Tuesday, November 16, 2010

DVD Review: Oblivion (1994)

Full Moon Features

RATING: Unrated
RUN TIME: 94 Min.
CAST: Richard Joseph Paul (Zack Stone), Jackie Swanson (Mattie Chase), Andrew Divoff (Red Eye), Meg Foster (Stell Barr), Issac Hayes (Buster), Julie Newmar (Miss Kitty), Carrel Struyken (Gaunt), George Takei (Doc Valentine), Musetta Vander (Lash), Jimme F. Skaggs (Buteo)

SYNOPSIS: On a frontier light years from OK Corral, a bizarre gang of futuristic desperados have their sights set on turning the tumbleweed town of Oblivion into their own private playground. Their lizard-like leader REDEYE (Andrew Divoff), pumps lawman MARSHALL STONE (Michael Genovese) full of lead in a deadly shootout just outside of MISS KITTY’S (Julie Newmar) Kat House and begins terrorizing the town’s inhabitants.

Meanwhile, Stone’s long –lost pacifist son ZACK (Richard Joseph Paul) and his “native” sidekick BUTEO (Jimmy F. Skaggs) are escorted into town by the eerie undertaker GAUNT (Carrel Struycken) to pay their respects at the Marshall’s funeral. Rendered helpless by Redeye, the tough as nails Cyborg Deputy (Meg Foster) and the Marshall’s old friend DOC VALENTINE (George Takei) team up with Zack to take back the troubled town in a final unearthly showdown… (from fullmoondirect.com)

FILM: Full Moon's Sci-Fi/Western/Comedy mash-up Oblivion (1994) caught me by surprise. First the casting is nutty, check it out. Andrew Divoff (Djiin from the Wishmaster series) is the reptilian outlaw Redeye. George Takei better know as Mr. Sulu from the 60's-era run of Star Trek as the town drunk Doc Valentine. Julie Newmar who played Catwoman in the '66 Batman series is brothel madame Miss Kitty, and Meg Foster the pale-eyed Holly from John Carpenter's They Live (1988) is the cyborg deputy Stell Barr to Marshall Stone (Michael Genovese). We also get Issac Hayes (Escape from New York, South Park) and Carrel Struycken who appeared in Twin Peaks and The Witches of Eastwick (1987) as the town's eerie undertaker Gaunt.  On just a "who is that?" level I found Oblivion a fun watch.

The year is 3031 in a town called Oblivion on a distant frontier planet with a population of 459 it looks an awful lot like the American Old West only populated with gigantic stop-motion Scorps and aliens that look like extras from the Cantina scene in Star Wars. I have to believe that this was intended as a tongue-in-cheek homage to both sci-fi and western because this is so eye-rollingly campy you gotta laugh. The story is a typical western revenge flick, the dialogue is cliched but enjoyable for what it is. George Takei utters some of the worst Star Trek puns ever, just awful stuff. Divoff as the villainous outlaw Redeye looks good and I enjoyed his reptilian look but he displays none of the charm we've seen from him in the Wishmaster series, which weren't great films but fun nonetheless. A lot of that has to do with the stilted scripted dialogue. Jimmy F. Skaggs as the Zack Stone's "native" friend Buteo was painful to watch. He's stereotypically stoic and full of Yoda type nonsense. It's a very Lone Ranger-esque dynamic. Speaking of painful, the cyborg-deputy Stell Barr is an obvious attempt to mirror Star Trak: The Next Generation's Data. One character that really popped for me though was Musetta Vander's baddie Lash, RedEye's leather-clad right-hand. She looked mighty familiar to me and after some research I realized she is one of the gorgeous Siren's from the Cohen Bros. O Brother, Where Art Though? (2000), good stuff and a deliciously villainous character. The worst aspect of the film in my opinion is that Richard Joseph Paul as the empathic son (don't ask) of the deceased Marshall Zach Stone gives a thoroughly wooden performance as does Jackie Swanson as Mattie Chase. A lot of the acting in the film is campy but their performances are lifeless and they're the focus of the film. Every other character in the film is more interesting than these two.

Featured far to briefly in the film were the awesome  stop-motion creatures created by the late David Allen who also animated the puppets of the Puppet Master 1-5 and did a lot of work on the early Full Moon film, really enjoyable stuff. They play heavily into the finale of the film but I would have loved to seen more. Also enjoyable is Redeye's band of outlaws, a typical bunch of all muscle no-brainers found in westerns.

I can see how this was designed as a campy comic homage mixing genre cliches from both western and sci-fi with a healthy dose of comedy but it's a bit of a jumbled mess. The sci-fi western is a rare mash-up indeed and I can't recall too many off the top of my head. There's Westworld (1973), Back to the Future 3 (1990), The Adventures of Brisco County,  Jr. TV show starring Bruce Campbell and more recently Joss Whedon's Firefly series and the post-series Serenity film, all of which I loved. It's been done and done well, but it is not attempted often. While Oblivion is a fun and I give it points for effort it truly is a lesser entry in the sci-fi western genre.

DVD: Oblivion is advertised as being first-time ever on DVD but I recall seeing an edition online from Artisan, not sure what that's about. Regardless, this edition is less than prestigious in it's presentation. A full frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio transfer with 2.0 stereo audio. The image is watchablebut marred by ghosting and artifacting. On the plus side there are quite a few vintage Full Moon trailers included: Oblivion, Oblivion 2: Blacklash, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil, Dollman, Skull Heads, Demonic Toys, Arcade, Bad Channels, Crash and Burn, Laserblast, Meridian, Netherworld, Robot Wars, Seed People, Shadowzone and Subspecies. That's a lot of trailers and it really whetted my appetite for some classic Full Moon films.

VERDICT: A fun but wildly uneven film populated by a crazy cast of characters. The story is a typical western revenge flick, the dialogue is cliched but the film is enjoyable for what it is -  pure Full Moon cheese.  ** (2 out of 5 stars)