Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone – USA | Canada, 1983 – reviews and Blu-ray news

‘The first movie that puts you in outer space.’

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone is a 1983 science fiction action film about a bounty hunter on a mission to rescue three stranded women. The initial theatrical release was shown in a polarized, over/under 3-D format.

Directed by Lamont Johnson (Lipstick; The Groundstar Conspiracy; The Twilight Zone, eight 1961 and 1962 episodes) from a screenplay written by David Preston, Edith Rey, Daniel Goldberg and Len Blum, based on a storyline by Stewart Harding and Jean LaFleur, the movie stars Peter Strauss, Molly Ringwald, Ernie Hudson and Andrea Marcovicci.

The soundtrack score was composed by Elmer Bernstein (Ghostbusters; An American Werewolf in London; Saturn 3; Robot Monster; et al).

New Blu-ray release:

In the UK, 101 Films will release Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone on 2nd March 2020. The disc includes a brand new commentary by Allan Bryce and Richard Holliss. Order from Amazon.co.uk

Plot:

It is the year 2136 and while answering a distress signal from Terra Eleven, Wolff (Peter Strauss) agrees to rescue three beautiful maidens from the plague-ridden planet. When the women are kidnapped by henchmen of Overdog (Michael Ironside), the wicked half-man/half-machine who rules the planet, Wolff takes off in hot pursuit.

As he challenges assorted monsters and mutants, circumstances throw Wolff together with Niki (Molly Ringwald), a sassy waif who agrees to guide him to Overdog’s scrap-metal kingdom…

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“Those expecting a film on the level of Star Wars or The Road Warrior will likely be disappointed, but as a slice of 80s cheese, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone is a flick that fans of low-budget sci-fi will surely enjoy.” 2,500 Movies Challenge

“Though the pacing is off and the whole thing kind of a hodge podge of re-furbished early-80s sci-fi iconic moments, it’s the spectacularly termite-detailed art direction that makes it work […] Cars are immaculately dirty and surreal. The sail -(wind powered)-trains are life size and move on actual railroad tracks. Hang gliders swoop down and capture people in low hanging talon attachments…” Acidemic

“Despite having a mind-boggling six writers penning Spacehunter, the plot is about as paint-by-numbers as humanly possible but still manages to be a largely incoherent mess. Even past the halfway mark, I found myself muttering “What the hell…?” every few minutes. Nothing makes much sense.” DVD Talk

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone is the kind of low-rent but quite charming filmmaking that movies like Manborg and Turbo Kid are calling back to, with variable success. It’s excessively rough around the edges, but with an infectious charm that no doubt comes from the abundance of talented people who worked on it.” Goomba Stomp

“It’s cheap, it’s rough, and is not very good, but I do find it fun in a bad movie sort of way, if you have any love for the cheapie Italian post-apocalyptic movies like Exterminators in the Year 3000 then this might be worth a watch, but keep in mind that it’s PG-rated and there’s no blood or gore…” McBastard’s Mausoleum

“The rickety junk world sets […] are often imaginative – with the likes of a sailing ship that travels along rails, bayous made out of metal pipes shaped like trees. Where it tends to get nauseating is in the would-be cute relationship between Peter Strauss and ragamuffin Molly Ringwald.” Moria

“With an incident-busy script, something is going on all the time. The action is tolerable low-grade Road Warrior approximation…the set pieces are reasonably imaginative, and a lot of weirdo stuff is crammed into the fast run time.” Movies & Drinks

” …unlike most films of its genre, it attempts to do more than send bats and snakes and yo-yos hurtling from the screen. It attempts so much that it will probably remind you of at least a dozen other pirate, gladiator, horror and science-fiction stories because its own plot is none too distinctive and is seriously overcrowded.” The New York Times, May 21, 1983

“The grungy look of the film suits this kind of thing, and the production design is very well done, especially the vehicles, it’s just the story that lets it down, running without much interest from A to B. Strauss copes with Ringwald’s tantrums adequately, but every character tends towards the hackneyed, with Ernie Hudson as a rogue turned ally and Ironside practically immobile under his costume also lacking opportunities.” The Spinning Image

“The film suffers, however, from having to keep to a PG certificate: some fantastically eerie moments (brushes with barracuda women in the indoor swamp, and with humanoid blobs that appear out of nowhere) are not exploited to their full potential. What could have been a sci-fi horror classic is instead just a better-than-average children’s adventure story.” Time Out London

“Technical highlights are the vast metal sculpture sets, plus impressive and well-matched miniatures and explosions. Director Lamont Johnson, who entered the picture midstream after original helmer Jean LaFleur [author of screen story with Stewart Harding] was bounced, handles the action scenes well but editing opposes viewer involvement, taking one out of each hectic action scene before its impact can be enjoyed.” Variety

Cast and characters:

  • Peter Strauss … Wolff
  • Molly Ringwald … Niki
  • Ernie Hudson … Washington
  • Andrea Marcovicci … Chalmers
  • Michael Ironside … Overdog
  • Beeson Carroll … Grandman Patterson
  • Hrant Alianak … Chemist
  • Deborah Pratt … Meagan
  • Aleisa Shirley … Reena
  • Cali Timmins … Nova
  • Paul Boretski … Jarrett
  • Patrick Rowe … Duster
  • Reggie Bennett … Barracuda Leader
  • Colin Mochrie … Guard (uncredited)
  • Harold Ramis … Voice on Intercom (uncredited)

Filming locations:

  • The Domes, Casa Grande, Arizona
  • Coal Mine Canyon, Tuba City, Arizona
  • Potash Pond Overlook, Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah
  • Moab, Utah
  • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Technical details:

  • 90 minutes
  • Metrocolor
  • Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
  • Audio: Dolby | Stereo (Dolby 2.0)

Box office:

The film took $16.5 million in the USA on a budget of $14.4 million. It doubtless did well on its VHS release.

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