Sunday, September 4, 2016

Adventures in the Forbidden Zone


Holden:  Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about... your childhood movie watching habits.

I must have been about 10 when Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone reached premium cable.

I remember seeing it a lot - probably 20 or even 30 times once it hit HBO, even though before today, I couldn't give you any more than scant details.  Maybe not even that much.  It was borderline scary at times and even though it could never match the awesomeness that was Star Wars, I enjoyed it immensely.

I watched it over and over again just as I did with The Beastmaster, Ice Pirates, Flash Gordon, Conan the Barbarian, and Blade Runner.  But not necessarily from beginning to end.  The majority of viewings must have come in just before or after the sail barge train battle scene.

Because seeing it again today after 33 years, I didn't recall anything of the first 10 minutes.  You know, the part that kind of sets up the rest of the movie.

This review does a good job of summing up the plot while noticing the sleazy aspects that make it a weird time-warp kind of anomaly that could only exist right around 1983.

There's a Mad Max kind of feel to it, as well.  Not so much cyberpunk as I envision it, unlike the linked review above, but definitely a high-tech / low-life aesthetic.  Not too long ago, Cyborg was screened at one of my monthly pizza/movie nights.  Spacehunter reminded me of Cyborg, too.  Especially, the brunette android.  But there was more to it than that - a world gone to seed.  A post-apocalypse of trash, a wasteland of dirty nomads looking for flesh.

The whole thing seems to have a bigger budget than I would have guessed.  The alien planet looks kind of like an alien planet.  Not sure whey they filmed those outdoor scenes, but it's realistic while also being unfamiliar.  Likewise, the "garbage chic" costumes and "rust tech" machines are equally impressive.

The pacing is also excellent.  It feels like a long journey even though the audience never grows bored.  Interesting things are happening all the time and in between, we get the emotional journey of the good guys.

Which brings me to my favorite aspect - because it's a rare commodity these days, like some kind of mineral used for making particle beam weapons that can only be found on planet SK-9 in Terra Quadrant.  Sleaze!

Like Starchaser: the Legend of Orin, there was a sexist kind of masculine vibe that I enjoy, that feels right to me, even though in today's culture of twitter wars and social issue outrage would surely be described as "toxic."

The protagonist, Wolff, obviously uses his pretty android engineer for sex.

When the three human women are captured by the antagonist's henchmen, they're obviously going to be used for sex or to satisfy some carnal appetite.

When Wolff meets the girl tracker, Nikki, who helps him find the captured women, there's definitely some adult expectation subtext going on.  Later, when Wolff gives her a bath and finds out she's about 16, he takes on a fatherly role, leaving behind a possible romantic relationship which Nikki assumed would happen.

Mid-way through the movie, Wolff and Nikki encounter a tribe of underwater amazons.  The amazons voice their interest in Wolff as breeding stock.  That doesn't sound like a bad idea to Wolff, however, when they put Nikki in danger, he decides to get out of there rather than have sex with many strange and beautiful (and probably dangerous) women.

You don't get stuff like that in a "kid's movie" these days.  1983 is long behind us, and so when a forgotten cult classic like this emerges from our distant cinematic past, I feel we should embrace it.

Obviously, there are a few problems or missed opportunities with the movie.  The antagonist goes by the name Overdog?  Yeah, it's no Star Wars.  But then neither is Ice Pirates, and that also deserves a 2nd or even 3rd viewing if it's been over a decade since you've seen it.

The standalone Spacehunter DVD seems to be out of print and therefore more expensive than it should be; however, after a little searching, I discovered that Walmart sells a Krull / Spacehunter combo DVD for around $5.  Doesn't get any better than that.  Well, neither film has any extras - not even the ability to select chapters.  But the movies are the main event, so yeah... buy it.

It should go without saying that Alpha Blue is the perfect vehicle for a kind of Starhunter RPG experience.  Pick up the bundle if you want both sourcebooks included in one low price.

Thanks,

VS