Seemingly a straight-to-midnight-movie release, Sam Irvin's campy space western throws creatures from the STAR WARS bar scene chock into the middle of SHANE, with Jack Palance's character played by a giant lizard.
The final frontier planet of Oblivion is home to assorted western stock characters, including Julie Newmar as a saloon madam named Miss Kitty (recalling both "Gunsmoke" and Newmar's stint as Catwoman on the "Batman" TV series) and George Takei (STAR TREK's Mr. Sulu) as the alcoholic Doc
Valentine (who traffics in unbearable puns, e.g., "Jim Beam me up, Scotty"). Into this free-range idyll staggers Redeye (Andrew Divoff), a large, literally venomous reptile with a glowing red eye patch and a motley band of cartoon henchman. The most provocative of these is an exotic creature named
Lash (Musetta Vander), a vixen with a whip dressed in form-fitting leather. Redeye guns down the marshal, humiliates his cyborg deputy Stell Barr (Meg Foster), and makes indelicate suggestions to schoolmarmish storekeeper Matty Chase (Jackie Swanson, who played Woody Harrelson's girlfriend, Kelly,
on TV's "Cheers"). Gaunt (Carel Struycken, the giant from "Twin Peaks"), an enormous Teutonic albino undertaker in a two-foot stovepipe hat and black cape, tracks the marshal's son Zack Stone (Richard Joseph Paul) to the desert, steering clear of "night scorps," animated scorpions executed in Ray
Harryhausen-style stop-motion. Gaunt informs Zack and his faithful companion Buteo (Jimmie Skaggs) that the town is being held hostage by Redeye and his gang. Zack is a diehard pacifist, but he agrees to intervene.
Back in Oblivion, a reluctant Zack gets pressed into service as the new marshal. But when Redeye and his friends show up to paint the town red, Zack strangely demurs. Miss Kitty reveals that Zack is an "empath"--someone hypersensitive to the feelings of others, who cannot abide violence. After a
couple of quick Main Street showdowns, however, Zack manages to work through his "issues" and, like Billy Jack, discovers the liberating power of reluctant vengeance. By the time Redeye kidnaps Matty and hightails it to their canyon hideaway, Zack is organizing posses and planning night sorties.
In the final showdown, he pitches Redeye off a sheer rock face into a den of night scorps, retrieves his tarnished star from the dust, and rests up for the sequel.
Director Irvin may imagine himself either subversive or visionary, but he's shaping up as the Paul Bartel of his generation. What starts out as a good idea is quickly hobbled by camp cliches and hoary gags, which undercut narrative engagement at every turn. Apart from costumes and arcane plot
points, the science fiction is largely a matter of creative anachronism, like outdoor ceiling fans or cash machines built into the Main Street set. All the characters are types and no more, and many of them are possessed of a strange sexual charge--a mania practically--that is disconcerting, even
in the low-camp context of this exploitation flick. The film ends with scenes of coming attractions--in true Z-movie style, Irvin shot a sequel simultaneously. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: Seemingly a straight-to-midnight-movie release, Sam Irvin's campy space western throws creatures from the STAR WARS bar scene chock into the middle of SHANE, with Jack Palance's character played by a giant lizard. The final frontier planet of Oblivion i… (more)