Judge Bill Gibron declares a grudge match between this Harry Novak exploitation flick and the equally inept and similarly plotted Species.
He's a UFO Romeo on a booty call from another world
When a couple of kooky aliens from the planet Urine (or Uranus, whatever they find funnier at the time) arrive on Earth, they have one thing on their mind…and it's not visiting Knott's Berry Farm. No, they are on a mission for mad monkey lovin' with a few of the local lasses. Operation Procreation is supposed to help these blue-headed fools' endangered planet. The idea is basic: the travelers will repopulate the UN's favorite stalemate state with little bitty baby spacemen, each with their own unusual sexual reproductive equipment. So the excitable extraterrestrials roam around LA, transporting themselves to massage parlors and local lover's lanes looking for fornicatable females. Whenever Sgt. Jackoff and Pvt. Asshole (great names, huh?) find a willing woman, they extend their oversized tongues and inflate their balloon-like ears. Then, as they say in the vernacular, the UFO is rockin', so don't come a knockin'. After making interstellar bacon with a dozen or so fetching wenches, the cosmic Casanovas head back to their home planet, leaving behind lots of ET tots in their wake.
Toward the start of the 1980s, exploitation, for all intents and purposes, was dead. No one except the sleaziest insurance salesmen were visiting the Pussycat Theaters and hardcore porn was providing the provocative product that the old time hucksters used to only hint at. Never one to give up without a fiscal fight, exploitation pioneer Harry Novak needed another outlet for this catalog of carnal kookiness. And with the burgeoning home video market and pay cable channels anxious for something/anything to show, that wily old SOB saw his commercial chance. Looking at the success of adult oriented material in this new market, Novak dug deep into his vaults and started to release his own lampoon style send-ups, including the slack-jawed space opera, the incorrigible crock Wham Bam Thank You Spaceman. Made in 1975 by William A. Levey (Blackenstein, The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington), this insipid saga of two errant aliens looking for interplanetary poon was about as funny as a wet dream and equally uncomfortable. Still, Novak thought he knew what people wanting in the way of naked nonsense, especially in the privacy of their own home. And wouldn't you know it: the coaxial crowd ate it up. WBTYSM was one of the biggest hits in the history of subscription television. It went from a disco disaster filled with flagging flesh and support hose humor to cult classic. The fact that the movie still looks like a metaphysical collision between Studio 54 and Plato's Retreat is beside the point. People were and still seem to be warm for Harry's form of ersatz porn.
It's hard to see why. Wham Bam Thank You Spaceman is indeed woefully inept. From dialogue that drips of the random dropping of dirty words (relying on a dated ideal that any profanity, no matter how miserable the grammatical basis, is funny) to a set that resembles what autistic children would build in their backyards, this outer space sluice runs rank and redolent throughout most of the sci-fi genre's clichés. There are a couple of moments where the movie moves from sheer stupidity with added sex, to something of a sophomoric Porky's prelude (especially when the celestial dudes ends up in a sleazy LA massage parlor), but overall this is flesh peddler pandering encounters of the worst kind. WBTYSM is mainly an exposé of women exposed and wriggling and there are none of Novak's trademark sex scene placeholders to be found. Usually, in the middle of a metaphor or expositional phrase, Harry will send his plot into a tale spin by featuring a 10 to 12 minute fornication frenzy that usually stops the film dead in its narrative. But there's a lack of ancillary instances for wango to meet tango here. Mostly WBTYSM is a static slapstick with the bubble-headed boobies running around, shooting off their mouths, and extending their crepe paper tongues. Aside from an incredibly strange ending, which has an elderly man leaping into bed with a bored babe, it's just one disrobed ho after another. There are many who will probably find the forced cursing and creepy centerfolds in motion something near a nekkid nirvana, but Wham Bam Thank You Spaceman is really just the application of excessive skin over the barest of sci-fi plotting to punch up the prurient interests of the average ogler. Even fans of Novak's normal naughtiness will find it difficult to enjoy this Star Drek. It may have been conceived in the same vein as such landmark lewdness as Flesh Gordon, but Wham Bam Thank You Spaceman is just too brainless to please.
On the plus side, Something Weird Video has delivered an exceptional transfer of this claptrap and has festooned the DVD release with some decent extras. As for the sound and vision, the transfer presented here is amazing. Brightly colored and filled with fine tuned details, you'd swear you were seeing something made in the late '90s, not mid '70s. Yes, there are some scratches and obvious age defects, but this print (from Novak's original negative) is amazing. So are the trailers for Novak's other carnivals of carnality. Each one, from Below the Belt to The Dirty Mind of Young Sally, is a crazy corporeal come-on, ads drenched in bodice ballyhoo to tap directly into your disposable income. As for the archival shorts, we are treated to a look at the life of an average, perverted Tom in the rather tame The Peeper. And in Daughters of Darkness, a coven of craven witches shows off their sexual insanity to the latest member of the miserable menagerie.
Wham Bam Thank You Spaceman is harmless, really, a throwback to an era when boundaries could barely be pushed and any amount of salacious sin had to be shrouded in the stupid to avoid arousing the wrong kind of interest. It's just too bad it couldn't have been better. Even with all its Zion Diode dopiness and six-pointed star symbolism (we even here a Yiddish accent or two), this could have been a Friar's Club version of sci-fi, with a little "blue" material tossed in for teasing purposes. Instead, it's just a lot of flashing lights and lowbrow bunk. To paraphrase one of the aliens, Wham Bam Thank You Spaceman is "a wholly f**ked up film."
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
• Archival Short Subjects
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