Tuesday, 15 May 2018

SPACE TRUCKERS BLU-RAY review

An intergalactic journey involving square pigs, sex dolls, killer robots and Dennis Hopper's surly truck driver, Stuart Gordon's Space Truckers is now available on blu-ray.


To try to describe the plot of Space Truckers is an exercise in madness, but here we go. Hauling a truck of genetically modified square pigs (easier to stack) across the galaxy, Dennis Hopper's trucker John Canyon gets into a contract dispute with his bosses and is replaced in his delivery duties by the new kid on the block, Mike Pucci (Stephen Dorff). When that plan goes awry, they team up with Debi Mazar's waitress Cindy to ship a load of sex dolls back to Earth, encountering a gang of space pirates and Charles Dance's cybernetic enhanced mad scientist, and wait... those aren't sex dolls. They're deadly robot ninjas!

To say that Space Truckers has dated is an understatement. Thanks to the blu-ray transfer the zero G wire work is immediately, comically, visible, the costuming is sub par Super Mario Bros: The Movie (also starring Dennis Hopper) and the set of the Pachyderm (Hopper's rig) wouldn't look out of place in a second season episode of Red Dwarf; but there's an unescapable charm to Space Truckers, particularly if you are accustomed to Stuart Gordon's oeuvre. A director with a varied career, Gordon made his name with the Lovecraftian horrors Re-Animator and From Beyond, before giving us the Christopher Lambert dystopian prison classic Fortress and the schlocky-as-hell Castle Freak. Space Truckers, clearly made on a super low budget, has a few notable Gordon staples including an approach to genre classification that swings like a metronome and even a brief cameo from Barbara Crampton, who has appeared in a number of Gordon's films.

Made at that point in the 90s before Star Wars returned with The Phantom Menace, where CGI was becoming more and more prevalent and often used for its cheapness and logistic practicality than any aesthetic appeal. Space Truckers is a mix between practical effects and CGI, and to be honest, it's a judgement call as to which holds up better in the high definition era. It's abundantly clear through the front window of the Pachyderm that "space" is just a black backdrop with tiny lights attached, but there's a certain charm to that DIY look that can't be said about some of the rendering of the CGI effects.

But what about the cast? Well, Hopper is surprisingly game in his role of a grumpy old trucker who just wants someone to love him, namely Debi Mazar's Cindy. His John Canyon is a season vet who can handle being boarded by space pirates and knows how to talk his way out of the situation with all of his appendages attached. Hopper, a man whose career saw many highs and lows across the decades is apparently having quite a lot of fun with this role and this crew, and even when things take some ridiculous turns he keeps this unwieldy beast moving. As the younger members of his crew, Dorff and Mazar are perfectly fine as the loved up pair, taking the first opportunity they can get to fool around with each other (when the cooling system breaks on the ship and Hopper heads out on a spacewalk, leaving Dorff and Mazar to strip off in zero gravity like a couple of sweaty Barbarella's).

But what is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown, the lightning strike ornament or mudflaps with ladies on of this film is Charles Dance's Macanudo, a half robot, half man evil villain who not only delivers his lines with a straight face, but with gusto, all whilst revving up his motorised... organs. He's not in the film enough, but when he's on screen he's fantastic, and hammier than an intergalactic haulage vessel filled with square pigs. In Charles Dance's pantheon of on screen bastards, Macanudo is up there with the best.

Space Truckers is a bizarre, uneven film that struggles to find the balance between the sci-fi, body horror and adventurous trucker movies it draws inspiration from. There's weird, Guyver-esque killer robot ninjas who can incinerate enemies with a single laser blast, a finale that liberally steals from Alien but with Dennis Hopper donning a spacesuit to fight a robot with a microwave, Vernon Wells popping up as a ponytailed henchman with a face tattoo and, particularly for Stuart Gordon fans, the most ludicrous final act twist you will ever see.

Slightly naff, wholly stupid and adorably 90s, Space Truckers is a trucking good time.

Verdict
3/5

Special Features
- An extensive interview with director Stuart Gordon
- The Art of Space Truckers, an interview with the art director
- The Score of Space Truckers, an interview with the composer

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