Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#1,044. Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983)

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 none of us had seen a 3-D film before, my friends and I couldn’t wait to check it out.  Unfortunately, the gimmick proved disappointing. What’s more, the 3-D glasses (the old red and blue kind) gave us all a headache! We eventually took them off and spent the last 30 minutes or so of the picture staring at a fuzzy screen. 

Obviously, it wasn’t a good experience, but watching it again now, without the 3-D, I have to say I was impressed. Set on a desolate planet, Spacehunter; Adventures in the Forbidden Zone has a post-apocalyptic feel to it that, when combined with the film’s bizarre creatures and fun action sequences, generates plenty of 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 reward offered for their safe return. 

Joined by 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 feature - among other things - a battle on Terra XI between two rival factions, get the movie off to a great start, and while many of the effects (especially those in space) are noticeably bad, the planet’s striking landscape more than makes up for them.

Spacehunter also has a couple of performers who, within a year of making this movie, 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 one hell of a creepy dude (when the three girls are initially brought to him, The Overdog orders a guard to strip the clothes off one of them, telling him to do it “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.


David said...

I love those Star Wars inspired 80's movies like Battle Beyond the Stars and Krull but this is one I've never heard of before so I will definitely have to check it out. Thanks for unearthing these treasures for us Doc!

Peter Nielsen said...

Hey, Dave...
Here are my thoughts on this movie: http://forgottenflix.com/peters-retro-movie-spacehunter-adventures-in-the-forbidden-zone-1983/

James Robert Smith said...

Good grief! I have SO never heard of this film!

James Robert Smith said...

Hm. I might see it. Just out of curiosity. I like Ernie Hudson. I don't think he's ever been given a chance and has spent his entire career making crappy-ass films. I've seen him do dialects extremely well, and that's not something that's easy to do.