This 1988 sci-fi B-movie classic is mesmerizing in its shoddiness, leaving you no other option than to strap in and let the bizarrely enjoyable ride take you where it wants to go. If it looks vaguely familiar, that’s because you might’ve seen this cheesy delight featured in a Season 8 episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
As Inverse celebrates all things Star Wars, it’s worth a look back to the copycats and also-rans that are worth celebrating in their own right. Here are four reasons we can’t get enough of Space Mutiny.
Welcome to Star Wars Week! To celebrate the 15-year anniversary of Revenge of the Sith (May 19) and the 40-year anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back (May 21), we’re talking about our favorite sci-fi franchise for nine days straight.
4. The cast — Most B-movies try to get along without the help of a major name, instead relying on unknown, cheap talent. Not Space Mutiny.
Space Mutiny got Captain America himself: Reb Brown, who nine years previously played Steve Rogers in two television movies. With a Marvel hero at the helm, who do you cast as your leading lady? His actual wife, of course. Cisse Cameron plays Lea, who is totally was not inspired by Princess Leia. She’s given an “and introducing” credit in the opening sequence, despite Space Mutiny being the 13th of her 14 screen credits.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a truly classic B-movie without an appearance by Cameron Mitchell. His prolific acting career spanned a half-century, culminating in a lot of roles in movies like Code Name Vengeance, Hollywood Cop, and Demon Cop. In Space Mutiny, he’s at peak Santa Claus, but giving 110 percent.
3. Deep-discount production values — Space Mutiny’s production was troubled, but fascinating.
First, David Winters was on board to direct. Winters was known for a small role in West Side Story, but then established himself as a Hollywood choreographer, creating dances for Elvis movies and choreographing the Star Wars Holiday Special. He then moved on to directing and formed a production company with David A. Prior, a fellow infamous B-movie director. This company, Action International Pictures, churned out low-budget movies, the fifteenth of which was Space Mutiny.
Unfortunately, Winters had a death in the family, which meant the majority of the Space Mutiny was directed by assistant director Neal Sundstrom. Winters was unhappy with the final product and even tried to get his directing credit changed to Alan Smithee (the name directors use when they disavow projects) but was prevented by his contract. Sundstrom was equally dissatisfied and refused to accept any more credit than co-director.
After the change-up, the runtime was dangerously short so rewrites and reshoots occurred to add in a tribe of mystical telepathic alien women known as the Bellarians. The Bellarian segments were directed by David Prior, bringing the total number of directors to three.
2. Unforgettable set designs — A good movie knows how to make use of what’s available. Space Mutiny had an office building, a factory floor, and two ride-on floor polishers, and they made the absolute best of it.
The “bridge” set is hastily conducted to the point where set walls wobble and shake. The futuristic props are all just old computers, floppy disk drives and all. If you’re a fan of very rudimentary user interfaces, this is the film for you.
The situation is a little less slapdash in the “engine room,” or factory floor, where the majority of the action happens. Unlike Star Wars, there are railings everywhere and people are flipping over them constantly. Action International Pictures may not have been the best at filmmaking at large, but the action is genuinely fun and there aren’t any obvious dummy shots.
When a flip off a railing just won’t cut it, there’s enough pyrotechnics and flammable gel to keep a firefighting training school supplied for a month. Space Mutiny only needs the slightest excuse for an explosion. For example, two floor polishers chasing each other in sped-up footage.
There’s light pouring in from the “spaceship” windows. The exterior shots are stolen entirely from the original Battlestar Galactica. Every other shot in Space Mutiny seems to plead, “Please don’t think too hard about it. Just enjoy.”
1. Even wackier editing than Rise of Skywalker – The basic plot of Space Mutiny is pretty self-explanatory: The spaceship Southern Sun has never landed on a planet, and a small evil rebellious group plans to mutiny and start a life on firm ground, by whatever means possible.
But the finer details are difficult to parse, and it seems like the editor was just as confused as the viewers. In one scene, a lieutenant who worked on the bridge is killed by the villainous Kalgon. In the next scene, she’s suddenly alive and well and back to her post.
Because this movie was supposed to be the start of a franchise, we get all the Star Wars original trilogy mainstays: a relationship between the hero and heroine (who’s the daughter of someone important), a space bar playing futuristic space music, mystical telepathy, and, of course, a reveal that the villain isn’t actually dead so there can be a sequel.
Where can I watch Space Mutiny? Lucky for you, Space Mutiny is available to stream for free with Amazon Prime if you ever want to settle down for a tight 91 minutes of schlocky sci-fi action. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, the episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffing on Space Mutiny is one of their classics, famous for referring to Reb Brown’s character by various names including “Blast McHardcheese” and “Thick McRunfast.”
With a legacy like that, Space Mutiny has earned its place as a sci-fi classic, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.