Sunday, 13 January 2013

Warrnambool Attacks! Part 1: Robots & Spacesuits

You may have heard that the US government recently declined a petition to construct a fully operational Death Star (spoilsports).

However, at an entirely different official level, the city of Warrnambool in southwestern Victoria, Australia, is proudly displaying an image of the partly-built orbital death machine from the Star Wars movies on its art gallery wall:

Rather unexpectedly, this coastal city three hours from Melbourne has found itself the exclusive Australian showcase for Invasion, an exhibition of science fiction costumes and props gathered from a wide range of TV shows and movies.

This temporary recasting of the Warrnambool Art Gallery as a science fiction hotspot was the brainchild of gallery director John Cunningham. Adopting the philosophy of "Why not?", Cunningham made contact with the Ideas Museum of Movie Magic in Falkirk, Scotland and asked if he could ship one of their travelling exhibitions a bit (well, a lot) further than usual.

The result is a strange and stimulating array of costumes, with the odd prop among them, encountered past this charming gent from Mars Attacks:

As I inspected the exhibits, I realised there were more replicas than original items among them, though often the replicas had been used by the original filmmakers to promote the finished product. That was the case with this model of Iron Man, used to publicise the first movie featuring the superhero:

Further on I spotted the B9 Robot from the original Lost in Space TV series, generally just known as "Robot" when addressed by young Will, or as "You ninny!" by the simperingly evil Dr Smith. The relationship between the three of them made the show, which otherwise was noted for its forgettable storylines and bland characters.

To keep with the Lost in Space theme, this suit was worn by Matt Le Blanc (of Friends fame) in the 1998 movie. Judging by the suit, he's shorter than he looks on the telly.

These next exhibits demonstrated the eclectic range of the Invasion collection. In the foreground was the shimmery uniform worn by the Arnold Rimmer character in the Red Dwarf episode Holoship (one of my favourites). At the rear was an odd-looking "nude" version of the android Kryten which apparently appeared in the very forgettable Season VIII of Red Dwarf.

My notes fail me here, but I believe this was a replica of the Forbidden Planet movie robot, Robby:

At the far end of the room, in an area by itself, was the gem of the collection - this authentic early version of the Darth Vader costume, in which the villain's helmet was crafted from black perspex. Behind him is a matching stormtrooper:

At this point I was only halfway through the exhibition, pleasantly surprised by both the diversity of costumes and how close one could get in order to examine the detail.

Then I swung around to find a shiny metal head glaring at me with glowing red eyes...

[Cue cliffhanger music from Doctor Who, run credits]

NEXT POST: In the second half of my Invasion review, I face off against aliens and an imaginative array of cyborgs. And Daleks take to the Warrnambool streets!

Disclosure time... on this trip I was hosted by Warrnambool Tourism and V/Line. The Invasion exhibition continues at the Warrnambool Art Gallery, 26 Liebig St, Warrnambool, until 28 January 2013. Entry: adult $15, child $7.50. Warrnambool can be reached by V/Line trains from Melbourne and Geelong.