Time for another nostalgic trip back to a certain wacky Catgirl’s innocent childhood and a “Lil’ Kitten Classics” review of one of those films of my youth. Our subject this time? Why the 1983 Space Opera 3D epic, “Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone”. 3D? But… but… “Miyuki,” you ask, “Ummm… Don’t you reeeaaally dislike the eye wrenching torture of 3D movies?”. Yes, Gentle Visitors. Yes, I do… But as a wee girl, this particular one showed up at my local cinema in the early 80’s as one of that decades glut of such 3D films during the effect’s attempt at a revival back then. It was the legacy of those 80’s films that pretty much convinced me just how much I despised this particular film special effects gimmick.
Our synopsis? Ok.. ok.. just hold your horses, we’re getting to it. 🙂 “In 2136, an intergalactic bounty hunter named Wolff answers a distress signal that leads him to the plague-ridden planet of Terra Eleven, where he teams up with a spunky orphan girl named Niki to rescue three shipwrecked women from the evil clutches of the sinister mutant cyborg dictator Overdog and his twisted minions.”
Yep. Nothing amazing or novel about this one. It pretty much celebrates the two-fisted pulp scifi serials of an era bygone combined with the post-apocalyptic feel of an Italian “Road Warrior” rip-off. Still, back then it really did make a certain lil’ kitten one happy, happy lil’ girl one hot Saturday afternoon. However, you do have to realize I was all of 10 years old the summer this one came along…. 😉
So… wanna hear about it all? Then hitch up your blaster, boot up your trusty android companion, and buckle up for the jump to hyperdrive and by all means… “Read On”!!
Yep it had been a while since I saw this one. But… as with all those crazy films from my misspent youth naturally as soon a a DVD for it became available, your truly had to grab a copy for her collection. That was a few years ago… but digging through my boxes of DVD’s the other day this one popped up and gave me a chuckle. So… that night, with a naughty lil’ smile, I casually remarked to my sweet wife, “Oh, Carolyn… I thought we might watch an old Molly Ringwald movie tonight. It’s been ages since I’ve seen one. Sound good?” 😉
Hehehe… I just know she was thinking “Breakfast Club” or “Pretty in Pink” or maybe “16 Candles”. Silly, silly Carolyn… she knows me better than that. Cue the theme song!! 😉
For the 1980’s, this was a pretty low budget B movie effort, but by goodness, looking at it you’d never know that. It was a film released by major studio Columbia Pictures, and actually had some pretty darn good actors and actresses scattered throughout its 90 odd minute run-time. That wonderful theme song was the work of Academy Award-winning composer Elmer Bernstein… the guy who also did the score for “The Magnificent Seven”, “The Ten Commandments”, and “The Great Escape” among others. Definitely an A List kinda guy. “Spacehunter” most definitely isn’t in the same league as those films, but it sort of shows the odd way that studios made their main income back then from relying on simple B movie films to bring in the majority of their profits at the theater rather than the way currently only big budget “blockbusters” seem to be seen as profitable and worth getting made today. And in this lady’s opinion… that’s a shame.
There was quite a bit of hype for this one back in the day, as it was the first of another wave of 3D films that staged a comeback right around then. Yeah… yeah.. I know… it had been tried originally back in the 50’s with those terrible red and blue paper glasses. Yep. The ones that combined those tinted images into a stereoscopic illusion that also made watching them an exercise in squinting at a blurry darkened film that occasionally surprised you with an effective three dimensional image. When you could actually see it that is. This time out it was gonna be different. That’s what the TV ads promised anyway. You still had to wear the dorky ill fitting paper eyeglasses, but this time the two images were combined from polarized elements that eliminated the freaky tinting you got from the older 1950’s Anaglyph 3D method. Problem was that the tradeoff for the lack of sickening color tinting was that the image was much darker and far less vivid. Luckily, “Spacehunter” was for the most part, a really brightly shot film… thank goodness. Back then my little eyes were much stronger… and I didn’t need glasses most times, so it actually sorta worked. Although I remember it did give me one heck of a headache by the time it was through. Anyways…
We start off our story with a big ol’ starliner traveling through the swirling gaseous rings of a double star system, the Crynos Nebula. Before you know it, freaky space lightning… “condensing nebular gasses”… make the big ol’ scoop engines blow up. Then there’s that whole “Titanic in Space” moment as sirens sound and everybody runs for the “space lifeboats” before the huge explosion wipes everything out. (Psssst!! Lil’ Miyuki was tickled by the idea that you could tell it was the future ’cause everything in the movie was called “Space something”…”space ships”, “space lifeboats”, “Space Garbage men”. 😉 )
Well… most everybody on that big old ship dies. Except for the one lone mini shuttle that gets free before the huge boom. They zip along to the nearest “E-Type” planet for a crash landing. Yep. You guessed it… “E-Type” means Earth like. See? Just like a certain lil’ kitten, keep reading and you’ll be a futuristic space traveler in no time too… 😉
Naturally the three survivors on board happen to be some kind of hot bikini/ fashion models or something and now they need rescuing. Bad. Why? Because the only E-Type world near their cruise liner was the quarantined off limits plague colony planet Terra XI. Ummm… OK… now that’s a whole lot of suck. This is where even lil’ ol’ me knew our movie was gonna be kinda simple. We never even get names for these ladies. The DVD credits list them as Meagan, Reena, and Nova (played by Deborah Pratt, Aleisa Shirley, and Cali Timmins respectively) but other than running around in their tight little gold lamé spacesuits and screaming a lot, we don’t get much from them in the way of character or backstory. Not that they need it. They’re mostly here to be the “damsels-in-distress” for our film’s hero Wolff.
Right after they crawl outta their shuttle, some freaky mutants snatch them up and then we fade out and switch to our stalwart hero on board his space-cruiser busy harvesting “space junk” when the distress call comes in over the com. There’s a reward for the girls. 3ooo Mega credits. That’s a whole freakin’ lotta “space money”… even lil’ Miyuki knew that. So before we can say “Boo!!”, our hero Wolff (played by Peter Strauss) and his sexy robot girl friday, Chalmers (played by Andrea Marcovicci) fire up the engines and whoosh off to the forbidden world.
It’s a short movie… so that trip takes maybe a minute before our hero swoops in and lands somewhere in the dusty desert wasteland that seems to make up the majority of the planet. Yep… just like those goofy planets on “Star Trek”… They hop into a cool moonbuggy kinda jeep thingee with a raygun turret and roar off in search of the girls after burying the spaceship for safekeeping. Cool huh? I certainly thought so at the time. Watching it again… I still have to admit that the “Scrambler”… as they called it… was a pretty sweet ride. Even today, grown up me doesn’t have a driver’s license, but if I did, I know I’d want to drive something cool like it. Hmmm? Wonder how many miles it gets to the gallon?
Again they spend about a minute before running into the guys holding our trio of beauties (Hey… it’s short movie… they got no time to waste making with the long traveling montages…) and they seem to hang out on some goofy steampunk pirate-ship train combo thingee. Yep. I kid you not. Anyways, before they can do anything some of those motorbike riding mutant post apocalypse heavy metal warrior dudes show up and start shooting the crap outta stuff. They want the girls too. (I mean… doesn’t everyone?)
Wolff jumps in and tries to get to the girls first. but the wasteland raiders are pretty darn mean guys and faster than anything they’ve killed most of the fighters on the pirate ship train and snatched the girls off using rocket propelled hand-gliders. Shades of “Flash Gordon”!!
We lose Chalmers here… as her robot butt gets zapped silly by a stray laser blast… apparently they couldn’t actually afford an actress of Andrea Marcovicci’s status for too darn long… and our hero is pretty much on his own after some fairly weird dialog discussions with the pirate train guys. They all talk like crazy “space hillbillies” you see. Some kind of local slang that lets us tell them apart from all the “Earthers” like our hero. Kinda dumb, but again, lil’ Miyuki thought it was cool…. 😉
Ok… Ok… so… well these guys are no real help, so Wolff goes looking for the survivors of the Medical Relief Team that got dispatched from Earth back when the plague started. They are all pretty much dead… except for those that “went native”. Or their children… Like the plucky little scavenger waif Niki (played by a 14 year old Molly Ringwald) who Wolff meets after she tries to steal his cool jeep.
She’s mouthy… she’s smelly… she’s larcenous… and adorable in her own ragamuffin way. Naturally she weasels her way into joining Wolff as the token “native guide and scout” that all these stories have. She tell s him the girls have been grabbed by Overdog (played with over-the-top gusto by a heavily made-up Michael Ironside), the leader of the Zoners, a bunch of mutant freaks that rule the shithole that Terra XI has become. He pretty much terrorizes the Scavs… the human colonists who are now the wretched nomadic descendants of the original Earth Colony here. They have a big ol’ fortress. I mean… don’t the evil guys always have a big ol’ fortress? Ahhh… and she can lead him safely right there. Yeah. Sure she can… 😉
First there are the quick encounters with some more crazy mutant monsters… a nest of albino fat cannibals… a freaky dragon serpent monster… some vicious amazon “piranha women”… and an old rival of Wolff’s, Terran Sector Chief Washington (played by Ernie Hudson).
Eventually… and far faster than you might expect, we get to the Zoner Fortress of Doom where our heroes can survive the deadly “Maze of Death” (Think Thunderdome crossed with the obstacle course from “American Ninja Warrior” as designed by the serial killer guy from “Saw” and you’d be pretty close) and then battle the cybernetic monster that is Overdog to save the girls and make it out alive as the Fortress goes all “KA-BLOOOIE!!”.
Along the way, our gruff loner Wolff comes to care for spunky lil’ Niki, who also sorta starts looking at him as a father figure… Awwww… You just know they are gonna bond and eventually become a team. It’s just that kinda movie.
Yep. We’re not talking some really amazing story scripting here. It’s a really just a bare bones B-Western kind of plot transplanted to Outer Space. You’d never see this kind of simple B Movie released by a major studio these days, that’s for sure. “Guardians of the Galaxy” is kinda like it’s great great grand child in a lot of ways but with a waaaaay bigger budget and aspirations of being something more than simple Space Opera. Here the plot is thin… the characters cardboard and two dimensional stereotypes from oodles of old pulp comics and stories. But still. They are kinda fun. In that dumb way old “Flash Gordon” serials were. You’ve gotta have some childhood whimsy to enjoy this, but as a grown-up lady, I still enjoyed seeing it again after all those years. So did Carolyn, who spent the film laughing a whole lot and picking on me something terrible for even having a copy of this in my collection. I just wish it had still been in 3D… then she’d have understood. 😉
All in all. I’d have to give “Spacehunter” a fondly remembered 3 “Meows” out of 5. For a dorky film that plays like a Saturday morning space cartoon, it definitely took that tiny budget and tried to make it go big. The effects are good… the scenery and sets well filmed… and it’s loaded with actors and actresses that definitely make you feel they are having a good time with some fairly atrocious lines. Heck. That’s all this lady needs for some Summer movie fun. If it were to pop up some night on late nite TV, I’d say go for it. Mostly for the laughs… you won’t be disappointed.
I know… I know… By now you are all on the edge of your seats and wondering “Mistress Neko!! Please, please, pleeeaaase say there’s a Trailer for this one!!” Well.. you betcha there is. 😉