LIFEPOD (1981) – Previously Balladeer’s Blog examined the worst movies from the Robert Emenegger/ Allan Sandler collaboration, most of them with Steven Spielberg’s sister Anne … plus half the Cameron Mitchell family. With Lifepod, we return to E-Space (Emenegger Space. Sorry, Doctor Who fans.). This time, however, it’s with an underrated movie that makes you root for it despite its budgetary limitations.
The year is 2191. The moons of Jupiter have been colonized and are called the Jupiter States. A company nostalgically called the White Star Line has begun providing a spaceship cruise line to and from the Jupiter States. The flagship in this new line is called the Arcturus, with a state-of-the-art propulsion system and a revolutionary AI called a Cerebral running the ship.
As the Arcturus, on its maiden run, approached Callisto, the Cerebral announced massive system failures and began shutting down life support systems while ordering the crew and passengers to evacuate in lifepods and await rescue from Callisto’s authorities. In their Mayday broadcasts the crew make it clear they no longer trusted Captain Montaine (Christopher Cary), who insisted the Arcturus was fine and the Cerebral was just malfunctioning.
The picture becomes further confused when the Arcturus‘ engines restart and it flies off now that the passengers are gone. Continue reading
Steven Spielberg’s sister Anne got her start as a producer for many of the cheapjack science fiction films of Robert Emenegger and Allan Sandler. She had worked with them – and Cameron Mitchell – as far back as 1975’s Death: The Ultimate Mystery. With apologies to fans of the original Doctor Who series, to me “E-Space” will always mean EMENEGGER SPACE, as in the Emenegger-verse of his series of movies in 1980 and 1981.
Emenegger Space is full of Grade Z special effects, bad acting, a few good ideas and an overall feel of striving for Alien and Star Trek levels but falling far, far short.
WARP SPEED (1981) – Set in the far-off year 2013 (!) this movie features the crew of a spaceship sent to determine what happened to the vanished crew of a multi-year mission to Saturn. The organization they serve is called Starfleet, which serves as a reminder that by 1981 there was just the original Star Trek series, its cartoon version and one movie, not the enormous universe of spin-offs that we have today. Point being that the term Starfleet was apparently open for use by other creators. Starfleet features in another Spielberg/ Emenegger/ Sandler joint, too.
Adam West plays Captain Lofton, the leader of the now-lost mission, and has assorted offspring of Cameron Mitchell backing him up in this movie. One such Mitchell, Camille, stars as Dr Janet Trask, a psychic who is sent into the abandoned Atlas vessel to investigate the cause of the crew’s disappearance.
Trask is outfitted with tech which sends back images of the psychic visions she receives of past events on the ghost-ship. Amid assorted David Lynch-style psychosexual interludes we see disaster strike the Atlas, followed by an aborted mission and ultimately a mutiny as the crew try to get the damaged craft back to the Earth. Continue reading