Return of the Jedi and had been quite disappointed in it since Han Solo and Darth Vader had been seriously de-balled and the whole Ewok thing just aggravated me.... among other let downs and cop-outs in the script (brother and sister? Really?). So, when my girlfriend and I decided to hit a Saturday matinee, and I saw Spacehunter in 3-D on the marquee, I was hoping for something with a bit more testosterone than Lucas' latest interstellar epic.
Spacehunter is - like pretty much all my favorite space operas - a Western with spaceships and blasters. The protagonist, Wolff (played to wry perfection by Peter Strauss) is, like Han Solo in the first Star Wars, a small-time, somewhat shady, independent ship's captain who is deeply in debt and desperate for a big score. Unlike the aforementioned Solo, though, Wolff's choice in traveling companions is more to my tastes - instead of a seven-foot tall walking carpet, he's got a shapely brunette engineer, who also happens to be an android sexbot . Her name's Chalmers (played by the lovely Andrea Marcovicci), and I'm always saddened when she's felled by a stray laser bolt early in the film....
Star Wars' Solo, Wolff's very name tells us that he's a loner (if only slightly more subtly). A mercenary, he's got plenty of bravado and and he's quick with his blaster. He's clearly not good at relating to people (even his android finds him irritating) though, so when Niki comes along (and the pre-John Hughes Molly Ringwald's actually pretty endearing in the role when she's not being annoying) he is deliberately brusque and cold toward her. Although he eventually bonds with the teenage girl (and yeah, it is slightly creepy considering that Niki's a fairly nubile young thing) it takes literally to the very end of the film before he's willing to make her a permanent part of his life.
This is all very much in the tradition of the cinematic Western gunslinger.
Starlog magazine article, the design of these creatures - by Tom Burman's studio - was a mistake based on a typo. The story goes that because of the budget and production schedule, the make-up crew had to build the creatures without the direct supervision of the director or producer, and their mistyped copy of the script identified the mutants as "fat men" and not "bat men." The mistake went undiscovered until the pricey latex suits were delivered to the Utah location, and at that point there was no time or money to have them remade.
Road Warrior-esque production design, but considering that the setting is an utterly failed colony world, I'm not sure how else the characters and their environs should have looked. Personally, it all works just fine for me, and from the glimpses we get of the technology beyond Terra IX - like the passenger starliner, Wolff's ship and his "tumbler" vehicle - there seems to be a pretty cool galactic civilization out there. Too bad there weren't any sequels to show us more of it. The Moab, Utah locations are decidedly otherworldly, and the cinematography by Frank Tidy presents those unearthly locations to fine effect.
Also playing into the "Western" nature of the story, Elmer Bernstein - who is probably best-known for his theme to the epic The Magnificent Seven - provides suitably "big" and heroic musical score for the film.
still chafes my ass.)
The DVD presents the film in both 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and, on the flip side, 1.33:1 pan & scan. There are no bonus features beyond some apparently randomly-selected trailers for other Columbia DVDs.
Lamont Johnson's direction is rather by-the-numbers and lacks much stylistic flair, it's reasonably well-paced and fun. The action sequences are decent, the photography is good, and the "in-your-face" 3-D moments aren't too obtrusive.
Believe me, I'm not kidding when I say that I wish there had been a couple more Spacehunter adventures....