The ‘Southern Star’ is carrying the last remnants of humanity across the galaxy, looking for a new Earth. Along the way they are menaced by space pirates, but the biggest danger is much closer to home. As part of a plot to drive them towards a planet of his own choosing, their renegade security officer begins orchestrating acts of deadly sabotage.
Oh dear. Once in a while you come across something so remorselessly bad is just impossible to say a positive word about it. This is such a film. Yes, the SFX, miniature craft and the space battles aren’t bad. That’s true. But as they’re lifted wholesale from ‘Battlestar Galactica’ (1978), I’m afraid they don’t really count! Cylons become space pirates, beefcake star Reb Brown sits in a mismatched ‘Viper’ cockpit and some of the footage runs backwards. It’s seamless.
Moving inside the ‘Galactica’ (sorry the ‘Southern Star’), we come across the next big problem: the set design. Have you ever heard of brick walls inside a spaceship? Well, this baby’s got ‘em! Above decks may be all blank plastic walls and early 1980s home computer graphics, but where the ‘real work’ gets done? Well, that resembles an old, deserted factory. With a couple of motorised golf carts and daylight coming in through the windows. Apparently, cinematographer Vincent G Cox was aware of the last problem and used filters to give the light an orange glow. Fine. Good man. Unfortunately, no one informed the processing lab and they colour-corrected the orange glow back into daylight! Oops.
Then there’s the star-studded cast. Commander Adama is played by Cameron Mitchell in a silly, stick-on Father Christmas beard. He’d been a regular on late 1960s TV hit ‘The High Chaparral’ but his movie career had taken in such epic millstones as ‘Supersonic Man’ (1978) and Jerry Warren’s hilarious ‘Frankenstein Island’ (1981). Beefcake hero Reb Brown was both the late 1970s TV movie ‘Captain America’ and ‘Yor, Hunter from the Future’ (1983) (‘Yor!!! He’s the man!’)
Brown’s real-life wife Cisse Cameron is our heroine. Her other movie credits are pretty limited. But, best of all, opposing them is bad guy John Phillip Law, briefly a star in Europe in the 1960s (‘Barbarella’ (1967) and ‘Diabolik’ (1968)) whose stateside career never really took off. He doesn’t so much chew the scenery here as projectile vomit pieces of it toward the camera. ‘Take that, you space bitch!’ he screams whilst simultaneously having some kind of a medical episode.
Next up is the script. It’s not very good. Actually, it’s often stupid and rather painful. Character motivations are illogical and actions simply make no sense. After appointing Beefcake as their new champion, the bridge crew throw a drinks party, seemingly forgetting their imminent peril. A group of mysterious telepathic women in leotards come on board and spent all their time dancing in slow motion and indulging in allegedly significant (but completely meaningless) voiceovers. What have they got to do with anything? Search me. All the dialogue is terribly bland or desperately contrived.
So what happens? Well, our heroine’s a feisty one (apparently) and blames Beefcake for the death of her (unseen) friend when he piles his Viper up in the Galactica’s landing bay. The two hate each other on sight (yawn!) but, in no time at all, they’re snuggled up on the deck in the hydroponic garden. ‘Can a woman buy a man a drink in your galaxy?’ she simpers, delivering the best chat-up line ever. Mind you, seconds before that she’d been doing fairly obscene things with a hula-hoop on the dance floor, so he’d probably got the idea already. (Nice to see hula hoops making a comeback in the distant future). Meanwhile, Law and his lieutenants are blowing things up and silencing undesirables (‘This is mutiny, this is treason, which I warn you I must report!’) They also have a troop of goons who run around a lot and wear balaclava helmets. Well, it can get pretty cold in a spaceship sometimes. Especially when it looks like a deserted factory.
Our golden couple clue into the conspiracy, of course, and have to be silenced. There is a lot more running about with colourful ray gun fire and goons taking headers from gantries every few seconds. Strangely they always do this in pairs wearing those balaclava helmets so we can’t see their faces. Why? Well, there are only two stuntmen named in the credits. You figure it out.
Anyway, Cameron gets captured and Law makes a kind offer to sort out her orthodontic requirements (‘It’s not unlike dental equipment on Earth; not that you’d know anything about that!), but she escapes by convincing her guard to strip to his underpants. It’s probably the least persuasive seduction scene ever put on film. The cracking climax features a nail-biting chase on the motorised golf carts (‘You meddling fool’ / ‘Son of a bitch!’) and the credits roll accompanied by an excellent slab of 1980s synthesised cock rock: “My moment is here, my moment is now… Here I stand! On the Edge of a Dream! The future before me and time in between…” Wow. It’s a real ‘punch the air’ moment! I know I did.
To be fair, original director Dave Winters had to bail early due to family problems and replacement Neal Sundstrom was really ‘sold a kipper’ when he picked up the ball. Both of them tried to get their names taken off the finished film, although Winters was not successful.
But not everyone showed such a deplorable lack of enthusiasm for the project. Lt Lemont (biggest hair on board) is killed fairly early on when she uncovers the despicable machinations of Law and his woolly helmeted friends. Even so, she still turns up at her station on the bridge later on in the film. Twice. Now, there’s dedication for you!
Altogether now… “Maybe I’ll fall and maybe I’ll fly… Here I stand! On the Edge of a Dream!”