If you check the television landscape for prime-time science fiction programs, you will see black characters, some with well-rounded personalities and even complex story lines.
But rarely does a sci-fi TV show/film deal in themes and issues that have a direct effect on people of African descent, with a cast of black characters from various economic/social classes.
Except for “Brother From Another Planet” (1984), “Meteor Man” (1993), and “Space Is the Place” (1974, starring the late jazz composure/musician Sun Ra), I can’t recall many others. “Tales From the Hood” (1995) could be forced into this group, but I feel that it’s more along the lines of horror than sci-fi.
Coming off the success of “Boomerang” (1992), Directors/Producers/Writers/Brothers, Warrington & Reginald Hudlin decided to tackle an anthology; A sort of “urban” “Twilight Zone: The Movie” (the aforementioned “Tales From the Hood” follows a similar formula).
The result was “Cosmic Slop” (the title is based on the Funkadelic record) featuring the mastermind of the group, George Clinton, serving as the onscreen narrator between three separate stories, while wearing prosthetic makeup that gives him an alien vibe with a third eye on his forehead.
Along with Kyle Baker, Kevin Rodney Sullivan, making his transition from television sitcom director to his first feature (other credits include the pilot to the groundbreaking television series “Frank’s Place,” “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” “Barbershop 2,” “Modern Family” & “NCIS” among others), were also brought in to co-write/direct.
The first segment, “The Space Traders,” is an adaptation of a short story penned by the late professor/writer Derrick Bell which tells the story of an extraterrestrial being who offers the American government unlimited wealth and advanced technology, but only if the foreign creature could take every person of African descent in the country back to his galaxy with no questions asked about what would be done with them.
A black right-wing politician (played by Robert Guillaume) attempts to appeal to his white party members who find the ideal interesting.
The second tale, “The First Commandment,” features a Catholic priest (played by Nicholas Turturro) who witnesses a miracle when a statue of the Virgin Mary comes alive and gives him a bit of a history lesson.
The final story is another adaptation, this one based on the short story, “Tang,” written by noted the late novelist Chester Himes, who’s work has been adapted a few times for the screen (“Cotton Comes to Harlem” in 1970 & “A Rage In Harlem” [originally titled “For Love of Imabelle”] in 1991 are the most well known).
Of the three stories, “Tang” is my favorite. There are only two characters, and it seems ready made for the stage.
A couple involved in an abusive relationship (played wonderfully by Chi McBride & Paula Jai Parker) begin to reevaluate their situation after a package is anonymously left at the front door of their tenement.
My first time watching “Cosmic Slop” was a jarring experience, leaving me uncomfortable to say the least… and that was a good thing.
Mainstream movies with elements of science fiction push the limits of computer generated imagery, but not so much the stakes of racial/revolutionary/religious politics… unless there are zombies involved.
After HBO aired the movie, they released it on VHS & Laser-disc format. I rented it from a Blockbuster Video location (or should I say, a future hair care / weave outlet. Thanks Netflix).
Amazon has three used VHS copies available for $88.00 a pop; and each comes with a burned DVD copy… so there’s that.
I haven’t heard of any film festival screenings; and quite possibly due to legal reasons, it can’t be aired on other networks/streaming services, or put on DVD/Blu-Ray, hindering its chances to attract new audiences and a rediscovery, which might explain why it doesn’t get mentioned with other projects of the genre.
But fret not, because you can watch it on YouTube for free… for the time being at least.
Kai aka Kid Video, is a former TV newsroom employee. He’s not a biter, but writer for himself and others and currently lives in Selma, AL. His favorite TV show is “Sanford & Son.” His website is coming soon, but for now send complaints to @KIDVIDEO55