This was the nadir of Leslie Nielsen’s career

Our series exploring Montreal-shot movies examines an amazingly terrible spoof comedy, 2001: A Space Travesty.


Alex Rose’s Made in MTL is a series exploring films from the vaults shot and/or set in Montreal

The film: 2001: A Space Travesty

Does Montreal play itself? Montreal stands in for outer space most of the time. The film is 95 per cent interiors, so it does a pretty convincing job.

Most egregious local landmark: One of the few scenes filmed outside was very clearly shot directly in Mel’s backlot, judging by the skyline, and there’s one scene of Leslie Nielsen going to a police station that uses a shot of Old Montreal. Other than that, it’s sets all the way.

Notable local talent: There are many recognizable names in the cast, but they either appear under alien masks or in blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em throwaway bits. One notably inescapable appearance, however, is that of CJAD talk-radio hobbit Tommy Schnurmacher who appears in the climactic scene as a conductor.  His penchant for dumb hats is replaced by a dumb wig, but he’s pretty recognizable.

2001 Polish posterOne of the more baffling film-related stories in recent years was the non-stop barrage of hoops that Adam McKay had to go through to make Anchorman 2. While the original did well at the box office nationally (and built up an enormous cult in the process), it completely tanked internationally. Comedy doesn’t necessarily travel well, and the execs bankrolling what was a surefire North American hit still got cold feet over the dim international prospects. A film like 2001: A Space Travesty, on the other hand, was made for exactly the opposite reason.

Shot on a $45-million budget, 2001: A Space Travesty milks what little was left of Leslie Nielsen’s spoof-movie goodwill in a globetrotting, space-invading odyssey of fart jokes and slide-whistle pratfalls. The iconic Nielsen is surrounded by an intercontinental cast meant to appeal to a variety of countries: French pop star Ophélie Winter (probably best remembered by French-speaking boys roughly my age for the relentless cleavage assault of her music videos), British TV vet Peter Egan, German model Alexandra Kamp, American stand-up comedian Pierre Edwards (aka Pierre) and Italian slapstick comedian Ezio Greggio surround the perpetually mugging Nielsen. Of course, when you assemble such a crew of international comedic ringers, they only have one language in common: the language of farts, butts, things spilled down the fronts of dresses, hairpieces and Bill Clinton playing the saxophone.

Nielsen is Marshal Dix, a spectacularly inept detective (such stunt casting!) who nevertheless is assigned to a dangerous mission: he must rescue the president’s clone from a planet called Vegan, where a nefarious individual (Egan) plans to swap the real guy for the clone and perpetuate whatever evil plan that will allow him to perpetuate. Dix is sent to Vegan with foxy scientist Cassanda Menage (Winter – and although I looked for it, I have no fucking idea if they made the blindingly obvious ménage à trois joke) and spends the rest of the movie farting, falling through the scenery and bonking aliens on the head.

2001 A Space Travesty (2000) - 0013Even in the relatively forgiving world of Leslie Nielsen spoof movies, 2001: A Space Travesty is particularly terrible. It’s completely tone-deaf and predictable, setting up the most obvious jokes and deflating them immediately. It’s completely of its time (by which I mean the specific month in 2000 in which it was released), employing two passable Bill and Hillary impersonators as major characters and clad in a gross latex-y aesthetic that can be summed up as “Vengaboys in space.” It climaxes with possibly the most 2000 climax ever filmed: an action scene that sees the Three Tenors (played by impersonators) under the spell of dueling saxophone-playing Clinton clones. The tenors do a complex number set to “YMCA,” Clinton plays “Yakety Sax,” and the conflict is finally resolved when Winter slingshots a farting alien with a Schwarzenegger voice. I sat there grateful that a lot of Montreal’s on-set carpenters and caterers made rent that month.

You’d think that 2001: A Space Travesty would represent a nadir in spoof movie history, but the bar was set way, way lower a few years later by the crack team of Friedberg and Seltzer. 2001: A Space Travesty is often dispiriting and never funny, but there’s nevertheless some care that’s been put into crafting it. When the alien farts, there’s an actual narrative function to his farting, as dumb as it may be. When director Allan A. Goldstein (who also directed the previous Made in MTL entry, One Way Out) wants to spoof Kubrick’s film, he actually mimics camera moves instead of just having a guy that looks vaguely like a character from the movie run in and hump a stuffed panda. It seems inconceivable that a movie as rancid as this could possibly ever be fondly looked upon by anyone, but give it time. Oh, Christ — give it time. ■

Cult MTL film editor Alex Rose explores the worst of cinema on his podcast and blog, Why Does It Exist?

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