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Sun Ra’s Space Flick Gets DVD Reissue

You haven’t seen a great bad movie until you’ve seen Sun Ra’s Space Is the Place. Part musical documentary, part Biblical parable, part blaxploitation flick, part sci-fi epic, the film was one of the late pianist-philosopher’s rally calls directed at the black community, urging them to take notice and work to correct civil injustices in the Vietnam era. Due to its low-budget look and feel, and probably a half-baked screenplay, too, Space Is the Place only lasted in theaters for a very short time when released in 1974. And it’s usually not on the shelf at Blockbuster. But the hard-to-find cult flick will be released on DVD on October 28 with extra footage and other goodies included.

For the uninitiated, I offer a synopsis swiped straight from the press release announcing the movie’s DVD release: “After having traveled through space in a yellow spaceship propelled by music, Sun Ra finds a planet he believes could serve as a new home for the black race. Returning to earth, he lands in Oakland, Calif. circa 1972 and has to fight The Overseer, a supernatural villain who pimps out the black race. Sun Ra offers those who would follow him into space an “alter-destiny,” but the Overseer, the FBI, and NASA-who are after Ra’s Black Space Program-ultimately force him to return to space before the destruction of Earth.”

The actual movie is in fact as colorful as that teaser hints, with concert footage of Ra’s Myth Science Arkestra at their best and there’s a great scene with the Ra playing solo piano in a strip joint. A longtime fan of the movie, I’m at the moment drooling onto my desktop-the DVD will include over 20 minutes of added footage, restoring it to its original theatrical length (the VHS version issued in 1992, now out of print, was abridged). Add to that 10 minutes of footage taken from home movies of the Arkestra’s 1972 voyage to Egypt, psychedelic projections shot by Arkestra light and sound coordinator Richard Wilkinson for the band’s live performances, plus interviews with director John Coney

and producer Jim Newman and written commentary by Coney, Sun Ra biographer John F. Szwed and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore-this will be one a sweet payload of Sunny Ray.

Originally Published