Dead Space (1991)

The realities of Roger Corman:

This one is a cheap retread of Roger Corman’s 1982 Mutant (aka, Forbidden World), which was itself one of his first cheap retreads of Alien.  One can point to other instances where he remade his own films (for example, his Naked Paradise script got recycled as Beast From Haunted Cave, Creature from the Haunted Sea and the Sword and Sandal epic, Atlas.

I guess this one leaves me asking “why?”  I mean, the original was only nine years old and nothing special, just a fairly routine mad scientist/creature on the loose sort of film, with a few wacky details that lifted it out of the rut.

Most of them aren’t in this one.

The original has lots of slime, lots of gore, rooms literally full of mutating corpses, nasty creature effects, and, of course, more slime.

This one?  Not so much.

The original had nude scenes, sex scenes and a shower scene in true exploitation film fashion.

This one doesn’t.

In fact, the one curious detail about the original which is kept is that non-sequitur opening scene where raiders attack the hero’s ship.  In the original, it was just an excuse to recycle a little film from Battle Beyond the Stars.

And in this one?  It’s just an excuse to recycle a little film from Battle Beyond the Stars.  It just isn’t the same footage from Battle Beyond the Stars.

Another odd detail is that the original had a strange sort of “romantic” triangle, with the two women in the research station throwing themselves at the hero, which is missing here.  It did create a tiny  bit of tension in the original, which this one could have used.  There is a scene here where one of the young women on the team decides she prefers the hero to her boyfriend and tries to save him from the creature, only to die moments later:  it leaves me wondering whether they’d had some idea of expanding on those hints of romantic attraction.

Or maybe it’s one of those random bits of movie “motivations” that are only there to move the plot forward:  after all, they had to find some way to kill her off…

There is one curious change:  cancer played a large part in the original, whereas here it is a virus which affects the immune system.

Or, in other words, AIDS.

The one thing the original had which is missing here that we don’t miss are the rather strange flash forward/flash back montages that bookmarked Forbidden World.  I have no idea why they had them before (except, perhaps to pad out the running time) and they certainly aren’t missed here.

Marc Singer, who stars, was one of those almost stars, who had his moment of fame playing The Beastmaster, then had big roles in its spin-off series, V and Dallas on TV in the early Eighties.  He was definitely on the way downhill by 1991.  It probably tells us far too much about this film that they undoubtedly hired him to give the film a little star power.  However, Bryan Cranston, years away from his current fame, has a solid part as the dangerously obsessive scientist running the lab.

I will admit to a certain amount of affection for the hero’s robot partner and comic relief, Tinpan, and his rather deadpan sense of humor.  Which, naturally, means he gets killed off early.

Supposedly, the director never even saw the script before he walked on set for the first day of filming — the first, that is, of a seventeen day shoot!

It certainly seems as if it were true…

Dead Space isn’t exactly bad.  it’s more sort of average-ish.  But then it might be a more entertaining film if it were a lot worse.  You’d be better off if you just watched Forbidden World instead, but it isn’t going to kill you if you watch this one instead.

But I really can’t say too much more for it than that.

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