“To rule the galaxy, an evil dictator kidnaps a scientist and steals his invention, which will provide limitless energy for his robots.”
— Where have we heard this story before, Mr. Copywriter?
Uh, I have, in fact, seen this movie before . . . and George Lucas didn’t make it: Alfonzo Brescia made it back in 1977 and it was called Star Odyssey and the “energy invention” was Iridium/Etherium. The scientist who discovered it was subsequently kidnapped and a space rogue and the scientist’s space beauty of a daughter recruits a not-so-Magnificent Seven to save the universe — which is why this movie (just by the trailer alone) looks way older than its 1990 VHS-release date.
This time around, in the year 2097, the good doctor Ivan Integgin (which sounds like Iridium/Etherium), the head of the powerful Omega Institute, discovers a self-rejuvenating energy source, called Egrin (it sounds like, oh, never mind). It’s the answer the human race has hoped for to save the Earth!
Uh, hold on there, Starbuck . . . not if the evil Doctor Croam has a say about it. He plans, with his black-clad stormtroopers, to enslave the galaxy by stealing the discovery. And not even the
Rebel Alliance, the United Galaxy’s Royal Fighters can stop him. But Han Solo Ryan Chase, a galactic bounty hunter and soldier of fortune (with gambling debts and a price on his head, natch), along with his Wookie buddy, Chewbacca, Arto, his blue-skinned Chameloid sidekick, Gloria, his smart-mouthed onboard computer, and the smart-mouthed (she’s not a skank!) Princess Leia galactic princess, Aurora, they’ll rescue Doctor Integgin and save the galaxy!
What’s great about revisiting these VHS ditties all these digital years later is our celluloid Schadenfreude in the efforts of the young, burgeoning filmmakers who worked on the films, when they social media-resurface to share their frustrations with their film’s troubled production. And in the case of Space Chase, this time it’s not the IMDb or a Facebook thread, but You Tube, as three of the actors — Bill Freed, aka actor Philip Notaro (an agent forced the stage-name change; he stars as Tane), Traci Caitlyn, aka actress Traci Hart (Princess Aurora), and Barry James Hickey (our rogue hero, Ryan Chase) — swap memories via the user thread on the embedded trailer (seen below).
And since we’ve never heard of nor seen this film — only first learning of it by way of our review for Star Crystal (this week), by way of that film’s screenwriter Eric Woster serving as the cinematographer on this film — we’ll have to use their insights to describe the film to you.
Is Space Chase intended as a homage to the Italian Star Wars clones* of old?
Your guess is as good as ours. Again . . . based on the memories of Mr. Freed and Hickey and Ms. Hart, we’ve pieced together this film’s past. . . .
While it looks like it was shot several years earlier during the Italian “Pasta Wars” craze of the early ’80s** (or, at the very least, languished on the shelf for several years before its release), writer, producer and director Nick Kimaz’s non-union film was actually shot in 1989 in Palmdale, California. His mom did all of the “too spicy” homemade catering. At least one of the actresses, Julie Nine (starred as Romy), allegedly posed for Playboy — and she threw a fit on-set when her (expensive?) jacket was stolen from the set. Actress Traci Hart ended up dating and having a long-term relationship with Nick’s brother, Tom, who served as the film’s soundman, and she almost had Nick as a brother-in-law. (We’ve since learned the correct family tree — via a December 2021 WP comment, seen below — from actress Traci Hart: Tom wasn’t Nick’s brother, but Eric Woster’s brother-in-law. At least we got the “jacket story,” right!) If you’ve actually seen this obscurity, we’ll settle your bets: Nick Kimaz rented the baddie “black stormtroopers” costumes of Skeletor’s forces from Masters of the Universe from Cannon Pictures, as well as the props and sets from Battlestar Galactica from Universal. Yep, the starfighters were kitbashed from SR-71 model kits (actually, the in-camera model effects are the best part of the movie).
What’s really cool is that three of the film’s other actors who got their start in the business on Space Chase are still in the business. Thanks to some IMDb-mining we’ve discovered Michael Gaglio’s 87th film, Copperhead Creek, is in-production and Art Roberts is on his 193-indie credit with a role in the currently-in-production American Soldier. Then there’s the recognizable Patrick Hume. While he’s on his 67th project with the in-production Cockroaches, he’s guest-starred on the top-rated TV series Criminal Minds, NCIS: Los Angeles, The Rookie, S.W.A.T, and Sons of Anarchy.
When you consider Roland Emmerich’s Moon 44 was released in the same year, and that Space Chase was made thirteen years after the George Lucas inspiration it blatantly rips off, and that it looks like Alfonzo Brescia shot it as a “Pasta Wars” sequel to his Star Odyssey from 1979, these galactic proceedings make the plastic-verse of Glen Larson’s Buck Rogers in the 25th Century look good. And if you know my disdain for that series. . . . Is Space Chase so-bad-it’s-fun as Space Mutiny or Escape from Galaxy 3, which serve as the pinnacles in space opera awfulness?
No, not quite, but Space Chase makes Eric Woster’s other space romp, Star Crystal, look even better. But if there’s ever a movie that needs to be dumped onto a Mill Creek 50-film pack, Space Chase is it. For it is a film that needs to be saved and transformed into a MST3K’d classic. How did this NOT end up on a Commander USA’s Groovie Movies or USA’s Up All Night movie block? How is it, across multiple video store memberships and my celluloid diving the discount bins and close-outs of video stores, never encountered a copy of this movie?! Yet . . . it ends up in dubbed in Turkey and Russia and clipped on You Tube? Ye programming executives of Comet TV: I hereby implore thou to get a copy of this film onto the channel, forthwith. If you can program Convict 762 and Timelock (both reviewed, this week), then you can program this well-intentioned, valiant Wiseauian space effort on your channel.
So, thanks Nick Kimaz. Thanks to you, today was a good today. For I enjoyed myself as I discovered a new, cool obscurity and I have a digital platform to share it with the readers of B&S About Movies. Yeah, a great day, indeed. Now, I need to get a VHS copy for my collection. To eBay . . . and beyond! This is a really fun movie! Watch it!
Sadly, there’s no free or PPV streaming copies of Space Chase on the web — not even on You Tube or TubiTV, where all lost VHS’ers of the ’80s go to die. Well, not to worry, in addition to the trailer (embedded above), and thanks to this film’s rabid fanbase, we found ten scenes/clips from the film that we’ve compiled into one convenient-to-stream, You Tube playlist. Enjoy!
* We’re reviewed all of those “clones” — well, we thought we did until Space Chase showed up! — with our “Attack of the Clones,” “Ten Star Wars Ripoffs,” and “Exploring: After Star Wars Droppings” featurettes.
** We paid tribute to ‘ol Uncle Al’s five Star Wars ripoffs with our past “Drive-In Friday: Pasta Wars Night with Alfonzo Brescia” featurette.