Space Is the Place (1974) Poster

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Ra was cool, including on the set.
firewatr15 March 2004
I was credited as 2nd unit director on this film. Ra was a calm, sort of surreal Buddha through the whole thing, even one time when the script called for him to be tied-up in a chair and menaced by gangsters. During the many hours it took to get this scene on film, Ra just quietly sat tied-up in that chair, so quietly that a couple of times I went over to make sure he was still breathing. He said he was fine, just relaxing on "another plain".

Near the end of the shoot, we had a nightclub scene with about 70 extras and a chorus of girls on stage. They were supposed to dance to a tune that Ra insisted on playing live on camera with his band. I had been bugging him unsuccessfully for days as to what he was going to play so that the girls could rehearse.

On the day scheduled to shoot this scene, I nervously reminded Ra again about the music. Ra smiled, casually produced some old vinyl albums done by other bands and a portable record player, and suggested that I play them for the chorus to see what they liked. I did, and they caught fire with one of the tunes. Ra said "Fine. You got any music manuscript paper?" I was ready for him. I did.

And so, during lunch break, Ra listened to the record, transposed the instrumental lead sheets to paper for his band with a few of his own alterations, and we choreographed and shot it after lunch.

For my money, Ra was a fine musician...extremely cool and really "there".
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Crazy movie from a serious genius
drocta95024 October 2000
I'll tell you what, Sun Ra was a gift we didn't love enough. He gave us fifty years of his time to "get it," but no one bothered. He's sitting on his home planet right now, entertaining his minions on Saturn. Sun Ra made one movie, that's all he needed to preach his philosophy. It is a brilliant statement on race relations in the early 1970's. An interesting story, engaging characters, and some out there music. One fault: this was not his best period in music. His records from the 50's and 60's were astounding, good enough to make this film even more of a classic. Space Is The Place is essential viewing for those who care about jazz or Africana cinema.
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Part science fiction, part music documentary
Joe Castleman (Gyrofrog)24 August 1999
I can't help but think that Vxf111 is either joking, or (unfortunately) did not know who Sun Ra was before viewing the film. Yes, the film was certainly produced with a low budget, and it might not be of much interest to those who aren't fans of, or at least interested in, Sun Ra.

Sun Ra maintained that he was from Saturn, although historical documents note that he was born Herman Blount (or Poole) in Birmingham, AL. Sun Ra was a first-rate pianist, arranger, and composer, and worked with Fletcher Henderson's orchestra. He formed his own big band, the Arkestra, during the 1950s in Chicago. This ensemble was completely unlike any other big band, as it incorporated elements of Egyptian mythology, science fiction, and other exotica and esoterica (those familiar with Earth, Wind, and Fire and Parliament-Funkadelic should take note). Sun Ra was also an early proponent of electronic instruments in jazz.

The film "Space Is The Place" is part science fiction and part musical documentary. A comparison could also be made to the "blaxploitation" films of the 1970s. The story centers around Sun Ra's return to Earth after an extended absence, and focuses on his concern for the fate of humanity and African-Americans in particular. All of this is infused with his mythological outlook. This certainly makes Sun Ra an "interesting character" but he was very serious about what he did and what he said. If any of this makes you the least bit curious about Sun Ra then I would recommend the film, which is available on videocassette.
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A psychedelic, Afro-centric, free Jazz classic...
Matthew Jaworski30 September 2004
A true underground classic. Witness: not-of-this-earth music, the funky righteousness of Ra, cinematic excellence and be prepared to alter your destiny. I'd heard good (and bad) things about this film, so my curiosity was peaked. Usually when very strong reactions are evoked of such diametric opposition, it can only mean one thing: Great Art. This movie is truly mind blowing. I can think of nowhere else, where one can obtain: Sci-Fi, Blaxplotation, Philosophy, Space Jazz, and dynamite costumes in one easy-to-swallow capsule. I highly recommend this to Sun Ra fans and those with an interest in fine Avant Garde films. Sun Ra is truly an enigma, and in excellent form in this movie. See him battle the devil across many dimensions and get ready for transmolecularization and isotope teleportation...
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"Don't play what you know - Play what you don't know"! says RA
thebestceleb21 March 2007
Yes! It was a low budget film and it was my very first. Although I did not know who "Sun Ra" was at the time - I did enjoy working with him. I will always remember his very words to me during the filming of the nightclub scene (in which I had a small speaking role). We were taking a lunch break and I had decided to sit at the piano and hit some piano keys, just for fun. Ra came walking by and glancing over to me he said, "Don't play what you know - Play what you don't know"! I am not a professional musician, but always remember these words when playing an instrument. I was very happy to see that this film made it to DVD a few years ago.
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outa sight a must for Sun Ra fans and new inductees
monkmellon1520 March 2006
Space is the place is a hard to find movie to be sure I searched for years to find it and finally saw it tonight at a local college in a show that included a concert of avant-gard jazz. Those familiar with Sun Ra's oeuvre will not be shocked by its content. The plot centers around Sun Ra arriving on earth with his Arkestra to spread his philosophy of the music of the universe and to take back as many black folks as he can to repopulate his home planet and fill it with "human vibrations". The plot is not as disjointed or hard to swallow as one might think, there are good characterizations, especially by the overseer/devil character. There are some comic moments as well, like whenever the overseer kicks out the news caster every time he gets the two chicks in the room alone and he thinks he is going to finally score. The music is of courser superb as well. I will agree with a previous poster that this period of sun Ra's music was far from his best, but still makes for a great soundtrack. The Sun Ra devotee will love it and it serves as a good introduction to The world of Sun Ra for those unfamiliar with his work as well. watch it with an open mind.
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strange and amusing
pyamada18 November 2002
Being able to see the Arkestra/Orchestra during this period is really wonderful. Certainly there are strange happening and moments, and the black nationalism may now be out of place. Worth it indeed for Sun RA and some Jazz fans.
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One man's deluded vision of the plight of African Americans
Vxf1119 April 1999
This movie was certainly made on a low budget, but I don't hold that against it-- many low budget flicks have turned out to both entertaining and successful. The main problem with this movie is that it stretches what amounts to a 20 minute plot into a "full lenth?!" picture. Also, the musical interludes are painful at best. The message is here, and the God Sun Ra (Who I might add is played by a fellow who actually thinks he is Sun Ra) makes for an interesting character. Lack of plot and depth of writing are what do this movie in. But hey, at least it's short!
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