Borrowing liberally from FLASH GORDON, ARENA contains enough action, comic highjinks and camp value to satisfy the most avid B-movie buff's lust for interplanetary ringside adventure.
The film begins appropriately in an arena, where a fighting match is taking place. However, this is no ordinary bout, nor is it an ordinary arena. The humanoid audience consists of everyone and everything under the sun or moon, or whatever planet they may be on. This, er, funky crowd lustily
cheers on the reptilian Skull, undefeated champion and key asset to Rogor (Marc Alaimo), ruthless promoter and planet bully who maintains power via the moola he rakes in from the arena matches. This evil must be stopped. Enter protagonist.
Meet Steve Armstrong (Paul Satterfield). Earthling. Quite strong. A bit on the aryan side, but definite gladiator material. Steve has a great desire to prove himself in the arena, but due to Rogor's iron-fisted rule he's been unable to demonstrate his prowess and now just wants to get the hell
back home. (Quite an understandable desire if one were caught on this surreal planet of freaks with bad make-up and tacky costumes!) Unfortunately, Steve loses both job and apartment early on, so he's forced to fall back on his gladiatorial skills. With the help of Shorty (Hamilton Camp), Steve's
humanoid trainer and compadre, Steve is convinced that he can fight his way back to Earth.
Steve's smooth fighting ways are witnessed in a brawl at a local bar where all the freaks gather to watch the Arena matches on TV, when he challenges Skull after the evil lizard acts up. Steve doesn't win, but he gets in a couple of good punches, which catches the interest of Quinn (Claudia
Christian). Determined to reclaim the Arena her father once ran, Quinn quickly realizes that--if he'll train with her--Steve can help her seize control from Rogor.
Steve, unwilling at first to challenge Rogor's authority, changes his mind once Rogor abducts Shorty--who stole money to finance Steve's return to Earth--and holds him for ransom. Rogor gives Steve twelve hours to come up with $100,000. Steve realizes that the only way he can get his hands on
this kind of cash is by fighting in the Arena, so he promptly joins forces with Quinn. They work hard together. Steve becomes stronger and stronger and more and more agile. And--ahem--there's also some definite cosmic chemistry going on between them. Although forewarned of Rogor's underhanded
ways, Steve falls prey to a classic set-up on the day of the match. He's lured into bed by Jade (Shari Shattuck), Rogor's scheming girlfriend. Steve is drugged--leaving him near death and unable to fight. Thanks to modern medicine, he makes a recovery. He gets back in the ring and sure enough
defeats the forces of evil. Quinn and Steve are now a victorious duo in more ways than one.
ARENA is clearly a low-budget effort, but quite entertaining nonetheless. The costumes, makeup and sets suggest that the filmmaker determined simply to make do with what was on hand. It has a sort of cheesy edge to it. Yes. Scenes last too long. Yes. The point-of-view shots are cheesy. Yes. There
is too much expositional writing. But somehow it all works. Perhaps, since within the context of this flick, we are once removed from the earth, our critical scope can be less judgmental. (Violence, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Borrowing liberally from FLASH GORDON, ARENA contains enough action, comic highjinks and camp value to satisfy the most avid B-movie buff's lust for interplanetary ringside adventure. The film begins appropriately in an arena, where a fighting match is t… (more)