Directed By: Lamont Johnson
Starring: Peter Strauss, Molly Ringwald, Ernie Hudson
Tag line: "Journey with Wolff and Niki, an interstellar adventurer and young rebel. On a mission to rescue three stranded women from a planet no one has warned them about. Because no one has ever returned"
Trivia: A number of the film's screenwriters were writers from Marvel Comics
Directed by Lamont Johnson, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone was one of several 3-D movies released in the early ‘80s. Because we hadn’t seen a 3-D film before, my friends and I couldn’t wait to check it out, but unfortunately, the gimmick wasn’t all that impressive. What’s more, the glasses eventually gave us all a headache, so we took them off and spent the last 30 minutes or so of the picture staring at a fuzzy screen. Obviously, it wasn’t a particularly good movie-going experience, but watching it again now, without the 3-D, I have to say I was impressed. Set on a desolate planet, Spacehunter has a post-apocalyptic feel to it that, when combined with the film’s bizarre creatures and fun action sequences, results in moments of genuine excitement.
When their spaceship is attacked, three girls (Cali Timmins, Deborah Pratt, and Aleisa Shirley) hop into an escape pod and crash-land on Terra XI, a planet populated by thieves and lowlifes. Wolff (Peter Strauss), a bounty hunter, heads to Terra XI to rescue the girls and claim the huge reward offered for their safe return. Joined by both a scruffy teen named Niki (Molly Ringwald) and a fellow bounty hunter (Ernie Hudson), Wolff battles some of the oddest creatures he’s ever encountered, all in an effort to reach the planet’s “Forbidden Zone”, where the girls are being held by The Overdog (Michael Ironside), a cruel cyborg who won’t give up his prisoners without a fight.
The opening 20 minutes of Spacehunter, which features, among other things, a battle on Terra XI between two rival factions, are exciting, and get the movie off to a great start, and while many of the effects (especially those set in space) are noticeably bad, the planet’s striking landscape more than makes up for them. Spacehunter also stars a couple of performers who, within a year of making it, would hit the big time; John Hughes’ 1984 film Sixteen Candles made Molly Ringwald a star, while Ernie Hudson went on to play the 4th member of the famous spirit hunting team in Ghostbusters. The most fascinating character in the movie, though, is Michael Ironside’s Overdog, who, part man and part machine, is a hell of a creepy dude (when the 3 girls are first brought to him, The Overdog orders a guard to strip the clothes off one of them, telling him to do so “slowly”). When the action shifts to his domain in the Forbidden Zone, Spacehunter really hits its stride.
Those expecting a film on the level of Star Wars or The Road Warrior will likely be disappointed, but as a slice of 80s cheese, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone is a flick that fans of low-budget sci-fi will surely enjoy.