Radio Free Steve (2000)

The real puzzle about this one is why so many critics seemed to like it.

Back in the 80s, Steve Glenn, an annoying slacker, decided to take a trip out West while filming what was meant to be a post-apocalyptic movie in the vein of Mad Max.  So he grabbed his unwilling girlfriend, a VHS video camera and his mother’s van, and sets out in search of…

Nothing much.

In the movie he’s making, he plays Radio Free Steve, the last surviving Pirate radio DJ, in a world where the FCC has shut down any voice except for the annoying, high-decibel squeal of the Emergency Broadcast Network (Eighties version).  The joke here is, of course, the familiar one about the totally uncool guy who is convinced that he’s super-cool.  One wishes that someone would shoot this particular trope and put it out of its misery – It’s the sort of role Steve Martin in his prime could handle, but not many other people can.

He also gets to shoot, stab, run over and otherwise mess up a fair number of mutants, who all come complete with black, flowing robes.  Which he quite enjoys.

The problem is that his personal problems keep getting in the way of making his movie, and Steve’s obnoxious behavior alienates those who might have helped him.

In the framing story for the framing story, however, we learn that Steve, now fifteen years older, fat and balding, is in a dead end managerial job.  But when famed director, “Lars Von Biers”, visits, he wants to see the footage of the film Steve left unfinished.

There are clever moments in this metafictional mess.  One thinks, for example, of the death of radio preacher Richard Hatch (obscure Battlestar Galactica pun) in a moment that seems to have been stolen from Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, or the supposed aliens running a musical camp who speak in strange, subtitled words, with clouds of electrical discharge and static.

But the film lacks any sort of consistent tone, one moment delivering a silly Sci Fi moment, the next, a violent quarrel between Steve  and anyone else who gets too close  – and exactly what the significance of the final sequence is can hardly be said to be clear.

It reminds me a lot of Brian S. O’Malley’s Bleak Future, a wild little post-apocalyptic film shot entirely on Super 8 film, which is not only funnier and better made, but also does a far better job of commenting on the flaws of 80’s SF films.

So rather than go to all the trouble of finding this obscure little film, you’d be a lot better off if you just watched Bleak Future here.

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