Cult Movie Essentials

Cult Movie Essentials: Space Is The Place (1974)

Just before we move into the film it is important to establish that Sun Ra was a real person. He was born Herman Poole Blount in Birmingham, Alabama on May 22nd 1914. He legally changed his name to Le Sony’r Ra – taking the name Sun Ra (Ra being the Egyptian God of the Sun) and developing a complex persona and mythology that would make him a pioneer of Afrofuturism: he claimed he was an alien from Saturn, and throughout his life, he consistently denied any ties to his prior identity.

Sun Ra gained fame as was an American jazz composer, bandleader, piano and synthesizer player, poet and philosopher known for his experimental music, “cosmic philosophy,” prolific output, and theatrical performances. He was inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1979. He died on May 30th 1993 following a bout of  pneumonia at the age of 79 years old.

Now you know the man let’s look at the movie…

Space Is The Place opens with Sun Ra, who has been reported lost since his European tour in June 1969, landing on a new planet in outerspace with his crew “The Arkestra” and decides to settle African Americans on this planet.

The medium of transportation he had chosen is music.

He travels back in time and returns to the Chicago strip club where he used to play piano with the name “Sonny Ray” in 1943. There he confronts The Overseer (Ray Johnson), a pimp-overlord, and they agree on a duel at cards for the fate of the Black race. Each card drawn is a minor goal to achieve for Ra or The Overseer which will determine the winner of the duel.

Then, to present time, Ra disembarks from his spaceship at Oakland and tries to spread his word by meeting with young blacks at an Oakland youth centre and opening an “employment agency” to recruit people eager to move to the planet. He also agrees with Jimmy Fey (Christopher Brooks), the minion of The Overseer, to arrange radio interviews, a record album, and eventually a concert that will help him dictate his message. Ra is also pursued by White government agents who attempt to assassinate him. At the end, Ra takes Fey’s “Black parts” with him to the spaceship, leaving him with his White parts. Fey, now acting white, leaves The Overseer who loses the duel.

The planet Earth is destroyed after Sun Ra’s spaceship flies into space.

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