Dogs in Space
|Dogs in Space|
Original 1986 theatrical poster
|Directed by||Richard Lowenstein|
|Produced by||Glenys Rowe|
|Written by||Richard Lowenstein|
Emma de Clario
|Music by||Michael Hutchence|
|Cinematography||Andrew de Groot|
|Edited by||Jill Bilcock|
|Distributed by||Hoyts (Australia)
Columbia TriStar Home Video
|18 December 1986|
|Budget||A$2 million or $3 million|
|Box office||A$367,351 (Australia)|
Dogs in Space is a 1986 Australian film set in Melbourne's Little band scene in 1978. It was directed by Richard Lowenstein and starred Michael Hutchence as Sam, the drug-addled frontman of the fictitious band from which the film takes its name.
Dogs in Space centers on a group of young music fans sharing a house in the inner Melbourne suburb of Richmond. Sam (Michael Hutchence) and Tim (Nique Needles) are the key members of a band called Dogs in Space, and share a house with a variety of social misfits, including Sam's girlfriend Anna (Saskia Post), a university student called Luchio (Tony Helou) and a transient and apparently nameless teenager known only as The Girl (Deanna Bond).
The film's minimal plot traces the day-to-day existence of the characters, particularly the relationship between Sam and Anna, and is largely made up of a sequence of party scenes involving live music and drug use. In between, there are trips to Ballarat (at the time, the closest town to Melbourne with a 24-hour convenience store) and humorous encounters with an aggressive neighbour (Joe Camilleri) and one character's fast-talking, chainsaw-wielding uncle (Chris Haywood), who simply turns up one afternoon with his family (the baby in this scene is Lowenstein's niece Robyn). There is also a minor incident in which the characters burn some rubbish in a plan to claim it as a piece of Skylab for a local radio station. In the end, the group's dysfunctional and hedonistic lifestyle claims a victim when Anna dies from a heroin overdose. Footage of Sputnik 2 is intercut with the narrative, focused largely on Laika, and can also be seen on television in the background of several scenes.
- Michael Hutchence as Sam
- Saskia Post as Anna
- Nique Needles as Tim
- Deanna Bond as The Girl
- Tony Helou as Luchio
- Chris Haywood as Chainsaw man
- Peter Walsh as Anthony
- Laura Swanson as Clare
The script was based on Lowenstein's personal experiences of living in a share house in Melbourne in the late 70s. Prior to making the film, Lowenstein had made a series of promotional clips for songs from the INXS album The Swing and wrote the lead role with Michael Hutchence in mind. Funds were raised through the Burrowes Group.
The central character Sam is based on Sam Sejavka from the band The Ears, with whom Lowenstein lived in the 1970s. Chuck Meo, who plays a drummer in the movie, also lived with the pair. The house, 18 Berry Street Richmond, was the same house Lowenstein and Sejavka shared and was rented from its new owners and modified at considerable expense for the film. Lowenstein wrote himself out of the film and several of his exploits were attributed to the character Tim (Nique Needles). Sejavka has a brief cameo in a party scene as a character called Michael.
The soundtrack album was released on Chase Records in February 1987 (CLPX14), featuring several tracks from reformed "little bands" and other contemporary tracks of the time.
The album came in two versions: a censored version in a white sleeve with the band name "Thrush & the Cunts" bowdlerised to "Thrush and the C**ts" and possibly-offensive song vocal tracks removed, and an "R"-rated version in a black sleeve with all band names in full, movie dialogue between the songs and all vocal tracks in full. The album's liner notes were written by Clinton Walker.
Chase Records went out of business soon after and, despite much effort, the record has never been reissued and has remained unavailable since. It is now a collector's item, commanding high prices. It was only available on LP and cassette and was issued on CD - at least the censored version appeared on discount bins in shopping malls in Lisbon, Portugal, somewhere around 1996-1997.
The Hutchence tracks were his second official solo recordings, after releasing a single in 1982 titled "Speed Kills" from the soundtrack to the film "Freedom," and his first with Ollie Olsen. They would later collaborate on the Max Q recordings.
- "Dog Food" (Iggy Pop)
- "Dogs In Space" (Michael Hutchence)
- "Win/Lose" (Ollie Olsen)
- "Anthrax" (Gang of Four)
- "Skysaw" (Brian Eno)
- "True Love" (Marching Girls)
- "Shivers" (Boys Next Door)
- "Diseases" (Thrush & the Cunts)
- "Pumping Ugly Muscle" (The Primitive Calculators)
- "Golf Course" (Michael Hutchence)
- "The Green Dragon" (Michael Hutchence)
- "Shivers" (Marie Hoy and friends)
- "Endless Sea" (Iggy Pop)
- "Rooms For The Memory" (Michael Hutchence)
Dogs in Space was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in September 2009. The DVD is compatible with all region codes and includes special features such as the original theatrical and Director's cut trailers, various audio commentaries, a featurette titled We're Livin' on Dog Food, the making of Dogs in Space, rehearsal vision, a screen test, behind the scenes, still galleries, interviews and short films.
"A THRILL! 'Dogs in Space' examines Melbourne's postpunks in a style closer to 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller' than 'Sid & Nancy'" raved Barry Walters of the Village Voice. Jack Garner of Gannett News Service said: "Richard Lowenstein's 'Dogs in Space' is an adventuresome, chaotic and wildly inventive portrait of a bygone lifestyle set in the late seventies in his native Australia". Katherine Dieckmann of the Village Voice wrote, "'Dogs in Space boasts a bracing, unembarrassed energy for its seedy youths and the three-chord songs they love." Dogs in Space received hostile criticism from Fiona Cullinan in the Film Review June 1988. "If you thought Fatal Attraction was the AIDS film of the year, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Dog In Space is not so much indictment against nasty diseases as an advertisement for them".
- David Stratton, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan MacMillan, 1990 p142-143
- "Australian Productions Top $175 million", Cinema Papers, March 1986 p64
- Kathy Bail, "Putting the Bite Into Dogs in Space", Cinema Papers, January 1987 p14-18
- Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office
- "Umbrella Entertainment - DVD". Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- "Umbrella Entertainment - Blu-ray". Retrieved 23 May 2013.
- Dogs in Space at the Internet Movie Database
- Dogs in Space at AllMovie
- Films I haven't heard of: Dogs in Space 1986 (John Nissis)
- The Dogs in Space house (MichaelHutchence.com)
- Dogs In Space at the National Film and Sound Archive
- Michael Hutchence (Rarebird)
- Googlemap view of the Pelaco sign, from 18 Berry Street, Richmond, the Dogs in Space house