CAPSULE: DELTA SPACE MISSION (1984)

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DIRECTED BY: , Mircea Toia, Victor Antonescu

FEATURING: Voices of Mirela Gorea, Marcel Iures

PLOT: A super-powerful A.I. computer falls in love with a beautiful alien journalist and chases her across the universe.

Still from Delta Space Mission (1984)
COMMENTS: Though made in Romania in the dying days of the Cold War, Delta Space Mission proves that some concepts have universal appeal: Mankind’s drive to explore the fascinating universe in which it finds itself. Faith that our essential goodness will one day abolish prejudices, so that people of different genders, races and species can work together for the common good and against common enemies. The stalkerish love of an Epcot Center-shaped supercomputer for a shapely green alien.

If Delta Space Mission‘s plot seems episodic—and a bit choppy—when you watch it, that’s because it was originally twelve short films made together as proofs of concept, then assembled into a feature film. Had the pilot film been a big success, Delta Space Mission would have become a franchise—possibly even an international export. In the opening, Starfleet Federation-type characters are introduced, but hardly fleshed out; presumably, had the series continued, they would have become more meaningful players. But this arc belongs to lime-skinned journalist Alma (who’s also a pretty good shot with a raygun) and her metal-eating alien space dog, Tin.

When Alma is so enchanted by the jewel-like beauty of the giant spherical  supercomputer that she imagines herself dancing with it in a cosmic ballet, watching it grow multicolored rings along which she gracefully sails before the whole scene dissolves into a a splatter of colors, you’ll see the potential appeal of the series to the psychedelic crowd. Other episodes range from the computer animating giant stone robots, ocean waves, and a radio tower in a vain attempt to capture Alma, to the pivotal confrontation on a swamp planet full of strange aliens that wouldn’t look too out of place on Fantastic Planet (including some friendly green blobs with Kermit the Frog heads who treat Tin as their personal beach ball). The pastiche of classic sci-fi influences and references are entertaining to pick out: the space station looks like the Death Star, a spaceship chase though some rock formations that recalls The Empire Strikes Back‘s asteroid field escape, and so on.

The similarity to American Saturday morning cartoons of the period, or to the animated segments of 1970s-era “Sesame Street,” comes from the budgetary constraints. The movie has a lot of action—in fact, it’s near constant shootouts and chases—but it’s animated at a low frame rate, and not particularly fluid. There are lots of static scenes, and the designs for characters and other moving elements are simple, with detail reserved for the bright, dramatic backgrounds. The action is accompanied by an abstract, vintage space-synth soundtrack that sounds like a cross between Tangerine Dream and a malfunctioning Atari 2600. But Delta Space Mission works within its limitations, never letting them confine an imagination that soars towards the cosmic. If the idea of a kitschy Saturday morning sci-fi adventure with an offbeat, mildly psychedelic Eastern European spin to it sounds appealing to you, you won’t be disappointed with Delta Space Mission.

Delta Space Mission is released by Dead Crocodile on Blu-ray or VOD.

You can also watch our interview with director Calin Cazan, where he provides some more background information on the project.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…yes, “Delta Space Mission” is supremely weird… a head-trip viewing experience that does well with colors and sound, connecting to younger viewers and those in an altered state of mind. “Delta Space Mission” doesn’t offer cohesive storytelling (a few characters introduced early in the picture have nothing to do with the plot), but it’s an engrossing sit, with strong artistic achievements and a few weirdo touches to keep it all wonderfully amusing.”–Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com (Blu-ray)

(This movie was nominated for review by Will, who called it “such an amazing animated feature and would work perfect among some of the other movies already featured on this site.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

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