In 1983 a group of people led by Frank Delle and his brother Marc set out to create a 13 episode space adventure for a variety show they were doing. The space adventure in question was called Beer Drinkers in Space. It was a low budget sci-fi flick conceived and created on the premise that the more beer you drink, the funnier everything seems. Fortunately, the version I saw was the "sober cut". The original version was ninety minutes long and according to the film makers, just unwatchable at that length. After seeing the movie, I can see how that would be the case. The sober cut is sixty minutes and works just fine as a complete film. I haven’t seen the ninety minute version, but I’m sure that the edits made to cut it down to sixty helped out a lot with the pacing and made for a much tighter film.
Beer Drinkers in Space in and of itself was basically created on a highly limited budget, probably half of which went to buy beer. A simplistic description of the story is basically that there’s a star tanker full of beer trying to deliver it to the nebulae 7-11. Along the way they encounter a gaggle of goofy hand puppet aliens called Leshinboon and are attacked by an evil race of anti-beer aliens called the Prohbes. The star tanker was led by the intrepid Captain Slosh (Marc Delle), who along with his trusty companions, Tank (Frank Delle) the navigator and Tipsy (Ron Cookson), the openly and highly flamboyant gay pilot, they fly through the universe on a mission to bring beer to the masses.
The film itself is fun, but never got much recognition and had largely been forgotten by nearly everyone but the people involved in its creation. This review however, is about the documentary that was just created by the film makers to give some long overdue credit and recognition to all those who were involved in the original production.
There was lots of great stuff in this documentary, but I want to mention one thing that particularly comes through more than anything else. There was a love that went into this production and a bond between the people involved in it that you just don’t find very often. Usually with a movie like this, 20 some odd years down the road people are like, "Oh yeah, that. I just want to forget that movie ever existed." You hear that all the time from people who’ve "made it" in their carrers and then want to forget the road they took to get there. This documentary however really shows the genuine good feelings and fond memories that everyone involved still have about this film. It’s something that’s so rare, when you see it and hear the stories, you come to realize how wonderful this cheesy little low-budget film really was.
Whereas most documentaries of this type are basically boring, this one wasn’t in the slightest. I felt drawn into it as person after person told their stories and I got to see how the effects were done and how the set was created. The entire set was actually built in a rental house. The main body of the ship was built in the living room, with a separate corridor section built in the garage. The whole set was basically constructed from wood frame, styrofoam and cardboard. The documentary walks us through it’s construction as well as the creation of the hand puppet aliens, the models and effects that were used for the space scenes and generally shows us in detail how it all came together. As I watched, I felt more and more like I wanted to know these people and I found myself wishing that I could have been a part of the whole thing. Something special like this that creates such a bond and such a great sense of comeraderie is a rare thing, but to have something where that same sense can be given to people who had absolutely nothing to do with the film as well…that’s virtually unknown.
During the course of this documentary we find out as well why the original source copy of this film is so low in quality. It was shot using a VHS camera, and because they had no money, they tried to save tape and get the most use out of the ones they had by using a slower speed during the filming, which gave the original footage lower quality to start with. That footage was then dumped to 3/4" tape for editing and then the final version was re-dumped back to VHS. So the final product is actually three generations old after being recorded at a lower quality setting to begin with. Needless to say the quality of Beer Drinkers in Space is bad, but it’s not unwatchable. On the contrary, there’s something kinda cool about that look in a strange sort of a way.
The documentary on the other hand is visually extremely clean and sharp with great editing, wonderful stories and great behind the scenes footage. Even if you haven’t seen the film, the documentary will hold your attention and draw you into it, again…making you almost wish you could have been a part of it. It’s a wonderful example of what people can do if they just set their minds to it and go for it. If you can come out of this documentary without feeling like you want to rush out, gather some friends together and make your own film, then I’d be really surprised. I know that’s how I felt when I finished watching it, and maybe someday soon I will.
The documentary is currently running at various film festivals. The original film was included on the disc with the documentary, but I’m not sure if it’s showing at the festivals as well or not.
If you’d like to find out more about the film and the documentary, you can visit the Beer Drinkers in Space website at http://www.beerdrinkersinspace.com. Frank Delle has now made the DVD available through the website as well, so I highly recommend you grab yourself a copy. It’s definitely worth seeing.