Judge Bill Gibron laments the opportunities squandered in this sci-fi-tinged exploitation flick.
Screwball sci-fi with a galaxy of gorgeous gals!
Get ready for a plethora of randy double entendres as the crew of the S.S. Supreme Erection (hardee har har) travels the galaxy under the same-sex tutelage of Capt. Mother. Seems this Pat Benatar impersonator hates men and wants the other female members of the squad to "go girl" with her. But our freelance flower children would rather risk the wrath of Sappho's slave and canoodle with the male "members" of the battalion. Just when it looks like Mother will have her harping way, along comes Col. James Granilla, a strapping piece of space flesh who's pleasure pod has just crashed along the Erection's hard hull. Goateed and gold laméd, Jimmy is just what the lusty ladies of the S.S.S.E. need. Too bad he is a Planetarian (?), unskilled in the ways of Terranian (??) love. After taking an invisibility pill, Jim tries to spy on the shipboard copulating couples so he too can become a member of the million mile high club. But mean mad Mother will not tolerate any heterosexual humping, even if it is between different species (???). For her, it's gal-on-gal action only. All those who favor gender opposite symmetry face a healthy dose of the whip. When Granilla causes the Erection to crash on a wayward asteroid, it's time for some extraterrestrial ecstasy on an alien world (which looks a lot like the California desert). Even Mother gives in to the ways of man musk. Still, a homesick Granilla can only look at badly drawn "photos" of his bug-like family and wish to return to his former insect ways. Thanks to a 9-volt battery with a fuse (otherwise known as a nuclear bomb!), James can end his misery as space stud and give his Space-Thing a rest, once and for all.
If Space-Thing were the standard by which all softcore space films were measured, it'd be right at home alongside Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space and Ted V. Mikel's Astro-Zombies as one of the worst examples of speculative fiction gone goofy ever to disgrace a movie screen. Only problem is, both of those supposed atrocities would look like various chapters of The Lord of The Rings compared to the icky interstellar idiocy manufactured here. Masterminded by the mighty monarch of the exploitation world, David F. Friedman, Space-Thing is a "so bad it's balderdashing" hoot that will remind viewers of the William Shatner helmed Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Thing and its Enterprised counterpart both offer scattershot plotting, are equally crammed with incredibly crappy effects, and both films forget what they're supposed to be about halfway through and simply toss in scenes of space cadets tripping the flesh fantastic. (Well, it's almost like Kirk's kooky catastrophe. Thank some manner of omnipotent being that Shatner remained fully clothed throughout his #5 #2.) Utilizing rocket models bought from a local toy store (resembling a certain "starship" and the Invaders vehicle, respectively) and hiring any hag off the street willing to bare some teat, Space-Thing is such a joyless, junky exercise in ersatz erotic ergonomics that hormonally overheated teenage boys would still fail to find anything arousing in its cheerless chest brandishing. And yet, for some reason, entertainment is derived from this engrossing interplanetary hodgepodge. For every incredibly horrifying aspect, something stupidly sensational comes floating into the side-splitting stratosphere.
Maybe it's the chipmunk meets female rock star dynamics of Capt. Mother, played with bucktoothed aplomb by Carla Peterson. Wearing what looks like a swimming cap with felt froufrou festooned upon it and a V-necked singlet that really embarrasses her supposed chattels, this villainous vixen has about as much spark as a dead carburetor and twice the feminine pulchritude. When she disrobes, her malformed mammaries look like soft tissue shoe trees, managing to both droop and run directly parallel to the ground at the same time. It could be lead actor Steven Vincent's mass of body hair that supports this solar system strangeness. This typical '60s ideal of male virility—head of Vitalis-slicked hair flecked with just the right amount of gray, and physique formed out of bluesteak and booze—has a bedsheet manner that can best be described as "laying logs" lazy. He has about as much animal magnetism as road kill, meaning this perplexing paramour is the embarrassed Adam to Peterson's mangled Eve. Or perhaps it's Cadet, played by the scene snacking Dan Martin, who screams every line with a vocal quality and arched accent that must have been the inspiration for Michael Oliver's work in the Problem Child films. You half expect this fey fool to shout, "Look! A Penguin in a Pot," at any given moment…that is, when he's not wetting his wicked whistle over an eavesdropped whipping. Frankly, it's all this and more: the way in which eventually fired director Byron Mabe decides to keep the camera moving while the flesh flicking is going on; the overturned garbage cans and bar stools that pass for spaceship seats; the horrible toga-meets-sarong veiled outfits the women wear. Add in Friedman's patented pattern of simulated sex scenes, and all the awfulness flushes away in a free-for-all of amateur movie mania. Space-Thing becomes a wild thing of unintentional pleasure.
If the dopey deep space spasms of Space-Thing weren't enough to launch your pocket rocket, Something Weird Video really outdoes itself in the DVD department. Typical of their first forays into the digital realm, this disc offers a few tasty extras, one of which is truly dazzling. David F. Friedman is the foremost historian of the exploitation genre, and his rather non-specific commentary for Space-Thing (which he dismisses as a "real piece of crap") devolves into a discussion about the ways and means of how truly independent films were made back in the day. Full of mesmerizing stories that would entertain even without the accompanying images, Friedman describes the competitive nature of the business, why he had to fire his director, and how the opening carnal act was added later to enhance the movie's…running time. Dave is a delight and this DVD is worth owning just for his wonderful tales in the T&A trade. There are also a couple of archival short subjects, one of which MST3K fans will notice right off the bat. "The Dance of Tomorrow" is part of the longer "Design for Dreaming," a weird look at the future funded by General Motors. "Roll-Oh the Robot," which features a clumsy automaton that can barely move about the house, is also a short sequence from the longer industrial film "Leave it to Roll-Oh." As for the film itself, Space-Thing's full screen 1.33:1 transfer is almost perfect, derived from one of Friedman's personal negatives. As a result, the colors are vivid and all the actor's physical attributes are captured in flesh-crawling clarity.
In the universe of abysmal space operas, there have been several stellar examples. Gil Gerard and his goiter meets the galaxy of Buck Rodgers. Battlestar Galactica sure stunk up the place with its Lorne Greene-iness. And the less said about Moon Zero Two the better. But there has never been a clearer example of asteroid awfulness mixed with moonbeam merriment than Space-Thing. Sure, it's really just a softcore sex film with its atmosphere made unnecessarily weightless, but the resulting ridiculousness is well worth an orbit or two.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
• Full Length Audio Commentary by David F. Friedman
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