An old-fashioned B-flick with plenty of modern sex and violence, SPACE AVENGER is most notable for being processed in 3-strip Technicolor, which hasn't been used on a domestic feature film in nearly two decades.
The story begins in 1938, as a spaceship crashes in upstate New York. The occupants, a quartet of small, lizard-like creatures, possess the bodies of a group of young people who happen by, and head into town to find supplies to repair their damaged craft. But when they stumble upon a movie
theater showing a FLASH GORDON film, they mistakenly believe that this represents the level of U.S. space technology--and it's far from advanced enough to help them. After stealing some guns and shooting up a nearby bar, the fugitive aliens return to their buried ship to wait out the technology
until it catches up to their needs.
Over five decades later, a construction crew working on a new condo unearths the craft by accident; the workers pay for this mistake with their lives, and soon the extraterrestrials are on the hunt again. Meanwhile, comic book artist Matt Brandt (Kirk Fairbanks Fogg, a descendant of Douglas
Fairbanks) is in trouble at work. His editor, Mr. Green (Marty Roberts), is pressuring him to come up with an idea that, unlike his recent work, will sell. Not only that, but his girlfriend, Ginny (Gina Mastrogiacomo), is complaining that he's spending too much time at the drawing board and not
enough in bed. Both dilemmas are solved, at least at first, by the appearance of the aliens. Matt spots them in a Greenwich Village nightclub, and though he has no idea of their true identities, their bizarre appearance inspires him to duplicate them as "Alien Terrorists" on the pages of his
comics, creating an instant success.
At the same time, a bounty hunter from the aliens' world arrives on Earth and possesses Ginny, who is soon less interested in Matt and more concerned with hunting down the villains. The evil quartet, meanwhile, have been wreaking all kinds of havoc, from gunning down workers at a nuclear plant
for the plutonium they need for their ship, to--in one female alien's case--seducing a businessman and making love to him until he spontaneously combusts (in an amusingly ironic bit of casting, the victim is played by porn star Jamie Gillis). Once they discover, through one of Matt's comic books,
that the artist is aware of their presence, he becomes their next target.
Filmmaker Richard Haines, an avid movie buff disappointed with the comparatively flat colors of current processing techniques, had assisted Martin Scorsese in his campaign to bring back Technicolor; Robert A. Harris, one of SPACE AVENGER's producers, helped supervise the restoration of LAWRENCE
OF ARABIA in 1989. Once post-production was completed, Haines took the negative of SPACE AVENGER all the way to Beijing, China, where one of the only Technicolor labs exists that works with the old 3-strip process. The result is film of vibrant, saturated colors that give the film the bright,
vivid look of a comic book come to life.
That description applies to the plot as well, which is nothing more than an excuse for Haines to pour on the in-jokes, special effects and gunshot violence. SPACE AVENGER features the most exploding bloodpacks this side of THE KILLER, and seems to have as little regard for human life as its
extraterrestrial villains. Low-budget though it is, the movie has a certain schlocky exuberance reminiscent of the best Troma films, which isn't surprising, given Haines' background as a director (CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH) and editor for that company. The effects, though not especially convincing,
are plentiful enough to keep genre fans amused, and none of the actors take the material seriously enough to either intrude on the campy spirit or elevate the film above its B-flick inspiration. The look may recall the great Technicolor classics of yesteryear, but everything else about SPACE
AVENGER seems more inspired by the black-and-white science fiction cheapies that played as second features with them. (Excessive violence, profanity, sexual situations, nudity.)
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