Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mutiny in Outer Space, a Great 60s Space Opera

By Steve D. Stones

From the moment I read about this film in Scary Monsters Magazine #22, I had to track it down and purchase it for my collection. The film is a summation of so many great 1950s & 60s cult science fiction films, such as: It-The Terror From Beyond Space, Space Probe Taurus, The Green Slime, Day of The Triffids, First Man Into Space, The Thing From Another World and Assignment Outer Space. What makes the film particularly interesting to me is that it stars many cult actors, such as Glen Langan from The Amazing Colossal Man, the lovely Dolores Faith from The Phantom Planet and Richard Garland from Attack of The Crab Monsters. Some of the music from The Phantom Planet is also used in this film.

Space Station X-7 sends Major Gordon Towers and Captain Don Webber to collect samples from ice caves on a nearby moon. On the way back to the space station, Webber complains of a pain in his leg. After returning, Webber faints and is taken to a care unit on the station. Dr. Faith Montaine, played by Dolores Faith, is a biochemist who conducts experiments on plants in her laboratory and tests a sample taken from Webber’s infected leg. She concludes that a fungus brought back from the ice caves has infected him. Webber’s infected leg soon grows rapidly with fungus. The fungus eventually consumes his entire body and kills him.

Major Towers suggests to the ship’s captain, Colonel Cromwell, played by Richard Garland, that they report Webber’s death to earth base immediately. Cromwell fears that if they report the truth about Webber’s death, the ship will become quarantined and supplies will not be delivered to them from earth base. This causes Towers and Cromwell to fight.

Meanwhile, Dr. Montaine is in her lab conducting more experiments. Giant fungus plants trap her in the lab. Towers is able to save the damsel in distress and quickly get her out of the laboratory.

Towers reports the giant fungus plants to Cromwell, and once again the two men disagree on how the incident should be reported to earth base. On earth base, General Noland, played by Glen Langan, orders a quarantine of Space Station X-7. Towers suggests that everyone on board the space station get into their space suits so that the temperature can be lowered to freeze the giant fungus plants. General Noland aids in the fight by ordering rocket ships to blast the area surrounding the space station with cold air. This eventually kills the fungus plants for good.

What I love about this film is the fact that the real monster and threat in the film is not the giant fungus plants, but claustrophobia itself. Like the 1951 version of The Thing From Another World, it is not the space alien played by James Arnes that is the real threat in the film. It is the threat of having no place to run or hide, much like the survivors in Night of The Living Dead who trap themselves in an abandoned farmhouse. The cold outside is also the real monster in The Thing From Another World. Mutiny In Outer Space works so well because as a viewer, you begin to feel trapped and become very claustrophobic on board the Space Station X-7. Here, it is the cold that saves the characters of the film. A similar situation occurs in It-The Terror From Beyond Space when Marshall Thompson orders everyone on board his ship to get into space suits so he can lower the air pressure of the ship to kill the alien on board. I suppose Mutiny In Outer Space may have borrowed this concept from It-The Terror From Beyond Space.

If you’re a fan of 1950s and 60s cheap science fiction films, I suggest you seek out Mutiny In Outer Space. This is another film that is difficult to find at any local video store. Lucky for me, someone was selling it on e-bay. It is now a treasured addition to my movie collection.

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