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Category Archives: 70s & 80s Sci Fi

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTM0lAiSJ6w%5D

Ten Word or Less Review – Naked alien woman conquers the world!

Of all the old school tools the contemporary, incorporated Hollywood machine has rooted out of the sci-fi/fantasy filmmaking process, next to matte paintings and model work I think I may miss cocaine the most.  As Rick James was fond of saying “Cocaine is a Hell of a drug.”  As directors and storytellers dreamed up unparalleled ideas of gargantuan stupidity, in this case Texas Chainsaw director Tobe Hooper and Alien writer Dan O’Bannon, all the blow they snorted through their rolled up Benjamins made them impervious to any suggestion that what they were making may be less than the greatest movie ever made.  Such thinking is the only way to explain movies like Zardoz, The Keep and the film we’re here to talk about now, Lifeforce.

Lifeforce easily belongs among those classic ranks of the great, mind boggling sci-fi fiascoes.  It begins with a group of astronauts flying towards Haley’s Comet hoping to study the once in a lifetime cosmic event.  As they approach, their instruments detect the presence of another ship orbiting the comet.  A gargantuan space vessel that looks like a funky weed growing in your back yard that Round Up couldn’t dispatch, they enter the ship through a portal which can only be described as an enormous space anus.  Within the space anus they find a dead race of humanoid bat creatures as well as a perfectly preserved hot, naked chick.  There are also two naked dudes too.  With me so far?  Thinking this is certainly worth ogling, I mean ‘researching’, the astronauts take the naked people back to their space shuttle.  Cut to a month later.  The shuttle approaches Earth and when intercepted, it’s found with its crew dead and the shuttle’s insides burned up, except for the three hot naked people.  Still in their tubes and sound asleep, the recovery crew begin to ogle, I mean ‘examine’ the hot, frozen space chick, and promptly decide to take her back to Earth for ‘researching.’  Anyone still here?

Once planet side, the naked, alien space babe wakes up and promptly sucks the life out of an unlucky schlep who’s too curious for his own good.  When she does this it’s like watching a death scene from a Highlander movie.  Lights flash.  Lightning strikes.  Spooky blue smoke starts flying around.  A smoldering corpse with bug eyes is all that’s left.  You figure after this happens once someone would just shoot naked alien space babe and be done with it but once a hypnotic blue light emanates from her naughty, below the belt bits all bets are off.  The smoldering corpse gets up and tries to suck the life out of the next dummy.  One of the astronauts turns up in an escape pod and recounts a story just about the dimmest viewer could have figured out by now.  The naked space babe stays naked for a while longer but then she starts to jump into other peoples bodies and becomes decidedly less naked and things become a little less exciting but still wildly senseless.  The kind of senseless only drug fueled minds can make heads or tales out of.

What else happens in this thing?  Patrick Stewart appears as a doctor and his head melts.  After buzzing around the country trying to figure shit out our protagonists head back to London to find the whole city in flames with life sucking zombies running wild.  The astronaut has an Argento inspired wet dream with the naked alien space babe.  The movie copies the end of the first Star Trek movie except the two people being warped up in the great blue light are naked.  I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot.  Lifeforce really leaves you in a stupor.  It’s $25 million bucks of dope fueled wackness.

Hollywood only wants to make $200 million sci-fi bonanzas, most of which play like cinematic Valium.  If just once they gave someone that much money and an equally proportional amount of nose candy to go along with it, I’m sure a movie of unparalleled awesomeness could come into being.  A movie with rampant nudity, exploding dinosaurs, time travel via toaster and an all Funkadelic soundtrack.  It would star Keanu Reaves as Jesus Christ Jr., Gary Busey as the Nazi Pope, Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken III and Dolph Lundgren as himself.  And he would appear in the movie riding a flying shark that has the voice of Leonard Nimoy.  Of course none of this, or anything like it, will come to pass.  The powers that be will simply smear white face paint on Johnny Depp and call it fun.  And that will never be as fun as movies like Lifeforce.   Thanks Mitch.  After seeing this every movie forever will somehow seem inferior.

Lifeforce (1)

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Ten Word or Less Review – It certainly does suck.

I was only 3 when The Black Hole came out and I can only guess at why I didn’t grow up watching it at least in 10 or 15 times when I was a kid.  It was Disney, it was science fiction, I should have had the movie memorized by the time I was 9.  Well thank God that didn’t happen.  I’ve managed to scrub away more than a few lousy movies from my childhood memory and The Black Hole would certainly be something to make a point to forget about as quickly as possible once adolescence faded from view.  Maybe I did watch it as a kid and even then could tell what a lump of movie it was.

It was 1979 and every major studio had Star Wars fever on the brain.  They still do.  The age of the Star Wars knock off was about to go full tilt boogie and a struggling Disney studio stepped up with this massive $20 million production.  The Black Hole promised deep space adventure with floating robots, laser guns, monolithic spaceships, more robots with more laser guns, and then another robot equipped with two deadly veg-o-matics for arms as well as laser guns.  That’s a big promise.  What wound up on the screen was a turgid science fiction effort executed with all the pizzazz and excitement of an Amish funeral.  It’s a dull and laborsome movie which tries to marry the heady science fiction cinema of the era with the whiz bang factor audiences were looking for in the wake of experiencing lightsabers and Death Stars.  It winds up doing both types of film horribly wrong.

At the time of its release Black Hole’s languid pacing was probably less of the crippling issue that it is now.  The first Star Trek movie came out the same year and while equally slow paced it was much more successful.  Hole sports extremely ambitious special effects utilizing advanced motion capture model techniques, scores of matte paintings and impressive miniature work.  On the big screens of yesteryear it probably all felt epic and novel enough to not warrant too much fuss.  But no amount of visual pompousness could disguise the rickety screenplay which feels like a half-baked first draft someone rushed through the typewriter to make a deadline.  Characters and their motivations are at best poorly thought out and at worst totally senseless.  And director Gary Nelson, called up from the minor leagues of TV work to helm the most expensive movie Disney had made to date, shows no skill for visual showmanship.  Disney may have made it a point to liberally rip off Star Wars in certain places but they siphoned off none of the excitement.

Disney used its struggling coffers to assemble a mostly decent and capable cast of solid actors but subsequently had them do little but walk around large sets next to floating R2-D2s.  Robert Forester, Anthony Perkins and Ernest Borgnine shuffle through trying not to be upstaged by all the floating robots but they have no help from anything on the page.  Forester plays commanding and dull.  Perkins and Borgnine are great actors but they can’t wad through this flaccid spectacle with any rhythm.  Their characters make stupid decisions in order for the plot to move forward and one can’t help but feel happy for Perkins when he pointlessly meets his demise via the evil robot’s veg-o-matic appendage.  Lucky bastard got to go home before everyone else.  The forgotten Joseph Bottoms just plain sucks.  Some producer makes him yelp a Han Solo inspired ‘yee ha!’ as he saves his chums from robot doom.  Yvette Mimieux has nothing to do but communicate, via ESP, with floating robot VINCENT, the extremely blatant R2-D2 ripoff.  Don’t get me started on how ESP between a robot and a human is supposed to work.

Maximilian Schell gets to preen and speechify as best he can in mad scientist mode but as the movie slowly gives way to special effects and laser fights his character becomes dumb and then dumber.  The movie is so dramatically misguided that it doesn’t even give one of our diligent space heroes a chance to smack him around.  He’s crushed by his stadium sized flatscreen TV and then as his ship falls into the black hole he winds up in his own personal Hell.  His final fate is the one part of the movie which feels a little creepy and of the time.  I’m sure a few kids felt sufficiently freaked out as they watched his nefarious scientist become entombed in his own evil robot, forced to overlook his personal Hell within the black hole.  It’s as if Ken Russell or John Boreman showed up to direct things for one day and then bolted when they realized the rest of the film was a dud.

There’s not a lot of nostalgia out there for The Black Hole, but apparently there’s just enough that Disney wants to remake it and enough to make me feel odd about never having seeing it.  This is actually one case where a remake is fine by me.  You couldn’t do much worse but I’m sure someone will try.  With Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy, Oblivion) on tap to make it I have a feeling that should it materialize the audience will once again find itself drawn into a big, dumb movie that emulates its title by sucking everything around it into lifeless void and squashing it out of existence.  Isn’t that something to look forward to?

theblackhole

Ten Word or Less Review: I like this poster much more than the film.

I’ve been trying to come up with something interesting to say about “A Boy and His Dog” since yesterday, but the fact is that there’s not a whole lot to drone on about.  It’s laced with odd moments to be sure, but on the whole doesn’t make a lasting impression.  It’s a forgotten 70’s sci-fi oddity featuring a young Don Johnson wondering through a post-apocalyptic land, all the while talking to a dog only he can hear. The dog is the educated party in their mismatched bantering.

Sort of “Mad Max” sans automobiles with a dash of “Beneath the Planet of the Apes” and “Lassie”, “Boy” fits in well enough with other various oddball sci-fi films of the decade, though it always feels small in scope which holds it back. Directed by western stalwart L.Q. Jones, “Boy” doesn’t amaze visually or have a lot of narrative strength.  It feels occasionally underwritten and as if scenes are missing.  No distinct plot really materializes until its final act when Johnson investigates the world below the barren desert.  Johnson delivers a great performance as he effortlessly converses with the internal narration of his canine co-star. Though often considered a bit of a weightless actor, Johnson was likely sold short because of his good looks.  Even here he seems too pretty to be wondering a world on the brink of extinction.  The shortcomings of “Boy” seem mostly due to a lack of budget and scope.  This land of desolation doesn’t appear much different from any number of others.  The film takes the kind surreal turn in its last act that only 70’s movies would really try.  “A Boy and His Dog” is an interesting nugget for sci-fi fans, but when it’s over it doesn’t leave much after taste.  All in all it’s a decent but minor thing.

Ten Words or Less Review: Decent 80’s sci-fi that apes its betters, works anyway.

The fact that “The Hidden” is watchable is a pretty amazing thing.  On paper it’s little more than a low-budget 80’s sci-fi film that transparently apes Cameron’s original “Terminator” film and combines it with Carpenter’s 1982 remake of “The Thing.”  An alien is loose in L.A. on a crime spree of robbery and murder, stealing European cars, killing indiscriminately, all the while jamming any kind of metal music it can get its hands on.  Every time the body it’s in gets shot to pieces, which is frequent, it jumps into another host and starts the fun all over.   A rugged L.A. cop (Michael Nouri) and an FBI agent (Kyle MacLachlan) team up to hunt down this evil alien dickweed.

Like I said, on paper it sounds atrocious.  The odd thing is that after 22 years, “The Hidden” still hasn’t quite fallen off the radar of nerd awareness.  It still warrants the occasional mention on movie sites and the reason is that while marred by unoriginality, it’s made with an ample amount of skill, has a screenplay that isn’t terrible but mostly gets by on the strength of its agreeable leads.  Nouri does the overworked, skeptical cop thing pretty well, but of more interest is Kyle MacLachlan.  His peculiar FBI agent was only his third film, after “Dune” and “Blue Velvet”, and it seems to have served as his model for the work he did in “Twin Peaks.”  Its strong performances in dumb material that often make the dumb material work.  The film also avoids being too ambitious with its special effects.  Very often films like this can run into a brick wall as they reach for something they can’t achieve.  “Hidden” doesn’t try complex alien effects or shots of space ships falling to Earth and is probably better for it.

“The Hidden” has nice touches that make it a little bit better than the exploitation crap it was probably meant to be.  The part about the alien that loves rock is the best of them.  It’s probably never been anybodies favorite movie and I doubt an elaborate DVD special edition will ever materialize, but it works for what it is.  As someone who has suffered through some very awful retro, sci-fi pieces of late, “The Hidden” was a breeze to watch.

P.S. As marginal or awful as these 70’s and 80’s sci-fi movies can be, they usually had better posters.  Like the one above.

Ten Word or Less Review: Crap.  I only needed one word.

Genre film fans who adore 70’s and 80’s offbeat B-movies are a hard lot to trust.  Sometimes they worship genuinely unique creations with unappreciated merits and their fandom is more than deserved.  Other times they tout movies of questionable quality and merit which make them seem over eager to grab onto material under the radar in an attempt to be different.  And then sometimes it seems their eyes are poked out as they waste time building up movies like “Q: The Winged Serpent.”

I have no desire to waste a lot of space on this.  I’ve consistently heard about this film for years and it turns out to be nothing more than lame ass monster movie with lame ass special effects and lame ass everything else.  Why some pillars of movie advocacy continue to tout it is baffling.  Fans of monster movies will be unimpressed with the brief, awful shots of the stop motion creature.  Fans of legendary bad asses David Carradine and Richard Roundtree will find little in the way of bad assery on their part.  Besides the poster there’s really nothing to recommend.  This movie sucks.

final countdown

What a waste.  For reasons I can’t fathom “The Final Countdown” is a minor cult classic.  The setup is a classic and it should’ve been an exceptional movie.  A fully armed and operational aircraft carrier from 1980 encounters a freak storm and winds up back in time, right as the Japanese are about to attack Pearl Harbor.  The carrier can easily wipe out the Japanese attack force and save thousands of American lives.  But should they alter the course of history to do so?  That’s as far as things get in the movie itself.  It spends most of its runtime making its characters run around asking ‘What’s happening?’  Martin Sheen and Kirk Douglas play second fiddle to endless montages of airplanes and bombs.  It feels more like a Navy/Air Force recruitment film than a credible piece of alternative history/science fiction.  Not only is the entire thing underwritten and dull, it has a piss poor ending that renders the entire movie pointless.  This is one case where a remake in the hands of an enthusiastic creative team would be welcomed.  Hell, the poster to the side is cooler than anything in the film itself.