Space Mutiny

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Space Mutiny
Directed byDavid Winters
Neal Sundstrom
Produced byDavid Winters
Written byMaria Danté
Ian Yule (uncredited)
StarringReb Brown
Cisse Cameron
Cameron Mitchell
James Ryan
John Phillip Law
Graham Clark
Billy Second
Rufus Swart
Music byTim James
Mark Mancina
Steve McClintock
CinematographyVincent G. Cox
Andrew Parke
Edited byBill Asher
Charlotte Konrad
Catherine Meyburon
Distributed byAction International Pictures
Release date
  • 1988 (1988) (United States)
  • 20 January 1990 (1990-01-20) (Japan)
Running time
93 minutes
CountrySouth Africa

Space Mutiny (also known as Mutiny in Space) is a 1988 South African space opera action film about a mutiny aboard the generation ship known as the Southern Sun. The film has since developed a cult following after being featured in a popular episode of the television show Mystery Science Theater 3000.


The Southern Sun is a generation ship, or a spacefaring vessel that contains a large number of people, whose mission is to colonize a new world. Its voyage from its original homeworld (implied to be Earth) has lasted thirteen generations, so many of its inhabitants have been born and will die without ever setting foot on solid ground. This does not please the antagonist, Elijah Kalgan (John Phillip Law), who conspires with the pirates infesting the nearby Corona Borealis system and the ship's Chief Engineer MacPhearson (James Ryan). Kalgan hatches a plot to disrupt the Southern Sun's navigation systems and use the Enforcers, the ship's police force, to hijack the ship and direct it towards this system. At this point, the inhabitants of the Southern Sun will have no choice but to accept his "generosity".

Kalgan sabotages a key part of the ship just as an important professor's shuttle is on a landing trajectory. The loss of guidance control causes the ship to explode. The shuttle's pilot, Dave Ryder (Reb Brown), is able to escape, but the professor dies in the explosion. This sabotage seals off the flight deck for a number of weeks, which gives Kalgan the opportunity to attempt to wrest control. With the Enforcers in his hand, and with the flight deck out of commission, he holds the entire population of the Southern Sun hostage. Commander Jansen (Cameron Mitchell) and Captain Devers enlist Ryder's assistance, aided begrudgingly by Jansen's daughter Dr. Lea Jansen (Cisse Cameron), to regain control of the ship.



Space Mutiny stars Reb Brown, Cisse Cameron, Cameron Mitchell and John Phillip Law. The spaceship effects were lifted wholly from the original Battlestar Galactica TV series.[1]

The director of Space Mutiny has stated on his website that he was called away from set due to a death in the family before filming began, and delegated directing duties to the assistant director. Contractually he was apparently unable to get an Alan Smithee credit.[2] Some commentators began to compile rather large lists of continuity errors. The engineering areas of the ship were filmed in an industrial building with un-futuristic brick walls, windows and concrete floors, while the bridge looks remarkably like a vintage-1980s corporate office (non-shag, neutral carpeting; white particleboard desks; computers with 16-color ANSI displays, including one with a 5¼ inch floppy disk drive as an ID card reader). Kalgan's "torture chamber" set features contemporary computer keyboards inexplicably mounted on the walls. The characters tend to wear the silver or white lamé outfits that were common to science fiction/futurist productions of the time, while many of the female characters wear spandex leotards.

The film's notable flaws provided substantial material for later spoofing on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and Eccentric Cinema described it as "quite possibly the worst science fiction/space adventure film made in English".[3][4] The engineering deck interiors include several shots of windows, which show sky beyond. In one scene, the camera passes by a bridge officer, Lt. Lemont, working at her computer console as an extra despite having been killed in the previous scene.[5] One chase scene involves slow-moving Enforcer vehicles, strongly resembling bowling-alley floor polishers, and the collision of two of these vehicles produces an extraordinary explosion for such small craft. The scene is further undermined by the intense sunlight streaming into the corridor.

John Phillip Law, who appeared in this movie as the villain Elijah Kalgan, also starred in the 1968 Italian film Diabolik (coincidentally, Diabolik was also featured as the series finale on Mystery Science Theater 3000's original run). Cameron Mitchell played Commander Jansen; his daughter Camille Mitchell provided the voice for Jennara, the lead Bellerian; and his son Chip Mitchell played Blake, a mustachioed member of Kalgan's crew.

The song that plays over the end credits, "Edge of a Dream", is performed by Steven McClintock.

Mystery Science Theater 3000[edit]

Nine years after its initial release, Space Mutiny was lampooned in a November 1997 episode of movie-mocking television comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K). The movie's editing flaws, stilted dialog, and poor production lent itself well to the MST3K treatment, and it has repeatedly proved to be one of the most popular episodes, released as part of the MST3K DVD Collection, Vol. 4 from Rhino Entertainment.[6] It was also chosen by fans to appear in the MST3K 2016 and 2019 Turkey Day Marathons. Writer Bill Corbett recalled:[7]

One of the movies that stood out for me was Space Mutiny. It was a South African film that was really fun and really dumb and gave us the gift of having a character killed off pointedly one moment and then, five minutes later, sitting back at her desk.

Many of the scenes involving characters being thrown to their deaths over guardrails in the interior were coined as "railing kills" by Mike and the Bots, and inspired Tom Servo to install railings all over the Satellite of Love. Mike and the Bots also mock the fact that a character killed on screen shows up prominently as an extra in later scenes. Throughout the film, the appearances of the characters were sources of ridicule: Dave Ryder, the muscular protagonist, is referred to by many ridiculous names, including, but not limited to, "Slab Bulkhead", "Bolt Vanderhuge", "Hack Blowfist", "Fridge Largemeat", "Big McLarge Huge", "Buff Drinklots", "Stomp Beefknob", and "Punt Speedchunk". Ryder is also compared to Swedish actor Dolph Lundgren. Ryder's love interest, Lea Jansen, who in the movie appears to be much older than him despite being six years younger, is referred to as Lea's father (Commander Jansen)'s "grandmadaughter"; Commander Jansen is compared to Santa Claus and to God, due to his white hair and beard, while Captain Devers is compared to Sting and Kalgan is noted for his resemblance to Pat Riley. Kalgan receives additional mockery for the similarity of his name to the Calgon bath and beauty products. After Lieutenant Lemont is killed and she later re-appears as an extra, Tom Servo quips "How nice of him to give a dead woman a second chance."

Some ten minutes of footage were cut from Space Mutiny for its use on MST3K. Much of the edited footage featured space battle scenes taken from the original television series of Battlestar Galactica.[8] The version of the film featured in the episode was, in essence, consistent with the full version; the discontinuities apparent in the episode were all present in the 1988 film. Mike Nelson and the robots did not comment on the reused Battlestar Galactica footage. Series writer Paul Chaplin acknowledged this omission, but did not provide an explanation.[9]

On 14 June 2018, the film was treated to an all-new riffing by Nelson, Corbett and Murphy in one of their "Rifftrax Live!" shows, broadcast to theatres via satellite, this time for the entire film. A rebroadcast was presented on 19 June.


  1. ^ "Trivia: Noted on Mystery Science Theater 3000". Retrieved 5 October 2008. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Davidwinters site". 8 October 2008. Archived from the original on 31 December 2010.
  3. ^ "MST3K: Space Mutiny *Eccentric Cinema, {Winner EW Best of Web 2007}".
  4. ^ "Entertainment Weekly Best of the web 2007".
  5. ^ "Goofs for Space Mutiny (1988)". IMDb. Retrieved 21 August 2006. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "The MST3K DVD List". Satellite News. Retrieved 21 August 2006. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Raftery, Brian (22 April 2014). "Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Definitive Oral History of a TV Masterpiece". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  8. ^ Muir, John Kenneth (1999). "In 1997, Mike, Crow and Servo watched Space Mutiny". An Analytical Guide to Television's Battlestar Galactica: An Episode Guide and Analysis of the 1978 Science Fiction Television Series and Its Short Lived Sequel, "Galactica: 1980". McFarland. p. 146. ISBN 0-7864-0441-8.
  9. ^ Chaplin, Paul. "Episode 820—Space Mutiny". The Amazing Colossal Transplanted Sci-Fi Channel Episode Guide. Satellite News. Retrieved 21 August 2006. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

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