Directed by: Allan Holzman
Starring: Jesse Vint, Dawn Dunlap, June Chadwick, Linden Chiles, Fox Harris, Raymond Oliver, Scott Paulin, Michael Bowen, Don Olivera
Here we have another of Roger Corman’s “classic” films, this time in the science fiction genre. Done right his films are guilty pleasures and done wrong these film can be torturous.
Mike Colby, Jesse Vint, settled down into his cryogenic bed expecting to sleep the years away in peace during his trip home to Earth for his well earned two weeks of rest and relaxation after a hard rotation in the outer rim, troubleshooting the types of things that go bump in the night on space stations and research facilities out at the far flung ends of civilization. Instead of waking up to a leisurely decent out of Earth orbit, Mike’s faithful robot companion SAM-104, Don Olivera, wakes him up to inform him that they are under attack. No big deal, not for someone with his skills and ability. After the ships attacking him are reduced to space dust SAM-104 informs him that his leave has been revoked and he is to report as soon as possible to a research station on the desert world Xarbia. It seems that they have had a little bit of an accident with one of their experiments.
Subject 20, has exceeded everyone’s expectations, it’s also escaped and killed all of its fellow experiment subjects. Fearing that it might move up and start killing staff Gordon Hauser, Linden Chiles, the research director, has requested some help. Enter Mike Colby and SAM. Mike’s got an easy solution. Hunt down Subject 20 and kill it. This doesn’t sit well with the staff. Subject 20 just might solve the Universal food shortage. Their opinions start to change as Subject 20 starts to take them out one by one.
According to the bonus features this film came about because Roger Corman was so impressed with the space ship set James Cameron designed for the movie Galaxy of Terror he delayed it’s tear down for one day and offered Allan Holzman an opportunity to direct a movie for him if he could come up with a ten minute or so intro to a science movie, the script to be written later. Corman offered him Jesse Vint, a man in a robot suit, and the space ship set for one day. Holzman took him up on the offer, shot the intro and a month later, the rest of the script written, he shot the rest of the film.
Even for a Corman film this movie is low budget, half the fun is spotting the different building materials in the sets, Styrofoam food containers and bubble wrap, but for what is supposed to be a cheap Alien rip off the story is actually quite original, not just original but clever and entertaining. That’s not to say the screenplay doesn’t have it little quirks. That describes most aspects of the film. Aside from a few odds and ends the acting is as good as it needs to be, the editing and electronic score while spotty in places rise to the level of genius in a few sequences. It all comes together in a nice taunt bit of science fiction fun.
The video is presented in widescreen format and it looks great. This is probably the best this film has looked since opening night. I never noticed any aliasing, moiré, or any other digital artifacts. Mutant the original directors cut of the movie which is included in this two disc edition doesn’t look as good, the transfer is good, again there is no aliasing, moiré, or any other digital artifacts but the print has its share of defects.
The audio is presented in the original mono. The mix is excellent, the great electronic score and the creative sound design never overstep the dialog. There are no subtitles and it’s presented in English only.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The cover art is gorgeous. It’s from the original promotional art and has absolutely nothing to do with the movie. The backside of the insert has more of the original promotional material which is easily viewed through the clear Amaray case. There is a second disc included which contains Mutant the original directors cut with the original title. According to the bonus features Corman demanded several one liners and unintentionally funny bits to be removed after a prescreening. It is a few minutes longer than the theatrical release, but to tell the truth I couldn’t really tell much of a difference. There is an audio commentary with the director on the Mutant disc, interviews with Corman, Holzman, the composer Susan Justin, and Jesse Vint. There is also a featurette about the special effects with several of the crew and effects designers.
This is a science fiction jewel. I love it. Like Galaxy of Terror it’s not a great movie, but it’s damn good and maybe best of all its proof that creativity and imagination can make up for a limited budget.
Overall (not and average): 8/10
The Movie: 7/10
The Video: 8/10
The Audio: 6/10
The Bonus Features: 9/10
Overall (not and average): 8/10