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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Murder in Space

MURDER IN SPACE (1985). Directed by Steven Hilliard Stern. Starring Wilford Brimley, Michael Ironside, and Alberta Watson.

An international space mission's imminent return to Earth is complicated by the sudden death of one of the crew members, Soviet cosmonaut Olga Denarenko (Cathie Shirriff). The first concern is that they might be quarantined, or even be forbidden from landing at all, in case they're carrying some kind of alien infection. However, it's soon determined that this was no was murder. In SPAAAACE! Further complicating matters is the discovery that she was two months pregnant...and they've been in space for five months. Who done it? Was it the egotistical, studly Canadian astronaut (Tom Butler)? Her fellow countryman and potential defector (Damir Andrei)? The no-nonsense, by-the-book mission commander (Michael Ironside)? Or any of the other suspicious crew members? It's up to ground control (represented by Wilford Brimley) to solve the mystery before the spacecraft lands.
The most interesting aspect of this movie was its original presentation; it premiered on Showtime as an unfinished cliffhanger, ending with a challenge to the viewers to solve the mystery. After the contest was over, Showtime reran it with the ending revealing the solution. It's this complete version that was released on VHS, and the break between the cliffhanger and the resolution is jarringly abrupt. As a contest, it's a mildly intriguing challenge; as a movie, not so hot.
The politics and the nationalistic stereotypes of the movie are laughably dated; it's mentioned a few times that, even if the ill-fated cosmonaut had returned safely, her husband (a high-ranking Politburo member) would have had her killed for "disgracing" him. Because, y'know, Commies DO that sort of thing.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
The primarily-Canadian cast includes quite a few familiar faces who have done bigger and better things (Alberta Watson, Wendy Crewson, Peter Dvorsky, etc.). Michael Ironside, traditionally the prime suspect in ANY thriller he's in, plays it relatively understated but firm as the voice of authority. And Wilford Brimley...well, he's Wilford Brimley. What else can I say?



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