Thursday, March 06, 2008

Terrafying

The first indicator of a bad movie is when the title has little, if anything, to do with the content. And as 1973's 'Stranded in Space' features exactly zero instances of anyone being trapped in space, we can assume that it's a bad movie and either avoid or embrace it according to personal taste.


'Stranded in Space's badness merely begins with its title; it's reinforced by one of the most inept colourisation jobs in the history of this oft-derided practice. Sometimes the only colour on the screen is some guy's ochre-tinted head, bobbing across the grey-on-grey set like a lumpy jellyfish.


Once you get over what amounts to random splashes of colour in an otherwise black and white movie, you're then forced to confront the plot. Astronaut Neil Stryker, the only survivor of a crashed NASA rocket, finds himself cast away on Earth's hitherto unsuspected twin planet, Terra, which orbits our sun in such a way that it's always eclipsed from our view. This alternate Earth is an exact copy of our planet, right down to the mountains and valleys having their twin on the other world, and having identical spoken and written English. The only differences are as follows:


1. Everyone on Terra is lefthanded. Not just most people - every single person. So presumably this means that their language is exactly the same as English, except for words like "gauche", "adroit" and "sinister", which all owe their meanings to the fact that most people on Earth are righthanded. One must also assume that the producers of 'Stranded in Space' were either going have to a) hire only lefthanded actors to maintain consistency or b) not let a piffling thing like consistency get in their way.


2. Terra has three moons. So somehow every mountain and valley on Earth has a twin on Terra, despite the vast differences in tidal forces and erosion caused by three satellites rather than one.


3. All of Terra is controlled by a sinister world government known only as The Perfect Order, which tolerates dissent about as well as Jeremy Clarkson tolerates Toyota Priuses.


The agents of The Perfect Order are very oddly dressed for Orwellian fascists. Here on Earth our fascists have traditionally favoured uber-military outfits, with lots of shiny black boots, angular hats and sternly-pressed uniforms. However on Terra the rulers gad about in black skivvys under classic grey double breasted suits. They're simply not dressed for taking over the world, unless they imagine that this can be achieved by drinking martinis at cocktail parties and attended beat poetry performances.


So Neil Stryker is trapped on a world run by stylishly-dressed men who gad about telling other people how they may or may not live their lives, brooking no dissent and rewriting history to suit their own purposes. Hmmm... I put it to you that our hero isn't so much "Stranded in Space" as "Stranded Inside George Clooney's Head".


Stryker almost manages to stow away on a rocket in an attempt to get back to Earth, but as 'Stranded in Space' was originally intended to the pilot for a TV series called 'The Stranger', he fails. After all, there's no point in setting up all this fanciful alterna-Earth nonsense if your hero gets away from the place within the first two hours. Indeed, you can't even kill off the bad guys, since they're going to be needed next week to make the hero's life exciting and conflict-filled. Get rid of them and who will Stryker have differences of opinion with... other than lunar astronomers, English teachers and Mr Blackwell?


So after the entire length of the movie, nothing has really changed. We have, however, learned one thing. The fact that this TV series was never made forces us to conclude, reluctantly, that network executives are not idiots.

4 Comments:

Blogger an9ie said...

I love these snarky movie reviews. None of that soft Margaret Pomeranz pap for me, thank you. (I do like Margaret but she's too soft on them sometimes.)

Do you ever finish watching these movies and come to the horrible realisation that you've wasted 90 that could have been spent sleeping or learning Sanskrit?

8:06 PM  
Blogger an9ie said...

90 minutes, that is.

8:07 PM  
Anonymous ultrabert said...

His Royal Blandness mastered Sanskrit, together with a little known Latvian dialect consisting of pops and whistles, during an interstitial 17 seconds in the form of a toilet paper commercial.

1:06 PM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

On the downside, I missed learning about the latest developments in toilet paper.

10:55 AM  

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