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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

MegaForce (1982)

Screenplay by James Whittaker and Albert S. Ruddy & Hal Needham & Andre Morgan; based on a story by Robert S. Kachler
Directed by Hal Needham

Barry Bostwick:  Commander Ace Hunter
Michael Beck:  Dallas
Persis Khambatta:  Major Zara
Henry Silva:  Duke Guerera

Chalk this one up as an accidental member of the Influential Flops of '82. While Blade Runner, Tron and John Carpenter's take on The Thing all influenced generations of future filmmakers and developed the visual language of cinema for decades to come, this movie was another one that came and went at the box office without making much of an impact. The biggest cultural impact it's remembered for might well be that Bryan Cranston appears in the commercial for the Atari 2600 tie-in video game (and the possibly coincidental use of the phrase "Deeds, not words" in the Neal Stephenson novel SevenEves would be in second place, I guess). I'm guessing that lack of availability on cable or VHS led to its semi-obscurity, but it should be celebrated as one of the most purely idiotic movies ever created. It's not quite as stupid as Road House (my own personal high-water mark for dumb movies--and please note that Swayze's magnum opus is one of the most entertaining films I've ever seen, but nobody could ever call it smart) but its dumbth is of a particularly wide and deep style. In fact, one could call the movie fractally imbecilic--the smallest parts of the film, when examined, are just as stupid as the whole. That's impressive, in a way.

I can remember seeing an ad for the movie before it came out, though I can't remember now if it was on television or just in comic books. I would have been about seven years old, and I desperately wanted to see this film. Both of my brothers and both of my parents pulled a full UN Security Council Veto on that plan and I had to wait 25 years before I saw MegaForce, eventually catching the movie at B Fest and seeing it surrounded with 150 or so of my dearest annual-release friends and a dozen or so hardcore B movie lunatics that are part of the family I chose for myself. My biological family was right to decide not to see the movie in 1982, but my friends were absolutely right to watch it in 2009 with the rest of the Fest crowd. The film appears to have been written not just for ten-year-old boys, but possibly by them as well. It was a very special thing to witness, and a few years after the Fest viewing the film was released on the super-small Hen's Teeth Video label (apparently 20th Century Fox wanted less than nothing to do with it after all those years). And now you get to read about it--if you haven't been lucky enough to see this one already, I hope this review convinces you to check it out.

The film begins with a narrated caption stating that MegaForce is totally a real thing, despite official denials by leaders of the free world (this makes sense--if MegaForce had a press secretary claiming they didn't work for MegaForce, I don't think it would fool anyone). They're a secret army of well-equipped soldiers with advanced technology. Their stated mission is "to preserve freedom and justice battling the forces of tyranny and evil in every corner of the globe". Globes are spheres and do not have corners.

The opening credits run over solarized footage of action sequences that we won't be seeing for a while yet. MegaForce, according to the opening credits, appears to think that motorcycles and dune buggies are a good match for tanks. I'm not sure they're going to do much freedom preservation if they get blown to hamburger in any given battle. Two different special effects companies are credited before the screenwriters or director, which probably is an accurate take on the filmmakers' priorities.

Then the narrative itself starts. We first see a group of blue-collar laborers reacting with fear and sadness as they are lectured by someone spouting Communist buzzwords at them; the workers have been taken out of the power plant where the work so that mercenaries can blow it up. After the lecture goes on long enough to bore Guerera, the leader of the fighters, he tells the Soviet puppet to put a sock in it and several dozen high-explosive shells make short work of the somewhat convincing model of a power station. Although it won't be made clear for a little while yet, the peace-loving people of the fictitious Republic of Sardun are being attacked without provocation by the apparently Soviet-Union-sponsored neighboring nation Gamibia. After blowing up the power plant real good, the Gamibian tanks escape back over the Sardun-Gamibia border. The Sardunnish forces request permission from a British-accented commanding officer to pursue the aggressors but get shut down by Major Zara, who apparently outranks General Byrne-White. I didn't think that's how chains of command worked, but maybe that's how it goes.

Byrne-White and Zara then wind up in the middle of the desert somewhere along with their luggage. They've been dropped off three hours away from an airport (I don't know which one, so it's possible that they've been dropped off in the deserts of Wisconsin), and the chauffeur doesn't bother telling them where exactly they are, and Byrne-White gripes about the poor conditions of the roads and the lack of civilization around them while Zara just sits down and tries to think of something other than his succession of gripes. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a wandering monster (a rattlesnake, so the screenwriters rolled a 56 on the Random Encounters table) gets shot to death by a redneck who greets the military officers with a cheery "Howdy, folks!". He introduces himself as "Dallas", a member of MegaForce. He can't give the general his rank because nobody in MegaForce has one other than Commander Ace Hunter, who is in charge of everything forever.

Dallas makes a creepy pass at Major Zara (she smiles, because women in action movies like it when gun-toting jerks in Skoal t-shirts mack on them within seconds of meeting them) and loads everyone's luggage into a beat-up truck that also totes a hologram projector (which Dallas uses to show a bikini model hanging out on a Hawaiian beach, for some reason). The driver is a black dude named Zachary Taylor, who is listening to Vivaldi on his orange-foam headphones. They drive their proto-SUV through the desert for a while, which means screen time can be spent on things that don't cost too much money.

Meanwhile, at the MegaForce command center--which looks futuristic for about 1974, not 1982--a bunch of people are hanging out at the gigantic mainframe computer that runs everything. A big display screen with a wavy line on it somehow indicates to the mad scientist that there's something out in radar range (that turns out to be an armadillo); the transport rig stops to be scanned, then drives on a little ways longer and stops again. It turns out that Commander Ace Hunter wants to show off. He and some of the other, lesser, MegaForce soldiers are showing off their desert motorcycling skills and firing weaponry (submachine guns and rockets) at some target baloons. Whoever designed the weapons systems for the bikes should be taken out behind the MegaForce headquarters and beaten to death with a chair leg. The guns and rocket rails are on the front windscreen of the motorcycle, so the soldier riding the motorcyle can aim or steer, but not both at the same time. They can only carry four rockets before running out and the ammunition for the front guns is limited to whatever fits under the handlebars. It would be hard to design something less practical without pointing the guns directly at the biker's head.

Commander Ace Hunter wraps up the training session by doing an Evel Knievel style jump over the parked truck, then saunters up to meet the two officers who were looking to MegaForce for help. Oh, how to describe the utterly, utterly miscast Barry Bostwick here? Words fail me, but I'll try. He's a preening jackass with his hair feathered over his powder-blue headband. He's wearing nude-colored Spandex (the official combat uniform of MegaForce) with some kind of health monitor on it and he grins like a complete jackass at Zara when he spots her (only the fact that Bostwick is not a cartoon prevented his eyes from popping out of his head while he made steam-whistle noises). When Zara tears into him for firing off military-grade munitions near his guests he gets all snotty and recommends Disneyland instead if they're worried about their safety. Then it's time for the two officers from outside and the MegaForce staff to show off their command center.

Incidentally, the various MegaForce soldiers have a patch on their left shoulder to display the flag of their country of origin; Commander Ace Hunter has the American flag on his uniform; there's also the Mexican and Japanese flags seen on other soldiers' uniforms. And Dallas, when he has his MegaForce gear on, has the Confederate flag as a sop to the rednecks that made up Hal Needham's usual audience. Oh, and also to display that Dallas is a complete asshole. I'm sure the good-hearted redneck stock character meant something else in 1982 (probably that the producers wanted some of that sweet Dukes of Hazzard money) but three decades and change later there are a whole host of associations with that flag that make me wonder why Dallas is working with the good guys.

The convoy of motorcycles and one Ford Bronco drives into a tunnel in the side of a mountain; inside is the hidden secret nerve center of MegaForce itself. Professor Egg, the middle-aged lab-coated mad scientist who designs all of MegaForce's stuff, shows up to insult Dallas (hooray!) and show off the stuff he came up with. He implies that there's something really cool that he's come up with that involves pressing two red buttons in the event of an emergency. Whatever that is (and rest assured, it'll come up in the third act), it's the newest secret technology that MegaForce will be using. The base is ten million square feet carved out of the guts of the mountain and stabilized (somehow) so that a direct hit from a nuclear weapon won't damage it.

While giving the tour, Commander Ace Hunter shows off a hangar full of various aircraft, motorcycles and dune buggies, a really big computer and some other cool stuff (and Dallas mentions another base where they have attack boats; one assumes those would have come into play if this film hadn't lost a shit ton of money and gone without any sequels as a result). Hunter also mentions that the various democracies and republics all fund MegaForce and provide them with military hardware--after all, there's nothing stable countries like more than a stateless mercenary army that has better weapons than them. The soldiers in MegaForce are all declared dead or missing by their original military branches and then sent to the big mountain hideaway (Dalllas tells their guests that you have to volunteer to join, but Hunter says that the organization is so top-secret that nobody knows about it, which makes about as much sense as anything else in this movie).

Major Zara is busy getting ready for dinner when Commander Ace Hunter stops by to show off the MegaForce dress uniform, which is even more ill-conceived than the nude-colored spandex. Imagine a navy blue bell-bottomed jumpsuit with a baby blue clip-on ascot and a gigantic red bib lapel in front. It's accessorized by a black leather belt from the Adam West for Men collection that highlights the incipient middle-aged flab of any man wearing it. Yeah, it's not very good. Hunter isn't wearing his headband while in the dress uniform, which makes me wonder if that's what his dickie ascot looking thing is. He looks over the service ribbons on Major Zara's uniform and notes that she doesn't have a good conduct medal (which is likely a positive for someone as smirking as Hunter when he's going Full Bostwick on his guest).

Zara and Hunter leave the MegaForce guest quarters (which are mirrored and tacky enough to look like a suite that led Hunter S. Thompson to decide to write Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) and go to dinner while Dallas (also in his dress jumpsuit) shows off the dune buggies that comprise one of the main MegaForce assault forces. Which means we get Hal Needham's version of that scene in a James Bond movie where Q shows off all the gear that Bond will be using later to either not get killed or kill someone else. The dune buggies have something called a "stealth nose", which means they aren't detectable by radar, I think. Dallas does a poor job of explaining it and the staff mad scientist doesn't bother to elaborate. The paint job on the vehicles turns matte black when there's no light shining on it (apparently the uniforms do the same thing). I guess that's good for sneaking around in the dark, yeah.

The science guy and Dallas are busy showing off the communications center at MegaForce HQ when Hunter and Zara show up; General Byrne-White is pretty happy to find out that MegaForce has bugged every military facility in the world (specifically including the ones in friendly countries, according to the dialogue). I'm not certain that a real general would be thrilled to know that every hiccup, belch, fart and tirade about the Jews from every soldier under his command has been taped by a mercenary army for later use. There's also a Universal Translator hooked into the system that lets everyone eavesdrop perfectly on a Chinese base to hear the mundane conversations from a gate guard. There's a full dossier for every important military officer in the world (they look up Byrne-White's service record and check out his background as well as his own personal transport helicopter, customized to make it more comfortable for him to fly all over Hell's creation as a military adviser in Third World hellholes). Having demonstrated that the system knows all about people, they look up Guerera, since he's the one that MegaForce is going to be fighting. Commander Ace Hunter rattles off his background, since he knows the man from back in their mutual days.

Over dinner in the MegaForce mess hall Ace lays out what turned Guerara to the path of evil (he's specifically set up as the dark counterpart to Commander Ace Hunter and his merry crew, using a stateless mercenary army to wreck democracies for the highest bidder). Ace and Guerera went through military training together and then apparently worked as mercenaries side-by-side for a good long while, but split apart when Guerera was recalled to his home country to defend the capital (the movie does not precisely say from what or whom). When his homeland of Costa Brava (which is a part of Spain, but I'm not sure the movie's five writers knew that) collapsed into anarchy (or possibly democracy--again, the movie isn't specific during Hunter's anecdote) the political leaders commanded Guerera's tank brigade to surrender without attacking anybody in order to preserve the stability of the country and transition to the new regime. Hunter treats this like an act of total betrayal that set Guerera down the path of evil and destroyed Costa Brava, but, uh--aren't military officers supposed to obey their commanders-in-chief? If the politicians say "don't shoot", you don't shoot. And considering the vagueness of the anecdote, I'm trying really hard not to imagine Guerera as one of the aggressors in this picture.

Anyway, three years later Ace ran into Guerera while vacationing from mayhem and they had a three-day bender together where Commander Ace Hunter almost got his former friend back on the side of the angels. But it was not to be--Guerera stole Ace's lucky Zippo and decided to keep being evil for pay. "That's just the way it is", according to Hunter. Well, I imagine he's right.

After he's done stumbling down memory lane, Hunter explains how they're going to trick Guerera into getting wiped out. His plan is to set motorcycles and dune buggies against tanks, which is probably not the best idea in the history of the world. They're going to drop an assault group of MegaForce vehicles into Gamibia at 3:30 in the goddamned morning, when all the good little tank crews are fast asleep. One of the three transport planes will set up a supply base far away from the site of the major combat operations while the other two will drop dune buggies and motorcycles (and probably Wile E. Coyote in a bat suit and roller skates) a safe distance from Guerera's main supply and ammunition dump. The assault troops will drive really fast over to the supply base and blow it the fuck up, then zip away to the supply drop so they can fuel up and restock their straight-line unguided model rocket on the fronts of their motorcycles. (That's not a joke. That's literally what the plan is.) With Guerera good and pissed off and following them, MegaForce will cross the border into Sardun and force an international reckoning that Guerera's forces have so far escaped. This will either snuff out the Gamibian-Sardunian war or accidentally touch off World War III when the Soviet backers of the Gamibian forces get pissed off and decide to kick the Risk board over rather than play any further.

Other than the risk of total nuclear annihilation and a comedically precise timeline for operations, it really isn't that bad a plan (I know, because I used to play Warhammer Fantasy Battle, which taught me a lot about strategy). They're even planning to use the previously mentioned bugs in Gamibian military bases to update the MegaForce troops in the field regarding Guerera's position. They want to stay just far enough away from him that he'll keep following without getting shot to pieces by tank rounds. Byrne-White is thrilled with the plan and promises to be there at the Sardunian border with that country's own tank brigades and a celebratory champagne bottle for Ace. Dallas concludes the briefing with a hologram of a cartoon alcoholic pig in a sequence that refuses to make much sense at all, but at least Ace has the good graces to look embarrassed.

Major Zara wants to go along on the mission, which leads to the narrative-destroying middle section of the film. You see, Ace doesn't want her to go on the mission. There's actually a really good reason for that--MegaForce  has trained together for years to work in a specific way as a group and Major Zara just showed up today. The mission starts in under 72 hours. There just isn't time to get her up to speed with all the MegaForce vehicles and weaponry, none of which the Major would have any experience using. But instead Hunter says she isn't qualified, so Zara tries all the MegaForce training simulators and whatnot for an excruciating seven minutes of running time. First there's a skydiving sequence where Hunter offers to hold Zara's hand so she isn't scared (she leaps out of the plane at least partially so she doesn't have to listen to that jackass any more). The love theme from MegaForce plays over the stunt performers skydiving and horribly greenscreened insert shots of Barry Bostwick and Persis Khambatta get stapled into the movie. Ace is wearing a black jumpsuit and helmet, incidentally, and it's the most sensible thing he's going to be seen in for the entire movie. His parachute is a bright rainbow colored one, though, so there's at least some gaudiness in there.

Next up is some kind of drivers' ed simulator designed to get people used to a Megaforce dune buggy; I don't know exactly how it's supposed to be controlled and seeing the entire screen flash red when a filmed tank fires at Zara probably means that her "perfect score" had to account for her getting blown to hamburger more than once. She's traded her military uniform for a black spandex jumpsuit and a red neckerchief at this point, apparently thinking that Commander Ace Hunter will accept her if she wears something goofy (Hunter is rocking a silver jumpsuit that screams "disco Cyberman" to me at this point). The commander says that he didn't expect Zara to do as well as she did on any of the tests, but she still is considered a liability for the mission so she's not going. This little tete-a-tete is filmed in front of a solid wall of purple light, with Ace and Zara appearing as silhouettes. I have never wished I could take screen caps more than when Ace raises one of his hands to talk to Zara, leaving it in front of his waist and dangling limply. The first time I caught this movie at B Fest it's the only time I've seen that audience laughing so hard they couldn't make any other jokes. The second time it was funnier because I knew it was coming and some of my friends didn't.

Anyway, after Zara has proven she's just as good at all the various simulators and training gear as anyone else, she declines to kick Ace in the balls as hard as she can five or six times, and instead backs down and doesn't go on the mission. It's time for everyone qualified for it to go on the mission. That "one, then two" thing that got mentioned earlier gets brought up again, and everyone piles into the cargo planes to go off to Gamibia and wreck some shit. But before he leaves, Ace tells Zara that he wants to meet her in London for a drink at a hotel called the Lion's Head. They kiss, then do this amazingly awkward looking thing where they kiss their respective thumbs and give the other person a thumbs-up (and yes, the people at B Fest imitated this for the rest of the weekend, because we have the emotional maturity of a bored eight-year-old after sixteen hours of bad movies). Anyway, we get to see each of the three cargo planes take off and fly across the ocean at night because that eats up a little more of the film's excruciating 100 minutes.

Speaking of excruciating, there's some comedic banter between Ace and Dallas on the way over about romance and distraction, but hey--in the red-lit interior of the planes, everyone's jumpsuits are black. So the continuity person earned their pay that day. Turns out that MegaForce likes to relax on the way to the mission by doing crosswords, goofing with a Rubik's Cube and throwing knives at each others' heads. Eventually they get to the drop zone and the logistics guys set up the fuel depot. Meanwhile, Guerera and his flunky are playing chess and the mercenary captain cheats like hell because he can. Turns out the Soviet attache officer is a true believer in his cause while Guerera just wants to get paid.

Anyway, the various MegaForce vehicles get dropped out of the two remaining planes after a montage of their various weapons systems and radar dishes powering up. Then they drive out of the open cargo ramps of the planes and hopefully remember to pop their chutes. When they land, the drive off to the Gamibian fuel dump that they're planning to attack. There's also a cameo here from Hal Needham, playing the field logistics commander (or something) in the supersized dune buggy that contains lights of lights and switches.

Once the MegaForce vehicles reach the Gamibian territory they carry out the "drive around wrecking shit" portion of their plan, with a little countdown clock in the lower-right corner of the screen letting the audience know precisely how much more screen time is going to get spent blowing up model buildings at night. Guerera mobilizes his armor, as expected, and soon enough there are enemy forces in pursuit of the protagonists. In keeping with the generally realistic tenor of the film, nobody appears to be injured when tank shells go off underneath their dune buggies or motorcycles (though MegaForce does have to write off one of their buggies completely when its control system goes down. The caption "[continuous explosions]" pops up and it might be the single truest thing ever written.

Having given Guerera a good hard slap, MegaForce drives off to get to their refueling station. The only casualties in the movie occur when the character played by Hal Needham literally vaporizes a Gamibian heavy weapons team with some made-up thing on the roof of his command micro-RV. Back at the refueling station, one of the MegaForce logistics guys complains that he just prepped munitions to be loaded back onto all the vehicles and that he won't be able to tell "his people back home" any cool war stories. Which makes total sense, other than that every single person in MegaForce is supposed to be listed as dead or MIA, so this guy showing up to talk to his family about helping blow up Gamibians is not a thing that would ever happen. (Forgetting what movie is actually being made partway through is something of a Hal Needham trademark, as far as I can tell--in The Cannonball Run the race goes from "team with the lowest elapsed time on their card wins" in the first act to "first person across the finish line wins" at the end. I have also seen Cannonball Run II but don't actually remember anything about it except that it was orders of magnitude worse than the first one.) Anyway, apparently MegaForce cycles their personnel through missions so that not everyone fights every time. Sometimes they get stuck running the gas station and reloading the weapons racks on the other troops' go-karts.

Meanwhile, in some other part of the Sardunian desert, General Byrne-White and Major Zara get a note from someone that upsets them. They set out in the general's personal red-and-white transport helicopter to go do whatever it is they have to do, leaving the assembled Sardunian tank brigade to sit in the desert without orders. The Soviet diplomatic officer attached to Guerera's forces, by the way, has been given a radio and a motorcycle driver and has been sent out to figure out where MegaForce is, and has orders to notify Guerera of their position so the Gamibian tanks don't have to drive all over Hell's creation looking for their enemies. He spots them, but his call back to Guerera trails off when Dallas puts up a hologram of a swimsuit model to distract him.

Turns out that Guerera has commandeered a Red Cross helicopter to safely fly out to MegaForce's secret supply dump in the middle of nowhere so he can talk without things leading to hostilities. Barry Bostwick and Henry Silva earn the hell out of their paychecks here, because they're both acting like they're delighted to see each other, even under the (fictitious) circumstances of being paid to kill each other or the genuine circumstances of making this movie. Guerera's got a red dickie-ascot thing on his uniform, by the way, which prefigures the color coding (blue:  good; red:  evil) in the G. I. Joe cartoon by a couple of years. They finally come to terms with Guerera stealing Ace's lucky lighter all those years ago when Byrne-White flies over to the encampment in his helicopter. That note he got? Bad news. The political leaders of Sardun think that MegaForce did just too good a job antagonizing the Gamibian forces, and if they're allowed back into Sardun at the conclusion of the operation there will be open war between Sardun and Gamibia (instead of the current state of affairs, where mercenaries being paid by Gamibia destroy power stations in Sardun without repercussion). It figures that the only flaw given to MegaForce in this script is that they're just too awesome.

Horrible news delivered, Byrne-White and Zara leave Ace and his soldiers to be wiped out by Guerera's tank brigades. Before she gets back into the helicopter and flees the slaughter-to-be, Zara and Ace do that thumbs-up distance kiss thing again. Guerera tells Ace that the entire Gamibian army is on its way to scrape MegaForce off the planet and that his own tanks are blocking access to the one spot in the desert where the transport planes might have been able to land so that MegaForce could bug out and live to fight another day. He offers Ace safe passage out of Gamibian territory on his helicopter but Ace won't abandon all his men (he knows how much Guerera's word is worth, I'm sure). Interestingly enough Guerera claims that in the Seventies mercenaries could be idealists but in the cold hard decade of the Reagan years, there's just no room for good intentions in the field of private conflict resolution. Which doesn't even make sense in the context of movies--the Seventies' cinema was defined by the little man getting destroyed by forces arrayed against him and the Bummer Ending was standard issue for virtually every science fiction or horror movie that was made.

But what the hell, every line of dialogue gets us a little closer to the ending.

Ace says his integrity is not for sale and Guerera salutes his friend, then flies back to take command of his tank troops. Ace calls up a map of the dry lake bed and points out a tiny trail through the mountains that surround about three-fourths of the terrain. His suicidal plan is to sneak around the mountains, use the trail to get behind Guerera's tanks (which are all facing the direction they're expecting the transport planes to be in), zip past them as fast as they can and bug out. Although I don't know where their transport planes are planning to go, because Sardun is closed off to them and it's a long trip back to America.

I hope you like footage of motorcycles, dune buggies and that command-center RV driving through rocky desert terrain, because that's a huge portion of the remaining 20-plus minutes of screen time. There's also some genuinely impressive footage of the transport planes flying low enough to almost scrape the ground, but Hal Needham's love clearly belongs only to dune buggies bumping over uneven soil in slow motion. Ace orders the transport planes to stay on the ground for only two minutes and then leave whether or not the MegaForce troops are aboard. When the planes show up, Guerera sees them and orders all the tanks to aim at them, sensibly enough. There's another montage of MegaForce troops flipping switches and gun barrels elevating on their vehicles and then the shit jumps off. As soon as Guerera's tanks are firing at the approaching planes MegaForce rolls out to sneak past them. Unfortunately one of the planes is damaged so there's an immediate change in the plan:  MegaForce will have to blow up all their vehicles so nobody can reverse-engineer them and then all the soldiers will pile into the remaining plane and leave for America without landing in Sardun.

And to be completely honest, the shot where all the MegaForce vehicles are firing off their smoke screens behind them to shield the remaining plane, filling the entire screen, looks pretty damned amazing. Unfortunately all the shots of model rockets corkscrewing through the air and obviously never getting anywhere near Guerera's tanks wreck the brief impression that MegaForce might actually know what they're doing. Lots of explosions and fireballs (but not a single onscreen death) later, the MegaForce troopers zip past the tanks and get away. Commander Ace Hunter is the only one who gets knocked off his bike and all his men manage to get on the plane without him. There's only seconds to go before the aircraft has to leave, so of course Ace drops by Guerera's tank to personally tell him that the good guys always win, even in the Eighties. Guerera, for his part, is actually happy to see his friend survive even if it means he isn't likely to get paid.

Then the absolute highlight of the movie occurs. Remember that "one, then two" thing that got mentioned a couple times earlier in the movie? Well, it turns out to be the secret device that lets Ace escape when the chips are down. Button one extends some useless-looking fins and wings from the sides of the cycle's body, and button two fires the read-mounted rocket engines. And although there are clips of this on YouTube, I won't be linking to it here. The sheer crappiness of the effect is such that words utterly fail me (the listing for IntroVision seems more like a group claiming responsibility for the end of the movie than taking credit for it). But only after being stupefied by an hour and a half of an idiotic action movie seemingly written by ten-year-old boys can the full effect of the flying motorcycle be enjoyed. Get the movie from Netflix or something and watch it, knowing full well that something truly insane is coming. I guarantee you, whatever you're expecting from my description, the movie will rise below your expectations and make you laugh hard enough to risk injury.

Tell you what I'll do, though:  Courtesy of The Lightning Bug's Lair, here's a screen capture of Henry Silva when he sees the flying motorcycle. It's like looking into a mirror, if that mirror was enchanted to make you look like Henry Silva.

I don't think he was acting. I think they showed him the effects shot and pointed a camera at him.

Guerera says he'll see Ace another time (undoubtedly the filmmakers planned to set him up as a recurring villain in the MegaForce series, just as Major Zara was probably supposed to join the team as their Token Chick--of course, considering that nobody went to go see this movie in theaters there were no sequels, although Team America:  World Police seems to have taken at least some of its inspiration from this movie). And then, as if we were watching the end of Meatballs or another summer-camp-hijinks movie, the plane buzzes by General Byrne-White's press conference where he was disavowing all knowledge of MegaForce's activities so that Ace can blow up his customized helicopter and then fly away from the entire continent (whichever one that happens to be--we never see a global map with Sardun or Gamibia on it). Then a hard-rockin' single destined for the Bottom 40 flops out of the speakers over shots of explosions and stuntmen falling off of motorcycles.

Damn. I think I might have another candidate for the Influential Flops of 1982--I previously mentioned Tron, Blade Runner and John Carpenter's take on The Thing as movies that were little seen and less liked by mass audiences that year, but went on to inspire filmmakers who mimicked those films' visions of cyberpunk computer visions, future urban dystopias or gut-churning body horror. And now we have a film that appears to have provided the inspiration for the cartoon series tied in to the G. I. Joe toy line. Only in this case the neat toys, remote base, on-staff mad scientist and Token Chick in a form-fitting black bodysuit all belonged to the villains rather than the heroes. It could be a coincidence, sure, but it seems like MegaForce had a second life losing fights and failing to shoot anyone directly over the entire run of the TV series as Cobra. (I'm not the only person to make this connection--El Santo beat me to it after viewing the film at B Fest 2009.) It sounds legit enough to me, and makes more sense than expecting dune buggies and motorcycles to do anything against a tank brigade except get destroyed.


  1. The vaporization of the weapons team still bugs me for many, many reasons.

    1. It's jarringly out of place in an otherwise cheerfully dumb and cartoonish movie. And it means that MegaForce and HYDRA use the same tactics, which means it's even tougher for me to root for Team Nude-Colored Spandex