Vegas In Space is the most interesting science fiction film I’ve ever seen. It’s about a group of space cops who go undercover on a women-only pleasure planet whose biggest industries are shopping, shows, and beauty. This is one of the campiest movies I’ve ever seen. If you imagine Flash Gordon made by drag queens” you won’t be too far off. Despite the minimal plot, hilarious effects, and general low budget nature of the work; Vegas In Space has some serious value as a film. There may even be some hidden meaning there.
The Plot and Style
The plot of Vegas In Space is pretty simple. On the far-flung planet of Kleetoeres, a jewelry heist happens. But these aren’t just any gems. These were some Girllinium gems, stolen from the planet’s empress! This is bad because she uses the gems to keep the planet’s orbit and seismology stable. This is complicated because Veneer, the planet’s queen of police, is the prime suspect. For political reasons, the empress of Earth sends a group of Space Cadets to investigate the heist, with the cadets going undercover as showgirls from Earth. Eventually, it is revealed that the planet’s Vice Empress, Princess Angel, was a robot who stole the gems. A fuller synopsis can be found here.
Vegas In Space was made by a group of friends, most of whom were drag queens. The queens had a party at Ginger Quest’s apartment, which resulted in the concept of a drag queen science fiction film. Yes, a party resulted in a sci-fi film.
Vegas In Space took a decade to make, which was mostly because of post-production costs. It has a VERY distinct visual style. That style is basically “low budget with glitter”. This is because it was made BY drag queens FOR drag queens. Where Vegas In Space lacks in traditional technique, it makes up in amazing acting. It’s absurd, but surprisingly powerful. Like the titular city, Vegas In Space was meant to be an island of glamour in a sea of mediocrity.
The overall look of the film can best be described in this shot:
The most shocking aspect of Vegas In Space is how it approaches the concept of beauty. The film makes fun of drug culture and the shallowness of society at the same time, by having a black market of illegal beauty pills. The pills, once eaten, cause the person to become prettier, shown by bigger hair and more polished outfits that spontaneously appear. The queen of police is involved in smuggling the pills, some tourists overdosed on them prior to the start of the film, and one character bought some bad ones that gave her warts.
Vegas In Space also criticizes societies which dictate what women can wear. In the last scene of the film; we find out that in Vegas In Space, people can be shot by the police for wearing beige. They can also be arrested for wearing curlers in public. We also see that throughout the film, everything is gaudy and over-the-top, instead of subtle. I think this is a criticism of beauty being a changing societal standard, rather than a personal one.
Roughly a 5th of Vegas In Space is shot in black and white, while the rest is in color. This is because the planet’s atmosphere is too thin to hold color, so the planet is normally in black and white. As a result, the city has a device called the “Color Booster”, which takes their black and white world, and makes it colorful. When she sees it, Captain Daniels asks “so everything here is fake?”, with a response “yes, the real world is rather colorless”.
Later, there is a scene where Queen Veneer and Sheela investigate Princess Angel’s room to look for the gems. In this scene, we find out that most of the planet wears beauty masks.
During the party, someone offers the showgirls some food, only to find out the food is just calorie pellets. “Pellets?! Don’t you have any real food on this plastic planet?”. This all points to a single motif: the idea of beauty being not being reality. Truth is not beauty and beauty is not truth.
Continuing the theme, Vegas In Space fires a few shots against the concept of antiques. This rejects the idea of “something is beautiful just because it’s old”. For example, after the first earthquake, the salesqueen announces, “The old antique shop on level 3 is now at a reduced price for the next 60 seconds on a brand new shipment of beanbag chairs!”. Also, the planet’s empress had the vanity lounge’s floors redone in an imported antique material. “What’s it called? Wood!”. The cast is parodying the concept of antiques.
The strongest shot Vegas In Space makes against beauty is with the death of Princess Angel. Princess Angel turns out to be a robot, rather than a real person. This happens in the scene where Princess Angel dies. When she dies, the gems are recovered. The planet is saved. The people are saved by the ending of an illusion.
Being a product of drag queens, Vegas In Space took an odd approach to the concept of gender. The flip-side of this is that it took an odd approach to sexism. Throughout Vegas In Space, many of the characters are sexist, even though the story itself is not.
For example, when the empress of Earth is done briefing the crew on their mission, the first thing the crew does is comment on the empress’s outfit. Then the next blob of terrible special effects causes 3 crew members to change gender and one member to evaporate. The crew comments on things like the boob-size of their fellow crewmembers. After the next minute of hilariously bad effects, they use a “women can’t drive” joke and a “women’s intuition” joke in 1 minute of each other.
Once the crew gets to Vegas in Space, we find out that Vegas In Space isn’t populated by women. It’s populated entirely by exaggerated parodies of women. The main industries are shopping and beauty products, to the point that a black market of illegal beauty pills has sprung up.
However, sexism against men also exists. In one scene, Queen Veneer talks about the planet’s skyrocketing crime rate, saying “It’s a lot of crime for a planet without men, MRS. DANIELS.”. I think this scene is supposed to be a parody of the overly theatrical acting from the silent film era.
Girllinium, a symbol of Blood Diamonds
Vegas In Space was made in the 80s and 90s, when blood diamonds were becoming a major social issue. Blood diamonds are diamonds harvested from warzones and sold to finance war efforts. They were a major issue in Angola.
Vegas In Space parodies this issue with the Girllinium gems. First, the Girllinium gems are obviously a parody of diamonds. Diamonds can be used for both jewelry and industrial functions. Similarly, the Girllinium gems are explicitly stated to be jewelry, but they have a practical purpose as well: stabilizing the planet’s orbit and seismological activity. Second, as blood diamonds fuel conflict in Africa, the Girllinium gems fuel the conflict of the story. Their theft causes the planet to start drifting out of orbit, and causes earthquakes. Furthermore, it causes the death of a minor character, Mike, one of the space cadets who dies during the mission. It also causes the destruction of Princess Angel. Most importantly, the conflict that blood diamonds cause is symbolized by the sequence where queen Veneer chases princess Angel around the palace. Overall, in addition to being the campiest science fiction film ever made, Vegas In Space has value as a film.