Thursday, April 15, 2010

Murder In Space

(Steven Hilliard Stern, 1985)
If it somehow escaped your notice, the blurb on the box double-underlines the obvious: this is Agatha Christie in orbit. Just what we needed, right? The 'futuristic' trappings of low-budget space travel do no favours to the laborious, anachronistic plot, which positively creaks under the weight of its double crossing Commies and countless boring romantic liaisons. They do actually feature a gay astronaut, but of course he's therefore portrayed as a conniving bitch and automatic suspect so it hardly serves to modernize things. Whatever reasons they have for floating around in space are obscured by the relentless soap operatics, which do their tradition proud by being utterly corny and mechanical - these are cogs, not characters. On the ground, Wilford Brimley is amusingly laid-back as the crotchety family man who runs this sub-NASA operation, but you really don't need to see Martin Balsam playing a Russian ambassador, and by the time we reach the endless, flashback-larded deductive exposition at the climax, everyone is too bored to care.

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