Mutiny in Outer Space tells the tale of a space station that is plagued by a deadly fungus brought from moon samples that threatens to spread out of control and infect the Earth below. The mutiny in the title refers to the crew rising up against their fatigued commander who wants to cover up the outbreak for fear of losing his final space command.
Problems begin when a pair of astronauts returning from the moon dock at the space station, an amusing looking toroid that is a classic design of the period and seemingly made from spare kitchen parts. In case the viewer wondered what they were looking at, the station’s name is clearly written on the side “Space Station X-7.”
The astronauts had been exploring ice caves on the moon and the samples needed to be returned to Earth for analysis as the discovery of ice will allow the United States Space Authority to build Luna 2, its second base on the moon. Unfortunately, one of the astronauts falls ill and dies in rapid and gruesome fashion because of an alien fungus that resides in the samples.
The three main characters, astronaut Major Gordon Towers (William Leslie), station physician Dr. Stoddard (James Dobson) and ship’s scientist Faith Montaine (Dolores Faith) quickly diagnose the problem and inform the commander, Colonel Frank Cromwell (Richard Garland), who insists that the astronaut really died from pressure shock and will hear nothing of their theory. That sets off their conspiracy to oust the commander and save the station and ultimately the entire population of Earth.
While the performances in this movie aren’t outstanding, they are perfectly capable and help move the story along. One interesting thing to note for a movie from 1965 is the number of major female characters; not only Moran as the scientist, but also the space station’s second in command portrayed by Pamela Curran as well as the diligent space authority communications team down on Earth who are all played by women.
While the women are likely cast as eye candy with sexist lines directed at them like “You’ve heard of heavenly bodies haven’t you?” and “If it isn’t the outer limits,” perhaps the extensive female representation is meant to portray a future when women play a larger role in society.
Interestingly, this movie was originally distributed as the second part of a double feature with the movie The Human Duplicators which also starred Moran.
Mutiny in Outer Space is obviously a low-budget affair, but for something that was filmed in a mere six days, it does a credible job of telling a believable space tale. In many ways, the low-budget set design, range of characters and setting makes this somewhat reminiscent of an early Star Trek episode.
The commander, played by Richard Garland who also starred in Attack of the Crab Monsters and Panic in Year Zero, won’t be confused for Captain Kirk, but he takes full advantage of his brief amount of screen time to show us what it’s like to suffer from “space raptures” which seems to be some sort of PTSD that sets in after long exposure to life in outer space.
Watching this movie during the coronavirus lockdown brings a new poignancy to this more than 50-year-old story as it’s not difficult to imagine the havoc that could be wreaked on the planet if an unknown contagion were to touch down and spread across the globe.
Part of the charm of this movie are the cheesy effects, but what’s more amazing is that a mere three years later, Stanley Kubrick would make 2001: A Space Odyssey and render science fiction movies like this forever obsolete.
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