Space Truckers is a Stuart Gordon movie—Gordon is best known for the H.P. Lovecraft adaptation Re-Animator and for his masterpiece, From Beyond (which is the better film). This is not one of his better movies, but it’s so bonkers that it has a certain charm.
It stars Dennis Hopper as a space trucker, John Canyon, and it’s Hopper at his least interesting. He told Gordon a few times during the filmmaking that he was the worst director he had ever worked with, to which Gordon replied that there is a thin line between the best and the worst. Hopper’s character is a sort of renegade space transporter dude who’s ducking and diving. His commander screws him over, so he has to go into black market work. This brings him together with an up-and-coming trucker called Mike (Steven Dorff) and a waitress called Cindy (Debbi Mazar). The trio gets caught up in a bad deal: they’re supposed to transport some sex robots to Earth, but as it turns out, the cargo isn’t quite what it seems… Their rig is damaged, and they have to be rescued by some pirates, one of whom has his eyes on Cindy.
It was all shot in Ardmore Studios in Ireland, with financial help from the Irish film board. Given that one scene was supposed to be in the Mojave Desert but had to be made on a local beach, this introduced some limitations. There’s a noticeable nod to that much superior movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, in the rotating hallway shot. Gordon’s interview on the disc covers the Kubrick references and some of the technical issues they faced in making a space opera on a low budget.
It’s one of Hopper’s first post-Waterworld outings—Waterworld was one of his largest performances, but this is a much more straightforward role. The plot has some similarities to other films, especially Star Wars (or perhaps more Spaceballs) and the Firefly series. Dorff was still an up and coming indie actor at the time, having done Backbeat and I Shot Andy Warhol, and surprisingly he ended up making more off the film than Hopper thanks to having a better agent. He’s fine in the part, as is Mazar although her role doesn’t give her much to do. The main villain is played by Charles Dance, a veteran British character actor who has a great time as a half-cyborg/half-human. Barbara Crampton, an actor many viewers will immediately recognise from ‘80s cult films, including several of Gordon’s, also pops up in an extended cameo near the end.
Of course, it has some of the worst special effects ever screened in a cinema, with a quality level that looks like something from a PlayStation 1 game. The “space truck” was a model, but the rest of the spaceships are CGI, and putting the two together just doesn’t work visually. Plus, the CGI is just terrible (despite a $27,000,000 budget—I know Hopper had some debts to pay off, but he can’t have cost that much!)
Special features include a 23-minute interview with Gordon; shorter interviews with art director Simon Lamont and composer Colin Towns (who started out as the keyboardist in the Ian Gilliam Band and eventually branched out into doing cult film scores, including Rawhead Rex and Vampire’s Kiss).