I quite liked this one.
There, I said it.
It isn’t a great film. It isn’t even a particularly good one. Heck, it’s more like one of those Italian post-Apocalyptic films than anything else, even if it was made in Bronson Canyon, not too far from Hollywood. But it makes up for all the familiarity and its various weaknesses by being, well, likable. Maybe even fun.
Which is as much as we can ask of a low-budget SF film, really.
One of the frequent “contributors” to this site, Charles Band directed this one. Not, as you might think, under the banner of his Empire Films company (or his later Full Moon Features), although he would launch Empire just a few films later (and one of his first Empire films, Ragewar [The Dungeonmaster], would actually reuse both the post-Apocalyptic buggies and Richard Moll). Band came up with the ideas for the majority of the films he has produced over the years, which may explain why so many of them are so totally strange. As you may imagine, this is one of the reasons I’ve seen so many of the films released by Band, from whichever company.
It’s also worth noting that this film — and Band’s earlier film, Parasite (the one that gave away barf bags in the theater!) — were in 3-D. There was a brief 3-D craze at the time which lead to such immortal films as Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, Jaws 3-D, and Friday the 13th Part III. Unlike the process used today, it left two fuzzy strips on either side of the screen where there was only a single image. This was mildly annoying for the parts of these films where routine things were happening that didn’t require three dimensions, and yet those Eighties films didn’t often have a lot of more demanding uses of 3-D, like things jumping out of the screen at the audience.
This is actually rather strange when you remember that you could generally recognize the 3-D films of the Fifties when you saw them on TV in standard format because of all the things flying at you (like the spears in The Creature from the Black Lagoon), and yet I can’t say I noted anything of that sort here.
I suppose it was just too expensive. Although that does leave you asking the whole point of filming in Stereo when those moments are precisely what brings people to the theater to see 3-D films.
As far as I can remember, I didn’t see any obvious sequences where things were supposed to come out of the screen at you in this one. But it might have been more obvious in 3-D.
This one has been described as Mad Max meets Star Wars, and that’s not a bad summary: we have a hero who has some sort of law enforcement job, running around in a black leather cop suit and a tricked-out dune buggy; lots of car chases and stunts. On the other hand, we have strange races inhabiting this world, mystical visions, a superpowered crystal weapon and an over-the-top sinister villain played by Mike Preston who may best be remembered for his part in The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2).
Curiously, a French blurb for this film — which I suspect may have been copied from the back cover of a French VHS release — claims that this is all happening on the planet “Lemuria.” I’m reasonably certain that no such planet was ever mentioned and that no one ever offers an explanation of where this is taking place. I’d assumed from a few odd references and the general look of the film that is was post-Apocalyptic, but I’m not sure Charles ever commits himself. In a way, I suppose it doesn’t really matter. It’s just this place, and that’s what it is like.
There is no shortage of goofiness here if you go looking for it (like the interior of the hero’s car, which is loaded with lots of unmarked buttons and levers, and has what looks like a hubcap attached to the wall behind his head! or why would someone try to fly a hover bike wearing a helmet that covered one of his eyes?). However, the end result is amiable nonsense, with Richard Moll as the barbarian who becomes the hero’s friend after he’s beaten in ritual combat, the usual love interest, flying bikes (yes, they are used sparingly, but it is one thing that you just won’t find in the Italian Mad Max rip-offs!) and a suitably sinister villain with mental powers.
Certainly it is better than most of the Italian Mad Max copies it resembles (I wonder whether it might have inspired some of those films, rather than the other way around\), and it would be an excellent choice for a midnight viewing, particularly if the popcorn is plentiful.
But I will warn you that the title is just a tad bit deceptive:
After all, we all know that the villains usually live to fight another day.