Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Revenge of 3-D: METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED-SYN (1983)

Director Charles Band was one of the first producer-directors to sense the impending 3-D craze in the early 1980s and unleashed the low budget but entertaining PARASITE in 1982. For his follow-up, he secured triple the budget to produce METALSTORM: THE DESTRUCTION OF JARED-SYN, an adventure in a galaxy not so far away (California’s Bronson Canyon) that plays like a mix between THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981) and STAR WARS (1977), but sometimes looks a bit like MEGAFORCE (1982).

“It’s High Noon at the end of the Universe” promises the film’s tagline and that is about all the set up you will get as Band drops you right into the action with nary a hint of where this film is set. Dogen (Jeffrey Byron) is a bounty hunter called a Finder who is on the trail of evil Jared-Syn (Michael Preston, doing a complete 180 from his heroic leader in THE ROAD WARRIOR) and his half-cyborg son Baal (R. David Smith). Jared-Syn is collecting souls in crystals and recently killed the crystal mining father of Dhyana (Kelly Preston). Dogen teams up with Dhyana but she is promptly kidnapped by the evil warlord. So Dogan enlists the help of washed up former Finder Rhodes (Tim Thomerson) and the duo head to the Lost City of Set in order to secure a magic mask that somehow will stop Jared-Syn from achieving his goal of restoring this barren wasteland.


So, as you can tell from that synopsis, this is a great example of M.S.U. (Makin' Shit Up) cinema. METALSTORM doesn’t make a lick of sense outside of its comic book plot logic. Hell, I don’t know what METALSTORM means! Regardless, that doesn’t stop the film from being a damn enjoyable flick. The influences are obvious but Band spares no expense putting the action on screen. Band also displays some of the strongest directing in his career with a series of slow motion hallucination sequences that are really atmospheric. The action moves at a quick clip and features some good car stunts (watch for one stuntman getting clipped bad). The acting is good throughout, especially for a B-movie. Band again shows his casting prowess by featuring the future Mrs. John Travolta in her first starring role (Band also gave the world Demi Moore in PARASITE... damn it!). You also get Richard Moll showing up as a leader of a group of Cyclops.  And Tim Thomerson is great as Han Solo, er, Rhodes.

And, of course, there is the 3-D action. I wasn’t lucky enough to see this one in the theater, but reports from the field are that it was quite impressive. In fact, when genre film mag Cinefantastique did a round up on the 1981-83 3-D spell, they christened METALSTORM as the best of the bunch in terms of best utilizing the 3-D process. Band and director of photography Mac Ahlberg got a practice run on PARASITE so they knew exactly what to do this go-around. The film opens with the customary relief titles and then throws an impressive trick out every five minutes or so. Highlights include a glowing electrical beast that terrorizes Dogen; Baal’s extending arm that shoots green goo towards the audience; weapons (including the said arm) thrown toward the camera; and a climactic chase through a psychedelic dimension that probably left kids puking all kinds of day-glo colors in theater aisles. Seriously, how did this not cause Pokemon-esque seizures?


The film "ends" with the most laughable cliffhanger where Jared-Syn gets away (so the title lied!) and Dogen vows, "I'll find him in another dimension one day." Huh? Obviously Band was hoping this would be a series and Universal Studios also had high hopes for the film when they picked it up for distribution. In fact, METALSTORM holds a bit of cinema history in that it had the first 3-D trailer ever attached to a 3-D film as Universal attached the film's coming attraction to all copies of JAWS 3-D when it debuted the previous July. Alas, it is did not work as METALSTORM flopped when it hit screens about a month later, most likely due to audiences standing outside the theater going, “What the hell is a METALSTORM?” Hell, it came in one place below the also debuting YOR, HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE that weekend. On the bright side, it did eventually beat YOR in terms of total box office. So it’s got that going for it. METALSTORM is still a popular 3-D title in bootleg world, thanks mostly to a 3-D home video release in Japan. Universal has finally announced they will give this title a DVD release in August 2010. The down side? The release will be full frame, which is really a disservice to the widescreen photography. Makes me mad enough to go all metalstorm on their asses!

Alternate art:


Early promo art:

Moments of Clarity:

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