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Plot: Spaces Babes crash-land on Earth. Hilarity ensues!

Apparently quite a few people are longing for the halcyon days when exploitation cinema catered to every discerning taste that Hollywood couldn’t or wouldn’t. In this day and age of superheroes and multiverses something like this is a breath of fresh air. Space Babes From Outer Space, if the title wasn’t enough of a giveaway, is a tribute to 1950s/60s science-fiction. Whereas the most accomplished and best remembered examples of the form were tightly-scripted and smartly written cautionary tales warning about nuclear annihilation and the importance of foreign relations usually in the guise of Cold War parables and Red Scare metaphors Space Babes From Outer Space has none such lofty or heady aspirations. As the scion of StarCrash (1979), Galaxina (1980), and Earth Girls Are Easy (1988) Space Babes From Outer Space has one thing on the mind and that is… boobs. Instead of pushing some or any kind of important message Brian K. Williams has made it his sole mission to have as many girls as humanly possible shake their boobs for the camera. Channelling the spirits of Russ Meyer, Andy Sidaris, and Jim Wynorski (which is pretty damn impossible considering Wynorski is still alive) Space Babes From Outer Space is just as outrageous and kitschy as its title suggests. Besides, the title just rolls off the tongue. Williams might just have made the favourite movie of every horny 15-year-old edgelord Redditor.

The creative force behind Space Babes From Outer Space is the husband-and-wife team of Brian K. Williams and Ellie Church. Williams and Church are the mavens behind the Indiana-based boutique production company Bandit Motion Pictures and with Space Babes From Outer Space they have taken to producing nouveau retro exploitation on the model of Bring Me the Head Of the Machine Gun Woman (2012), Plan 9 (2015), The Love Witch (2016), and Commando Ninja (2018). Williams has been employed in just about every aspect of filmmaking before venturing out on his own. He’s an associate of and frequent collaborator with James Bickert from Work in Progress and both men seem to be on similar missions and creative plateaus. If interviews around production are to be believed Williams had an old script idea that he and Church reworked after a particular memorable night of heavy drinking. As with many of these ventures Space Babes From Outer Space was the subject of a successful crowdfunding campaign and delivers exactly what you want it to. According to a 2018 Idol Features interview with Church, and co-stars Alyss Winkler, and Allison Maier Space Babes From Outer Space was allegedly helmed in a brutal 10-day production schedule. Not only did it include principal photography but also the usual behind-the-scenes interviews and a glossy photo shoot. Written by Williams and co-produced by Church and Winkler Space Babes From Outer Space stars nobody you know or have ever heard of and “a bunch of strippers” from the Indiana nightclub scene. Considering how short the production time Space Babes From Outer Space looks incredible.

Exploring some remote quadrant of deep space Space Babes Carrieola (Ellie Church), Vanassa (Allison Maier), and Ragyna (Alyss Winkler) suddenly find themselves under attack by their sworn enemies, the repugnant Scrotes. In their desperation they open up a wormhole and are transported to that mythical planet they heard so much about, this Earth. Having sustained considerable damage to their ship they accidentally crash-land into a farmhouse somewhere in the wilds of Indiana. With their power cells depleted during their impromptu escape the three Babes need to find a source of energy to recharge their vessel. Marooned on a planet they know nothing about and in search of enough sexual energy to return home, the Babes deduct that they are left with no other option but to make first contact with the planet’s lifeforms. This happens quicker than they think when kind-hearted, socially inept Charlie (Brian Papandrea) comes to check out the ruckus and is instantly smitten with buxom blonde Carrieola.

Like any redblooded male Earthling Charlie is pleasantly surprised to find a trio of comically large-breasted Babes in pastel-colored spandex leotards in his home. Carrieola almost immediately ravages him once she her sensors detect his arousal. He’s charmed by a girl this straightforward and with the three insisting that they’re “not from here” he figures they must be tourists. His father Chuck (Josh Arnold) and mother Margo (Susan M. Martin) are happy enough to see Charlie finally bring a girl home. The way Charlie sees it the quickest way for the Babes to harness the sexual energy they require is to take them to the nearest stripclub, Night Moves. As luck would have it two strippers were just fired and before long Vanassa and Ragyna are gyrating around the stage. Things seem to be going their way until the Scrotes (Shane Beasley and Arthur Cullipher) launch a frontal attack on the Space Babes and each and every Earthling that happens to be in the crossfire. As the night deepens and the Scrote attack reaches its apex it will be up to Charlie to save his Space Babes from peril and imminent death. Charlie and the Babes manage to make it back to the barn and the Babes are able to recharge their vessel, only then does the malign Scrote Daddy emerge. Fated, championed and now hailed as their tellurian savior Charlie’s transported to the capital as an emissary of Earth and tasked with repopulating Titty City in what’s described as be an eternity of fornication with all of the planet’s most bosomy Babes. Would you believe this unbelievable tale is all a bedtime story that little Charlie (Drake Carter) is told by his foulmouthed grandfather (G.P. Bailey) while his mother Flow (Kelsey Carlisle) is called in to work the evening shift at Booty Bettie’s Fish and Tits?

If the plot synopsis wasn’t enough of an indication Space Babes From Outer Space is a free-for-all reach-around of plot elements borrowed from Barbarella (1968), Zeta One (1969) and 2069 – A Sex Odyssey (1974) with a dose of the puerile humour of Meatballs (1979), Porky’s (1981) and Revenge Of the Nerds (1984). Since this is a nostalgia-driven feature it lays on the references and puns on pretty thick too. First, there’s a portal-jump plot contrivance is straight out of Vampirella (1994) and the Babes crash into a farmhouse just like Marty McFly in Back to the Future (1985). In tradition of kitsch as Flesh Gordon (1974) the Babes’ aerodynamic spacevessel is, of course, boob-shaped replete with a virgin-white console decked out with tinfoil, colorful lightbulbs and (what else?) an ovary-shaped steeringwheel. The comparison to Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957) and its economic ship/cockpit design is easy and obvious. The Scrotes are penis-shaped monsters modeled on the Rock Eater from Galaxina (1980).

Of the three Church comes to closest to resembling the late Dorothy Stratten in and as Galaxina (1980). Obviously that was the biggest inspiration behind Space Babes From Outer Space and if the costumes don’t sell it, Church certainly will. Daddy Scrote is an abomination somewhere between the pleasantly clumsy Ordric from Galaxina (1980) and the overzealous Lord Crumb from Bad Taste (1987). The fish-out-of-water comedy is very much in vein of Sorceress (1982) and the much expected (and usually odious) slapstick does, thankfully, not materialize. The Spaces Babes’ formal greeting is worth a chuckle or two. While not all of the jokes land (some of them are just plain vulgar) the Babes’ names are a hoot by themselves. Carrieola is an obvious contraction of Carrie and “areola” (or breast tissue), Ragyna may not be an anagram the way Angvia was but the idea is pretty much identical. Unbelievable as it may sound, Vanassa doesn’t have any superpower emanating from her ass. For shame, mr. Williams, for shame. Which is perhaps a good time as any to discuss where Space Babes From Outer Space falters.

The cringy dialogue is way too try-hard in its edginess and while the barrage of double-entendres, racy witticisms, and unrelenting sexual innuendo from the Babes is both cute and side-splittingly hilarious; the constant profanity and expletive-laden banter is not. A strategically-placed F-bomb can completely liven up a static scene, constant profanity is cheap, juvenile and speaks to a dire lack of imagination. The dinner scene in particular is cruel and unusual torture for exactly that reason. Equally frustrating but true, wall-to-wall frontal nudity and an avalanche of jiggling boobs of just about every shape, size and form grows exhausting too. While we’re about the last to complain about female nudity in a feature some moderation would perhaps have helped here. As producer and headlining star Ellie Church abstains from any nudity and has the most dialogue. As such the brunt of the nudity falls on Winkler and Maier who wonderfully rise to the occassion. Since the majority of the cast is best described as “a bunch of strippers” it almost makes you wish they dug up Julie K. Smith or Ava Cadell for the matronly role of Sandy and hired a recognizable (more cross-marketable) name like, for instance, Ava Addams, Jelena Jensen, Bella Brookz, or Korina Kova for the kink-specific role of Momma Milk. If TomCat Films can afford Veronica Ricci and Rene Perez veteran Jenny Allford certainly the average adult star must be within an indie’s reach.

Only in the isolated scene here and there (be it through amateurish scene composition, cinematography, or wobbly acting) does the feature betray its independent roots. The overall production value, acting and cinematography is surprisingly decent for a crowfunded feature like this which, sadly, isn’t always the case. At least nobody’s expected to do accents here. In Amazon Hot Box (2018) it was impossible to tell whether Church’s accent was supposed to be German or Russian, for one. Since this is supposed to be a 1950s sci-fi throwback we’ll never understand the black metal kid gag during the dinner scene. The Scrotes are funny enough by themselves but they never really pose much of a threat the way the aliens in Bad Taste (1987) did. Space Babes From Outer Space caters to a bunch of fetishes but the actual sex (and erotica) is pretty limited. This actually looks like a semi-professional product which is not something that can be said about the median TomCat Films or The Asylum flick. We can’t wait for Brian K. Williams to take on the Andy Sidaris spy-action romp, the Albert Pyun cyberpunk action, the Cirio H. Santiago topless kickboxing movie, a Jean Rollin lesbian vampire epic or a Pete Walker knickers and knockers terror-suspense spectacular. If Space Babes From Outer Space is any indication, Bandit Motion knows their exploitation and it’ll be interesting to see what they produce in years to come. Hopefully they’ll pick up Rene Perez babes Eva Hamilton, Stormi Maya, Nicole Stark, Emily Sweet, Spring Inés Peña, Sierra Sherbundy, Omnia Bixler, Gemma Donato, or Raven Lexy along the way.

Plot: criminals and hostages end up in bar somewhere on the Mexican border….

There’s no contesting that the ‘90s were pretty dark and abysmal time for the horror genre. Much of it had devolved into thrillers, self-aware or otherwise, on the one hand and comedy on the other. Hollywood had attempted to revive the classic gothic with Frankenstein Unbound (1990), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and Interview With the Vampire (1994) and Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) had resurrected (but not necessarily improved) the tired and tiring slasher for an entire new generation. Mexico always had been a steady haven for horror and earned its place in cult cinema history thanks to a handful of titles in the golden age. Who better to bring the Mexican spirit to America than the country’s promising export with the help from Hollywood’s hottest young new talent? From Dusk Till Dawn, or one of the best horror films of the ‘90s, may not reinvent the wheel but it puts a fresh spin on an old formula. What more could you possibly want? Occasionally the Hollywood machine gets something right.

What was From Dusk Till Dawn if not two friends getting together and throwing one hell of a kegger? These two friends just happened to be Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. As the legend goes, Tarantino had offered the script to special effects man Robert Kurtzman to direct but he declined. This prompted Tarantino to hand it to Rodriguez and he gladly accepted. Kurtzman in turn lend his talents to the effects with his Kurtzman, Nicotero & Berger EFX Group. The time was right. Rodriguez had just legitimized himself in the face of the Hollywood bigwigs, first by making El Mariachi (1992) by the skin of his teeth on a very modest budget of $7,000 and he had admirably evinced that he could handle a sizable budget with the remake Desperado (1995) the year before. Presumably something of a diversion in between serious projects Rodriguez and Tarantino threw this curveball in between Desperado (1995) and The Faculty (1998) as well as the 1970s crime epic valentine Pulp Fiction (1994) and the blaxploitation tribute Jackie Brown (1997), respectively. Not only was From Dusk Till Dawn Tarantino’s first paid writing gig (he also executive produced and acted to help his friend Rob out), it’s also somewhat of an anomaly in the filmographies of both as Tarantino and Rodriguez haven’t made a horror before or since. A decade later both would reunite for Grindhouse (2007) but that was more of a valentine to ‘60s/’70s drive-in exploitation rather than a straight-up horror. Eli Roth has done more for exploitation horror than Rodriguez or Tarantino ever did. All quabbles and reservations aside, the spirit of Juan López Moctezuma proudly lives on in From Dusk Till Dawn.

After robbing a bank in Kansas and escaping jail, Seth Gecko (George Clooney) and his slightly psychotic and deeply unwell brother Richard (Quentin Tarantino) hold up Benny's World of Liquor where they add store clerk Pete Bottoms (John Hawkes) and Texas Ranger Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) to their ever-growing list of casualties. The two are pursued by FBI Agent Stanley Chase (John Saxon) and after leaving the liquor store in flaming ruin the two head to the Mexican border with their hostage bank teller Gloria Hill (Brenda Hillhouse) in tow. They pull in at the Dew Drop Motel in Texas where they bump into the Fuller family. Jacob (Harvey Keitel) has taken his adopted son Scott (Ernest Liu) and daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis) on a vacation. Jacob is a minister in the midst of a crisis of faith after the death of his wife. Seth and Richie commandeer Jacob's RV to smuggle them across the border at gunpoint and order to take them to their rendez-vous. The minister is to take them to the Titty Twister bar where the brothers will meet their contact Carlos (Cheech Marin) at dawn providing them shelter at El Rey. Carlos figures that a bar doubling as a stripclub/brothel will offer all the necessary entertainment.

The Titty Twister proudly exclaims to be open from “dusk till dawn” and if Chet Pussy (Cheech Marin) is to be believed they have every kind of girl for every kind of customer. The intrepid gang first meet resistance from bartender Razor Charlie (Danny Trejo) who insists that they don’t fit their strict “bikers and truckers only” policy. Jacob is able to negotiate their entry on a technicality. Before long they are introduced to the bar’s main attraction, the devilishly beautiful Satánico Pandemónium (Salma Hayek) whose dance of seduction instantly beguiles and enslaves Richie. When the bar employees reveal themselves to be a reptilian breed of vampires known as culebra the group find allies in tough bikers Sex Machine (Tom Savini) and Frost (Fred Williamson). They are able to hold their own against the first wave, but the things have a nasty habit of resurrecting their previously claimed human victims. As the vampires re-emerge and start to claw down the group must stay alive to reach the liberating rays of daylight.

George Clooney had played a guest role on the CBS hospital sitcom E/R (1984) and just finished his 6-year run as Doug Ross on the NBC medical drama ER (1994-2009). About ten years before Clooney had been in the horror spoofs Return to Horror High (1987) and Return of the Killer Tomatoes! (1988). Juliette Lewis was the prerequisite Hollywood alternative chick. Her star was rising due to her roles in Cape Fear (1991), Natural Born Killers (1994), The Basketball Diaries (1995), and Strange Days (1995). Harvey Keitel was and is a living legend and has played many iconic roles. Keitel has worked with Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Jane Campion, and Abel Ferrara appearing in, among many others, Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), the comedy Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), Bad Lieutenant (1992), and The Piano (1993). To top things off, the all-star cast is anchored by pulp cinema pillars Fred Williamson, John Saxon and Tom Savini and Rodriguez regulars Cheech Marin and Danny Trejo. This being a Tarantino script every line Clooney (and every other main character, Fullers excepted) utters is filled with rapid-fire expletives and random profanity. And then there’s her, Salma Hayek.

Salma Hayek as Satánico Pandemónium

No coverage of From Dusk Till Dawn is complete without mentioning, obligatory or otherwise, Salma Hayek. Are we terribly dating ourselves by calling Salma a hot tamale? Hayek’s electrifying performance was a sure-shot to international superstardom, if her sizzling role as the love interest in Desperado (1995) hadn’t done so already. Only Laura Cerón from ER (1994-2009) came close to matching la Hayek. In these times before Eva Longoria, Ana Ortiz, and Selena Gomez; Hayek was Mexico’s biggest export.

What other way to describe Salma other than the best of Bella Cortez, Tina Romero, and Maribel Guardia, combined? Rodriguez obviously was keenly aware of the fact and has Hayek writhing and slithering around suggestively in nothing but a tiny burgundy bikini and feathery headdress while handling a large Albino Burmese Python Reticulus. Tarantino on the other hand uses the opportunity to indulge his well-known foot fetish. First, by ogling Lewis and getting down and dirty with Hayek. If Salma’s scorching dance routine doesn’t get your pulse racing you’re either dead, barren or both. In age-old Hollywood tradition the extras get topless but the main attraction doesn’t. Hayek has a scant few lines but delivers each and every of them with wide-eyed, lipsmacking glee. It makes you long for Ukrainian belly dancer Diana Bastet to re-enact (and expand) the Satánico Pandemónium routine with costume and all. Salma’s delectable shapes and forms turned heads a quarter century ago and continue to do so to this day. In a now legendary 2021 Red Table Talk interview the 55-year-old candidly admitted hers only gotten more sumptuous and bigger with age. As a woman of such enormously gigantic proportions, the price of beauty comes with all the expected physical ailments.

Regardless of how you might feel about Tarantino and his post-modern witticisms From Dusk Till Dawn remains a formidable genre exercise on its own merit. Whether it’s the heist/action of the first hour or the suvival/vampire horror of the last 48 minutes the shift remains as brilliantly executed, seamless in transition and unexpected as when it first premiered. For cult cinema lovers there’s a lot to see if you know where to look. Judging from Hayek’s sultry dance Rodriguez apparently has seen Black Eva (1976). The batscene was clearly inspired by Hammer’s The Kiss Of the Vampire (1963). Once the surviving vampire killers emerge they bear some semblance to those of Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter (1974). The vampires are modeled after the Deadites from Army Of Darkness (1992). Frost’s slaying and ultimate demise echoes one of the earlier Derek enemy kills in Bad Taste (1987).

Sex Machine transforms into a grotesque behemoth rat-vampire monstrosity similar to the rat-monkey in Peter Jackson’s Braindead (1992). Hayek’s transformation into her reptile culebra form pre-dates Mallika Sherawat’s in Hisss (2010) by almost fifteen years and neither for that matter does she vocalize only in hisses and moans. Chet Pussy’s often sampled and legendary pussy monologue remains priceless as ever, as does Chango beer and Sleaze tequila. Equally funny is when during the Titty Twister massacre Tito & Tarantula continue to play music on a severed torso and various body parts. The vampires’ demise by daylight is eerily similar to that of the Gremlins in Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) or the shambling corpses in A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), you be the judge. Oh yeah, and where else are you going to see a dive bar/brothel built on a Aztec pyramid/temple consecrated to snake god Quetzalcóatl or Coatlicue? Nowhere, that’s where. It also helps that it’s exceptionally gory. It’s a wonder that Hollywood and the censors allowed it.

It wouldn’t be too far off to call From Dusk Till Dawn the Bad Taste (1987) or Evil Dead II (1987) of the nineties. Is it as crazy as some of Mexico’s best horror of yore? Hell, no but for a mainstream Hollywood production it’s more than a little quirky and even mildly insane. People with no cinematic literacy or knowledge still delude themselves into thinking Tarantino is some prodigious genius that reinvents cinema on the regular. Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s no denying Tarantino’s visual mastery, vast knowledge, witty writing and technical craft but every single thing he has ever done is taking the exploitation genre of his preference, and blowing it up with all the bells and whistles that come with a massive Hollywood budget. As these things tend to go From Dusk Till Dawn spawned a pair of direct-to-video follow-ups in the form of the unnecessary sequel From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999), the prequel From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter (1999) as well as the series From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series (2014-2016). That most, if not all, couldn’t hold a candle to the original was, sadly, expected but at least they built and expanded upon the mythology and characters it established. As of this writing, it hasn’t been tarnished by a modern-day remake/reimagining – hopefully it will remain that way too.