Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983) – Lamont Johnson

Produced by Ivan Reitman, a score by Elmer Bernstein, a cast that includes Micheal Ironside, Ernie Hudson, Molly Ringwald, (an uncredited) Harold Ramis, and Deborah Pratt, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone is an odd little b-movie science fiction film that tried to cash in on the re-blossoming fascination with 3D back in the early 80s.

Peter Strauss is Wolff (cause it’s cooler with the second ‘f’), a bit of an adventurer, occasional bounty hunter, and a guy who gets his fashion advice from a galaxy far, far away. When he and his android assistant (and maybe more?) Chalmers (Andrea Marcovicci) respond to a distress call that puts a reward out for three female captives (including Pratt) that have been captured by the villainous Overdog (Ironside), Wolff finds himself in for a (big?) adventure.

Along the way he teams up with a young waif named Niki (Ringwald), comes into conflict with another bounty hunter, Washington (Hudson) and encounter a number of strange beings that inhabit an irradiated forbidden zone that must be passed through to reach Overdog’s complex.

On arrival, they find that Overdog is running a bit of a Thunderdome and Wolff is going to bring it crashing down, as long as that means he can rescue the girls, and collect the reward.

The film, is poorly paced, and consequently, never really gets a chance to take off and embrace its b-movie origins. Strauss is fairly likeable playing his Han Solo character, Ringwald seems a bit out of place, but tackles it for all it’s worth, and Ironside is fantastic at chewing scenery.

Some of the model work and special effects are abysmal, but some are good fun, and the creature designs, if not executed as well as they could be, are at least intriguing. The film, however, despite its pacing issues, races to its conclusion, never letting any one alien, villain, or set piece get its due.

The film’s climax happens to quickly, and Overdog never gets a chance to be really villainous, lecherous, sure, but all out evil, not so much. But that can be said of the entire film, nothing is given enough development, it’s like the script though together some sequences, some banal dialogue, and thought, ‘yup, that’s good enough.’

Sigh, it could have been so much more.

I was a kid when this first came out, and I dug it, mainly because it was spacey, had some cool ideas, and Strauss was playing a stereotype I recognised. Watching now, I’m sad that it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, and definitely no where near as cool as I remembered. And believe me, seeing it in 3D couldn’t have saved it either.

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