A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 421 – Vegas in Space

Vegas in Space – April 25th, 2011

My freshman year of college I had the pleasure of living in a dorm with one of the most fabulous people I have ever met. She had a laugh you could hear from anywhere on the hall and to this day I wish I’d gotten more than one year with her. She was a senior that year and she and her roommate took myself and my group of friends under their wings. This involved giving us tips on some of the school events and activities as well as gathering us together for movie nights. Oh, I vividly remember my parents arriving for parents’ weekend while my room was full of ladies drinking cocoa spiked with Goldschlager while watching Faster Pussycat, Kill Kill. That was her fault. I don’t regret it.

Anyhow, this fabulous lady was the one who insisted we watch Vegas in Space. I don’t remember if she’d seen it already or if she just thought it would make a fantastic thing for us all to watch. Regardless, we watched it and we loved it. We couldn’t help but love it. It became a thing for us all for a while and we kept a couple of quotes from it in our lexicon. “Glamour first, glamour last, glamour always!” and “An oasis of glamour in a universe of mediocrity,” really are eminently quotable, aren’t they?

Now, you have to understand that while I can rock a pair of heels like nobody’s business, I’m not fabulous or glamorous on a daily basis. But oh do I love drag queen glamour and fabulosity. Love it all so much. I love the gowns and the wigs and the shoes and the attitude. And you know what else I love? Cheesy low budget movies. The sorts of movies that are clearly labors of love and made on the film equivalent of a shoestring. I love camp. So combine the two and you’ve got what has got to be one of the most perfectly bad things ever made. I cannot help it, I love this movie to pieces.

From what I can tell, it took years for this movie to get financed and put together. Drag queen, star and screenwriter Doris Fish worked her ass off on this movie. Check her IMDB page and you’ll see that her credits include visual effects, costumes, make-up, etc. Doris Fish owned this movie and certainly dominated the vast majority of the scenes she was in. As Captain Tracy Daniels of the USS Intercourse, Fish leads her crew on a mission to save the planet Clitoris. And if you think that’s just far too obvious well, you’re missing the humor. It’s supposed to be obvious. And ridiculous. That’s the point. Anyhow, originally Daniels was a male starship captain with an all male crew, but men aren’t allowed on Clitoris so they become women and get big hair and head on down to Vegas in Space, the fabulous resort on Clitoris.

Now, there is a plot here, with some Girlinium jewels being stolen from Empress Nueva Gabor of Clitoris, and somehow that’s destabilizing Clitoris and causing tremors and chaos and decidedly un-fabulous things. Tracy and her crew are sent to find out what’s going on and recover the jewels. There’s a bit of misdirection when the Empress of Earth tells the crew to beware of her evil sister, Queen Veneer, who is the queen of police on Clitoris. But she turns out to just be super fierce and totally awesome. Spoiler alert: It turns out the thief is Empress Nueva’s young friend, Princess Angel, who’s actually a robot. A creepy kleptomaniac robot. Come on, did you expect the plot to be brilliant? Of course not.

Really, the whole thing is an excuse for a bunch of drag queens and a few other men and women I assume were friends of theirs or involved in the drag scene somehow to get together and wear the most outlandish sci-fi themed costumes and huge wigs and make a movie where they were fantastic futuristic beings. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to be fantastic and futuristic and wear great wigs and dresses made of tinsel? I know I’d jump at the chance and I’m just me. I can’t imagine this was a hard sell to the drag queens on the cast and they’re great fun to watch.

Now, I won’t lie. This movie is not high art. It’s low quality at best. The sets are clearly apartments and lobbies and the like. A few of the cast members are probably far far better on stage doing comedy or lip syncing than they were delivering lines for a movie camera. There are a few jokes that fall flat. But then there’s Queen Veneer and Princess Angel chasing each other around while Princess Angel throws a temper tantrum in the Vegas mall. It’s uneven at best if you want to be cold about it. But I don’t want to be cold, because I do love it. I love every fabulous moment of it.

April 25, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Vegas in Space

April 25, 2011

Vegas in Space

“Behold: Vegas in Space- an oasis of glamour in a universe of mediocrity.”

Way back at the start of this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race Ru had the girls perform in a science fiction production as one of the mini competitions. The instant we saw it in the previews for that episode Amanda and I both knew that we had to review this movie as part of our project. Sadly it took a while to track down a copy and purchase it (even in this modern day and age) because for some reason this absolute classic is somewhat hard to come by.

When the precious Girlinium Jewels that the Empress Nueva Gabor uses to keep her artificial pleasure planet of Clitoris in orbit around her sun are stolen the empress of Earth dispatches her best space rangers to investigate. Of course no men are allowed on Clitoris so the daring crew of the Intercourse must first take pills to change their sex to female, and so captain Dan Tracy becomes Tracy Daniels, Mike becomes Sheila and Steve becomes Debbie. Thus transformed the trio can infiltrate Vegas in Space (posing as a trio of chorus girls from Earth invited to entertain at the Empress’ gala) and search for the thief. The prime suspect is the sinister queen of police Veneer, but of course on Clitoris nothing is exactly as it seems.

This movie is a chaotic, crazy, glamorous gem. Created (apparently over the course of several years) by Doris Fish (who stars as Tracy but also designed the hair, sets, costumes and miniatures) this movie is a labour of love. Doris has a couple of her companions from her San Francisco drag show Sluts A Go-Go here as co-stars. Miss X is the hard-as-ceramic-nails Queen Veneer, and Tippi is Princess Angel, the heir apparent to the throne of Clitoris. All three of them deliver fantastic performances (though to be fair Miss X tends to steal the show – she’s just so fabulous!)

For some movies a severely restricted budget can be a blessing. The exterior shots of Vegas in Space are clearly perfume bottles arranged on a counter top. The sets are cardboard draped in fabric, covered in tinfoil or hidden by shag carpeting. At one point in the production they are forced to use black & white film stock (which back in the late eighties when they were filming this would still have been cheaper than color film) and so there’s a scene where Veneer explains to Tracy that the atmosphere of Clitoris can’t hold color and they have to use artificial color boosters most of the time. This looks like a production filmed in somebody’s dressing room – because that is precisely what it is. And that is most of the charm of the movie right there.

I don’t think it is possible with words alone to communicate just how glorious this movie is. How can I describe the catty ADR dialog that fills almost every scene, especially those involving crowds? How can I do justice to the crazy performance s of the all-drag-queen cast? How can I possibly make sense of the WTF moments like the introduction of Veneer’s pet – a primordial missing link called Drag who has been defrosted after being discovered after millennia encased in ice? (You mean humans are descended from Drags?) This is one of those astonishing films that simply has to be seen to be believed.

I will say that my appreciation of this movie has been enhanced by RuPaul (as so many things are.) When we were first introduced to this by one of Amanda’s friends at college my only real touchstone for the world of drag was John Waters and Divine. A couple years of RuPaul along with last weeks viewing of Paris is Burning allows me to enjoy this movie from a very different perspective. It is so clearly a result of the culture that it springs from. As we watched tonight Amanda and I made jokes about “throwing shade” and grinned at the dragalicious performances. The more I learn about drag as an art form the more fun it becomes, and this movie should be shown in drag 101 right there with Paris is Burning. Clearly it inspired Ru this season.

April 25, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment