Originally Released July 1983
Cindy Williams as Annie McHugh
Bruce Kimmel as John & The Singing Voice of The Creature
Leslie Nielsen as Captain Jamieson
Gerrit Graham as Rodzinski
Patrick McNee as Dr. Stark
Ron Kurowski as The Creature who wasn't nice
Paul Brinegar as Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry
Cheri Eichen as TV Host #1
Margaret Willock as TV Host #2
Carol Ann Wiliams as TV Host #3
Alan Abelew as Dirty Harry Punk #1
Peter Du Pre
and Broderick Crawford as the original voice of Max (deleted)
An intrepid but insane captain, a doctor looking for anything to name after himself, a sexy but teasing morale officer and a motley crew hurl through space on the verge of total disaster in this wacky outer space comedy
When the spaceship Vertigo stops to explore a previously unknown planet, the crew finds an unrecognized dollop of protoplasm and takes it aboard ship to return it to earth for analysis. On board, life form expands into an oozing person-eating monster which communicates primarily by means of a Vegas lounge act. The crew is gobbled up one after another until the two surviving crew members come up with a plan.
On the way down to the planet where they will find the creature who isn't nice
It's talent show night and Annie sings and dances Hold Me, Touch Me, Thrill Me" and drives Rodzinski crazy
It's John's turn and he shows the crew how to make a synthetic turkey.
John continues to experiment with synthetic food and gets Annie to sample some
The Creature Communicates with a song and dance called "I Want To Eat Your Face"
They watch in disbelief and horror as the creature eats Dr. Stark
They have to decided who will go and find the creature. The captain volunteers John
The Creature escapes and John tries to warn the crew that its right behind them
To distract the creature into an airlock Annie and John sing and dance Bachelor Bills
A happy ending?
The Creature Wasn't Nice aka Spaceship aka Naked Space
The Poster for its initial release under the name of SPACESHIP
AGerman Poster & DVD for Naked Space which translates from German as Nincompoops In the Universe
Russian DVD cover
Three different English release DVD covers
The story of The Creature Wasn't Nice (aka Spaceship aka Naked Space)
Written by Bruce Kimmel
01/30/02 & 01/31/02
My second motion picture, for those who don't know, is currently entitled Naked Space and is available on DVD very inexpensively, in a full frame transfer (instead of its intended 1:85:1 ratio). I mention the full frame transfer only because when they do such a transfer they merely print the entire negative, opening up the top and bottom of the 1:85:1 ratio and exposing space which wasn't meant to be seen. Sometimes this is not a problem, other than you get a lot of unintended head room at the top of the frame (see Stanley Kubrick's The Shining). Sometimes, though, opening up the frame exposes things you should not be seeing (see Stanley Kubrick's The Shining) like the tops of sets, or the bottoms of sets or other things that aren't meant to be viewed. Therefore, in the DVD of Naked Space, you can see directly over the tops of several sets and there are a few other unseemly things exposed as well. But I digress. Prior to the film being called Naked Space it was called Spaceship. Why the title change? Because some new company bought the video rights to the film and saw that Leslie Nielsen was one of the stars, and decided to capitalize on the Naked Gun movies. However, I digress. Prior to the film being called Spaceship it was called The Creature Wasn't Nice. Yes, you heard it here, dear readers, this one little film has had three titles. Why? Well, therein lies the tale.
Back in 1981, six years to the day that The First Nudie Musical went before the cameras, I started shooting The Creature Wasn't Nice, kind of a musical comedy send-up of Alien and all those fifties sci-fi movies like It! The Terror Beyond Space (which Alien was ripped off from) - you know, the alien is on the spaceship films. We'd assembled a wonderful company - Cindy Williams, Leslie Nielsen, Patrick Macnee, Gerritt Graham and myself were the ensemble cast of five. Plus Broderick Crawford as the abusive, emotionally unstable voice of the computer, Max. And, in a scene in which our characters watch a movie on the spaceship (well, a supposed coming attraction for a movie), Dirty Harry Strikes Back, we had Paul Brineger as Clint Eastwood/Harry, and Kenneth Tobey as the Mayor (Mr. Brineger, then seventy-five, had worked with Clint in Rawhide, and Ken Tobey starred in the original The Thing). Anyway, the shoot was a ton of fun, and more importantly, the dailies were absolutely hilarious. But, I made a key mistake and it was a mistake that you never want to make as a director. I allowed myself to be talked into hiring an editor who, while having a lot of credits, was basically a television editor with no real creativity. I'd met with several young Roger Corman editors and my instinct was to go with one of them, but, as I said, I got talked into the "old pro". Now, you'd think I would have learned, because on Nudie, the original editor was a real old pro, Gene Ruggiero, who'd cut Ninotchka and Around the World in Eighty Days. A fine editor, no doubt, but one who, on Nudie, was slumming and who hadn't worked in fifteen years. He was the total wrong choice for that film and we ended up having to fire him, and I ended up cutting it with his assistant (and thereby getting five educations in filmmaking in twelve weeks).
So, cutting to the chase (a lovely editing metaphor which is wholly scientific and ponderous), this editor took these hilarious dailies, did his editor's rough cut, and made them totally unfunny in every possible way. I then spent the next six weeks trying to undo what he'd done and make it funny. But, that becomes difficult when the thing has gone so far awry. You get that in your head, and then you spend all your time trying to figure out how to undo it, rather than spending time trying to fix things creatively and get back to what you know was there in the first place. And this editor was simply no help - strictly by the numbers. We should have fired him, but we didn't. I pressed on as best I could (remember that a good editor is like a second set of eyes, creatively, because, as writer/director/actor, you're just too close to the damn thing sometimes. Anyway, I got it to where I thought it was presentable. I'd jettisoned most of the "improvised" additional footage we shot, and poor Dirty Harry was gone in its entirety, because I felt it slowed the film's momentum at a time when it shouldn't be slowed. In other words, once The Creature was discovered on the spaceship, I felt that all the scenes needed to have tension, and Dirty Harry just took us out of that. Painful to lose? Of course. So, we booked two private previews at MGM and we got the word out and filled them to capacity in hours.
I gave the customary "work print - temp music" speech, and then the lights went down and the film started. The first scene got a laugh which literally rocked the theater. Then the titles, and then the second scene came on and got one of the biggest laughs I've ever been privileged to hear. I thought, "Thank goodness, we're home free." Oops, unfortunately, I'd thought too soon. The rest of the film worked in sputters - it would go ten minutes without any laughs, then suddenly get a good laugh, then just lie there like so much fish. The good news was, that when they weren't laughing they were tense, because until we actually revealed The Creature, they weren't sure which way we were going, and they actually screamed twice. When the film's set piece, the song I Want To Eat Your Face, came on, I was ready for it to bring the house down. It didn't. It virtually got no laughs at all. Disaster, thought I. Anyway, mercifully the film came to an end. We had a post-mortem afterwards, and we all knew we had troubles ahead.
The next day I went back into the cutting room at six in the morning. I worked until twenty minutes before the next preview. I tightened scenes, put a couple of improvised bits back in, and most importantly, totally recut I Want To Eat Your Face, incorporating an important lesson I'd learned on Nudie - which is that sometimes the reaction is funnier than the action or dialogue (or in this case, song) itself. I drove the print over to MGM and the screening began. Again, the first two scenes got huge laughs. The rest of the film seemed much improved in terms of the reaction. And when I Want To Eat Your Face came on, this time it did indeed bring the house down. We all felt much better. I spent the next three weeks fine tuning and tweaking the film, recording the original score (by David Spear), and dubbing the film (adding the FX, foley, etc.). But I'd made one other key mistake and I had no idea how harmful that mistake could be (not deadly, but definitely harmful). However, to hear the rest of the tale (what that second mistake was, and then how The Creature Wasn't Nice became Spaceship) tune in to tomorrow's notes, which, by the way, will not be wholly scientific and ponderous.
So, we'd scored and dubbed the film and we were ready to take it out and have our "official" previews, one in Marina del Rey and one in New Jersey. I didn't feel that either of those venues was the right place to preview, but it wasn't my decision. I alluded yesterday to having made a second error in judgment (the first being talked into the wrong editor). I found out what that error was during our Marina del Rey preview. In any case, the film started, they laughed loudly at the first scene, laughed when the title came on, and laughed at the second scene. And then, there were virtually almost no laughs until I Want to Eat Your Face. I couldn't really understand it at all. The preview cards were, for the most part, awful. Some of this had to do with the "above it all" rich-kid crowd from Marina del Rey, some of it had to do with the fact that Airplane had come out the year before and I think they maybe expected that kind of off-the-wall gag-a-minute craziness (which The Creature Wasn't Nice was never designed to be - it was designed to be funny certainly, but in a more classic and linear way). But, as I sat and tried to dissect the difference between our last preview at MGM, where the laughs were loud and consistent I realized where I'd made a second crucial mistake, and that was in my choice of composer. Now, I'd met several composers I really liked, but we went with David Spear because he'd done musicals and he could orchestrate my songs, and because he'd been orchestrating and ghost-writing for Elmer Bernstein and that seemed like a good thing. I will say, before I get into specifics, that David is extremely talented and a truly nice guy and he did a great job orchestrating my three songs.
When we'd done those previews at MGM, I'd done what they call a "temp track", that is, I'd put in "temporary" music, just to help the audience understand the tone of the film and because it's very hard to watch a movie without some kind of music in. And it was a really good temp-track, too. It had Close Encounters for the first gag, it had the crazy theme music from The Thing for the Main Title, it had suspense music from Psycho, all that kind of stuff. And it all really helped - the pace, the comedy, everything. David didn't want to hear the temp track - a lot of film composers don't, because they feel it inhibits them. So, rather than insisting, I said fine. I should have insisted, because it would have given him direction and showed him why certain things worked. I did sit with him and "spot" the film, in other words, decide where the music would be. And I told him I wanted a crazy loony there in-based main theme. Well, to cut to the chase, I didn't get what I wanted, but by the time I knew that it was really too late to do anything about it. The budget, while not as low as Nudie Musical, was still pretty low, 1.2 million, if I recall correctly. Had there been money, I would have tossed the score and had it redone. But, there wasn't. His opening "Close Encounters" type thing worked fine, but his Main Title was very The Planets-like, slow and ponderous. It was nice music, but wasn't weird and crazy like I wanted. Some of his suspense cues were okay, but basically his music didn't help the picture at all and, in certain cases, really hurt it. One particular scene comes to mind - the Creature is loose on the ship. Cindy, needing a moment of relaxation, goes in the solar sun room and lies down on a long chair to calm herself. She suddenly hears a door slide open. The camera stars a long 180 degree dolly shot around her - as it gets in back of her we see a shadow on the curtain (the curtain that keeps the room private), the shadow comes closer and closer, as Cindy gets more scared and more scared. Finally, the curtains part, but it isn't the Creature, it's fellow crew member, the obnoxious Rodzinski (Gerritt Graham) trying to see if she's nude or if he can get any action. She gets rid of him, goes back, lies down again, and the camera does the exact same 180 around her, as we see the shadow again coming closer and closer - this time she's ready, she walks up the curtain, says, "Rodzinski, I warned you" and she punches the shadow right in the stomach as hard as she can. Suddenly we hear an unearthly scream, the curtains part, it's the Creature (barely glimpsed) and Cindy escapes by the skin of her teeth.
Okay, so, in the temp track, the minute the camera starts its first 180 around her, I used suspense music by Bernard Herrmann, from Psycho. It worked beautifully - created real tension (at that point the audience had no idea what the creature looked like or what direction we might go in in terms of scares or even violence). It also made Gerritt's appearance funnier. Okay, the camera starts its second 180, and I use the exact same music cue. Worked perfectly, because the audience knows that this time it will be the Creature.
In any case, one day David Spear called me and told me to come over because he had the music for that scene and he totally was thrilled with it. I went to his house, he put up the video of the scene and played the piano along with it. And what he played was a beautiful haunting theme. I looked at him and asked, "Why" as any sane person would do. And he had a whole reasoning, which was she's gone in the solar relaxation room, and this is the music she's chosen. I said, "That's fine for the beginning of the scene, but once the camera starts dollying, we need suspense music," but he disagreed, and I allowed myself to be talked out of what I knew was needed. Lesson learned: Never be talked out of anything when you are certain you are right. It was my film, and I should have held firm. Bad mistake.
So, the preview in New Jersey went the same as the preview in Marina del Rey - big laughs at the opening scenes, then nothing until the I Want to Eat Your Face number. Again, those Airplane expectations and an older crowd didn't help things. At that point, I'd had my Director's Guild guaranteed previews, and the film was out of my hands. The producers decided to hire a man named Harry Hurwitz, who'd made several unreleasable films, along with a few less-than-brilliant comedies. I kept hearing through the grapevine that his intention was to reedit (something I wish I'd been allowed to do myself - I would have loved one more pass at the film to do some minor fixes, and to rescore it with better music) the film, but I also heard the rather horrifying news that he was shooting additional material with this person named Brother Theodore, a weird Nazi-like "comic" - these additional scenes had Brother Theodore in some boiler room on the spaceship, ranting and raving.
Many months later, I got a call saying that Hurwitz had finished his work - mercifully, they hadn't used any of the Brother Theodore material. I was told that Hurwitz had added stuff that I hadn't included in the film (more of the improvised bits, some of the Dirty Harry coming attraction, etc.) but they were all very pleased with what he'd done. A print was sent out to LA so I could see it. The line producer, the associate producers and I all went. I, in particular, went with an open mind, because I thought that anything that would save or help the film would be a good thing. The film began - the titles came on. The pre-title gag, which got a huge laugh at every screening including the bad previews, wasn't there anymore - maybe they were saving it? The title was now Spaceship, which, I suppose, was their feeble attempt to cash in on Airplane. So, the titles ended, and suddenly we were in the cockpit with Leslie Nielsen and Gerritt Graham. The first scene of the film, which got a huge laugh at every screening including the bad previews, was gone - maybe they were saving it, but why? The Leslie/Garrett scene was cut in half, all of its funny jokes gone. It was faster, though. And there was rock music playing behind the entire scene. And, my wonderful Broderick Crawford as Max, the computer voice, was replaced by some awful hip-talking deejay type voice, but with totally horrendously unfunny dialogue. Of course, everyone's distasteful reaction to the original Max dialogue, now made no sense. In the original version, you meet all the characters, get to know the dynamic between them, see what life is like on the ship, and then, Patrick Macnee's Dr. Stark discovers the Unknown Planet and off they go. Well, in the new version they are on the planet in ten minutes. You don't really know anything about the characters or their dynamic. But, it was faster. Then, we get back to the ship, the creature grows and gets loose - but you've suddenly got all these other scenes which used to be in the first part of the film - including the original post-titles scene, which is not funny anymore because it's entire purpose was to be a non-secquiter. The pre-title scene was gone entirely, and all the little added bits merely continued to rob the film of momentum and tension. The I Want to Eat Your Face number was still funny, and the last fifteen minutes of the film were just about identical. Mr. Hurwitz had also inserted several bits of stock footage from other monster movies, to no real effect. And that obnoxious computer voice was awful - not the idea of it, just the terrible writing. Of course, the film said Written and Directed by Bruce Kimmel, not Harry Hurwitz. Also, he'd printed all the corridor scenes about five stops too bright, so that all shadows and detail were gone, causing all the corridors to look exactly the same, and again, robbing the film of any suspense whatsoever (I mean, when they're searching for the Creature in my version, you can barely see anything and it's quite scary)
So, did anything in this new version work? Well, I liked the idea of having some kind of source music behind certain scenes, just not the awful source music they used. I liked the idea of Max being more of a presence, but not the voice or the dialogue they used. I did like having a bit of Dirty Harry back, but didn't like most of the improvised bits they'd stuck back in (even though I was in quite a few of them). They did put back in something I really liked, my 2001 walk up the wall spoof - but they printed it wrong, so that I walk up the wall fast and once I reach the top and am upside down I fall straight down and out of the shot slow - should be the other way around, slow walk up fast fall. Idiotic.
They released Spaceship in one city where it died a quick and merciful death. It then promptly came out on video. Clearly the took this very specific type of film and tried to turn it into something it wasn't, Airplane. They did this by throwing all the scenes in the air and rearranging the entire structure of the film - but since the gags were never Airplane-like, it simply doesn't work. When it's funny, it's funny, and when it's not, it's nothing. In the original version, when it's funny it's funny and when it's not, it's suspenseful or at least interesting. Somehow, over the years, a core group of people have come to really like Spaceship - they know it's scattershot, but they do like the funny bits. It's out on DVD, as I said, but it's too damn bright and full frame and is rather grotesque. But there is a reason, don't you know, for this long diatribe and tale. First of all, I have never, in print, told this particular tale before, so those here at haineshisway.com are the first to know all the details of this. At the time, I'd merely kept a happy face on and moved along with my life. I was mortified, of course, to think people thought I was responsible for the stock footage or the dialogue of the computer, but what could I do about it?
Anyway, the point is, I was having all this stuff transferred to DVD, and one of the things I had transferred was my three quarter inch tape of my cut of the film. I watched it the other night for the first time in fifteen years. All I've seen is that "thing" that calls itself Spaceship and/or Naked Space. And you know what? The years have been kind to my baby. No, not all of it works, yes, there are things I would love to revisit and change (the score being first and foremost), but overall it just works pretty well. It's eighty-eight minutes, is paced very well indeed. We've had a lot of Airplane ripoffs in the last twenty years, each one to lesser effect in my opinion. The plot comedy has come back and therefore The Creature Wasn't Nice feels more like Nudie now, just a straightforward spoof, but a linear comedy. I think if it were shown to an audience today (with a different score and a few cosmetic nips and tucks) it would get a pretty decent reaction. Watching it, I realized it wasn't such a bastard child after all. And it certainly is light years ahead of Spaceship/Naked Space.
Well, that was a long tale, wasn't it? I'd love you to be able to compare the two versions, but you'd have to come to my house. Of course, if you do, we can all watch it together whilst eating cole slaw, along with our customary cheese slices and ham chunks.
An interview with Bruce Kimmel by Tony Dale DVD Launch
Q: Now that we have "The First Nudie Musical" on DVD, what are the chances of an Anniversary Edition of "The Creature Wasn't Nice," your 1981 sci-fi musical? (Which also featured Cindy Williams, BTW.)
A: Well, it would only interest me if they could also include my version of the film. Unfortunately, my version only exists on a three-quarter inch tape, but still it would be great to have both so people could see what it was really supposed to be. The DVD that's out (under it's third title, Naked Space) is awful - full frame, way too bright, and I just can't stomach what they did to it. Funnily, people have, in the last several years, "found" the film and enjoyed it - so for that I'm grateful. And it does still have the odd funny moment and the highlight, the creature's song survived unscathed.
Go here for the entire interview http://www.dvdlaunch.com/firstnudiemusicalinterview.html