Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25 - "Bad actors fight evil in the future" double feature

Today I watched two cheesy action flicks featuring uncharismatic lead actors battling evil in the future.

The cover of my VHS copy of Lunar Cop

Lunar Cop (1995)
Director: Boaz Davidson
Format: VHS (Nu Image)

In the year 2050, 27 years after an "ecological apocalypse" called the Big Burn (climate change on steroids maybe?), rich survivors live on a moon base. They've developed a serum that will "refoliate" the planet, but a pesky bunch of terrorists steal it and flee to Earth.

Michael Pare (EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS) stars as Joe Brody, a cop sent to earth to retrieve the serum. Upon arrival he saves pretty "savage" Thora (Walker Brandt, CITY SLICKERS) from rape at the hands of Kay (Billy Drago, CYBORG 2), the leader of The Rough Boys, a gang of motorbike-riding savages who look like they're late for a Mad Max convention.

Brody befriends the people of Thora's peace-loving colony and from there Space Mutiny boils down to a "good guy helps peasants fight back against baddies using unconventional methods" scenario, which we've all seen a million times, mosty in westerns.

There's a twist that makes Brody question his allegiance to the moon dwellers and a final showdown with his robot partner from the moon (foreshadowed in the opening), and then a final twist that is definitely more of a surprise and ends up quite heartfelt.

Now, I love a good post-apocalyptic flick. Love 'em. But one of the major problems I have with Lunar Cop is it doesn't feel very apocalyptic. Aside from some Road Warrior-esque costumes, it could be set in the deserts of present day Mexico or the South West of the US. Everything's too clean and polished to be post-apocalyptic. At least make it dirty and gritty!

That gripe aside, the action is pretty good, with director Boaz Davidson (AMERICAN CYBORG: STEEL WARRIOR) making sure there are lots and lots of motorcycles flying through the air, explosions, shot gun blasts and fist fights to keep things interesting. This is Davidson's last credited directing job though, so I guess the studio wasn't happy with his efforts.

Pare has always relied on his good looks and as usual here he comes up short in the charisma department. Luckily that's something Billy Drago has plenty of, and aside from the action he's the reason to watch Lunar Cop.

Previews on my VHS: Streetcar named Desire (1995), Bird of Prey, A Walk in the Clouds, The Brothers MacMullen.

The cover of my VHS copy of Space Mutiny

Space Mutiny (1988)
Director: David Winters and Neal Sundstrom
Format: VHS (Palace)

At some point in the future the remnants of the human race are travelling through space on a massive spaceship that is virtually a floating planet. Sound familiar? Battlestar Galactica maybe?

I haven't watched the new TV series, but I'm very familiar with the original 70s series, so straight away I recognised the space battle footage early on in Space Mutiny as being recycled from it. It's unmistakeable - the same Star Wars-ripoff fighters and Cylon ships, even the laser sound effects remain unchanged.

Onto this colony ship comes Dave Ryder (former American footballer Reb Brown, who played Captain America in two CAPTAIN AMERICA TV movies), who is a ruggedly-handsome fighter pilot. He immediately gets mixed up in a plot by one of the ship's commanders (John Phillip Law, who played Sinbad in 1973's THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD), who sabotages things in the hope the ship will be forced to land on a nearby planet. He's sick of floating through space and wants to feel terra firma beneath his shiny space boots. Assisting him in this plot is another traiterous officer, played by James Ryan (KICKBOXER 5).

Cameron Mitchell (TOOLBOX MURDERS) is the Lorne Greene of the ship, all wise with his bushy white beard and flowing robes. His daughter and Ryder's love interest is played by Cisse Cameron, who ended up marrying Brown.

As Ryder battles to save the ship from the mutineers, there's a weird subplot involving a group of female space witches, which feels like it was added to pad out the running time. And it probably was.

As well as the recycled Battlestar Galactica footage, there's plenty more space cheese to go around. Some of the costumes are right out of American Gladiator, while others are the more conventional Star Trek/Wars ripoffs. Apparently in the future they use hula hoops to boogie to corny synth music while dry ice fills the dance floor. And wait until you see the chase scenes involving what amount to galactic bumper cars.

The acting? Oh, it's bad. Brown struggles any time he is called upon to emote, but luckily most of his lines consist of yelling "Let's move" or "Son of a bitch" while running around shooting lasers. Law's bad guy is quite dastardly - we know that because of the amount of times he gives an uber-evil Mwa-ha-ha laugh. All that's missing is a curly mustache for him to twirl.

Bad acting. Cheesy special effects and costumes. A lame plot. What does all this add up to? A damn good time, naturally! Space Mutiny sits right up there with some of the best cheesefests going around. Definitely recommended!

Oh, and apparently this was riffed by Mystery Science Theater 3000. I like MST3K but haven't seen that episode, of which I'm kinda glad. It was fun to see Space Mutiny in all of its natural glory first.

Previews on my VHS: The Invisible Kid, Tiger Warsaw, Cameron's Closet, Across the Lake

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