Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983)

When I was 9, I saw a preview of an upcoming SF movie that looked like the Most Awesomely Epic Thing of Awesome Epicness.  There was this train that was a sailing ship! And these awesome black motorbike things! And pew pew pew!  ALL the pews!

And of course in the manner of all 1983 SF films that were not Return of the Jedi, it vanished in the blink of an eye at the cinema, and despite renting a lot of dodgy 80s SF films in the hope of finding it, I never got to see it.

Until now.

I didn't realise what film this was when I bought it - it was more or less an impulse buy on the back of "Peter Strauss and Molly Ringwald are in this?  Really?".  No, the presence of Krull in the pack was not a factor - I already have that on DVD.

Anyway, when I got to the rail ship scene and realised that my thirty year quest was over, I geeked out just a little.  And frankly, even though I wouldn't actually recommend the film to anyone but an trashy cinema tragic like myself, I definitely don't regret buying it.

The film begins with a space-going cruise ship being destroyed.  One escape pod successfully jettisons, and the three - attractive, female - occupants crash land on a rocky, arid planet where they are soon accosted by less than friendly natives.

Shortly thereafter, space rat Wolf - a cut rate Han Solo-light if ever there was one - intercepts a transmission offering a massive reward for rescuing the women.  "That's a lot of money.  Too much for just a lifeboat" he notes, in a plot point the movie promptly forgets about.

Arriving on the planet, Wolf (who is played by Strauss, of course) soon finds himself embroiled in a battle with the black-clad thugs who follow planetary warlord 'Overdog'.  Overdog's minions use their nifty jet-propelled hang gliders to capture the three women and so Wolf must pursue them over miles of hostile terrain.  Fortunately (perhaps) he soon picks up a guide to help him: the feisty-but-not-as-tough-as-she-pretends-to-be Niki (Ringwald).

Allow me to take a moment to be thankful that the movie appears to be pitching for a father-daughter relationship between Strauss and Molly Ringwald, rather than a romantic one, what with Ms Ringwald being 15 at the time.

The film has a very episodic structure.  Wolf and Niki bumble their way from set piece to set piece as they head toward their eventual showdown with Overdog, with the vast majority of their escapades being resolved in a few minutes and then never mentioned again.  It's quite reminiscent of the old Flash Gordon serials and similar fare, and I suspect that is far from unintentional.

I found this an eminently entertainingly bit of goofiness, but like I said: it's really for trash aficionados only.

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