The real Clone Wars occurred in the late 70s and early 80s, when numerous low-budget SF films fought to be mistaken for the next Star Wars. One such film is our final Weekend Review for November– so grab your popcorn, your 3-D glasses, and a drink to blunt your critical sense, and scope the screen.

Title: Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone

Available at Amazon and Amazon on demand.

Cast and Crew

Director: Lamont Johnson
Writers: Stewart Harding, Jean LaFleur, et al.

Cast:

Peter Strauss as Wolff
Molly Ringwald as Niki
Ernie Hudson as Washington
Andrea Marcovicci as Chalmers
Michael Ironside as Overdog

Full credits may be found at the imdb

Premise

A cut-rate Han Solo, desperate for funds, seeks the reward for rescuing a trio of gorgeous V.I.P.s who have crash-landed on a dangerous colony in the final frontier. Along the way, he encounters a spirited space urchin, an old military buddy, and movie serial adventures.

High Point

I admire the low-budget/cannibalized-kit/ approach to filmmaking, which Lucas raised to an art form in the original Star Wars. This film isn’t quite so original and clever. Its interiors were shot at the same time and in the same studio as Brainstorm, and they were able to borrow some props. I’ve heard claims that they cannibalized other items from various films, and find it quite plausible.

This may seem like a strange strong point, but the film demonstrates that one doesn’t need the world’s biggest budget to make SF. If they’d been able to make the Wolff/Niki dynamic work consistently the way they obviously intended, and had given a little more thought to the script, this might have become a fondly-remembered Sci-Fi classic.

Despite its numerous flaws, Spacehunter still manages to be an amusing, goofy B-flick.

Low Point

The brief encounter with the trash compactor monster water-snake and some aquatic space-Amazons exists only to showcase the 3-D effects. Otherwise, 3-D serves (as it usually does) as a cheesy gimmick that fails to distract from the film’s faults.

The Review

Originality: 2/6. The film plays like a mixture of The Road Warrior, Star Wars, and a Saturday morning cartoon—- with a Planet of the Apes reference in the title for good measure. Curiously, Spacehunter also plays like an antecedent to Firefly (picture Captain Mal in the Wolff role)– minus the superior acting, witty writing, and high production values.

Effects 4/6. The space shots are okay for the time, while the mutant effects and costumes are not. Spacehunter also features some impressive custom vehicles.

Story 4/6. The initial premise is a straightforward set-up for SF adventure. The execution raises some questions. The evil Overdog has the worst security in the universe, and the noble heroes blow up an entire settlement to rescue three women.

Acting 4/6 Molly Ringwald, then fifteen, shows why she became a teen star in the 80s. Attempts to make her relationship with Strauss amusing and touching often fail, but we see the potential. One key problem is that Strauss gives a rather wooden performance. As for the various space-babes, casting clearly didn’t choose them for their acting ability.

Production 4/6. The filmmakers couldn’t afford Tunisia, so they shot the exterior scenes in the Utah desert. This generally works, and I didn’t even notice the parking lot in one scene until someone pointed it out to me.

Emotional Response 4/6.

Overall 4/6 If you watch with the appropriate expectations, you’ll find Spacehunter a lot better than you’d expect. At the same time, I cannot deny that MST3000 missed an opportunity here.

In total, Spacehunter receives 26/42.