There are space operas, and then there are space operas.
While no one would ever argue that STAR WARS, STARSHIP TROOPERS, or 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY are anything more then juvenile clap trap - existing only to satiate the need for filler during the long periods of monotony that mark youth - our noble film scholars, with their tremendous intellects, will strike with vengeance upon any poor soul that does not raise their hands to the sky, fall to their knees and thank the sweet heavens that heights of Wagnerian bliss can be reached through the medium through such films as WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, SPACEMAN! A true space opera.
STAR WARS is nothing more then a film that rips off the "highlights" of previous motion pictures while retaining none of the soul - like fragments of various Mozart Symphonies as rearranged by a computer. STARSHIP TROOPERS is Verhoeven running out of steam and looking to his past, most notably ROBOCOP, for salvation - which is the cinematic equivalent of eating cold, stale leftovers. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY... what the hell was going on there? I couldn't figure out a God Damn thing. First there's those monkeys sitting around, then they're beating each other to death, then we're in space, then there's a psycho computer, then there's all those damn colors... What the hell was that hippie crap about?!!!
WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, SPACEMAN! is different than those bore-fests, for it has a reason to exist - a reason other than to get every theater it plays to smell like a charnel house or a bleach factory - and that reason is naked women.
There's a planet, and it's dying. The only hope of salvation for the inhabitants is to breed with earthlings. Given the task of impregnating earth women are Sergeant Jackoff and Private Asshole, our heroes. Like any alien race would, they marvel at the differences between their kind and Homo sapiens. For example, they notice how funny the male phallus is and also how persons can sometimes have large pimples on their butts. It's these little asides of observation that bring the audience closer to Sergeant Jackoff and Private Asshole, making them real, making them human.
For their first attempt to procreate with a female they go to a bordello where they take advantage of a hooker (Dyanne Thorne of ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE SS). Their method of impregnation is far different than ours, as the space alien's stamen is located in the mouth. After a brief period of procreation they satisfy the hooker with something called an orgasm - must be an alien word - and as a result she becomes a red-hot nympho ready to mount the first stud who comes in her door - just like it would really happen, more or less.
Sgt. Jackoff and Pvt. Asshole decide they'd prefer the seclusion of their spacecraft for their task and take to beaming Earth women up, beaming them a few times when they're in the ship, and beaming them back down to Earth. Once they return, the women are transformed into red-hot nymphos ready to mount the first stud who comes in their door (not unlike Ms. Thorne). Unfortunately, tragedy strikes our two space-traveling Romeos when one of them contracts VD and they're forced to return to their planet. It's a powerful scene, one reminiscent of the finest work of Capra and Lubitsch.
After a fix up the aliens return for a few more "engagements" before wrapping up and heading home. But don't worry about their fate they've left a little something behind to remember them by.
As directed by the 70's version of Jean Cocteau, William A. Levey (BLACKENSTEIN, THE HAPPY HOOKER GOES TO WASHINGTON), WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, SPACEMAN! is a visual masterpiece. One might be fooled into thinking that the film is comprised of nothing more then a series of static shots, edited together choppily, visually engaging only via the color-saturated print. Yet to think that is to be oblivious to the social commentary by the master satirist that Levey is! Don't you see that this is just a subtle way to show the plight of the domesticated American woman, whose life at that time consisted of a series of boring routines, randomly strung together, engaging only via the massive quantities of booze they ingested and the hard-core lesbian trysts they had with other bored housewives?! It's this undercurrent of thought that makes WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, SPACEMAN! one of the greatest films of our time and of all time.
The acting in WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, SPACEMAN! is extraordinary. Take the performance of Sandy Carey (SEX WEIRDO) as Suzette the maid. For her performance she wears a French maid's uniform and then takes it off! What the hell was the Academy thinking in 1976 when it gave the golden statue for best actress to Louise Fletcher and didn't even consider Sandy Carey? Did Louise Fletcher put on a French maid's uniform and then take it off in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST? HELL NO, and therefore her performance was not worthy of the Oscar!!! (Note: The other actresses in the film deliver equally impressive performances, particularly Ed Wood starlet Valda Hansen, but, alas, wore other articles of clothing to remove rather than a French maid's uniform.)
WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, SPACEMAN! was produced by Harry H. Novak and released theatrically via his ever popular company, Box Office International. On DVD it has been released by Image Entertainment as part of the Something Weird line and it is wonderful - far better than any childhood daydream of visiting Mr. Wonka at his Chocolate Factory and actually living to tell about it.
The film is released at the 1.33:1 ratio. The print quality of this release, for butter-churning fare, is extraordinary. Sure, there are scratches and blips, but the colors look fine for the most part (occasionally the color does fade a bit). But the funky disco spacesuits our heroes wear sparkle like the king's diamonds!
The sound is good for this release, although I did have to turn the sound up higher then usual to get the full sonics - particularly when I wanted to boogie down to the theme song. Be careful though, for during the simulated "romance" sessions the actors are dubbed by a more over-the-top vocalist whose voice doesn't even remotely match the actors' and who speaks five times louder then anybody else. What this means is that when the vocals change and you've got the sound on high, well, let's just say don't watch this film when your mom is home, or if you have neighbors who live closer then 7 or 8 miles away, and aren't deaf, dumb and smelly.
As with many of his more recent titles, Something Weird's Mike Vraney has included a goldmine of extras on this disc. There are two shorts, the first of which is the Box Office International offering THE PEEPER, about a guy who looks through windows and sees lesbian three ways and an unconvincingly fornicating couple. The second, possibly a truncated porn, is DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS; this one concerns a young man who moves in with a coven of witches and all the crazy things that happen (this is the film with the crazy "cat licking a nipple" scene that all the four-eyes are talking about!).
There are seven trailers for various Box Office International offerings: WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, SPACEMAN!, BELOW THE BELT, DIRTY MIND OF SALLY YOUNG, THE GODSON, SCREAM IN THE STREETS, SEXCAPADES IN MEXICO, and THE TOY BOX. These trailers are spicy and shockingly hard, but not hardcore. Rounding it all out is a gallery of Harry H. Novak exploitation art accompanied by radio adverts for Novak's films.
The only thing missing from this DVD is an audio commentary by Novak himself. Since he did one for the enjoyable PLEASE DON'T EAT MY MOTHER, why not one for WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, SPACEMAN!? It would have been great to hear Novak point out that some of the girls were real blondes and to know which girls in WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, SPACEMAN! were "built for pleasure."
WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, SPACEMAN! is yet another magnificent DVD release from Something Weird, and a special thanks should be given to Mike Vraney for preserving these films and keeping them from being lost. Whether someone hates WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, SPACEMAN! (idiots) or loves it (socially maladjusted pervert), it's a great disc to have around particularly on cold, lonely nights. It preserves, along with other titles in the Something Weird line, an important part of America's cinematic legacy. So to Mike Vraney and Something Weird, I say, "Keep'm coming!"
Reviewed Format: DVD
Rated: Not Rated
Stars: Dyanne Thorne, John Ireland Jr., Valda Hansen, Sandy Carey, Tina La Wise
Writer: Shomo D. Weinstein
Director: William A. Levey
Distributor: Image Entertainment
Original Year of Release: 1975
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Extras: trailer; Harry Novak gallery of exploitation art; trailers for other Harry Novak pictures: BELOW THE BELT, DIRTY MIND OF SALLY YOUNG, THE GODSON, SCREAM IN THE STREETS, SEXCAPADES IN MEXICO, THE TOY BOX; two shorts: THE PEEPER, DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS; original radio spots