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SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE

     

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: A new 11-movie collection of 1980s horror/sci-fi titles, most of them schlock, has been released by Mill Creek Entertainment at a very low price under the title ‘The Deadly Beyond Movie Collection.’ Of the 11 titles only four played in Salt Lake theaters during their theatrical debuts 30-something years ago, and my Deseret News reviews of those films have been running here the past couple of weeks. The fourth is below. Click on the links provided here to read about all 11 titles.

Why is “Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone” a 3-D movie?

The advance publicity material indicates the film was designed with state-of-the-art 3-D equipment, not to hurtle things into the lap of the audience but to thrust moviegoers into the sci-fi experience of the story. And while it’s true that nothing (or at least very little) is thrown at the audience, it doesn’t really lend a sense of depth, either. The most noticeable effect is when an actor rises from the bottom of the screen in the foreground, and then it just looks as if someone stepped in front of the projector.

While the 3-D doesn’t enhance the movie experience at all, the answer is actually quite simple: “Spacehunter” is a 3-D film because, without that gimmick, it would probably not make any money at all.

This film looks like a low-rent hybrid of “Star Wars,” “The Road Warrior” and “Alien.” It is also one of the most cramped, crowded movies I’ve ever seen, loaded with corroded metal junk that looks like it was leftover from the aforementioned films. And wearing those 3-D glasses that shut out the rest of the auditorium doesn’t help. Anyone with claustrophobia is likely to run screaming from the theater before the film is half over.

On the other hand, anyone with any sense is also likely to leave the theater early — and several people did at the Friday show I attended.

     

   Lobby card featuring Molly Ringwald and Peter Strauss.

Those glasses, or the process itself, must also be responsible for the washed-out coloration that makes the entire film look muddy, and the crowded scenes make physical detail of characters and creatures nearly impossible to fully detect.

Peter Strauss stars here as Wolff, a wiseacre Han Solo type, without nearly the wit or charm Harrison Ford provides that character. Strauss does have his own brand of charm, mind you, but here he is merely required to look smug and self-satisfied.

He plays one of those space loners, a maverick quickly introduced to us as bankrupt, economically if not morally, and later we learn he was once a space cop.

He picks up a distress signal on his ship, notices that three young women have crashed on plague-infested Terra-Eleven where mutants run amok, and that a huge reward is offered for the return of the women — though we never learn why, who they are or anything about them after that.

Wolff goes in to get them (for the reward, of course) and reluctantly teams up with a young punk girl (Molly Ringwald) and a former cop colleague (Ernie Hudson), as they do battle with a bald half-man/half-machine called Overdog (Michael Ironside), who is in charge of the planet.

     

Ringwald, who was charming in Paul Mazurksy’s “Tempest” last year, is utterly obnoxious here, constantly whining and speaking a language that seems to be part Newspeak, part Tonto and part Valley Girl. The idea is for her to be feisty and independent, while Strauss pretends to be put off by her but is in reality utterly charmed.

He’d better be, because the audience isn’t.

The special effects are passable, but for all the hardware and creatures, everything seems incredibly unimaginative, including a climactic race by Ringwald through a lethal pit that looks like an Edgar Allan Poe version of a carnival fun house (or a live, act-it-out video game).

The Moab cliffs are well represented in outdoor scenes (“Spacehunter” was largely filmed in southern Utah) but the discoloration is too distracting to complement the cinematography.

Though the script is credited to four writers (and the story to two more), the dialogue is often dumb and occasionally seems from the wrong era. At one point, Hudson says of the pit, “We sure have come a long way from ‘Monday Night Football.’ ” The film generally takes itself too seriously for such historical, off-the-cuff frivolity at the last minute. (The best line comes from Ringwald, as she says with a straight face to Hudson: “Us loners got to stick together.”)

The pacing is quicktime but the battles are poorly directed and strangely dull.

“Spacehunter” is a major disappointment, considering it is the first big-budget ($12 million) 3-D film. If “Jaws 3-D” is no better, we may see the gimmick die a second death for the same reason it died the first time.