Back to Space-Con (Review)

(4/14/11; Documentary)
Joe Ferrara II, Ernie Fosselius, Robert Napton, John Stanley, Gary Tomsic, Bob Wilkins
SCR/DIR: Tom Wyrsch
1 hour 14 mins

Affectionate doc caters to a very specialized audience: anyone who might have fond memories of attending any of the Space-Cons between 1975 and 1981, the Star Trek and Star Wars-themed conventions that were the precursor to mammoth pop culture gatherings Comic-Con and WonderCon.

Star Trek ran for three seasons on NBC and was canceled in 1969. By the mid-70s, the show, then in syndication, had blossomed into a worldwide phenomenon and its fandom was exploding. The result was a handful of stores, merchandising and these conventions, which allowed like-minded folks not only to convene and sell each other plastic spaceships and toy phasers, but to rub shoulders with cast members that included William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and James Doohan.

You could fault the filmmakers of Space-Con for some slack editing and wobbly pacing, but the movie’s packed with rare footage (taken largely by Creature Features host Bob Wilkins) that captures a community coming together in celebration of lofty ideas and unabashed geek love. Space-Con also illustrates how organic the entire movement was, with people designing costumes and props out of a deep love to connect with the show’s iconography, and not necessarily to make a buck.

But as with most things movie-related, everything changed when Star Wars (1977) entered the picture, with its iron-clad merchandising agreements that altered the face of fandom forever. Ironically, it was this energized fan base and its personal involvement that made it possible for Paramount Pictures to re-launch Star Trek as a movie series (and new TV versions), even as they co-opted the merchandising with cease-and-desist orders.

Gives new meaning to “Live long and prosper,” doesn’t it? (November Fire)


Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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