Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

308

Space is the Place: The Mutha Ship Connection

Rex  Butters By

Sign in to view read count
Everything is in its place but you, Planet Earth. —Sun Ra
In 1974 the original Brother From Another Planet, Sun Ra, participated in a legendary low budget indie sci-fi film based on the Ra myth. Shot in 16mm around Oakland’s Merritt College and San Jose’s Rosicrucian Museum, Space Is The Place stars Ra as a crazy wisdom-cracking alien come to transport black folks to an Edenic planet through the transformative quality of music. Along the way he battles Evil in a game of cards on an isolated table in the middle of the desert, invoking a collision of Bergman and Jodorowsky. Given the year and budget, ample elements of blaxploitation also collide with the beneficent alien from The Day the Earth Stood Still. Transitional Arkestra performance footage shows up here and there, the musicians filmed on a soundstage at the infamous Mitchell Brothers’ studio across the building from the simultaneous filming of Behind the Green Door.

The film opens with Ra’s odd ship flying through space, looking like a flying pair of gag sunglasses. June Tyson and the band chant, “It’s after the end of the world – don’t you know that yet?” The band, in full regalia, explores a primordial forest planet and Ra begins talking about “altered destiny.” Suddenly it’s Chicago, 1943, and a strangely-dressed stride pianist named “Sonny Ray” plays for a burlesque show. His nemesis, a mac daddy named the Overseer, orders the theater to can the pianist, but Ra clears the house when his barrelhouse piano takes a turn to Saturn – resulting in glass shattering, the piano smoking, and desperate chaos as people flee. Ra and the Overseer both transport to their desert card table and influence action on the earth dimension with peculiar tarot cards.

The Judgement card features Ra’s spaceship, which comes in for a landing on earth with heavy media coverage to hear his “plan for the salvation of the black race.” Ra and company are resplendently costumed as they step through the dry ice fog and disembark from the ship. Ra materializes before kids in a rec center with the intention of recruiting them to his space mission. He offers them the dire warning, “the year 2000 is just around the corner!” Later he sets up an Outer Space Employment agency and plays people with koans in an attempt to wake them up.

NASA guys bug his phone and generally harass him, until finally they kidnap him before his big concert. “How do you convert your harmonic progressions into energy?” they demand fruitlessly. As a means of torture, they make him listen to “Dixie” played by a marching band on headphones. A couple of kids from the rec center see the snatch and follow the white van, freeing Sun Ra in time for his show.

“Everything is in its place but you, Planet Earth,” he says, then he outlines his Intergalactic Doctrine in a call and response with June Tyson. The Arkestra rocks in all its performance footage, Marshall Allen looking like a kid. After foiling an assassination plot with outside improvisation, Ra heals a junkie before heading back to the Paradise planet. “I’m the Myth talking to you,” he says as his ship takes off and the earth explodes.

For a lost sci-fi B film from the ‘70s, the picture and sound quality are pristine. Ra composed all his own dialogue, and there are too many gems to repeat. Bonus features include a recent interview with the producer and director, plus seven minutes of Sun Ra home movies. These silent movies are are shown with a music track by the Arkestra. The movie’s a must-see for fans of Sun Ra, who’s at least as good as Elvin Jones in Zachariah, and for fans of cult movie sci-fi and blaxploitation, there’s just no other film like it.


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read La La Land DVD/Film Reviews La La Land
by Gareth Thomas
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Jeff Beck: Live at the Hollywood Bowl DVD/Film Reviews Jeff Beck: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
by Doug Collette
Published: October 7, 2017
Read Rolling Stones From The Vault: Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theatre 2015 DVD/Film Reviews Rolling Stones From The Vault: Sticky Fingers Live at the...
by Doug Collette
Published: September 30, 2017
Read Frank Sinatra: Portrait Of An Album | Sinatra Sings DVD/Film Reviews Frank Sinatra: Portrait Of An Album | Sinatra Sings
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: September 27, 2017
Read Frank Sinatra: Live From Caesar’s Palace | The First 40 Years DVD/Film Reviews Frank Sinatra: Live From Caesar’s Palace | The First...
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: September 27, 2017
Read Frank Sinatra: The Royal Festival Hall (1962) | Live At Carnegie Hall DVD/Film Reviews Frank Sinatra: The Royal Festival Hall (1962) | Live At...
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: September 27, 2017
Read "Fathom Events Presents "The Grateful Dead Movie"" DVD/Film Reviews Fathom Events Presents "The Grateful Dead Movie"
by Doug Collette
Published: April 30, 2017
Read "Bob Dylan: No Direction Home - Deluxe 10th Anniversary  Edition" DVD/Film Reviews Bob Dylan: No Direction Home - Deluxe 10th Anniversary ...
by Doug Collette
Published: December 18, 2016
Read "Man of the World: The Peter Green Story" DVD/Film Reviews Man of the World: The Peter Green Story
by Jim Trageser
Published: February 11, 2017
Read "Jeff Beck: Live at the Hollywood Bowl" DVD/Film Reviews Jeff Beck: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
by Doug Collette
Published: October 7, 2017
Read "La La Land" DVD/Film Reviews La La Land
by Gareth Thomas
Published: October 17, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!