Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on May 20, 1983
Directed by Lamont Johnson
Written by David Preston, Edith Rey, Dan Goldberg, and Len Blum
Cast: Peter Strauss, Molly Ringwald, Ernie Hudson, Michael Ironside, Andrea Marcovicci, Beeson Carroll, Hrant Alianak, Deborah Pratt, Aleisa Shirley, Cali Timmins, and Harold Ramis as ‘Voice on Intercom’
The Video Store Action Heroes are at it again, this time taking off into the deep (and perhaps not so deep) reaches of space to bring you a quartet of non-blockbuster sci-fi action films of the ’80s; be sure to check out the reviews posted by Mikey at Wolfmans Cult Film Club, Greg at Destroy All Fanboys, and Mike at Mike’s Take on the Movies. As for me, look no further than the next few paragraphs, as I take you to planet Terra 11 and the forbidden domain of an evil cybernetic ruler with giant pincher arms and a goofball name, in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone.
A ‘starliner’ explodes in space, and only one escape pod is launched, containing—thankfully—three beautiful women, who crash on the nearest Earth-type planet and are kidnapped by desert raiders and taken to an area called The Zone, run by the tyrannical cyborg Overdog, who intends to use them as sexual playthings. Meanwhile, a space salvage collector, played by Peter Strauss, receives an all-points bulletin that anyone rescuing the women will be given a hefty reward; naturally, he answers the call, and heads to the planet surface to save them. There, he hooks up with a bothersome nomadic teen (Molly Ringwald) and a former military colleague (Ernie Hudson), who agree to help him.
I was seeing quite a few movies at my neighborhood multiplex back then, and you’d think I would’ve been eager to plunk down a few bucks to check out what hinted to an engaging outer space adventure…especially in 3-D. But looking back, I remember there were two particulars from the preview trailer that were successful in keeping me away. First and foremost was seeing a shrill Molly Ringwald as a co-star, a Brat Packer who I was definitely not a fan of at the time. And second, the existence of a villain called Overdog, whose name was not only patently ridiculous, but once I saw him in the movie, had me thinking that maybe a more fitting moniker—like maybe Overdick—would’ve made more sense.
I also assumed Strauss would be the glue that held it all together, and he was; even though he felt like a cross between Han Solo and Mel Gibson’s character from The Road Warrior, I still got a kick out his actions and delivery of dialogue. And being a serious actor in TV mini-series and film, he could easily have snoozed his way through this, but he didn’t. However, I still had qualms about Miss Ringwald, and sure enough, right off the bat she proved me right by being as juvenile and annoying as I’d expected. I will give her credit, though; she toned it down after a while, and by film’s end I even enjoyed the teaming of her and Strauss, and I actually found myself—gulp—caring about them.
I’ll admit, I had a better time with this than I was expecting, especially when one considers it was the forgotten half of a two-film set I’d purchased several years earlier. Yes, it was silly at times, and overboard, and cheap-looking, and derivative, but even with all that it was still entertaining, and it was cheesy early-’80s sci-fi, with the requisite music, effects, and hairstyles to go with it, so it automatically scored bonus points for that. I’d say give it a go if you’re a fan of the 1980s like I am; I just wish I’d seen it on Blu-ray, which might’ve offered a better, sharper viewing experience, and made those cool planet landscapes (filmed in Utah and here in Arizona) look even cooler. (6/10)