The foremost example of movie adaptations of corn-based snack foods, “Space Raiders” the movie actually bears little resemblance to its crispy namesakes (probably because it predates them by about four years). It does, however, have a similar nutritional content given its primarily a concoction of reused and repurposed VFX shots and musical cues from James Horner’s all-purpose score from which he used motifs again and again from 1980 through 1986.
One of the cheapest and tackiest movies Roger Corman ever produced, “Space Raiders” is basically a brazen remix of “Battle Beyond The Stars” which uses sizeable samples from the original and then adds in the minimum daily recommended dose of original content. And when I say original I mean, of course, deeply, deeply derivative. When a band of space pirates accidentally acquire a stowaway during a raid, they plan to ransom off the child to his interstellar company parents. But with bounty hunters hot on their trail, they soon find themselves on the run and trying to survive.
It may be cheap and cynically produced but it does at least feature some decent performances. Our dashing hero Hawk (Vince Edwards) may resemble a paunchy middle-aged Andrew Scott but he’s a decent enough lead and Peter (David Mendenhall) is a tremendously likeable example of that early eighties sci-fi staple: the space moppet. It also benefits from the presence of Thom Christopher, more well known as Buck Roger’s ally (and template for “Rick & Morty”’s Bird Person), Hawk. There a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo from Dick Miller and, having spent nothing on VFX and music, the budget is ploughed into creature effects with more than a few entertainingly realised aliens, decent by contemporary and modern standards.
With its low-key sexually liberated subtext (intra-species couples are the apparent norm judging by many of the background extras), you can see elements in this that would go on to, if not directly inspire, then at least inform future (better) titles like “Spaceballs” and “Firefly”. It also shares “Blake’s 7”’s penchant for exciting shoot out and chase scenes around refineries while its final shot is that venerable touchstone of sci-fi TV and film: Vasquez Rocks.
A tawdry example of the worst habits of Corman’s oeuvre, “Space Raiders” is still inoffensive, forgettable fun. And while its predecessor (and cinematic organ donor) may have given a leg up to luminaries such as James Cameron, James Horner and Bill Paxton, perusing the cast and crew of this movie reveals that it provided a launchpad for the career of “Doctor Who” and “Sherlock” director Rachel Talalalay which is on its own worth the investment of 84 minutes.
“Space Raiders” is available on Amazon Prime.