Written by: Carroll Jenkins on August 27th, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1997
Alternate Titles: Star Truckers
Approximate running time: 95 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Director: Stuart Gordon
Writers: Ted Mann, Stuart Gordon
Cinematographer: Mac Ahlberg
Composer: Colin Towns
Cast: Tim Loane, Ian Beattie, Olwen Fouere, Shane Rimmer, Charles Dance, Jason O’Mara, Dennis Hopper, Sandra Dickinson, George Wendt, Graeme Wilkinson, Sean Lawlor, Debi Mazar, Stephen Dorff
Synopsis: John Canyon is one of the last independent space captains hauling freight as he can while refusing to capitulate to the all encompassing ‘The Company’. When he gets stiffed on a payment and his load gets hijacked he takes a dangerous and illegal shipment plus a couple of semi-fugitive passengers to Earth.
This film certainly has one celebrity fan in the person of Joss Whedon, because the basic premise of Firefly can be found here. More importantly, Space Truckers presented the scenario as a comic parody while playing it deadly serious. Firefly built a bit more backstory and had a bigger ship and a larger crew, but it’s still a cheesy space opera. For example: why is everyone firing guns when they’ve achieved interplanetary space travel? Even Flash Gordon had a ray gun back in 1936.
Of course, Firefly was a failure and was cancelled with some episodes unaired. It was primarily discovered via the DVD release of the complete series and became so popular that it spawned the big screen treatment Serenity. So what did Firefly have that Space Truckers didn’t? Primarily it was timing. The DVD was released in 1999 when the marketplace was relatively small. Firefly came out in late 2003 when DVD was booming big time.
Yes, Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) brought some name recognition but what about Stuart Gordon (Castle Freak, Pit and the Pendulum, The Dentist)? His first theatrical film Re-Animator became a major cult item way back in the VHS rental store era. That was a hybrid of sci-fi horror and comedy and here he returns to his roots. The cast is excellent, especially Dennis Hopper as John Canyon and Charles Dance as a sort of Cyborg super villain [his performance perhaps inspired by Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove]. There is quite a high body count during the pre-credits massacre by a single killer robot (actually a genetically engineered super warrior) and some good old Gordon gore that could turn off some viewers, but what about the Reavers? Yes there is some sexual innuendo, but what about the whole ‘Companion’ thing?
The DVD is long OOP but the title turns up occasionally on streaming services.
Space Truckers is a great comedy / parody / space opera / action adventure. There was a lot of talent at work and it shows, especially with the robotic effects. This is a definite ‘fell through the cracks’ title that deserves a current DVD and/or Blu release. If you hated Firefly you will hate this as well, but then on the other hand . . .