CANNON MONTH 2: Prison Ship 2005 (1986)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was first on the site on May 28, 2022 and I almost did it myself for Cannon Month, but nobody knows Fred Olen Ray movies better than Jenn.

Take a look at that catalog from 21st Century. What a year of pure wild cinema!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxldn

Fred Olen Ray’s women’s prison in space movie. Sandy Brooke plays Taura, a miner who gets sent to the big house…or rather big ship…after crossing paths with Bantor (Ross Hagen in his first appearance in Ray joint), on the planet Arous. Once onboard the “Vehemence”, it’s pretty standard stuff in terms of the women’s prison genre minus the obligatory shower scene. We have a sadistic warden, and her flunky lesbian head guard, played by Marya Gant and an eye-patched Dawn Wildsmith, respectively. We also have a group of tough female convicts with names like Mike and Squeaker who are, at first, wary of Taura but ultimately learn to trust her so they can band together to escape when the opportunity presents itself.

Produced for $200,000 at Roger Corman’s New World studios in Venice Beach, California, Star Slammer gives you a lot of bang for the buck. The prison sets were built using abandoned egg flats and carpet remnants, but they’re lit so well that you can’t tell. Eagle-eyed viewers will also notice that the villains’ costumes came from Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn (1983) and the prison guard uniforms are from Galaxy of Terror (1981.) There’s also the land rover from the TV reboot of Logan’s Run, the monster from Ted Bohus’s The Deadly Spawn, footage from John Carpenter’s Dark Star (1974), and spaceship effects from Battle Beyond the Stars (1980). Waste not, want not!

I assumed the most impressive effect of all was Sandy Brooke’s boob job, but an expert has since counseled me that they are more than likely natural. A rare thing indeed in the 1980s. Star Slammer is not a film that takes itself seriously and it looks like it was a helluva lotta fun to make. The scene with the prisoner grooving out playing the harmonica in her cell is hilarious. It’s so funny, it even made the trailer. Throw in cameos from John Carradine and Aldo Ray as “The Judge” and the “Inquisitor” and a cute little robot voiced by the director and you’ve got a lot of laughs.

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