a lot of acting and sets issues. The continuity is awful. Everything about the movie is just off. But you know what? It’s not a movie that isn’t fun to watch. Nothing about anything makes sense, but sometimes you just get the warm and fuzzies when you watch something that you remember seeing on HBO as a kid.

I do have a list of movies that I can’t possibly cover here due to the amount they have been covered by other people and other sites. I’ve talked about this before. Samurai Cop, Bridemic, Miami Connection, The Room… These will never see the light of day on B-Movie Enema. I’ll watch the fuck out of them whenever I can, but, if I’m being honest, I can’t bring anything new to the discussion of those movies. But, yeah, Space Mutiny is a movie that is well known to the bad movie loving fans out there. A lot of that is because of Mystery Science Theater 3000. But I can cover stuff like this because it’s a relic of its time and that’s part of why the quality is subpar. I don’t think this movie was meant to be bad, but I’m not sure anything could have actually made this incredibly scant, yet also very convoluted, plot any good either. It’s fun. It’s an all-timer for bad movie night for folks. It’s worthy of some love on B-Movie Enema too.

That puts a fork in David Winters Winter. It sure was fun. Yeah, we ended on a wet fart, but look at what else we saw this month – quality. Winters could do well with most of the movies he directed. Thrashin’ and The Last Horror Film in particular were a ton of fun. Mission Kill and Space Mutiny are somehow more painfully 80s than even Thrashin’ was. Still, fun times were had.

But next week begins another theme month as I do my third Full Moon Fever month and it’s entirely dedicated to the drop dead gorgeous Jacqueline Lovell! We get things started with the classic Head of the Family which includes some great makeup work and camera effects for our titular character. But, honestly, it’s probably mostly going to be me drooling over Jacquelin Lovell. I mean… She’s just… She’s just neat-o. Join me in one week for that and until then I’ll see you around, you big bitch!

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