Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 18 - Dead Space (1991)

The cover of my VHS copy of Dead Space

Dead Space (1991)
Director: Fred Gallo
Format: VHS (Video Box Office)

If you've been following my blog for a while, you probably know that I'm an unashamed fan of Roger Corman (as shown by my Cormania movie marathon), as any true b-movie fan should be. The King of B Movies is, was and always will be the man when it comes to cutting corners and getting results on low budgets.

Dead Space is a prime example of Corman's recycling abilities. Not his skill at deftly sorting plastic and glass ahead of trash day, his ability to take his earlier projects and reuse footage/scripts/ideas time and time again.

To the uninformed Dead Space plays like a straight forward ripoff of Alien. Heck, Alien and Aliens have been ripped off (badly) so many times, it's a safe bet to think Fred Gallo went that way here, right?

Wrong. What we have here is in fact a remake of an Alien ripoff, which reuses footage from a Star Wars ripoff. Got all that?

Roger Corman is the common thread. He's Executive Producer here and Dead Space is a remake of his 1982 effort Forbidden World (which was clearly inspired by Alien). There's spaceship fight scenes lifted from Battle Beyond the Stars, another Corman masterpiece.

This is the feature film debut of director Fred Gallo (who went on to helm such quality fare as DRACULA RISING and STARQUEST II). It stars Marc Singer (BEASTMASTER, V) as a Han Solo-esque wise-cracking spaceship commander named Krieger (who instead of a Wookie companion has a robot buddy named Tinpan). They respond to a distress call and travel to a planet where scientists have created a kind of mutant virus that has broken free and is out of control.

The virus quickly takes monster form and it's up to Krieger and Tinpan to help the scientists survive. Among them is a pretty female scientist who quickly becomes Krieger's love interest (played by Laura May Tate of SUBSPECIES) and another played by future TV star Bryan Cranston (of Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad fame).

Dead Space does it level best to be Alien, but of course it falls short. It's a copy of a copy and like a third-generation videotape it's watchable in parts but unwatchable in others. Singer is as solid as ever, the support cast is good enough, and there are fleeting moments of claustrophobic dread, but what really lets Dead Space down (but also adds to the cheese factor) is the alien/monster effects.

Whereas Alien and its sequels had top notch monster effects, here you get rubber puppets with barely any movement. It's impossible to take it seriously and it pushes Dead Space from scifi/horror to unintentional comedy pretty quickly.

It's a shame, because there's nothing overly campy or cheesy about the rest of the movie. Decent monster effects could have made this a good movie. Instead it's stuck halfway between being good and being so bad it's good. I guess that leaves it being just plain bad, but at the same time there's a certain charm to Dead Space and it's not a complete waste of time.

Previews on my VHS: Double Impact, The Taking of Beverly Hills, Boyz in the Hood, The Unborn, Disturbed, Mystery Date

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