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Space Daze
DVD reviewed by Ian Dawe

June 26, 2005 | Space Daze is a ridiculously micro-budget exercise in fun. There's no other way to describe the film, because it's certainly lacking in everything else you'd expect from a movie (strong acting, high production value, artistry, originality, compelling characters, etc.). Given all that, it's still fun, and perhaps that's the point.

The movie's plot is the flimsiest of clotheslines on which to rest the jokes. A reporter for a popular tabloid TV show about extraterrestrials, Al Manac (James Vallo, also one of the film's producers) is depressed about the quality of the show to which he's sold his talents. He wanders into a bar and proceeds to describe to the overly gregarious bartender (Byron Thames, the film's "star", since he had a bit part on Enterprise once) some of his more outlandish experiences on the show. From then on, the film is a series of skits and repeating jokes, some funny (one involving an exasperated astronaut is a side-splitter) and some not (such as the man who continues having heart attacks at the bar). Along the way there are skits about alien abduction, a lowbrow sketch concerning two hypnotists, a journey deep into the bowels of top-secret military based to view "classified" alien videos (with hilarious commentary by a German "film expert") and repeated appearances by the show's pompous host, Max Harmon (Michael Wexler). The "featured" appearance by onetime star Corey Feldman is mildly amusing, but no more. The movie finally simply runs out of steam and ends rather suddenly, which is probably in keeping with the whole B-movie spirit of things.

This material is obviously not meant to make film history. Written and Directed by John Wesley Norton, the movie was shot on video with little to no budget, clearly used amateur actors and at the end of the day it amounts to little more than a few amusing sketches - a strong episode of Saturday Night Live, if you will. That is not to say that it doesn't remain amusing on its own terms, but there's little evidence of that spark of off-kilter creativity one so often finds in independent B-cinema.

The executive producer (and owner of the distribution company Troma, who released this film) is Lloyd Kaufman, who directed the B-movie classic The Toxic Avenger. He even makes an appearance at the beginning of the movie, introducing it (and in the process setting the campy, shlocky tone) for this "special edition" DVD. The DVD extras include a "behind the scenes featurette", which is actually as humourous as parts of the final film, and a slew of trailers for such classics as A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell and Class of Nuke 'em High Part II. The big extra is a second full-length feature film, Invasion of the Space Preachers, which has the benefit of a plot, some action and some characters, but is otherwise as bad as it sounds.

For fans of B-movies (and I am one, to a certain degree), the movie that's trying to be bad is always less interesting than one that's trying to be good. It is possible to shoot a good movie on a low budget, even one as low as this (look at last year's Primer). Even if the film has low aspirations, a discerning audience will still demand some kind of inspired originality. The Toxic Avenger is a classic for that reason, but Space Daze commits the worst of B-movie sins: it's forgettable.

A freelance writer and longtime film enthusiast, Ian Dawe is now completing a Master's Degree in Film History. He currently teaches at Selkirk College in Castlegar, British Columbia.

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