Director- Sam Irvin
Cast- Joseph Paul, Jackie Swanson, Andrew Divoff
Country of Origin- U.S.
Distributor- Shout! Factory
Reviewer- Bobby Morgan
The Film: 3/5
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….whoops, wrong movie.
On some unnamed planet no one seems to give a shit about, the discovery of a precious mineral has turned the hole-in-the-wall of dust and failure known as Oblivion into a boom town ripe for takeover by anyone with the right combination of initiative and firepower. Such an enterprising individual would be the fearsome intergalactic criminal Red Eye (Andrew Divoff), who walks and talks like a man but has the appearance of a lizard and a red jewel-like patch over his left eye. Not long after returning to Oblivion Red Eye challenges the town marshal Stone (Mike Genovese) to a gunfight, a fight that Red Eye easily wins leaving Stone stone cold dead and the town without law. On the outskirts of Oblivion Stone’s son Zack (Richard Joseph Paul) is a prospector living a solitary existence until he gains a new ally in Buteo (Jimmie F. Skaggs) after saving the “native” from getting eaten by a “Scorp”, a giant scorpion-like creature. Shortly after Oblivion’s undertaker Gaunt (Carel Struycken) brings Zack the news of his estranged father’s death, prompting the younger Stone to reluctantly return to town for the funeral with Buteo at his side. Zack doesn’t receive the warmest of welcomes from the townsfolk as it seems he has a reputation for being a coward, but there’s more to his backstory than that. Before long Zack must realize the only way to make peace with the demons of his past is to take up his father’s mantle and bring the law back to Oblivion before Red Eye and his devious sidekicks Lash (Musetta Vander) and Bork (Irwin Keyes) take the town over. He won’t be alone in the job; by his side are Buteo, never short of a few good fighting techniques, Marshall Stone’s cyborg deputy Stell Barr (Meg Foster), comely storekeeper Mattie Chase (Jackie Swanson), and the town’s doctor and resident drunk Valentine (George Takei).
Charles Band, whether it be through Full Moon Entertainment or his awesome 1980’s sci-fi/horror/action movie outfit Empire Pictures, always knew the value of a good genre hybrid. Blending a science fiction look with a western story isn’t an original notion but when done right, as with the late Fox TV series Firefly and its big-screen spin-off Serenity, it can still be a great deal of fun. Oblivion has the potential to be a cool B-movie, and it had all the right ingredients in place, but it squanders that potential fast through the lackluster direction of Sam Irvin, a budget too low to realize its lofty ambitions, and a cast mostly going through the motions. The screenplay by Peter David, best known as a noted writer of science fiction novels and comic books (as well as writing two of the Trancers sequels for Full Moon), is a virtual wellspring of geeky references and goofball humor that on occasion lightens up the grim proceedings. There are also a few enjoyable scenes sprinkled throughout Oblivion: the marshal’s funeral service is held in the same building where a bingo game is going on at the same time, and Buteo challenges one of Red Eye’s thugs to a test of strength involving a creature known as the “Mon Ding”. When Buteo says that those who know fear will burn at the Mon Ding’s touch I suddenly realized Peter David was giving a slight nod to the Man-Thing, Marvel Comics’ less-charismatic answer to Swamp Thing. The stars of the movie do fine in their parts but it’s the well-assembled supporting cast that carry the movie: Meg Foster and her always amazing eyes make for one badass cybernetic crime fighter; Julie Newmar’s performance is a high camp theater as would be expected but it helps (although I quickly tired of her making cat noises and innuendos-we get it lady, you were Catwoman on the 1960’s Batman show, but personally I preferred Lee Meriwether); Andrew Divoff’s lizard-man baddie Red Eye acts more like a gruff outlaw with a nasty case of psoriasis but he makes a good villain; George Takei struggles too hard at times to make a believable old West medico and yet he brings some good-natured humor to offset the broader strokes of his over-the-top performance.
I also enjoyed the old school stop motion animated alien creatures brought to life by the great David Allen, one of the best effects artists Charles Band ever had at his disposal, and the rousing score by Pino Donaggio, best known to American audiences for his memorable collaboration with director Brian DePalma.
Ugh. It looks like Shout! Factory simply took an old DVD transfer (the film was first released on DVD by Full Moon and reissued by the now-defunct Artisan Entertainment back in 2002) and slapped a new cover and menu screen on it. The picture is a grainy 4:3 full frame with a very basic English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. Nothing spectacular but it acquits itself just fine. Still it would have been nice if the slightest remastering effort had been made.
We get nothing in the way of extras. Shout didn’t even provide us with a scene selection feature. Dry as the desert that surrounds Oblivion. It would have been nice if they had at least the 1996 sequel Oblivion 2: Backlash, which was shot concurrently with the original, as the second half of a double feature disc. Shout! Factory does those double feature sets so well.
A highly watchable (but not without massive flaws) genre mutant gets a pathetic DVD release from a company whose releases are usually the mark of quality. I’d suggest a rental for buying this disc, unless you really love this movie. In that case don’t let me stop you.