Friday, June 12, 2020

Mutiny in Outer Space

Hugo Grimaldi, Arthur C. Pierce

Major Gordon Towers (William Leslie) and Captain. Dan Webber (Carl Crow) arrive at Space Station X-7 with a sample collection of rocks from an ice cave found on the moon. Webber falls ill with a strange growth on his leg which turns out to be a lethal and fast-growing fungus. To complicate matters, X-7’s commander Col. Frank Cromwell (Richard Garland) has succumbed to ‘space raptures’ and threatens to destroy the station and everyone on it. 

Mutiny in Outer Space shares some interesting similarities with The Green Slime (1968) both involve a space station overrun with rapidly growing monsters that were spurred on by the station's own environmental protections. Both films also feature a station commander and visiting captain at odds over dealing with the situation. While The Green Slime goes wild with both its visuals and graphic violence, Mutiny in Outer Space is much more reserved, it preserves a traditional 1950s approach to SF film while The Green Slime wanders into more modern territory.

That can't be American, I don't see any Truck Nutz on it.

This modestly budgeted film is not visually memorable. Most of it takes place on non-descript space station sets. The invading moon fungus is decently realized and the model work with the space station is competent but only just barely. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t have to rely completely on its visuals thanks to some better than expected writing and a fleshed-out background for what we seeing.

Mutiny in Outer Space engages in more world-building than many SF films of this era. Often SF films of the era feel like the future is just the 1950s and 60s but in space. Mutiny in Outer Space feels more lived in, there is mention of World War III, the banning of cigarettes, the banning of guns, we see women working along with the men with no issue, and prolonged time in space carries with it a host of medical issues. I see this world-building as a reaction to the real-life space race and the assumption by many that space travel would be very commonplace in the future. The whizbang SF of the 1940s and 1950s was developing into something that would reach its apex in the working-class feel of the ship and crew from Alien (1979).

"Dude, we are going to get so baked."

The real threat to the space station is less the fungus that is overtaking it and more the actions of Col. Cromwell, who is in the throes of the ‘space raptures’ a condition that causes mental instability due to prolonged time in low gravity. This adds an interesting complication that our protagonists can’t simple brute force their way through, they do value human life. This glimpse of humanity in the characters saves the story from being just another space monster vs. square-jawed white guy (although don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of that too).

If you are a fan of the 1950s/1960s style of SF films Mutiny in Outer Space is a pleasant surprise, it doesn’t seem to be talked about much in regards to other films of its time but it is a pleasantly competent little movie

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