Countdown

February 1998



    This months movie is Space Hunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone.  I think is is a really crappy movie, but I cannot deny the fact that the film grossed 16.5 million dollars in the U.S. alone.  This was actually shot as a 3D film, but in my opinion the only good 3D film ever made was Comin' At Ya'The Video Tape BoxFor once the evil Leonard Maltin agrees with my point of view, giving it 1 and 1/2 stars out of 4.  Vince really digs this one.

    Anyway, this film was made in 1983 and was directed by Lamont Johnson.  He is not really noted for any big films, but be starred in several murder movies in the 50's and did direct several Twilight Zone episodes, so he does have a little science fiction experience.  What is really odd about this film is the number of people who worked together on the same films.  The producer is Ivan Reitman who worked Ghostbusters, Stripes,  and Heavy Metal.  Add to that the fact that several of the screen writers also worked on these films.  The musical score is done by Elmer Bernstein, who has worked on many great films but I mention because he worked on Ghostbusters.  Oh, and Ernie Hudson, the guy who played Winston Zedemore in Peter StraussGhostbusters has a role in this film.

    So the story goes like this, three hot chicks are on a space cruise and their ship blows up and they crash land on some planet and are attacked by these Mad Max wannabes.  Then we cut to Peter Strauss plays this guy named Wolf who runs space garbage ship.  He hears the distress signal and decides to go after these chicks because there is a reward for their rescue.  Oh and he has a hot chick android who is smarter than him and the planet the chicks landed on was ravaged by some plague and is quarantined.
    Upon landing there is trouble.  Here we come to a pretty average fight scene involving two different Mad Max factions. The Railroad ShipThere is a nice shot in this scene of what looks like a sailing ship coming towards the camera and then turns out to be a vehicle on train tracks.  At least the director tried to do justice to the art.  The three chicks are with these dudes but they are attacked by "Overdog's" men.  Peter Strauss fights pretty good on the side of the people that aren't on the side of the Overdog.  But in the end, the chicks are taken away by these dudes in jet powered hang gliders (So that scene in Escape From L.A. wasn't original).  Oh, and the android was killed by an Overdog dude laser.
    So Wolf heads into the "Forbidden Zone" looking for those chicks. Pretty In DirtHe finds this come building that is filled with skeletons and then someone tries to steal his vehicle.  Boom, there is Molly Ringwald and let me tell you, she isn't pretty in pink.  She looks like a zombie (the makeup artist was obviously looking for something to do).  She is the "spunky sidekick" element of the film.  She uses catchy words that have no meaning in the real world, designed to be picked up and used by easily influenced teenagers.  But, like any trite Hollywood script, he takes her along.  Oh and there is a scene where she slides up next to him while he's asleep and puts her arm around him.  Apparently the director was trying to enforce the fact that even though she was supposed to be a tough girl, she had a heart of gold.  But because she smells so bad, we are forced to endure a scene where Wolf throws her into a conveniently place pool of water, using soap that he had in his pocket for some reason.  Everyone laugh.  Ha ha.
Ahh!  Its Coming At Me! Then we cut to the lair of the Overdog and his science lackey.  This guy speaks with a weak German accent and he has a little fun in store for the three chicks.  The picture to the left is obviously one of the "3D specific" shots in the film.  I say this because there is really no reason for the mystery device of unknown capability to come directly at the camera and linger so long without any chick reaction shot to go with it.
    Back to Molly and Wolf, we finally get to see Ernie Hudson driving this snowplow looking thing.  Funny part is, wait for it, he knows Wolf. Imagine that.  His character is called Washington and apparently he and wolf trained together in the military service.  Washington is a government guy and he is also there to get the chicks, but not for personal gain.  Like old buddies, they argue with each other and do everything they can to not admit needing each other.  Later, while Wolf and the chick are exploring some building we learn that her name is Niki.  Oh and they are attacked by these slimy lard looking guys like the Gluttony victim in the movie Seven.  Wolf shows that he really is a hero by saving the chick.  Unfortunately Overdog Shmoverdogthere is not a lot of fighting.  They definitely should have gone for some exploding fleshy dude scenes.  All of the meat flying into the camera would have made for a great 3D shot.
    Right, so the science guy, called the Chemist, finally introduces the three chicks to the Overdog.  What can I say about this Overdog.  Well, he's not very impressive so far as a villain.  He is surrounded by this cage and they have to digitally alter his voice to make him sound menacing.  On the plus side, we are granted a slow undressing of the girl scene, but they cut away to Wolf and Niki just as we are going to get breast action.  But then they cut away to a scene where Wolf and Niki get captured by these Amazon chicks, who in turn run away when some sea dragon thing pops up.  Now I'm gonna say this up front, till this point, the special effects had been good, but there are two effects in the sequence that suck.  The first is the scene where Niki is sucked underwater, which was obviously a film reversal bit.  Then there's the dragon thingy.  It looks absolutely fake.  stiff and Washington Saves The Dayinflexible, its roar not matching its mouth movements, and not very menacing anyway.  Wolf kills it in three seconds.
    Forced to leave the vehicle behind, they are now on foot in what looks like Utah's salt flats.  We are forced to sit through a "tromp through the desert" scene and just when they are at the end of their rope, Washington arrives.  Nothing like wrapping up plot points.  Wolf is forced to team up with Washington who has recovered Wolf's vehicle.  Washington informs Wolf that his ship (Washington's) was damaged.  Seems they all need each other.  One big mutant planet family.
    Wolf and Niki have a fight about shares of the reward, and this was where the screen writers through in a bit of character development.  Doesn't it strike you as odd that a person on a planet with no commerce, government or institutions of normal society still values money.  Fortunately this tender moment is broken up when two dudes from that sailing train roll up headed to kill the Overdog at his HQ called the Graveyard.  Oh and some mutant kids attack them all with grenades and destroy Washington's vehicle (don't worry, he's okay).
    Our heroes arrive at the Graveyard and disguise themselves as bad guys to get inside.  We are treated to some death maze action where people are impaled and such.  Washington frees the people from the slave pen and blows some stuff up, while Wolf rescues the chicks and blows some stuff up.  Meanwhile, Niki is captured and like most villains who are distracted by shiny objects, the Overdog digs Niki, but sends her into the death maze which has flames, and spikes and these slashing blade things.  Groovy laugh the Overdog has.  Wolf has a chance to escape, but does he.  Go figure.  He fights off a bunch of bad guys while Niki makes it through the maze only to be taken by Overdog so he can suck out her vitality to keep him young.
    Wolf kills the Chemist by simply squeezing some slime filled water bottle on him and goes in for the final duel with Overdog.  And it's a pathetic fight.  It lasts all of 13 seconds and ends with the Overdog being electrocuted.  Funny thing about this deal is that once the boss is dead, the entire place starts to collapse around them.  Lucky for them, Washington drives in the repaired plow thing to save them just before the whole place blows up.
    The film wraps up with Wolf and Niki making friends and her going with him.  In short, this would have been a great pilot for a TV show.  There wasn't any real gruesome violence, no super foul language and no nudity.  NBC could have bought this and made it a hit instead of the A-Team.  I guess if you stack a popular teen actress of the time like Molly Ringwald into a film, it's gonna make a few bucks.



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