Another Craggus Comfort Movie, another staple of those early pioneering days of VHS rentals. This one may have hit cinemas in glorious 3D during the format’s brief eighties revival but I first saw it on the small screen, where its flaws were less noticeable and its strengths somehow enhanced.
When three beautiful survivors of a space cruise liner crash land on Terra XI, space-faring salvage dealer Wolff (Peter Strauss) is tempted by the bounty of 3,000 mega-credits and sets off to rescue the damsels with the help of his sidekick engineer Chalmers (Andrea Marcovicci). Arriving on the failed colony world which has been ravaged by plague and civil war, our heroes must deal with hostile native scavengers, rival bounty hunter Washington (Ernie Hudson) and the sinister forces of the evil cyborg Overdog (Michael Ironside). Along the way, Wolff is joined by a young Scav called Nikki (Molly Ringwald) who offers to be his guide to Overdog’s territory in return for a lift off-world.
For a movie called “Spacehunter”, it’s a very planet-bound adventure with only the prologue taking place outside the atmosphere of Terra XI. On the surface, it’s a fairly blatant rip off of the “Mad Max” movies but dig a little deeper and it essentially provides the blueprint for what would become, two years later, “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”. Strauss makes for a decent enough space rogue hero and Ringwald – on the cusp of superstardom with “Sixteen Candles” due the following year – fulfils the role of feisty sidekick well.
While it may lack many overtly outer space elements, it’s certainly acton packed and willing to get a little weird, albeit in a slightly underdeveloped way. The production values are pretty good too, with only the editing letting it down, particularly in the action scenes where it distracts from the imaginative set pieces being thrown at the story and the welcome dominance of atmospheric location shooting. Executive Produced by Ivan Reitman (frequent collaborator Harold Ramis makes an uncredited voice cameo) and with a score by Elmer Bernstein no less, “Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone” is an enjoyably hokey slice of pulp sci-fi which combines elements of George Miller’s post-apocalyptic wasteland with the breathlessly kinetic approach to peril of the “Flash Gordon” serials of old. Like much early eighties fare, it’s not aged particularly well, especially in some of its attitudes but it still retains a somewhat tarnished, grubby charm.