Cult Classics: Stingray Sam

stingray sam indexNarrated by David Hyde Pierce this very unusual film is the second movie from Cory McAbee after the sublime The American Astronaut, though at one hour one minute is only just considered a feature film and is made up of six distinct episodes. A mixture of sci-fi, western and musical, it’s clearly a low budget affair once again but it’s enormously charming and enjoyable slice of strangeness.

Beginning in a very run down bar on Mars, this once Vegas-esque den of inequity is falling apart and our hero Stingray Sam is singing on stage with two women in their underwear, Heaven and Star from Liberty Chew Chewing Tobacco, and Sam gives a big speech even though there’s only one audience member. Following this, and throughout the film, there’s a fair few collages and montages featuring still imagery which expands on the plot and the world we’re spending the next hour in.

That audience member turns out to be the Quasar Kid (Crugie), and Sam is an old friend he’s come to visit, with both indulging in a convoluted handshake which becomes a fun running gag. There’s more backstory about the planets they came from, and how this is a universe where men were able to choose the gender of their children, and that led to only boys being born. Then the main plot kicks off, which sees Sam and the Quaser Kid ending up involved in a crazy mission to save a young girl on a male dominated planet which is ruled over by the deluded Fredward (Joshua Taylor).

The film contains a whole bunch of mad ideas, including class satire, oddness with corporation mascots, prisoners being shrunk and turned in to tiny robots, sarcastic secretaries, pastiches of old science fiction serials along with some goofy dance numbers and quirky songs which while simplistic are often very catchy too, and Lullaby Song and Peg Legged Father are particularly infectious, and thanks to youtube are songs I listen to on a regular basis.

David Hyde Pierce’s narration is a constant delight, the acting from all involved is impressive, and it contains a very surreal sense of humour which at times is up there with the best of Douglas Adams. It’s one of those films that you’ll wish was double the length as it’s so much fun to spend time with these characters, and on the basis of this and The American Astronaut the fact that Cory McAbee isn’t a greatly acclaimed director that Netflix and other streaming services don’t throw enormous sums of money at is one of life’s great mysteries.

★★★★1/2

Alex Finch.
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