Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone is a 1983 Star Wars/Mad Max style science fiction film with a tremendous amount of energy and ingenuity. It’s derivative, but there’s plenty of fun to be had if you accept this Ivan Reitman produced adventure for what it is – a thrilling boys own adventure.
Peter Strauss is Wolff, a deep space trucker who lands on the planet of Terra 11 to rescue three heiresses from the evil Overdog (Michael Ironside). Along the way he teams-up Molly Ringwald‘s Niki, a young scavenger who promises to lead him across the dangerous wasteland.
Released after Star Wars kick-started a wave of science fiction movies, Spacehunter arrived just before Return Of The Jedi hit screens in 1983. Strauss’ rugged Wolff is obviously modelled on Han Solo and he manages to delver the requisite swagger for that type of swashbuckling hero. Molly Ringwald impresses as the plucky heroine, a role which preceded her career making work for John Hughes. Michael Ironside is gloriously evil as the bad guy (would you expect anything else) and Reitman’s old Ghostbusters buddy Ernie Hudson adds spikes of energy as the bounty hunter who is also trying to rescue the missing girls.
There’s more of a Mad Max feel to this adventure than Star Wars; from its rocky desert terrain and scavenged lived-in technology of the scorched space planet. The set design is great and the model work stands the test of time, meaning that this Lamont Johnson directed film is head and shoulders above the plethora of Star Wars and Mad Max clones which littered the cinescape in the 1980s.
Originally released in 3D, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone still holds-up almost 40 years on. At 90 minutes, it doesn’t out-stay its welcome and it skips along at a pretty frenetic pace with some exciting action set-pieces. Throw-in a fun score from the mighty Elmer Bernstein and you have a thrilling old-school adventure which really delivers!