Shot in Black Panther Oakland in the early ’70s, the legendary funkadelic independent Afro-centric underground blaxploitation film Space Is the Place decrees that intergalactic cultural and free-jazz revolutions will indeed be televised. Imagine Sweet Sweetback Goes to Mars. John Coney’s feature has caped crusader Sun Ra, benignly enigmatic throughout, fighting a war of mind control against the satanic, supernatural pimp known as the Overseer.
The sets and costumes are elaborately homemade and, in the major piece of special effects magic, Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Myth-Science Solar Arkestra travel through the universe in a school-bus-yellow, music-propelled spaceship. Their performances, featuring vocalist June Tyson (“Calling planet earth”), are splendid. There could have been more music, but this version of Space Is the Place is 20 minutes longer than the one issued in the early ’90s on VHS and includes home movie footage of Sun Ra’s 1972 Egyptian concert in the shadow of the pyramids.