Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sci-Fried Theater: ALIEN INTRUDER (1993)

A friend of mine once accused me of never watching movies, only re-watching movies. This is of course ridiculous. I’m constantly finding films that I’ve never seen before. Like this one!

Back in the late ‘80s direct to video features became a real, viable avenue for low-budget indy filmmakers. Horror hit it big in that venue, but there was a niche to be filled in the action department, and Rick Pepin Joseph Merhi, and George Shamieh decided that they were the ones to fill it. California based PM Entertainment, in the tradition of Roger Corman and Earl Owensby, owned their own studio lot did all of their casting in-house and unlike anyone else, specialized in low buget, fast-paced action films that sported jaw-dropping physical stunts, car chases and gasoline explosions, most of which rivaled what the majors were bringing to the multiplexes via green screen. Because of this, we here at VJ have waxed poetic about their cheapo productions for years… well, maybe not today.

After stumbling across the trailer for ALIEN INTRUDER on another PM flick, I was gobsmacked. How could I have missed this one? A space-based action/alien flick with Billy Dee Williams in the lead? Copies of the long OOP DVD were being offered for upwards of $90! So I threw down for a $5 VHS tape. The anticipation mounts, the tape arrives, a burn is made (gotta watch it upscaled, right?), and a beer is cracked. Let the awesomeness commence! Oh fuck me. Which is worse? The fact that you have totally forgotten that you’ve seen a film that you were excited to see for the first time or the fact that said film totally sucks?

In a spaceship that is spinning (literally) out of control, a group of space dudes armed with laser-rifles, shotguns and flamethrowers are killing each other over a woman in the bowels of the ship… or rather a dimly lit warehouse. Seriously? You couldn’t even pony up for the el cheapo cliché of an abandoned refinery? Once the last man standing (Jeff Conway, throwing down f-bombs faster than laser beams) realizes that he has just been a pawn in the scheme of some computer-generated tart in a red pleather miniskirt (Tracy Scoggins), he bites down on the end of his gun and sets up our rather flimsy plot.

Cut to the prison ship Alcatraz where Commander Skyler (Billy Dee Williams silently stating that Colt .45 does not in fact do the job every time) is recruiting his own rather clean half-dozen to go on a dangerous mission into deep space to find out what happened to the crew members of the ship of nutballs. Clearly they would be risking their lives on such a dangerous mission. Their incentive? Freedom! When that goes over like a fart in church, Skyler pulls out the big guns: free porn. No, really. He offers them free virtual-reality porn adventures on the weekends, they all cheer and our team is formed! Where’s a Steven J. Cannell theme when you need one?

This movie is filled with moments that make you go “Huh”? First off, “Skyler,” really? That’s the name of the frickin’ paperboy in Beverly Hills, not Mr. NIGHTHAWKS (yeah, you thought I was going to go Lando, didn’t you?). Plus, one of his cons is actually attempting to escape the prison ship while he is conducting his interviews. The prisoner has dug out the back of his cell wall (yes, the prison ship uses poured concrete cell walls) and has tunneled out of the prison, scales a stone wall, navigates the barbed wire at the top and… Yeah, I know, I know, it’s a space ship! Sure they could have stone walls in a space ship and I’m sure once you get over them, you’ll probably find a lifepod. C’mon, work with me here. Hey, look, I don’t know why they have barbed wire on top of the 20 foot wall when inside the prison they have freakin’ flesh-searing lasers instead of bars. Maybe it’s in the process of being renovated and they just haven’t gotten to the walls yet. Anyway, once caught outside of the walls, Skyler decides this time is good enough as any to interview his potential candidate who was sentenced to life imprisonment for blowing up a pizza joint. Or maybe he is trying to solicit his *ahem* “temporary companionship” with some of the worst pick-up lines ever. I'm not entirely sure.
Skyler: “You like to blow things.”
Con: “Not as much as I like to fuck!
Skyler: “I bet you like to do that a lot.”
Con: “Heh, heh, well what do you want? I got a dick with a will of iron!”

The only thing I can figure at this point is that this was originally written to be a straight up porn flick that somehow managed to fall in the hands of the PM guys who figured they could turn into an sort of R-rated snoozer. That really doesn’t bear fruit as the writer, Nick Stone, wrote a couple of scripts for them, including the family oriented MAGIC KID 2 (1994). Hell if I know what the thought process was here. Once on the ship, though, we realize that these virtual porn simulations have nothing to do with porn at all, even though the prisoners once outside of them, act like they do! One fantasy plays out as a western, one is a CASABLANCA-style noir, another is a ‘50s JD biker flick and the last one is a beach romance. In each one of these fantasies, our virtual reality vixen pops in and screws up the fantasy by annoying or sometimes killing people… in rather unexciting ways. These lackluster fantasies are intercut with daily routine of a long voyage starship (ie prisoners standing around bullshitting each other) while Billy Dee sits in a small room playing hunt n' peck with a keyboard while looking suitably concerned. This is pretty much the way the rest of the movie plays out with bits of completely ludicrous dialogue spackled in the holes:
Craig: “Did you have fun in the ‘50s?”
DJ: “Have ever ridden a Harley?”
Craig: “No, but I just rode the shit out of a bathtub!”

In the end the cons run around trying to kill each other over the bewitching VR vixen and finally the sole survivor manages to set the ship to self destruct and hop into a lifepod at the very last second. Oh, I’m sorry, was that a spoiler? It's not much of one and seriously, you won’t care. After all the build-up for this being a sci-fi action flick in the opening scene, there is almost none. After all the build-up for this being a sci-fi T&A flick, there is almost none. Yes, even the seductively named Ms. Scroggins, who, quite frankly, is less attractive than the other VR girls, doesn’t even peel out of her skin-tight outfits, except in one scene that is in complete darkness.

The worst thing about this movie is not that it was a PM film that didn’t deliver, hell, they made so many in such a short amount of time, that the law of averages dictates epic fails along the way. No the worst thing is that they actually set up a pretty damn cool idea with Billy Dee Williams in the lead, moments of absolute sprained brained dialogue and then just let it fizzle out without much excitement. If you had our VR predator actually killing people off in creative, gruesome ways, some of PM's legendary action setpieces and maybe a lot less padding, you'd have a damn fine waste of time. As it is, it's just good for a few amusing YouTube clips (which YouTube has seen fit to delete - sorry).

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