(I'm writing this in a bit of an alcohol-induced haze, so you'll forgive me if I ramble. Or make no sense at all. Or start typing "SPIDERS! SPIDERS!" You never know.)
A little while back, I reviewed [i]Ghoulies[/i] and [i]Ghoulies II[/i], two films by 80's b-movie mogul Charles Band. Both were, of course, rather crap, but all Band films have certain qualities that are vaguely compelling. Not good, mind you, but compelling. Most of these qualities come from the fact that all of Band's films seem to be inspired by comics drawn by a 9-year-old boy, as most of his 80's output features loads of stuff that a 9-year-old would think is awesome, with none of that logic stuff that adults find so tiresome.
[i]Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn[/i] is one of Band's larger projects, released during the 3-D boom of 1983 when the world couldn't get enough of putting on cardboard glasses and squinting to figure out that yes, indeed, that was a spear pointed at them. As a result of being originally presented in the miracle of THE THIRD DIMENSION, the film has a lot of shots of things being POINTED DIRECTLY AT YOU that don't work so well in the 2-D video version.
But [i]Metalstorm[/i] is so much more than a crummy 3-D flick. Taking place in one of those deserty futures that low-rent filmmakers love to use, [i]Metalstorm[/i] stars serial killer-eyed Jeffrey Byron as Dogan, who wanders the wasteland as either a "ranger" or a "finder," depending on what scene it is. His mission is to hunt down the evil Jared-Syn, who's intent on combining the forces of all the Cyclopians of the nomadic zone into killing all of humanity. Or something. Why this is Dogan's mission isn't really revealed, but since nothing else in this film is really explained either, I'll let it go.
Dogan teams up with Dhyana (Kelly Preston), the daughter of a miner killed by Jared-Syn's henchman/son Baal (R. David Smith). Baal is a bad guy, as he not only talks though a vocoder, but he also wears a half-facemask, is horribly mutated and had a big claw that spits acid at you instead of an arm.
(Yes, a big claw that spits acid. You wanna make something of it?)
Dogan promises Dhyana that he'll find Jared-Syn (though it's made perfectly clear Baal killed her father) and after leaving her with an old trader, he sets out to do so. He teams up with a cantankerous , comic-relief guide (Tim Thomerson) whom he meets ar a bar in order to find the lost city where, presumably, Jared-Syn is hiding.
Now, Jared-Syn is busy himself, teleporting Dhyana to him at one point and even getting an army of troops to, er, shoot Dogan with some acid, but they're fended off because Dhyana has a gun. (!?) Then Dogan fights an electric bug monster. Then Richard Moll shows up as a Cyclops-er-"Cyclopian" who, within three sentences, tells Dogan he'll live, threatens to have him killed, and challenges him to a pit-fighting match.
(Side note: [i]Metalstorm[/i] was originally in 3-D, of course, so people with sight only one eye could barely see it, which is bad enough. But to have virtually all the bad guys only have one eye as well is just offensive to visually-challened sci-fi fans. Maybe Band felt they wouldn't bother seeing a 3-D flick anyway, so it was fair game on those half-blind freaks.)
[i]Metalstorm[/i] is WTF 80's sci-fi filmmaking at its' finest, as not only does it have the ideas of a 9-year-old, but the attention span as well. As soon as concepts are introduced, like the "life crystal" that Jaren-Syn uses to take his foes' "life-force" into a master crystal to open another dimension, they vanish. Dhyana herself goes missing for the middle of the film, and the climax, where Dogan chases Jared-Syn via blue screen effects that look like the old video game "Mach 3" until he opens to doorway into what seems to be a psychedelic jungle gym, is so insipid it has to be seen to be believed.
Plus, it's got great "what the hell are they talking about" moments like this one:
(Dogan prepares to leave Dhyana with Dax the storekeeper)
Dax: "I was married to a stubborn woman once. She ran off and took half of my crystals."
Dogan: "Are you stubborn?"
Dhyana: "Try me."
Is this supposed to be romantic? Clever? Bitchy? Whatever it's supposed to be, it's just confusing.
I can't honestly recommend Metalstorm as any sort of a good movie (especially since there is no metal, there is no storm, and Jared-Syn doesn't get destructed at the end), but as potential B-fest material, it's great.
1986's [i]Eliminators[/i] was one of Band's later efforts, and he just produced this time rather than directed, but still it has that great 9-year-old-with-ADD sensibility that all entertainingly trashy sci-fi flicks have. It even has some of the same themes as [i]Metalstorm,[/i] including Band's weird obsession with one-eyed characters.
Roy Dotrice plays Dr. Reeves, a mad nutjob with an acid-scarred face (making one of his eyes unusable) whose latest creation, the Mandroid (Patrick Reynolds) has been going back in time using his newfound time machine. Finding no more use of his superweapon, Reeves calls for him to be destroyed, but the Mandroid escapes due to the sacrifice of Reeves' assistant.
The Mandroid himself is your basic cyborg-type guy, with one cybernetic eye and an arm that can shoot lasers and such. He can also take off his legs and turn into a tank. Oh my.
Anyway, the Mandroid makes his way to the office of Col. Hunter (future Tasha Yar Denise Crosby) and the two make a pilgrimate to South America, where the Mandroid's original human self had crashed a plane and, it is assumed, Reeves has a secret headquarters. (Now, you might ask, "But didn't the Mandroid just come from Reeves' secret headquarters? Why would he go all the way there just to come back? And how did he get there incognito, anyway, lugging around those tank tracks everywhere?" These are all good questions, but shut the hell up.)
Anyway, the two team up with a cantankerous , comic-relief guide (Andrew Prine) whom he meets ar a bar in order to find the lost city where, presumably, Reeves is hiding. Wait a second...
The trio also has a cute little robot named SPOT (it stands for Search Patrol and Operations Technician, and it makes beeping noises! Awwwwwwww...) that instead of a face, has either a video screen or a bunch of LED lights, depending on which is more useful to the plot at the time. They all journey down a South American river, avoiding first a rival lesbian cantankerous, comic-relief guide and then Reeves' henchmen, on their way to their destination.
Things get dull for a while, and it's obvious even the filmmakers thought so, so at the one-hour mark, they introduce... a cro-magnon tribe! And a ninja! The ninja joins their team (for revenge!) and the cro-magnon tribe does not.
It's insipid enough, and there's fun to be had, especially with the climax, when 62-year-old Dotrice ends up as a cyborg himself and everyone starts gleefully blasting lasers at each other. (Reeves' plan, by the way, is to go back in time to become a Roman emperor, so I'll give them points for creativity.) But there's a kind of self-awareness here that [i]Metalstorm[/i] doesn't have, especially with Prine's charcter, who at one point exclaims, "What is this anyway? Some kind of goddamn comic book? We got robots, we got cavemen, we got kung-fu. Well that's it. I quit."
The last thing an enjoyably bad movie should do is start knowing it's a bad movie, and unless you go into straight-out parody (like 1983's [i]The Ice Pirates[/i]), you're going to end up with a film that's not quite fun enough to be either bad nor good. [i]Eliminators[/i] is almost enjoyably crummy, but when compared to [i]Metalstorm,[/i] it's too in on its' own joke to not take seriously.
Did that make sense? I dunno. I've been drinking.
(Band later returned to the "Mandroid" concept with [i]Mandroid[/i] and [i]Invisible: The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight[/i], which I've spared myself from.. so far.)