MUTINY IN OUTER SPACE
(1965)



Howdy folkses. Funny story...a little over a year ago a loyal reader, quite possibly the only one we have, requested we review a film called Space Mutiny (1988), a low-budget, South African sci-fi stinker known largely for having been lampooned by Mike and the Bots on MST3K back in 1997. As you can imagine we put that sucker into our "watch and review" queue post haste...and then we promptly forgot all about it. Well I was just a little bit tipsy one night recently, online-ordering some topical anti-fungal ointment--for a friend, you understand--and browsing idly through archived lists of obscure and shitty movies like I do, when I stumbled across a film called Mutiny in Outer Space (1965). Right away I recalled with a flush of embarrassment how we were supposed to review that other film with the very similar title all those months ago.

Did I look up Space Mutiny immediately, chastened and apologetic, and set to work delivering on what may have been the very first reader request in our almost seventeen solid years of reviews? No, I did not. Maybe I'm just an ornery ass by nature but I decided to review this movie instead.

It's kind of like when you tell your grandmother you want an Iron Man action figure for your birthday but she goes to the corner store and buys you some cheap, Chinese-made knock-off called "Mr. Metal Hero" instead.


Or perhaps you requested The Dark Knight and ended up with Silverbat. Battery operated. On a horse.

Fear not, though, our one loyal reader! There's a fresh, tasty copy of Space Mutiny waiting at the front desk for Pam to review as soon as she returns from her Sweaters for Ferrets International fundraising tour. Bless her tender heart she just can't stand to see them shiver.

Fair warning, though. It might take some time before she gets home because she's currently under an indefinite quarantine somewhere in northern Belgium. Don't panic. It's not because of Covid-19. It turns out one of the ferrets was smuggling uranium.


In some ways Mutiny in Outer Space is just another quickly made, cheaply produced, disposable bit of nonsense, with shoddy effects and the oddly regressive look and feel of the sci-fi films of the previous decade, but it's also got a surprisingly strong ensemble cast, a few forward-thinking ideas and a handful of scientific accuracies mixed in with the usual b-movie bafflegab. The early scenes in particular lay out a decent foundation of hard science upon which to build the plot, but it's not quite sturdy enough to support the whole structure when things start getting wobbly at the end of the second act and it falls apart completely by the end. Still, I appreciated its serious tone and found it to be a much more enjoyable film overall than its reputation would suggest.

We open on a big, rotating, wheel-shaped space station orbiting the Earth. Inside the crew is busy tracking an object on a potential collision-course, and a tall blonde lady with severe hair spews some dense techno-babble, declaring "The trimetric delineator indicates that the object is on a phase-out orbit. It's on a trajectory and converging on our course," which actually comes within spitting distance of making technical sense in describing an object moving on an erratic or decaying orbital path towards another object in orbit around a celestial body. That's a lot closer than most films of this ilk bother to get and shows a bit of honest effort towards accuracy by screenwriter and uncredited co-director Arthur C. Pierce.

Pierce is a rather interesting and, I feel, under-appreciated figure in the independent b-movie world. Certainly he's not as prolific as Roger Corman as flashy as William Castle or as boundary-pushing as Hershell Gordon Lewis, but although you may not know his name you've probably felt his influence. His original story and screenplay for Cyborg 2087 (1966) was the unacknowledged inspiration for The Terminator (1984).


Here he is at his typewriter, contemplating how James Cameron legally ripped him off.

So there's something headed towards this space station. An overhead announcement orders all personnel to their emergency stations and there's a nice little montage of people rushing to their places throughout the vessel in an urgent yet orderly fashion. Clearly this is a situation they have been through before and which they've been adequately drilled and trained to handle. It gives a good sense of the potential dangers of space travel and the professional discipline long-term service in space would require.

What they're about to do to avoid this object is what's called orbit phasing, which involves adjusting the physical position of an object within a given orbit, and it's something the crew of the International Space Station must sometimes do today for the very same reasons we see here. The mystery object turns out to be a disused communication satellite, and there are indications that the crew must make frequent adjustments to avoid this kind of space debris.


Stay in your lane, buddy.

This is a particularly prescient concern to address in a film made in 1965. Although NORAD began compiling a database as early as 1957 of all manmade objects reaching orbit, the idea of space junk being a potential danger to artificial satellites would not enter the public consciousness in any significant way until 1979, when NASA founded a program to develop mitigation strategies to combat the growing problem. Today there is an agency called The United States Space Surveillance Network devoted to tracking and avoiding such objects, but in 1965 only the most nerdiest, far seein'-est, slide-rule usin'-est aerospace wonks would have been considering the future consequences of too much man-made space junk.


The USSSN has identified over 20k objects, but estimates there may be as many as 900k pieces of cosmic debris currently in orbit and large enough to cause collision damage.

So they avoid the satelite and the station commander, Colonel Cromwell, orders the tall blonde officer lady, Lieutenant Engstrom, to report the near-collision and provide details on their new orbit information to the central space command on Earth.


She's got the hots for him. I can smell it.

As Engstrom walks off to transmit the message Cromwell expressed his exasperation that so much "30 year-old space junk" should be allowed to remain in orbit, which suggests to me that the movie might be taking place sometime in the mid-1990's.

We cut to the United States Space & Aeronautics Command where an unnamed officer is telling a general named Knowland about the agency's plans to build a second moon base. Long time MMT readers know that although this may be the second lunar base built by the United States the first moonbase ever was actually built by the Nazis in 1943.

The pitch here is that this second U.S. Moonbase will be much cheaper and faster to build than the first thanks to the recent discovery of ice caves on the Moon, and again we have some real science, albeit theoretical at the time this was made, being employed to underpin the plot. Ice means water, and the less water that has to be transported from Earth to space the less expensive space travel, both to the moon and beyond, would become. The presence of Lunar ice was finally confirmed at the southern pole of the moon in 2018.


It's a shame that giant Moon photo is printed in reverse. They've been doing so well
up to now.

Knowland and Andrews chat about construction costs, the possibility of finding usable ore deposits near the proposed building site and the technical challenges of melting enough of the ice to make the project cost-effective. They struggle through their dialog in a stilted, under-rehearsed manner, and at one point the General pretends to be perusing a report from his desk which I am 100% certain is a couple of pages of the script he's using on-camera to refresh his memory. One cannot help but notice how much more confidently he delivers his subsequent dialog.


General Knowland is played by Glenn Langan, best known for playing the title role in The Amazing Colossal Man (1957).

As they talk the intercom buzzes and Knowland takes a report from Major Towers, the head of the moon excavation site team. Towers and his assistant in the moon cave project have collected their samples and are about to take off for the space station we saw earlier, where they'll be laying over for a week awaiting a transport ship to take them back to Earth. The General makes a point of cheekily mentioning that he's sure Towers won't mind the week's delay, and Towers assures him he will not, in fact he planned the layover as part of the trip.

They sign off and we cut to Towers and his assistant Captain Webber in their rocket, and the limited budget is on full display. Every time they adjust the controls there's a stock footage insert of gauges and dials being manipulated that are quite obviously not part of the panel in front of them, and the actual takeoff footage is recycled from Assignment: Outer Space (1960), a film produced by this film's co-director/producer Hugo Grimaldi five years earlier.


If it's good enough for Antonio Margheriti it's good enough for me.

The actors in the rocket, to their credit, do a pretty decent job of simulating the effects of a powerful take-off G-force. Unfortunately no-one bothered to tell them it would only be about a quarter of what they'd experience taking off from Earth, so their effort is wasted. They're also wearing jumpsuits rather than spacesuits, which by 1965, when the whole world was breathlessly following the vicissitudes of the U.S./U.S.S.R. space race and official footage of astronauts in their various crafts was a frequent sight on the TV news, would have seemed rather silly and quaint.

Towers tells the rather nervous, inexperienced Webber that he'll get used to the whole taking off and landing thing once he's done it a few more times. After that, he says "It's just like cruising down a freeway...in a wrong lane, blindfolded!" Very helpful, indeed.


Major Towers, looking mighty smarmy.


Captain Webber set off the patented MMT Redshirt Detector, so I expect he'll be dead within twenty minutes or so.

Captain Redshirt asks Major Smarmy what he meant by having planned the layover at the space station, and Smarmy tells him he did it because he's got a sweet lady friend waiting there for him. Her name is Faith Montaine, a sultry civilian biochemist with sexy pipettes and red-hot graduated cylinders whose assignment on the station ends the following month. Once they both get back to Earth they're gonna get married and have a couple of little boys who will grow up to have chiseled chins and mildly unsavory attitudes towards women just like their daddy.

Smarmy radios his flight plan, cargo report and ETA to Lt. Engstrom back at the space station, and when he signs off he notices that Redshirt is conspicuously scratching his calf through his jumpsuit. Smarmy asks what's wrong and Redshirt says it's nothing, just a plain old itch and definitely not a fundamental plot development, joking that maybe they can get a bath when they arrive at the station, presumably a tandem man-bath with canapes, champagne and Mr. Bubble.


If that itch was just a little further up he'd be a lot more concerned.

We cut back to the space station where Engstrom is receiving a message on a circa 1953 Teletype Model 28 KSR machine, because nothing says "The Future" like technology that was already patented for use by telegraph in 1841.


What is this wizardry?

Engstrom tears the message off the machine and carries it across the bridge to an elevator, then up to the top level of the station, which is labeled "Astrodome." Here she finds Cromwell staring through what looks like a periscope, completely engrossed in what he's watching, and wouldn't you know it, Engstrom makes a baseball reference. She quips "Well you won't be fit to live with if the Dodgers win this one."


This was a sly, topical joke on the part of Arthur C. Pierce, a Dallas native, on the much-ballyhoo'd construction and imminent opening of the Houston Astrodome, the world's first domed sports stadium. Mutiny in Outer Space opened in the United States on March 3rd, 1965, the Astrodome opened April 9th.

Engstrom passes along the message from Smarmy, and Cromwell tells Dr. Hoffman, another crew member who's been standing silently behind him like a royal valet that he should prepare to run some routine analysis on the moon samples Smarmy is carrying.

When Engstrom heads to the elevator Cromwell immediately goes back to his periscope/telescope, which he's apparently been using to obsessively study canals in Central America. We aren't told exactly why he's doing this, but hey, Everybody needs a hobby.

Hoffman suggests that Cromwell go off-duty for awhile, that he's over-tired. Cromwell refuses, and Hoffman tells him that as his doctor he must insist that he get more rest. Cromwell tells him he's had enough experience in space to know when he's "had it," and that he hasn't had it yet.


"In fact I haven't had it for months."

Hoffman walks away, making notes on his clipboard, and when he meets Engstrom at the elevator they have a brief, discreet conversation about Cromwell needing "to get back on solid ground."

They fear he's heading for "the deeps," which is future lingo for space madness, a theoretical mental disorder that was posited at the beginning of the space race but never actually materialized outside of science fiction and The Ren and Stimpy Show.

Engstrom suggests that if Cromwell gets any worse Hoffman might discreetly suggest to General Knowland he be reassigned to Earth on medical grounds. Hoffman notes that Engstrom's interest in Cromwell's well-being might be more than just professional and she admits it to be true.


I told you she had the hots for him. Also mind that posture, lady.

Down in the bio-lab Hoffman finds the fabled beauty Dr. Faith Montaine, examining some space plants she's been studying, with her hair pulled back tight, wearing a lab coat and a pair of slightly-too-large cat's eye glasses.


Faith, looking quite nerdy-hot, if I may say so.

Hoffman tells her first about the rocket that's en route to them, then about the samples she'll be examining, then that the samples are from the expedition to the new moon-base site and finally that they're from the ice caves project her sweetie pie honey bunch Major Smarmy is in charge of. It suddenly dawns on her that this means Smarmy is actually on his way to the station! She asks Hoffman how much time she's got then sets aside her work and heads out to make herself extra purty for her man.

Faith is played by and named for Dolores Faith, who can be found elsewhere on MMT in the abysmal The Phantom Planet (1961), where she played the mute, lovelorn Zetha. She also appeared in the Hugo Grimaldi/Arthur C. Pierce film The Human Duplicators (1965), which was distributed with Mutiny in Outer Space as a double bill.

We cut to the rocket approaching the station, an effect achieved through some pretty dodgy split-screen optical work, blending footage from this film and Assignment: Outer Space.

Inside the rocket the guys are doing their most painful and distressing log-pinching G-force faces again, flattening themselves into their flight chairs like they're trying to back away from a bad smell, despite that they would not be experiencing any g-force whatsoever since they're supposedly decelerating in the middle of space.


We're almost there, fellas. Can't you hold it just five more minutes?

Now they stand up and walk around the cockpit in slow motion to give us the illusion of weightlessness, which would maybe work better if they weren't, you know, just walking around rather than actually floating, and also if their helmets and suits weren't just hanging loose and inert on the back of their seats with nothing holding them in place except, you know, gravity.


When they pick up the suits to put them on they look like this...


...but when they step out the airlock to do a spacewalk to the station they look like this.

While the two travelers sit in the airlock waiting to be sterilized--not in a bad way, mind you, but in a basic protocol sense--Engstrom and Hoffman sit off to the side providing some painfully lame chit-chat, with Engstrom making inane jokes about "laundrymats for people" and nattering on about cigarettes, drinking and kissing. It's supposed to be cheeky "office talk," demonstrating their friendly rapport and healthy working relationship, but it's just juvenile nonsense that undermines their characters rather than making them seem more human and relatable.

When the cleansing procedure is complete the two astronauts step out through the inner airlock door onto the bridge. Cromwell welcomes them aboard and asks his crew to prepare a hot meal for them. Redshirt takes an exaggerated step or two and says "One half gravity...this feels good," which inadvertantly draws attention to a simple mistake a lot of films make when it comes to dealing with the narrative question of gravity in space.

If you're not going to use the handy plot device of unexplained, but easily accepted, artificial gravity, then you've got to go the centrifugal force/rotational gravity route, like the wagon-wheel space station in 2001: A Space odyssey.

That film--unsurprisingly when one considers the obsessive attention to detail of Stanley Kubrick--got the science of artificial gravity absolutely right. The station spun on a central hub and the interior clearly showed that the occupants were walking on the inside of the curve of the outer wheel.


The station in Mutiny in Outer Space is also wheel-shaped and also spins, but it's clear from the set design that the occupants are walking on the inside of the rim of the wheel, as if the entire thing is lying on its side with the gravity pulling downward.


The reverse-printed shot on the left actually appears that way in the movie.

Realistically for most films, and particularly for limited-budget productions like this one, it would simply be too much hassle and expense to build sets accurately and on a perfectly scaled curve as Kubrick did. Pierce, Grimaldi and company were working on a shoestring to begin with, and probably figured their target audience of horny teens, who'd likely be watching at some rundown hayseed drive-in somewhere outside Dubuque, probably wouldn't know the difference anyway.


Even Andrei Tarkovsky got this wrong, so they're certainly in distinguished company.

On his way out of the bridge Redshirt stops to flirt good-naturedly with Engstrom. She good-naturedly tells him to get lost and he has a little good-natured giggle about it, but then he suddenly grips his belly in pain and collapses unconscious.


Rejection is just like a punch in the balls.

Cromwell orders Dr. Hoffman to take Redshirt to sick bay for a complete checkup and suggests that Smarmy should get one too just to be safe, saying "I can't afford to have two sick astronauts on my hands."

As Engstrom leads Smarmy to his cabin we see one of the crewmembers stepping out of the airlock carrying a metal crate which neither Smarmy nor Redshirt was carrying across during their recycled spacewalk footage to the station, yet somehow here it is, full of Smarmy's precious samples from the lunar ore-fields and ice caves.


I guess it came by UPS.

On their walk to the cabin Engstrom and Smarmy, who seem to be old friends, chat a little about her progress in wooing Cromwell. She confesses that it's not going very well, saying "It's like trying to reach escape velocity in a World War III jet."

This is an unexpected bit of historical context which she just throws out casually, even jokingly, indicating perhaps that the conflict occurred outside living memory, which is a bit problematic because that would seem to place the date of this future far beyond that which Cromwell's space junk comment suggested earlier.


I'll bet she'd like to get hold of Cromwell's space junk, if you know what I mean.

We also learn from their talk that Cromwell has stayed on at the station two full months beyond his original assignment, having somehow convinced General Knowland to allow him a longer term in space than is normal protocol, and that Engstrom is concerned about the stress this is placing him under.

So Engstrom leaves Smarmy at his cabin and when he enters he's surprised to find a vase with flowers from the bio-lab on a table. As he steps around to get a better look at them we see that Faith is there, lying in wait for him. She walks straight over, wraps her arms around his neck and gives him a big, wet kiss.

Smarmy suddenly seems a little nervous and uncomfortable, noting that according to military regulations she's not supposed to be in the cabin with him. She points out that since she's a civilian that rule doesn't apply to her, mister, so let's get to some lovin'. He tries to demur so as not to break the rules, but she's determined to have a little alone time with him and won't take no for an answer.


"I bought you flowers...now gimme some sugar."

Arthur C. Pierce's female leads are often strong-willed, educated and capable women who confidently express themselves and their desires. This was quite unusual in b-movies of the time, where women were generally portrayed as soulless harpies, sultry sex objects or damsels in distress, subservient and needful of a heroic male archetype to comfort and protect them. Sadly, some of Pierce's female characters devolve into more traditional b-movie stereotypes as his stories play out, but it's notable that he repeatedly sought to challenge the conventions of the form in which he worked even if he couldn't always get away with it.

So Faith is ready, willing and able to do the half-gravity nasty, but before she can convince Smarmy to throw caution to the wind and get all outer space nekkid with her she's urgently called away to the infirmary to assist Dr. Hoffman. As she exits she hopefully asks "later?" to which he nods and replies affirmatively, "later."


Speaking as someone who's already seen the rest of the movie, I think they should probably go ahead and have a quickie now.

Down in the sick bay we see poor Redshirt shivering and twitching on the examination table, barely conscious and in severe distress. Hoffman tells Cromwell he's ruled out pressure sickness, "space raptures" (Note: This disorder is rated "Not a Thing." It's another future term for Space Madness that will be used throughout the rest of the film) and food poisoning. He declares this to be something outside of his personal medical experience, something completely new.

Cromwell delivers a little soliloquy now about space exploration being unpredictable, how whenever it seems humans have it under control it throws them a curve and erects some new barrier against them. He says there are things in space "we may never understand...or live with."


I think he may be off his meds again.

Hoffman is a little spooked by Cromwell's melancholy ramblings and flat aspect. He artfully suggests he ought to go get some rest and that they'll do everything they can for Redshirt and keep him informed of any news. Cromwell tells the Hoff in a dry monotone to stop worrying about him and exits the infirmary.

Faith meanwhile has something to show Hoffman. She's been looking at a biopsy sample under the microscope from a nasty welt on Redshirt's leg. Remember his conspicuous itch from the scene in the rocket? I'm totally gonna start a band called "Conspicuous Itch."

Anyway she says at first it resembled a common bacteria but it rapidly morphed into something unlike anything she's ever seen before. She also says that it's been growing rapidly, that it's almost twice as large now as it was just a few moments before.


That's called a "hairball." Clinically speaking what Redshirt's suffering from is "a cat."

The two decide they'd better have another look at that leg, and when they take the blanket away there's a big hairy mass the size of a fist where before there was only a tiny bump. Hoffman remarks that it's grown at an amazing rate. He reaches out to touch the damn thing with his bare handsandn Faith actually has to stop him.


"But it looks so soft...If I stroke it maybe it'll purr."

Faith tells Hoffman that it looks like some sort of fungus, and that some fungi can kill animal cells if they get into the bloodstream. She warns him that they may all be in a lot of trouble, and according the b-movie by-laws when a civilian scientist working for the military says you're in trouble it must be true.

They decide to isolate Redshirt in the infirmary's decompression chamber. Faith says she needs to go analyze the samples from the moon right away to determine if they're the source of the infectious agent, and She and Hoffman agree to keep their suspicions to themselves until they're certain of exactly what they're dealing with.

Down in the bio lab Faith is minding her business and doing her work when Smarmy sidles up to her to declare "Well...it's later!"

She asks if he saw Hoffman for his physical. He claims that Hoffman told him he's fit as a fiddle and a perfect specimen of manhood to boot, so they should drop all this waitin' and investigatin' and get to laterin' right there in the lab.


"I can wriggle out of this jumpsuit in under 30 seconds. Go ahead and time me."

Faith's mind, however is turned to more pressing concerns than getting her freak on. She asks if Hoffman said anything about Redshirt's condition and Smarmy says "only that he has...some kind of virus. I don't think it's too serious."

I'm writing this review in the middle of the first global pandemic in over a century and the irony of that statement is enough to make a grown man cry.

Even horny, self-absorbed Smarmy can see there's something bothering Faith, but she insists she's just a bit tired. There's a little back and forth where he suggests she should end her assignment early and come back to Earth with him when the shuttle arrives the following week, but he's only half serious, knowing she's as dedicated to her work as she is to their future together. Just as they're about to get to smoochin' again, though there's a "report to emergency stations" announcement over the loudspeaker.


"Six foot two, balls of blue..."

As they hastily return the potentially contaminated moon sample jars to their metal crate I can't help but notice that not only do they not properly secure the lid, but they're also not wearing gloves or masks.


The ironies just keep on coming.

Faith surmises that this is only another of Cromwell's frequent drills, but it turns out to be a genuine emergency. It seems there's a bunch of space rocks heading their way, and again I have to give just a wee-little call-out for inaccuracy. They refer to them as "meteors" rather than the more technically correct "meteoroids." A meteoroid doesn't become a meteor until it hits the Earth's upper atmosphere. I know I'm an insufferable pedant, but dammit people, it's just as easy to get these things right.


I do like the balanced composition of the shot even though they're talking bullshit.

Engstrom reports that the meteors are on a possible collision course and Cromwell goes all quiet and flat again. She gently repeats the information to him and he slowly acknowledges her, heading over to the view screen to look at what's coming at them.

The cluster of rocks is very close and converging on their orbital path. Cromwell insists it will be a near miss and doesn't order any evasive action, but in fact one of the meteoroids does hit the station, knocking it's rotation slightly out of alignment and damaging the outer wall of the bio-lab. You know, the exact place where those potentially contaminated, poorly secured, easily breakable samples are located.


What are the odds?

The emergency systems kick in and seal the breach before there's any significant pressure loss and Cromwell orders a spacewalk crew to head out and bolt a new plate over the damaged area.

He tells Engstrom to send a report to Earth, and just then Hoffman calls up for both he and Faith to come to the infirmary immediately.

When they leave Engstrom asks Smarmy what's going on, adding that "Faith turned white" when she heard Hoffman's request. Smarmy says he doesn't know what's happening, but gosh darnit he's a big smarmy-hunky man of action and he's going to go down there and find out.

Down at the infirmary Smarmy walks in on Hoffman telling Cromwell and Faith that the entire station needs to be sprayed down with fungicide and that every crew member must have a full physical evaluation.

Smarmy asks what's happened to his buddy Redshirt and Faith informs him that Redshirt is dead. Hoffman explains about the fungus. He insists they couldn't tell anyone about it until they were sure that's what it was and that it came from the Moon cave, but realistically as soon as they even suspected there was a threat they should have immediately slapped on their PPE, isolated the suspected source, informed both Cromwell and Earth base what was happening and quarantined both Redshirt and Smarmy until they were absolutely certain it wasn't contagious


I feel like I've seen this kind of laissez-faire response to infectious disease mismanagement somewhere before.

Jesus, people, this is how pandemics start, how they spread and get beyond our control. Somebody in a lab somewhere stares down through a microscope at these tiny particles of death and says "maybe it's not as bad as it looks, let's just keep this under our hats for awhile" and the next thing you know we're all on lockdown for three months and you can't even give your mom a hug because she's over 80 and you're afraid you might kill her.

Cromwell isn't convinced there's an actual problem with any of this, not because of the science or the evidence, but because a problem would be kind of an inconvenience for him. He's afraid that if they inform Earth they'll be put on quarantine, and then they'll be stuck up there to deal with the mess on their own and it's probably not even a mess and there's probably nothing to deal with anyway so everybody just shut the fuck up and pretend this is all just normal everyday space shit.

Cromwell insists on seeing Redshirt and Hoffman tells him to brace himself for a horiffic sight. After glancing in through the compression chamber window, however, Cromwell stares into the distance and calmly states "there's nothing unusual in there."


I think you've got a little schmutz on your face there, buddy.

Faith and Smarmy look in and see that hairy, mucky mess oozing off the gurney and suddenly realize they're all in pretty deep shit. Smarmy flips his lid to Cromwell about it, insisting it's his duty to report this to Earth, but Cromwell insists there's nothing to report, refuses to risk being quarantined, refuses to acknowledge what's right before his eyes.

They plead with him that they can handle a quarantine, that there's food for three months on board and Faith can synthesize more in the lab if necessary, so long as nothing becomes contaminated. The three insist they must immediately alert the crew and sterilize the station top to bottom to prevent that from happening, but Cromwell is unmoved and commited to his own dangerous alternate reality. He orders that none of them speak a word of what they've seen to anyone, that no one will contact Earth, that there will be no effort to sterilize the station and that re-stocking will go forward as normal when the supply ship arrives the following week. He even goes so far as to insist that Redshirt's cause of death be purposely misreported as "pressure shock," and warns Smarmy that if any of them tell another soul he will hold him personally responsible for it.

So basically Cromwell is Trump, standing there spewing dangerous misinformation with his eyes and ears firmly closed, Faith is Dr. Rick Bright of the CDC vaccine development division desperately trying to get everyone to pay attention to the overwhelming evidence of risk, Hoffman is Dr. Anthony Fauci trying to walk the razor's edge between keeping his job and trying to get some kind of truth out to the public and Smarmy is Inspector General Steve Linick, about to get fired by a delusional, narcissistic douchebag for just doing his fucking job.


I had no idea this was a documentary.

So Cromwell skulks off to drink a diet coke and send out some hate-tweets while taking a fast-food mega-dump on his golden toilet, and the three unfortunate adults in the room are left to contemplate dealing with a leader on the brink of those pesky "space raptures" that all the cool kids are talking about nowadays. Faith helpfully explains to us that this condition is caused by prolonged periods of weightlessness, that even half-gravity isn't enough to stave it off once you've been in space too long, but those of us back on Earth here in 2020 know it's actually caused by snorting adderal and eating too much KFC.

The three determine that there's only one responsible course of action, risky though it may be. They don't explicitly tell us what that course of action is, but we all know it's Mutiny because it's right there in the title of the movie.

Meanwhile back on Earth, General Knowland is talking on his retro intercom again, and his secretary informs him there's a coded message from Cromwell waiting for him. He expresses his surprise at this, wondering what he could possibly have to say to him secretly, and asks his lovely assistant Captain Stevens to bring the message in. She enters carrying a piece of teletype paper and a couple of code-book binders with plastic cut-out templates you lay directly over the sheet to manually decode it.


Digital data encryption went out with Cabbage Patch Dolls and shoulder pads.

The message tells of Redshirt's death from "pressure shock," and goes on to say that Smarmy has had a shitty attitude since his arrival at the station that is "not in the best interests" of Cromwell's command or the U.S. Space Agency. Knowlands begins to read the date at the bottom aloud, "March 25th, 199...," but he trails off, lost in thought before he finishes it.

So now we're definitively in the 1990's, which for me doesn't really jibe with the WWIII comment earlier, though I suppose a conflict of that magnitude occurring between the date this film was made and the date it takes place might help explain the odd mash-up of mid-century and futuristic technology that we must accept if we are to suspend our disbelief and enjoy it.

Knowland and Stevens, meanwhile are having a bit of a suspension of disbelief issue of their own. They're both shocked that a promising young astronaut in the peak of health should die from something physical screenings are meant to detect a susceptibility for, and the report's declaration that Smarmy is behaving unprofessionally strikes them both as highly unlikely at best, if not damn near impossible. It seems Cromwell's paranoid attempts to cover his ass may not be as effective as he'd hoped and have instead raised some serious red flags back on Earth.

The General is due to go to a test launch but informs his driver that they will be making a stop at Redshirt's house along the way to deliver the bad news to his widow. We learn that Redshirt and his wife were only recently married, and as Captain Stevens knows her personally she volunteers to go along.

There's a refreshingly professional and respectful dynamic between Knowland and Stevens, with none of the usual misogynistic condescension and military bombast we so often see in b-movies of this era.


Captain Stevens is played by character actress Francine York, who was last seen on MMT changing costumes about 30 times in The Doll Squad (1973).

We head back to the station now where Cromwell is sitting at a console, staring blankly and silently at a big monitor view of what appears to be the crab nebula. Engstrom walks in and reports that General Knowland has sent a message asking what the hell is going on, and could he maybe clarify all that stuff about a dead astronaut and a trusted senior space force officer suddenly becoming an insubordinate dick, but he just continues on staring as if he didn't hear her.


He's totally trippin', boo.

Cromwell channels his inner Carl Sagan, waxing philosophical about the billions of planets and stars in the milky way, and how it would be nearly impossible that at least some of them did not support some kind of life. He drones on wearily about man's inexorable push deeper and deeper into space, and it's clear that he is unwilling or unable to face what his life will be like when he's no longer actively engaged in that quest.


Look at that chin cleavage. I'll bet he could hold a pencil with that thing.

Sadly the conversation is undermined by some almost comically false numbers regarding the distance between our solar system and the next nearest star, Proxima Centauri. Cromwell accurately states that it's "more than four light years away" (the precise distance is 4.243), but Engstrom pisses all over that by saying "That's only six trillion miles, as the crow flies, at the speed of light that is." This is not only wrong by roughly a factor of four (it's actually 24.95 trillion miles) but seems to betray a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between the speed of light, which obviously refers to velocity, and a light year, which is a measurement of distance. For as important a character Engstrom turns out to be to the plot she sure says a lot of stupid shit.

Please stop talking. I'm asking as nicely as I can.

Their delightful chat is interrupted by a notification alert that the station is drifting slightly out of horizontal alignment. Based on everything we've seen about the station up to this point this seems like a fairly routine thing, requiring a standard, easy-peasy adjustment by the crew, but the way Cromwell shouts you'd think they were all about to be crushed into a singularity.

Clearly this is a man on the edge, and we can see that Engstrom is finally beginning to accept that her boss may be a sick man. She stiffens her posture and asks quietly if he'd like to reply to the General's request, but he says he'll do it later, silently dismissing her so he can keep wringing his hands and brooding about all those awe-inspiring interstellar expeditions he will never be a part of.

Back up on the main bridge Smarmy, Faith and Hoffman walk in and ask the guy at the controls if the pressure has been fully restored down in the bio lab. He says it has, that the chunk of meteor(oid) had punched a hole in the wall the size of a golf ball, but that the automatic repair systems had sealed it before any catastrophic depressurization could occur. He cautions them, however that the lab will have been pretty shaken up in the process, so they'd better prepare themselves to deal with a mess.


"Funny, That's just what my agent said when I took this part."

As the others head down the elevator to the lab Smarmy pulls Engstrom aside for a moment to ask her what Cromwell said in the report he sent to General Knowland. She says she doesn't know as it was coded, and that he well knows despite their friendship she couldn't tell him anyway. She is duty bound, and despite the mounting evidence of Cromwell's infirmity she's not prepared to speak of any conspiracies against him. Smarmy decides to drop the subject until she's more open to hearing what he has to say.


"In the meantime try to stop saying so much stupid shit."

Down in the bio lab there is indeed a big mess. Plants and furniture are knocked over and, more importantly, the big metal sample crate is on the floor, standing open, with all the jars strewn about and some of them broken open. At this point they should seal off the area and put on some full body biohazard suits, but even though the ice samples, which they've already guessed are the source of the contagion, are open, melted and currently dripping off the lab table onto Hoffman's shoulder, all they do to protect themselves is put on what appear to be Playtex dishwashing gloves.


Those casserole dishes aren't going to scrub themselves.

They use tongs to pick up the jars and what's left of the samples, but they hold the jars right up against their bodies as they reseal them and appear to take absolutely no other precautions.

Smarmy comes in just long enough to encourage Faith to finish her analysis as quickly as possible, then he and Hoffman head back up to the infirmary to have a look at Cromwell's medical records.

Time passes, and we see that Faith has put on those oversized glasses again, the ones she wears when she's doing science but takes off when it's time to get frisky. As she stares into the electron microscope the camera pans over to the work table behind her, where some huge tentacles of hairball fungus are slowly creeping across the tabletop and along the floor. They've even begun consuming the plants and vegetables growing in the lab. The hairballs move slowly and silently, heading directly towards her.


She probably just put on a clean pair of socks, too. That's always the way.

Back in Smarmy's cabin he's just finished writing up the report he intends to send to General Knowland. Hoffman comes in and Smarmy asks him to read it in case there's anything he missed. He says he intends to get Engstrom to code and send it right away, and if she refuses to do so he says he'll send it himself. As Hoffman peruses the report Smarmy heads over to the intercom to see how Faith is coming along with her analysis.

Back in the lab Faith gets up from her work to answer and suddenly realizes the hairballs have completely overrun the lab! Everywhere she turns she sees their tentacles, hanging from the walls, creeping like squishy, mossy vines across every surface.

When Smarmy can't reach her he realizes she must be in trouble. He and Hoffman hurry down to the lab to find her crouching between the soggy tendrils in a corner of the lab.


It's Sparky! He's coughing them up everywhere! For pity's sake, give him some olive oil!

Smarmy, ever the man of action, leaps up and grabs hold of a pipe, pulling himself across the lab just above the damp, pulsating lumps of feline fur and digestive fluids. We get the movie poster money shot now as he tells Faith to get on his back and he slowly pulls himself back across the room--with his feet obviously still on the floor just below camera. Observant viewers will notice that the pipe mysteriously becomes a girder when he reaches the other side of the room, then just as mysteriously becomes a pipe again on his return.




I feel for the editor here. I really do.

Smarmy gets Faith back over to the elevator and Hoffman makes the observation that the fungus seems to thrive on light. Smarmy makes the equally valid observation that "It'll be thriving on us if we don't get out of here!"

The three manage to get into the elevator and up to the command level. Smarmy sends Hoffman and Faith to get the fungicide ready, saying that they'll have to spray down the entire station.

Smarmy orders the officer on duty to seal off the lab and call the Captain immediately. He means Cromwell, of course, whom we know from earlier is actually a Colonel. if Cromwell were only a Captain then Major Smarmy could have just pulled rank on him earlier and cut through all this bullshit, right?

"Captain" is of course being used informally here as a shorthand for "commander of the vessel," but don't they take rank in the military a bit more seriously? Any cosplayers or Civil War reenactors care to weigh in?


The only military commander I know is
Cap'n Crunch.

So Smarmy orders another officer to contact General Knowland, but this fellow says he can't do that without Cromwell's approval. As Smarmy tries to explain about the fungus a snarky little shit named Major Olsen shows up and condescendingly suggests that maybe Smarmy needs a rest.

It seems Cromwell has already planted the idea in Olsen's head that Smarmy has the raptures and can't be trusted, and when Olsen attempts to restrain him a struggle ensues. Smarmy manages to get the upper hand, but just then Cromwell himself arrives and orders Olsen and the duty officer to arrest him and hold him in his quarters.

Faith and Hoffman arrive with the anti-fungal (one paltry container the size of a kitchen fire extinguisher) and try to convince the others that Smarmy is telling the truth, that it's Cromwell who has the raptures and that there really is a killer fungus on board and they're all in terrible danger, but in the end all three of them are led away to be locked up in the stockade.


"Viva la revolucion!"

Once he's left alone Cromwell collapses into a chair to muss his greasy hair in addled frustration. Engstrom enters behind him, having witnessed the entire debacle from the adjacent corridor. She asks him gently if there's really something going on in the lab. Of course he denies it, but she traps him in his lie by saying "Then you won't object if I go down there and have a look?"


She kinda put baby in a corner, didn't she?

Cromwell tells her no, don't go down there, not because there's a deadly fungus, of course because there totally isn't, but because now is the perfect time to send that super secret report to General Knowland, spilling the beans about the whole mutiny thing and Smarmy's space raptures and the missing strawberries and all. He tells her to explain how Smarmy tried to take over his command, how they need to send replacements for Faith and Hoffman because they were in on it, too. He also tells her to make sure to explain how Smarmy held him at gunpoint when he tried to take over.


"Yeah, he had a gun! That's the ticket! And then he gave me a wet willie and made me watch both Mamma Mia movies back to back without even a bathroom break.

When Engstrom hears him insist there was a firearm involved she finally realizes Cromwell really is as cuckoo bananas as she'd feared. She calmly states that she will give a full report to General Knowland, just as Cromwell has asked, assuring him "You can trust me, sir."


I've heard that from a woman before, too.

This is the high water mark of the movie. It's tightly written, well-acted and deftly pulls together multiple character threads that have been carefully spooled out over the course of the first two acts. I've certainly gotten a few digs in on Pamela Curran, who plays Lt. Engstrom, but praise is due here. She absolutely shines in this scene. You can feel her heart breaking as she finally accepts that the man she loves is falling apart, that she must betray him in order to protect him, and that once she does he will be forever beyond her reach, all amidst the terrifying realization that there may be an existential danger on board the station that could threaten the entire crew. It's all the more powerful for how effectively she underplays it. It's a quiet, controlled performance that communicates more about Engstrom's character in a few simple lines than in all the rest of her scenes combined.

As Cromwell shuffles off to watch Fox and Friends, Engstrom notices that one of the flight recorders has captured their entire conversation, providing the evidence she needs to convince General Knowland to remove him from command.


Lordy, there are tapes.

We cut to Knowland's office where he's playing the tape to some military brass and a consulting psychiatrist. They all know that weapons have been banned aboard space vessels, so Cromwell's paranoid assertion that anyone on board the station could have had a gun is enough to convince them that he's lost his shit. Knowland informs them that he has already sent Engstrom an order to have Major Olsen release Smarmy and relieve Cromwell of command, and because Engstrom also reported that Redshirt actually died of a dangerous fungal infection, Knowland has also temporarily banned any other vessels from landing at the station.

When the meeting breaks up Knowland calls in Captain Stevens, who confirms that she sent the orders and got an immediate reply from Engstrom over two hours before, but that there has been no communication of any kind with the station since. General Knowland walks over to his window, looks up at the sky and declares "They must be in real trouble up there."


Just a General observation.

Despite the poor effects and a few glaring factual errors it's been a fairly tight little movie up to this point. The characters are engaging, their interactions are for the most part authentic and believable, and there's been a reasonable effort, especially for this sort of film, to keep the science fiction aspects grounded in some degree of science fact. Unfortunately that's all about to change. There are still a few good, tense moments, but the last act feels distinctly rushed and just plain sloppy, with much of the careful plotting and character building we've seen throughout the first two acts collapsing into illogic and absurdity.

First we get a short scene meant to be several hours later with a blonde woman sitting at a communications console trying over and over to reach the station to no avail. Stevens comes in and tells her it's time to go off duty but she insists on staying, and it turns out she's Lt. Engstrom's sister. It's a little late in the game to be adding another character and subplot, and this basically goes nowhere. We see her once or twice more but we don't get to know her well enough to form any emotional attachment and her presence adds absolutely nothing to the film.

Oddly she also has some lingering traces of an eastern European accent, whereas her sister talks like a New York debutante.


Perhaps they were separated at birth and she was raised by Latvian polecats. That would also explain the musky scent and prominent incisors.

Back on the station the gang are hunting for crazy Cromwell who's been playing a cat-and-mouse game with them, using his superior knowledge of the station's nooks and crannies to avoid them at every turn. He's also sabotaged the communications equipment, hence the blackout with Earth. As Smarmy, Faith, Olsen and a sergeant named Sloan search for him Engstrom and a sargeant named Andrews work to repair the radio.


Andrews is played by Harold Lloyd, Jr. in his final attempt to become a movie star just like his dad.

Perhaps it was merely a trick of editing, but at the beginning of the film there appeared to be lots of crewmen running around. Now there are only eight people on board the entire station, the seven mentioned above plus Hoffman, and these are the only crew we'll see for the rest of the movie.

Just as Andrews gets the radio working we see Hoffman leaning against a wall, sweating like a K2 addict jonesing for a fix. Faith goes over to him and he says he has a fever and a pain in his shoulder...right where the melted moon samples were dripping on him earlier. Faith discreetly escorts him to the infirmary.

Engstrom has meanwhile managed to contact Earth and Smarmy gives Knowland and company an update about the fungus, cautioning that no other vessels should be sent to the station until it has been completely contained or eliminated. When the smartyhead doctor Knowland has called in asks to speak with Hoffman about the fungus Smarmy and company realize that he and Faith have snuck away. He immediately suspects something is wrong and heads down to the infirmary after them. Knowland repeatedly asks if they are receiving him but Engstrom abruptly signs out.

Knowland goes a little overboard now, asking the assembled brass to cancel all space flights and launch activity, not just those to the station. He asks Stevens to get the Joint Chiefs of Staff on his private line and tells another general to contact strategic command headquarters in case they need to blow the station out of the sky. Knowland fears that if the station crew were to be overcome and the station itself were to fall out of orbit some of the fungus might survive reentry and cause a global pandemic.


Who ever heard of a global pandemic? Oh, wait...

Now we get one of those cheap-o spinning newspaper transitions, showing us things in bold print face we've already been told. The Dallas Evening News helpfully reminds us: "Space Station X-7 Quarantined," The New York Herald Declares "Space Station X-7 Danger In Orbit" and the Weekly World News boldly reports "Batboy Possible Source of Deadly Fungus! Exclusive Report!"


Nothing encapsulates the spirit of the 90's like Batboy.

Back on the station we learn that Hoffman does indeed have the fungus. He's in pretty bad shape, shaking, sweating, short of breath, but he's been thinking hard about the way this fungus operates and has some advice. Back in the bio-lab they thought the fungus was attracted to light, but he thinks it isn't light the fungus needs to grow but heat. He says that when they put Redshirt in the decompression chamber they turned out the lights but it continued to grow. He tells them to put him in a refrigeration unit, to basically put him into a cryogenic state just below freezing, because he believes that extreme cold should kill the fungus.

Wait, what? Is this really where they're going with this? They're gonna freeze it to death? When we already know it was frozen in blocks of ice on the fucking moon for who knows how many eons before they accidentally thawed it out and introduced it to a fungi-friendly buffet?

Yes, people, that's exactly where they're going with this. Mutiny in Outer Space you have betrayed me. You totally had me fooled into thinking you were smart and different when in the end you're just as cheap, specious and stupid as every other terrible sci-fi b-movie where the fatal weakness of the big, scary monster turns out to be light or salt or water...or lightly salted water if you're watching Day of the Triffids (1962), which after hearing Dr. Hoffman's little speech I wish I were.


You should really get those moles checked out while you're at it, too.

Olsen comes in to tell Smarmy that Cromwell is off on a rampage again. Smarmy tells Faith to go ahead and put Hoffman on ice while he goes to deal with it.

Smarmy chases Cromwell through the halls a bit and they up in a standoff in the control room, with Cromwell holding a "sulfuric acid bomb" that looks an awful lot like a plumber's blow torch.


"I just gotta solder this t-joint and your hot water heater'll be good as new."

Faith runs in, having apparently frozen Hoffman, freshened up a bit and run up to the bridge in under thirty seconds. She says "That's the gravitation control!" and Smarmy informs us that if Cromwell flips the switch it will reverse the field and they'll all smash against the ceiling. So can someone please explain to me why they bothered to make the damn station a rotating wheel if they already had artificial gravity?

You know I love ya, Arthur C. Pierce, but you're really starting to piss me off here.

So Cromwell is completely delusional now, with his space raptures-addled brain reliving salient events of the past few days. He first starts fucking with the stabilization controls, thowing the whole station off-axis, then he believes they must take evasive action to avoid the meteoroid storm, finally he thinks the bio-lab has lost pressure again from a meteoroid strike. He opens the lab and floods the whole lower level with additional air pressure, causing the newly-installed repair plate to burst out into space. The fungus is free now, not only to spread within the interior, but to wrap its hairy tendrils around the entire station.


Welcome to the jungle, bitches.

The crew finally manage to subdue and sedate Cromwell, but the damage is done. The fungus is beyond their control and they may soon completely lose control of the station as well.

Engstrom gets on the com to inform space command of their predicament and we get another lame spinning newspaper montage. The Washington Sentinel claims "Space Station X-7 Doomed," ICI Paris declares in bold English "US Space Station a Growing Danger" on a front page otherwise printed in French, followed by German, Italian and Soviet papers each presented in the same bafflingly bi-lingual manner.


Leave it to the Rooskies to kick us when we're down.

There are a total of seven fake front pages here, to add to the three we saw previously, which even for a low-budget programmer like this is a remarkably cheap and lazy cop-out from doing actual narrative exposition. The montage ends with twelve separate snippets of stock footage showing rockets and missiles primed and ready to blast the station into smithereens at the press of a big red button.

Back at the station things have gone from bad to worse as the fungus has spread to cover virtually every surface.



Somebody really needs to run a Swiffer over that thing.

The survivors are now isolated in two different areas, with Smarmy, Faith, Andrews and the unconscious Cromwell in a machine room on the control level and the rest of the gang with the frozen Dr. Hoffman in the infirmary. They've lost contact with Earth again, with all incoming and outgoing signals being blocked by the thick cords of fungus wrapped around the external antenna. Andrews and Smarmy are trying to rig up some kind of booster to at least "be able to tell them we're still alive."

Faith has lost hope, staring glassy-eyed and speaking as if in a trance about how they're basically already dead and about to become part of a footnote event in the history of space exploration. When she starts to babble about being inside a seashell, drifting slowly in the deep dark of the ocean, back and forth to nowhere, Smarmy grabs her by the shoulders and shakes her, shouting for her to snap out of it. He then straight-up slaps her across the face to bring her back to her senses.


We really could have done without this Arthur C. Pierce. Shame on you.

Of course it works, and she cries and embraces him, and he does that condescending "calm down the hysterical little lady, who's really a good, brave girl but still just one of the weaker sex in need of my manly guidance" bullshit which the rest of the film had led us to believe we might manage to avoid.

When Smarmy suggests they have a little food to keep their spirits up, Faith confesses that the protein wafers they had for breakfast were the last of their uncontaminated supplies. She says they do have about two weeks worth of water, but otherwise they're doomed to slowly starve in a single, tiny room tortured by the growing stench of their own unwashed bodies and stale urine.

Smarmy calls down to the infirmary and reaches an exhausted and dispirited Engstrom. It turns out they're running out of food, down there, too. Smarmy asks how Hoffman is holding up in his little refrigerator and it turns out that gosh darn it he was right! He's not only still alive, he's apparently fungus-free!


He's not just a popsicle, he's a Hoffsicle.

Smarmy orders everyone to put on their heated survival suits. He's going to lower the internal temperature of the station to zero degrees, claiming that since the fungus didn't spread on Hoffman when he went into deep freeze that proves the cold is lethal to it. No, just no...it absolutely does not prove that at all...but dammit there's only ten minutes left to resolve this stupid plot so we're just going to have to roll with it.

Smarmy says he must somehow reach the control room in order to adjust the temperature, and Olsen calls up from the Infirmary, saying he has a solution to their communication problems, but that it requires that he get to the control room as well.

As Smarmy pulls on his suit to go on his dangerous mission, Faith steps up to him with tears of pride in her doe-like eyes. She's just so in love with this big hunk of granite-jawed beefcake, so grateful to bask in the light of his manly awesomeness. Smarmy says "Hey, none of that, Captain's orders," to which she responds seductively "You're in command now."


So now it's like that then, is it?

Smarmy and Olsen arm themselves with coolant-filled fire extinguishers and blast their way through the tentacles of fungus, which makes a horrible nails-on-chalkboard-in-an-echo-chamber screeching sound when the cold hits it. The vines recede with each subsequent blast of the icy-cold vapor, clearing a path to the consoles.

Smarmy manages to cut the heat, and Olsen, clever fellow, has reasoned that since the station's power reactor is monitored from Earth then space command will know right away if it's shut off. He intends to power it off and on again in short and long bursts to send a message to them in morse code, which is a rather nice, clever little trope. It's not nice and clever enough to make up for all the other ridiculous crap in the final third of this thing, but at this point I'll take whatever little glimmers of hope I can get.

Back on Earth General Knowland is talking about how he's gonna have to nuke the station if it even looks at its orbit half-cockeyed, claiming to an officer named Major Howard that the decision is completely out of his hands. Stevens calls in to inform him of the morse code signal, which was picked up at a tracking station in Japan, and Knowland tears the translated message off another ancient beast of a teletype machine.


This is just marginally more efficient than a carrier pigeon.

We get the news about Hoffman's "successful experiment" in killing the fungus with cold, that the station is now fungus free but that they can't do anything about the stuff on the exterior and need some help if they're not too busy down there.

Colonel Howard explains that the fungus on the exterior of the station is exposed to sunlight and so is experiencing high enough temperatures to keep it alive, which may be true as far as it goes...

Okay, one more rant about dodgy science and then I promise I'll shut up and finish the movie.

The external temperatures of objects in orbit around the Earth vary depending on whether sunlight is hitting them or not. The surface of the International Space Station, for example is around 250 f (121 c) in the sun, but drops to about -250 f (-157 c) in the shade.


Isn't she gorgeous?

I can grudgingly accept that a hardy fungus might be able to withstand that level of heat, but only because of the painstaking work of Messrs. K. Sterflinger & A. Van Leeuwnhoek in their seminal 1998 study Temperature and NaCl-Tolerance of Rock-Inhabiting Meristematic Fungi.

If I may push the limits of fair use and quote extensively from this eminently readable abstract:

Black meristematic fungi together with lichens and cyanobacteria dominate the micro-flora of rock surfaces in arid and semi-arid environments of hot and cold deserts. This study shows that rock inhabiting meristematic fungi are extremely tolerant against high temperatures, desiccation and osmotic stress. Their temperature tolerance increases with increasing dehydration of the fungal thallus. Air dried mycelia of black yeasts stand temperatures up to 120 degrees C for at least 0.5 hours.


I could go on and on. It's scintillating reading, I know, but the point is that it is not outside the realm of possibility that a particularly hardy fungus might survive at such a high temperature as it would reach in direct sunlight. What I take umbrage with is that the fungus would be subjected to rapid swings of +/- 500 f with each revolution of the station, which doesn't even account for phases of its orbit passing through the shadow of the Earth itself.

If we must accept that this fungus is killed by freezing temperatures then surely the entire infestation would be destroyed within a single orbit. The ISS orbits the Earth approximately 16 times each day, so assuming a similar pattern our movie's station should only, at the absolute maximum, have been covered in live fungus for a little less than an hour.


Don't even get me started on cosmic rays and solar winds. We'll be here for days.

So Knowland comes up with a plan. He proposes they send up a rocket full of chill-out chemicals to create an icy cloud of sub-zero particles. If they detonate it near the station, he reasons, the particles will envelop the station and destroy the pesky intruder. He even demonstrates what an icy cloud would look like in real time by blasting off a fire extinguisher in the middle of his office.


He's an impulsive little devil, I'll say that for him.

We cut to some more stock footage of a rocket launch and more borrowed footage from Assignment: Outer Space, this time of a vessel with four huge tanks strapped to it.


The flame on that model is curling upwards, a major pet peeve for all of us here at MMT. When will people learn to point the model down and turn the damn camera on its side?

General Knowland and Colonel Howard watch the progress on a monitor in the General's office. Knowland opines that if this stunt doesn't work then all those poor, brave astronauts will die up there thinking the space service had abandoned them. Howard assures him that every man-jack of them knows that Space Command would do anything to try to save them...unless of course their orbit started to decay, in which case they'd blow them right out of the goddamned firmament.

So the rocket with the big chemical tanks gets in range and they blow it up, releasing the cloud of frigid mist. Instead of expanding and dispersing outward due to the force of the blast it clumps together and somehow heads off on a direct line towards its target.

As the mist envelops the station the fungus makes that horrible screaching noise again, and the hungry, exhausted occupants of the station watch hopefully as the tendrils clinging to the windows begin to recede.



They could do with a squeegee.

Smarmy increases the rotation in an effort to provide a little extra impetus, and voila! Within moments the station is as bright and glossy as a pair of buttocks freshly blasted by an industrial strength bidet.


Them's some mighty shiny cheeks.

Back on Earth Knowland and company receive a welcome message from Smarmy and crew: the fungus is gone, the station is clean and if you're not too busy down there maybe you could send up a ship to get us the fuck outta here.

Knowland says the countdown is already in progress and the relief ship will rendezvous with them in three hours. Message received, over and out! Hooray, hooray for the U.S. of A.!


The End.

I guess I can't really be too hard on Mutiny in Outer Space. Many of its shortcomings were clearly a result of its tiny budget and rushed production, and honestly even the end of it's not any more silly or preposterous than hundreds of other sci-fi films produced around the same time. It's just that it had so much promise and built up so much goodwill in those first two acts that it was impossible not to feel a little cheated when they pissed it all away in the last twenty minutes. Maybe with an extra $10k and a couple more weeks' production the narrative and technical issues could have been ironed out. Maybe not. It’s tempting to speculate, though that they could have had a real gem on their hands if only for a little more time, money, care and attention.

Hopefully the final takeaway from all of this is that science and learning matter--maybe not in a 55 year-old b-movie where the outcome is pre-ordained, but in real life in a real crisis where paying attention to the experts can mean the difference between life and death. Facts don't stop being facts just because a certain bunker boy is afraid of them and wants them to go away.

As of this writing the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over, and we here in the United States are all but assuring a second, deadlier surge of cases by acting like it is. Please do everything you can to stay healthy and safe. Listen to the people who have studied infectious diseases for decades and take the appropriate precautions they suggest. Of course you need to live your life, but you need to have it in order to live it.

In my regular, non-MMT work I've seen a great deal of needless suffering and death these past few months, and like anyone else with a conscience and a modicum of compassion I don't want to see any more. Most of all I want all of you to still be here with us when this thing finally ends.

Who else is gonna read this crap we keep posting if you're not?

Final Observations:

--This film was shot in six days on a budget of only $90,000. It shows.

--Arthur C. Pierce was a U.S. Navy combat photographer during World War II. He received several commendations for bravery under fire.

--Major Smarmy Towers was played by William Leslie, a moderately successful character actor with only a few leading roles on his resume. He can be seen elsewhere on MMT in The Night the World Exploded (1957)

--Dolores Faith, known in the industry for her slightly-more-than passing resemblance to Elizabeth Taylor, appeared in a total of 16 film and television roles between 1961 and 1966. She gave up acting in 1972 to marry James Robert Neal, the millionaire heir of the Maxwell House Coffee fortune. That union would end in divorce in 1977. She committed suicide in 1990 at the age of 48.

--Hugo Grimaldi had only a brief career in the film industry, mostly in low-budget productions, including the aforementioned Assignment; Outer Space (1960) and The Phantom Planet (1961). His one exception was as a co-producer of the American release version of the Japanese war drama Storm over the Pacific (1960), starring my favorite actor Toshiro Mifune




As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in June, 2020.

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