Space Truckers is the kind of film that’s so oddly judged, it was bound to pick up a cult following - despite the negative reviews and disastrous box office. Hence this extras-packed Blu-ray release, in which all the tasteless production design, cheap special effects and slightly out-of-focus camerawork have nowhere left to hide.
Dennis Hopper, at his least intense, plays John Canyon, an independent space trucker who’s two days late delivering his cargo of square pigs and who gets royally shafted by the company for his trouble. When the local company honcho Keller (George Wendt) gets hoist through his own henchman’s bullet-hole in the space station’s outer shell, Canyon gets fingered for the death and goes on the run with a shipment of what he believes to be sex dolls - but that we know to be an invading force of robots, heading for Earth.
There’s not much of a plot and what there is of it makes little sense; Charles Dance, for instance, plays a scientist who we are supposed to believe managed to squeeze his own brains back into a new plastic skull he built for himself after having had them blown out, with only a single arm and leg with which to perform the operation solo. Meanwhile, when Canyon discovers his payload being stolen from under his very nose, he returns to the bar to continue his proposition to the waitress. It’s that kind of film.
The cast at least - and especially Dance, whose major contribution is a sex scene involving a malfunctioning mechanical member - seem to be having fun, although for long stretches Stuart Gordon’s direction leaves them uncertainly fishing around for motivation; some of the sequences in the rig are so lacking in tension you wonder if the Stuart Gordon who co-wrote the script might have been an entirely different chap who just happened to share the director’s name. Stephen Dorff, in particular, seems especially uncertain about where to pitch his cuckoo in Canyon’s cockpit; Debi Mazar, on the other hand, gives her wavering waitress every ounce of gusto she possesses. Their mutual seduction is so short of sexual tension that when the cuckolded Canyon returns it’s actually a relief they didn’t go through with it.
The whole production looks like nothing so much as a too-hasty 1980s pastiche, albeit the preponderance of yellows, greens and oranges in the colour scheme gives the visuals a lurid garishness that suggests the decade that taste forgot has been vomited half-digested across the screen; a year later Paul Verhoeven would do something similar with Starship Troopers - and this isn’t something that often gets said about the Dutch director - considerably more tastefully.
This is unquestionably terrible. But it’s also rather fun.
Extras: interviews with director Stuart Gordon, composer Colin Towns, and art director Simon Lamony
SPACE TRUCKERS (1996)/ CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: STUART GORDON / SCREENPLAY: TED MANN, STUART GORDON / STARRING: DENNIS HOPPER, STEPHEN DORFF, DEBI MAZAR, CHARLES DANCE / RELEASE DATE: 14TH MAY