Prisoners of the Lost Universe (1983)
Today we have for you an ultramega cheesy late-night direct-to-video stinker about some rubes lost in the time/space continuthingie and other stupid stuff. I'm constantly amazed at how many of these types of minimal-effort movies there are out there, especially of the sci-fi rip-off variety. It's apparently a lot easier to make a film than I would have guessed, all you need is a camera and some schtupes dumb enough to sign a ten-day SAG contract and you too can have a directorial credit on IMDb! Won't your mother be proud?
Anyway, Prisoners of the Lost Universe opens in smoggy Los Angeles, where we meet Carrie, our film's youngish and blondish female lead. She's played by the American Maid, and if you don't get that ref then you are no friend of mine. Carrie is host of a low-rent basic-cable paranormal call-in show, though she's really just in it for the paychecks. They choose to introduce her with a lingering close-up on her face as she's concentrating on grabbing a cobra by the head to a jazzy synthesizer beat (really). That's fine, but the problem is that she looks like she's stoned, with sluggish, bloodshot eyes and twitchy lips, not at all a flattering first-look at your movie's female lead (I know, I know, it's 1983 in Hollywood and all, but still, at least wait until she's coming down off the high before doing the close-up).
Carrie's not here, man.
So Carrie's now on the way to interview some Professor who has invented something awesome. Uniquely, her car is an imported right-driver Datsun 280ZX (mailman friendly!), which you rarely see. Carrie is distracted while texting her recently-ex'd-boyfriend about how her sister always knew he was a noob after seeing him drinking with that waitress on facebook, and totally runs a guy in a pickup truck off the road. To her credit Carrie stops and checks on him instead of just driving off. He's fine, but his prized bamboo sword is broken (wtf?) and he's pissed. She tries to buy him off with money, but he threatens to physical beat her, so she runs off without giving her insurance information or cell number or anything. This is Dan, ace electrician and Al Borland impersonator, and (lamentably) our film's male lead. He's played by Richard Hatch, formerly of Battlestar Galactica fame.
Was this filmed in England?
Dan (he yells a lot).
Professor Hartman turns out (unsurprisingly) to be a crackpot with a white lab coat from K-Mart, a fetish for banks of flashing lights, and Art Bell on speed dial. Typical of fringe movie scientists, he's somehow been able to construct an inter-dimensional time portal thingie in his garage/lab with little more than a socket wrench and the proceeds from his part-time job at Pizza Hut. He's also decided that the best way to publicize this world-changing invention is to call up a public access cable program about UFOs so he can stick it to that dean who wouldn't renew his grant.
Carrie questions the Professor on why he wore a lavender tie with a beige shirt.
"Is this the MacStore?"
As the Professor is showing a befuddled Carrie how he managed to deconstructacize the confribulatoritians in the oglafuckanator, a minor earthquake tremor picks this inopportune moment to rattle the area (this is California). The Professor "falls into" the beam of his machine and disappears in a poof, leaving Carrie to squeal and freak out.
The CGI is third-season TOS Star Trek level at best.
Apparently the Professor needed some help rewiring his fusion reactor in the basement, because he had previously called an electrician, who now shows up at his door. Guess who that electrician is. No, it's Dan, try to keep up. Carrie lets him in, still a bit frantic from the Professor disappearing and all (though not too frantic, like that sort of thing happens all the time in her world) and she tells him what happened. At this moment there's another earthquake tremor, the director says "action!", and Dan shakes his hips like Elvis and falls into the portal beamy thingie and disappears in a superimposed flash of light. Seriously, that made me laugh out loud, the actor started to wiggle long before the camera started to shake so it looked like he was doing the "I'm a little teapot" dance for no reason. Carrie falls in after him, because she's a bit of a dumbass.
"Here is my handle, here is my spout..."
Zipzap! Carrie reappears deep in the Hollywood Hills, around April, it looks by the foliage, around 3 o'clock in the afternoon, by the shadows. The landscape is dotted with weird fruit-bearing plants but the topography looks the same, if a bit wild and untamed. She turns a corner and comes across Hagrid stuck up to his shoulders in a mud pit! This is the first of many instances in this alien world where Carrie doesn't act like any normal person would, but she does have enough presence of mind to at least toss Hagrid a vine so he can pull himself out. The hirsute giant then lumbers off without a word, didn't even say "thank you".
Looks dry, maybe a drought period.
Hagrid (or perhaps Hurley from Lost).
She then turns another corner (yes, there are corners in the forest) and runs into a gang of midgets with electric flashing eyeballs who have some green-skinned guy prisoner (really, I cannot make this shit up). Normally I write the review as I'm watching the movie, but here we are just ten minutes into it and already they've thrown so much weird stuff at me that I can't type fast enough to keep up. I hate having to pause a movie like this, the sooner I get through it, the sooner the healing can begin.
Dan shows up now and he and Carrie flee the angry sparkly midgets (gigglegiggle). Forgetting that they can easily outrun people with legs barely half as long as theirs (biology, baby), they instead decide to slide down a cliff and get stuck. Just when it looks like they will be crushed by a big spray-painted Styrofoam rock, the once-stuck-in-mud Hagrid sneaks up and tosses the midgets off the cliff! Yes, yes, go ahead, make your "midget tossing" jokes, go ahead, I'll wait. Tsk, how juvenile of you.
No harnesses? Where's my liability waiver!?!
Since the mysteriously silent Hagrid leaves without helping them back up the cliff, it's up to Dan to McGuyver-up a grappling hook out of a screwdriver and a piece of 12-guage ground wire, which he conveniently has a spool of in his pocket (yeah, that little hook is going to hold your weight). Dan, somewhat surprisingly, does very little to help Carrie get off the cliff, other than copping a feel and peeking up her skirt, that is. I have to admire Carrie for being rather spunky and independent, even though she's totally out of her element (and running dangerous low on hairspray), she's still determined to be a liberated don't-need-no-man woman. In my opinion, you can see the influence of both Karen Allen from Raiders of the Lost Ark and even Weaver from Alien in Carrie's performance of a strong-willed sexy woman who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty when the need arises but still looks hot in heels.
Hey, figure skaters do it all the time.
They untie the green-skinned prisoner, who instantly kills them because he was an escaped murderous convict who the peace-loving midgets were taking back to jail, and the movie ends. Ok, fine, the guy is nice and friendly (not that they could have known that before they untied him) and is some sort of wandering wasteland warrior Aragorn type with Italian mobster hair. At his insistence they run through the woods to safer parts, and Dan, true to his dickish character, leaves Carrie in the dust. Of course, Carrie is still physically capable of running even though there's not a man holding her hand, which is the difference between women in 1983 and women in 1953. They stop to rest, and Greenie loads his gun with exploding Nerf pea pods and starts a fire with a chunk of colored glass (again, cannot make this shit up). He tells them that this world is called "Vanya", and even though it looks suspiciously like Southern California, he insists that it's not the Earth that they are familiar with. Helpfully, the Vanyans speak perfect English, because no one likes reading subtitles.
Meanwhile, Carrie takes a moment to get naked and bathe in a creek. What the hell kind of woman would decide that this was a proper place and time to strip down and take a bath? There's strange guys around, there could be leaches, there could be sharks, there could be beastly fish-men who look like Tashtego from Moby Dick. Stupid girl, and stupid movie for really thinking we need to see some brief half-nekkidness to keep us from changing the channel. You know, just because she's a pretty girl, that doesn't mean we have to see her boobs. I can't believe I just typed that.
That's how you get malaria, you know.
Speaking of beastly fish-men who look like Tashtego from Moby Dick, one suddenly leaps up and attacks Carrie in the water! Greenie shoots it dead with a blowgun dart to the throat, saving the day. As the corpse sinks, the water turns frothy red with blood, which was pretty hardcore for a "mainstream" movie in 1983. And there's a surprising amount of drunken sailor cussing in this film, even by the ladies. I'm too lazy to look it up, but I can imagine that this movie received an R rating when it was released, even though any given episode of The Simpsons is ten times worse (my, how times have changed). I think it was a cable movie, so thankfully the impressionable minds of our fair youth were not too badly corrupted by the unseemly sight of Carrie's boob-tops.
"Thar' she blows!"
Besides, American Maid was way hotter.
Because by the now the audience's interest is beginning to fade, it's up to Carrie and Dan to explain to them the complex interworkings of inter-dimensional time/space travel. Based on nothing but a hunch, they deduce that a second back in "their" California is a day on Vanya, which means that, while Carrie has just got here, Dan has been here a week. It also means that the Professor has been here in Vanya for about a year now, and we can guess he's been up to something fishy since then. Their theory, of course, makes no damn sense, mostly because there's no way that we can believe that Dan has been lost in this foreign wilderness for a whole week and is still cleanly shaven and neatly dressed (seriously, dude, you're off the clock, you can untuck your shirt now). And it wasn't until Greenie told him that Dan knew that you could actually eat those paper-mache looking fruits, so you have to wonder about his caloric intake this last week.
Carrie's grasp of temporal mechanics is lacking.
All that technobabble has the audience either asleep or searching for the remote control, so they better have a sex scene now, and fast. Amazingly, after Dan's been a raging prick to her all day, after continuously abandoning her in a hostile alien world, after caddishly grabbing her ass, and making lewd comments all day, after threatening to spank her, Carrie still wants to get her mojosuave on with him? Really? And is an open field in broad daylight after escaping a mutant fish-monster really the most romantic place for your first slobbering sausage-hide? I made the effort to overlook it when Carrie got nekkid before, writing it off as an odious pander to the 18-24 demographic, but I simply can't stand idly by as her character is forced to be such a Slutosaurus Rex for no other reason than the director thought we wanted to see some sizzle between our leads (we don't, sometimes people just don't like each other). That's just lazy scriptwriting and bush league directing, it's ok for a man and a woman not to jump in the sack at the first opportunity, really.
You know, Dan seems pretty nonplussed about all the mutants and the exploding fruits and the time jumps and all that. I would certainly flip out a bit more, maybe even curl up into a fetal position and cry a lot. Wait, wait, wait, now I realize why Dan doesn't seem too surprised about all the spacey-dimensional travel stuff. He's not "Dan", he's Captain Apollo of the Battlestar Galactica! I knew it! Now, if you recall, when last we saw him four years ago, Captain Apollo, after being revived from death at the hands of Count Iblis, was given the coordinates for Earth by the Beings of Light and sent on his way to find that fabled planet. That was the last anyone heard hide nor Viper of him, though there were rumors that he did, in fact, reach Earth. Well, as we can clearly see here, Apollo did make it to Earth, albeit alone, it seems. However, instead of finding the legendary land of milk and honey, Apollo discovered that Earth in 1979 was more about disco and hairspray and polyester than pan-galactic unity and stuff. This must have shocked him so badly that he gave up his space-swashbuckling ways, changed his name to Dan, and settled down as a humble electrician in Southern California. It all makes perfect sense now. Don't you agree, Pam?
His father Adama would be so disappointed.
I think you figured it out, Nate. Apollo probably wasn't independently wealthy, so he had to support himself somehow. But before I continue with this fine movie, I want to bring up a point from the beginning. I could believe that Carrie has an imported car that has the steering wheel on the right-hand side, but why does Dan's truck also have the steering wheel on the right? Is the movie trying to hint that Carrie and Dan come from a universe other than our own, one that's almost the same but not quite, or did somebody get careless while the film was being edited and flip the negative for these few scenes? Once I saw Dan's truck, I went back to a highway scene, and if you look closely, you can see the drivers are sitting on the left, so I don't know. I guess this does inject a little bit of mystery into the movie.
Sadly, Starbuck's action figure was way cooler.
Going back to the action, it looks to me as though Dan and Carrie are wandering at random, hoping they'll come across the Professor. Of course they have no chance of finding him, since he could be anywhere in the world by now. Well, maybe not, since the level of technology we've seen so far has been pretty low, so maybe the Professor wasn't able to get very far. Still, he's had a year's head start, he could be quite a distance away by now. However, as anybody who's ever watched a movie like this knows, Fate will step in to help out.
I see she's stoned again...
As it turns out, Fate steps in promptly. Dan goes off to shave at a nearby creek while Carrie is snoozing after their romantic interlude, when Carrie wakes up to see a bearded man on horseback leering down at her. She's seized by a couple of his henchmen, and from the bare chests and ragged fur capes we can immediately tell that these are barbarian horsemen. (By the way, if you've been thinking that all the humanoid natives of this world are green, you're wrong. The horsemen are all Caucasian-looking and have normal white skins, somewhat tanned.) The leader likes what he sees of Carrie, who may be the only woman he's ever met who bathes regularly, and her cry of outrage when he grabs her causes Dan to come running, pocketknife in hand. Proving that you should never bring a knife to a gunfight, the leader draws an antique pistol and shoots at Dan. Dan goes down and the leader predictably throws Carrie over his saddle and gallops off with the rest of his band, leaving Dan lying in the grass.
Kleel (which sounds like a brand of Norwegian toilet paper).
"Yum! White women!"
Dan, though, is far from dead, as we see when a short leprechaunish-looking man tiptoes up and tries to remove Dan's wristwatch. Dan promptly pins him to the ground and demands some answers, which the leprechaun quickly gives. The leprechaun's name is Malachi, and he supplies the information that Kleel, the leader of the barbarians, has taken Carrie to his stronghold. By the way, when I called Malachi a leprechaun, I wasn't kidding. He's not only short and dressed in a quaint little costume, he has an Irish accent, and I'm waiting to see if the movie is going to explain why there's such a large diversity in race and culture between the inhabitants of the small area of Vanya we've seen so far.
Despite Malachi's lack of respect for others' property, he turns out to be not such a bad guy. He tries to talk Dan out of going to Kleel's stronghold to get Carrie back, as well he might. I admire Dan's willingness to risk his life to rescue Carrie, but where outside of crummy B-movies can a single man armed only with a pocketknife prevail against a large band of men armed with at least some firearms? But Dan won't listen, and Malachi provides him with a horse and accompanies him, all for no more payment than Dan's watch. On the ride, he warns Dan that Kleel has a powerful sorcerer working for him. Any guesses as to who the sorcerer is?
I see they've invented the saddle and bridle.
With Dan on his way, we go to Kleel's camp, and a disgusting sight it is. You can almost smell it through the computer screen, although in 1983 they were still a little too prissy to show rotting fly-covered animal carcasses and piles of less mentionable substances (barbarians never bother with latrines). The men are dressed in an eclectic assortment of leather, rags, and fur, mixed with the occasional piece of armor, but are all dirty and unshaven. Carrie is being held with several other women until one of Kleel's men decides to take her away from the others for a little fun. Carrie has so far shown herself to be spunkier than the average B-movie heroine, and she hasn't lost any of her feistiness but seizes the chance to kick her captor right where it hurts the most.
He looks like he needs a kick in the nads.
While I admire her spirit, I could have told her it was unwise to do this to an armed man when you yourself are weaponless, and her captor is about to kill her with his knife when a club-wielding giant appears and drags him away from Carrie. This is the giant Carrie pulled out of the mudpit, so he must still be feeling grateful. At this point, Kleel shows up and shoots the giant. He also threatens but doesn't actually shoot the man who originally took Carrie away from camp. He does, however, kick him hard.
Kleel's mother must not have hugged him enough as a child.
Kleel seems highly outraged that his subordinate dared to lay hands on a woman Kleel has marked out for his own, suggesting that this culture is very possessive of its property and possibly indicating that women are scarce. We saw only a few other women with Carrie, although it's possible these are women who've been recently captured on raids, and there are many more women home at Kleel's base camp. We can also infer that Kleel isn't a very good shot, since, as with Dan, the giant soon gets up and staggers off.
Bow before American Maid (with kung fu action grip!).
Meanwhile, Dan and Malachi are still trying to get to Kleel. Malachi stops at a sort of trading post so they can buy another horse. The other customers, except for Greenie who just happens to be here, are as unwashed and uncivilized as Kleel's band. Dan runs his mouth too much and provokes them all into attacking him, though in defiance of all probability manages to knock them all out easily, despite the fact he's still unarmed. In fact, he doesn't even draw his pocketknife. He helps himself to a sword and carries off Greenie, who either fainted or passed out during the ruckus, hoping that Greenie can supply him with information about this world he and Carrie are now in. We don't see how he manages to get the limp unconscious Greenie up on the horse, but somehow he does, and they gallop off, leaving Malachi despondent at the sight of the watch vanishing.
Greenie's eyes keep opening, bad actor.
Carrie is now at Kleel's fortress, which is a tall nearly-featureless building surrounded by a wooden fence. The building's surprisingly well built, considering the primitive technology Kleel's band displays, and I think Kleel and his band probably murdered the original owners and took it over. By now Carrie seems pretty bedraggled and isn't saying much as Kleel is greeted by a pretty brunette in a leather bikini. He calls her "Shareen" and draws her attention to Carrie's blond hair. All of the women we've seen so far have been brunettes, and it's obvious that Shareen doesn't find Carrie's hair as attractive as Kleel does. Kleel also refers to Shareen as a "half-breed slave girl," but with no explanation of what two breeds he's talking about. She looks like everybody else in Kleel's band, except with more eye makeup, and I'm wondering how many races are there in this world. So far we've seen a bunch of more or less Caucasians, a green man, a fish-man, a couple of hairy giants, Malachi, and a band of electric-eyed midgets. Are there more?
Plywood and duct tape "town".
Earlier we were told that two men had tried to dethrone Kleel, and now back at his stronghold, he decides to show his people that nobody messes with him. He challenges one of the men to throw spears at him and stands there unflinching while he does, although since the man is almost too weak to move and can't get the spears anywhere close to Kleel, it really isn't much of a show of bravery. Finally Kleel draws his pistol and shoots the man. There are no cheers, so I can't tell if Kleel's people are as impressed as he thought they'd be or as unimpressed as I am.
"Nana, you missed me, now you gotta kiss me!"
Carrie at least is also unimpressed and regains her voice long enough to refer to his act as "murder." So far I'd rate Carrie a 10 for courage and a zero for brains or a sense of self-preservation, and she gets what you'd expect from a bloodthirsty barbarian. Kleel orders her to be locked up in a cage without food or water, and she is led away as Shareen smirks. However, Kleel proves to be no genius either, because when Shareen warns him that Carrie will bring him bad luck, he chuckles and tells her that if Carrie stays, Shareen will be the one with bad luck. I can already predict that Shareen plus many readily available weapons will equal serious trouble for Kleel, and the only question is how soon it's going to happen.
Carrie expresses her opinion (silly girl).
Now back to Dan, who has made camp with the still unconscious Greenie. They are shortly joined by Malachi, who has managed to trail them. Unfortunately he didn't do it unaided, and his partner, one of the men at the trading post, sneaks up behind Dan and bashes him with the hilt of his sword. When Dan wakes up, his hands are tied behind his back and he's lying next to Greenie and Malachi, who are similarly bound. In standard B-movie fashion, Dan blinks, sits up, and is instantly all right, with no pesky concussion or skull fracture from the blow. It seems Malachi's partner has decided that he'll be better off as a sole proprietor, and he's going to make some money by selling Dan, Greenie, and Malachi to yet another race who will sacrifice them to their god, which seems to be a steaming-hot rock. It's not in a temple or anything, it's just standing out in the middle of a bare patch of ground, silently emitting steam.
"So, you guys want some s'mores?"
So far this movie has been a mashup of standard science-fiction cliches dumped willy-nilly into a stewpot and boiled together until they make a slumgullion of a movie that has so much unlikely action going on that my brain is starting to hurt. The rock god was the last straw, and I'm going to have to turn the review back over to Nate before something snaps and I start howling at the moon.
How about howling to the steaming pile of...er, the rock?
Thanks, Pam, though I have to tell you that I'd rather cook weenies over a dumpster fire than watch the rest of this movie. So this is one of those cultures where strangers must fight the village champion to the death because...well, because it's more fun than just eating their captives and making bongos out of their skulls (like we do here in rural Indiana). Dan has to fight this big, mute, golden Sumo guy who seems impervious to fists and feet. After it's clear he can't win a fair fight with the Sumo, Dan just puts his whip away, pulls out his revolver, and casually shoots the man dead...wait, wrong movie, Dan actually kicks the Sumo in the balls and pushes him into the Rock o'Fire. Even though he technically won the fight, the village leader still sticks Dan and his buddies in a cage and threatens to roast them with burning oil (like they do in rural Maryland).
"Yeah, that's nice, work my obliques, will ya?"
These doorknobs are no help.
The villagers helpfully cover their eyes while Dan plots an ingenious escape plan involving blowing open the iron lock with Greenie's stash of exploding Nerf pea pods. Before the pods just contained a gas under pressure, which Greenie used to power his dart gun, but now the pods are filled with something extremely explosive. Once our heroes are out of the cage, a group of white-clad ninjas attack! Fuck ya! And then some hairy giants (well, just one) attack the ninjas! And Dan turns into Toshiro Mifune! And there's blood and slashing and screaming and Dan stabs the village elder in the back and grins a lot. In the end, they've managed to slaughter an entire community of indigenous people and Dan can kick back and enjoy a cold PBR in celebration of a job well done.
That pyrocharge really went off very close to the actors, hope they had health insurance.
The giant turns out to be Hagrid, who has, for some unexplained reason, been following Dan around watching out for him (and Carrie). In fact, he's here in part to tell Dan that Carrie has been taken away by Kleel to his fortress. In all the ruckus the horses ran away (because every single one in town wasn't tied down to anything, just milling around?). But Greenie has a magic flute that attracts horses, which is pretty cool, and off they all ride for the nexus of evil (pity the broke-back horse that has to carry Hagrid's blubbery 4-bill lardass...).
"You're going to need a step stool..."
Back on the other set, we see that Kleel already has a harem of girls at his disposal for "times of need", but he has his lecherous eye on Carrie and her blonde hair and her First World dental hygiene. He butters her up and tells her she will be his queen one day, which is fine, but he does so while his current queen Shareen is standing two feet away (what a douchebag). When Carrie tells him to get bent and Shareen tries to stab him, Kleel looses his cool, strangles Carrie a bit and sends her off to her cage, then whips Shareen with a cat-o-nine-tails for her insolence. He then has Shareen (so not his queen anymore) banished to be strung up over the "death pit" out in the woods. You know, so far this movie has had a lot of violence, but it was often more cartoonishly comical, or at least quick and fleeting, but this extended scene of Kleel assaulting these two defenseless women is pretty brutal to watch. There are few things I hate about b-movies more than when they can't figure out a tone to stick with. You just can't have a Three Stooges-style nuknuk with Dan and the Sumo and then follow it up with a horribly misogynistic Salon Kitty-style choke-and-whip session with the girls. Well, I guess you can, but I'll hate you for it in the morning.
Kleel likes to choke women, he's a dick.
This will come as a surprise to exactly no one, but the Professor is alive and well and masquerading as a "sorcerer" in the forced employ of Kleel. After being captured a year ago, he used his scientific skills to impress Kleel enough to stay alive. Then, like Kirk against the Gorn, the Professor made a batch of gunpowder pistols for Kleel, instantly making him the most well-armed individual in all of Vanya. This is why you should pay attention in Chem class, by the way, one day you might need to remember how to make something explode to placate a bloodthirsty warlord. Or not, but you need those credits to graduate so stop staring at the chick in the tank top at the next table and pay attention to your TA, even if you can't understand anything through his Pakistani accent.
Power behind the throne.
The Professor comes to see Carrie in her cage and they have a frosty reunion. Carrie seems rather pissed at him for joining forces with Kleel, and is really cranked when she learns that he made the pistols that Kleel used to kill her dreamy man-love Dan. The Professor rightly claims he's just trying to survive in this hostile land until he can find a way back to LA. And, to be fair, hitching your wagon to the strongest warlord in the land is pretty smart, as Kleel alone has the power and authority to assure the nancy-boy Professor doesn't end up as mutant fish-man food. Carrie is all up in arms about this, though later in the movie she will use her considerably bouncy feminine charms on Kleel to stay alive and gain influence, so how is that really any different than the Professor using his brains and scientific knowledge to keep his own head attached? Carrie can be such a hypocrite.
"And I lost my lavender tie..."
Anyway, back to the rescue team as they gallop across the arid plains of Mordor towards Kleel's keep. They run out of water but Greenie, being our movie's stand-in for the noble savage Native American, is "one with Mother Vanya" and can divine water with a stick and some warbling vocalizing. The vaguely Indianish Dances With Wolves-esque music cues are really overkill, we get the allegory, we really do.
That night they happen upon the strung-up Shareen and save her. And good thing, too, because just then they are attacked by a band of Saracen dagger-wielding albino zombie monks! Yeah! Our heroes run into a cave to escape, while the albino zombie monks helpfully stop and wait for them to gather up some materials to make torches to light their way. Shareen, by the way, unlike Carrie, is one of those women who simply cannot run or walk unless a man is holding her hand.
"If only I could bake some scones!"
Cornered, they must confront the albino zombie monks. Malachi the Irish dwarf channels his inner Hobbit and manages to fight off wave after wave of monks who are twice his size and armed with swords five times longer than his dinky little knife (they're clearly not trying very hard). It's actually kind of fun to watch Richard Hatch (as Dan) here as he gets to twirl his sword around and strike stupid ninja poses as stuntmen fall at his feet. I'm too lazy to google it, but I'm thinking that Hatch really was one of those arrogant bandana-wearing martial arts guys and insisted on doing his own stunts here. Anyway, our heroes escape as Hagrid pushes a Styrofoam boulder out of the way and the monks go back to playing World of Warcraft.
All these scenes are filmed in the dark with a green filter, impossible to get screen caps.
So now they sneak into Kleel's castle, which has the perimeter security of a pet store in Scottsdale, easily getting past the one awake guard and under the main gate. Hagrid, however, is lost, valiantly giving up his own life to cover their advance (yes, just like Andre the Giant in The Princess Bride, I noticed).
Seriously, I hate nighttime scenes in crappy VHS-rip movies! So let's just leer at Jessica Rabbit, shall we?
They arrive at Carrie's cage just in time to stop yet another attempted rape (poor girl has it worse than Laura Gemser in this movie). Dan, who by now has become something of an expert in stabbing and slashing and generally killing everyone who gets in his way, mortally wounds the would-be-rapist and he and Carrie share a happy hug. You know, not to disparage Dan's moral fiber, but the guy's already killed around four dozen assorted human-ishs and doesn't seem to have any emotional conflict in doing it. It's just surprising that an electrician from LA can become such a cold-blooded killer in the blink of an eye without any explanation why. This movie could really stand to have one of those hackneyed, overused Reagan-era flashback scenes where Dan tearfully recounts his bloody combat experience in 'Nam and how he lost his respect for life and love there. You have to give your characters reasons for the way they act, especially if it's such a jarring transformation.
"I kill randomly, for you!"
And speaking of tissue-thin characterizations, so now Carrie and Dan are in love? What the hell? Let's go back and look at this. So far they spent a grand total of (at most) one afternoon with each other before Carrie was captured, and half that time they hated each other. Ok, sure, Dan might feel somewhat heroically responsible for Carrie, being a damsel in distress and all, but there just hasn't been enough time or emotional connection to explain why they are already picking out wallpaper patterns for the baby's room. That must have been some really awesome sex. And while I'm at it, so both Carrie and Dan were completely single and unattached back in LA? Both hermits who live alone with their cats? Nothing to strive to get back to, no children, no family, nothing at home to keep the fires alight? If so, how about a nice throw-away line to that effect, Mister Director? It might help us sympathize with these two idiots a little more than we do. Just one line, that's all you need, just Dan staring wistfully off into space and muttering, "I sure wish I could see my terminally ill brother again one more time, I need to tell him that I love him..." If you heard that line, wouldn't you care more for Dan than you do now as the one-note blood-soaked killing machine?
Why does he look like John-Boy Walton?
Anyway, I digress. They bust into the Professor's room, where he's doing some after-hours tutoring with a couple of scantily-clad co-eds (he's so going to lose his tenure...). Dan is also way up on his high-horse here, sharing Carrie's unfounded hatred of the Professor just because he was smart enough to use his brains instead of his fists (or in Carrie's case later, her boobs) to survive. So because they think they need him to get back to Los Angeles, they kidnap the Professor and try and sneak him out of the castle. But Kleel has been alerted and is waiting outside with a battalion of troopers to block their path. What will happen, is this the end of the line for our intrepid heroes? I'll let Pam finish this one out, I have a dumpster fire to set.
"She just wanted to copy my lab notes, I swear!"
Set fire on a dumpster for me, too, Nate, I'm in the mood for a good dumpster fire. But before I proceed further, I must point out that Shareen was brutally whipped and strung up for an indefinite period of time, which explains why she can't move without holding onto Dan, although it doesn't explain why there are no marks on her, and we can see most of her since she's still wearing that leather bikini.
Couldn't get a screen cap of Shareen in her leather bikini, so here's Caroline Munro from Starcrash in hers. You're welcome.
One of the reasons Dan and Carrie are so mad at the Professor is because he's making nitroglycerin for Kleel, and this is where the movie strains credulity past the breaking point. So far we haven't seen anything that would suggest the natives of this particular segment of the new universe are at a stage of technology higher than that of the Middle Ages. (However, that glassware in the Professor's lab is way too advanced for a Middle-Ages-level of technology. Not only is the glass too clear and uniform, I'm pretty sure I saw ground-glass joints on the tops of some of the glassware. This could indicate that although Kleel's band seems primitive, it has some contact with a much more advanced society. Or it could indicate that the Professor is a skilled glassblower and made it all himself. Or it could indicate that somebody connected to the movie went out and bought a bunch of modern laboratory glassware, which would be my guess, especially since some of the flasks seem to be heated with Bunsen burners.)
"The dipstick of ultimate power!"
Black powder isn't that hard to make, as anybody who watched that episode of TOS with Captain Kirk and the Gorn knows. As a matter of fact, I personally know a couple of people who made crude black powder in their younger days, fifty or sixty years ago when adults were more relaxed about childish pranks and black powder was a fairly common part of science-fair projects. I can buy the Professor being able to make black powder, and it's at least possible he could tell the local blacksmith how to make simple guns, but I can't believe that he would a) know how to make nitroglycerin in the first place and b) be able to find the necessary ingredients in a society so technologically backward. In our world, it wasn't developed until the 19th century. The Professor claimed to be a "dimensional physicist," whatever that is, not a chemist, and in any case, making nitroglycerin certainly isn't taught in normal chemistry classes. In any case, even if the Professor could make it, if he gave anything so volatile to Kleel's band of undisciplined thugs, chances are they'd blow themselves to Kingdom Come in very short order. He can't even keep his henchmen away from Carrie, how can he make his men handle the nitroglycerin properly?
Evil Mirror Universe Burt Reynolds?
Anyway, Carrie binds the Professor's wrists, and she and Dan hustle him out. Unfortunately it seems that Dan didn't quite kill Carrie's would-be rapist after all, and he staggers in to Kleel's private quarters, living just long enough to gasp out "The woman..." before he collapses. Gad, Kleel really is a barbarian, he's in bed with his boots on! Kleel snatches up his pistols and heads we do not see where, but by the time Dan and company make it out of the castle, Kleel has summoned his men and is waiting for them. Kleel shoots Shareen and is about to shoot Dan, when Malachi displays the flask he secretly picked up while he was in the lab and tries to bargain his way out. The Professor claims it's just wine, and everybody looks crestfallen and surrenders while Malachi tosses the flask away, which in a predictably "humorous" moment explodes.
They even do that "never aim because I'm a douchtard thing" in alternate universes?
We next see Dan, Malachi, and Greenie sitting in a cell, looking unhappy. Considering that so far nobody has actually been killed when Kleel shot them, I halfway expect to see Shareen, but if she didn't die she must have run away, because we don't see her again. Come to think of it, why didn't Kleel just kill them too instead of locking them up? And why didn't he lock up or kill Carrie for trying to run away? However, Carrie isn't dead or in the cell but rather in the hallway outside Kleel's room, all dressed up in the skimpy white dress Kleel tried to make her wear earlier, and she's snarling at the Professor that if he doesn't help them escape, she'll tell Kleel he's from their world and isn't a sorcerer at all. (In another anachronism, the dress is clearly a very modern knit, likely synthetic.) I'm not sure why Kleel would care where the supplier of his superweapons came from, but the Professor is worried enough to go to the cell and offer to let the three of them out if Dan promises to take him with them when he and Carrie go home. Um, wasn't the entire trek caused by Dan and Carrie believing that only the Professor knew how to get them home? If so, why is the Professor acting as though he needs their help to get home?
I see they've also mastered some pretty complex iron working techniques to make those bars, and apparently soldering and arc welding as well.
But back to Carrie, now seated across the table from Kleel. Kleel, acting like a gawky teenage boy instead of the bloodthirsty warlord we've seen so far, bashfully gives her a small velvet bag. Possibly fearing that Kleel will think she's not a nice girl, she at first refuses it, even though she's already wearing an elaborate "gold" necklace that must have come from Kleel (or Woolworth's). He has to swear at her before she'll open the bag, and when she does, she pulls out a small gold figurine. He loses his temper when she doesn't seem as grateful as he thinks she ought to be, and with that we leave the two lovebirds there.
"Here, I got this on eBay."
In the Professor's lab, Dan, Malachi, and Greenie, with the reluctant help of the Professor, are laying a trail of black powder from the lab to outside the fortress. Kleel must not bother to post any guards inside, even though he keeps people locked up in his basement, since they've been moving around from cell to lab with no trouble. He may not have any outside, either, since Malachi and Greenie are setting up flasks of nitroglycerin at strategic locations outside the fortress without being stopped. Did I miss something here? Malachi was promised Dan's watch if he helped Dan find Kleel's stronghold, but is that really enough of an incentive to keep him there helping at the risk of his life? Why doesn't he sneak out when Dan's back is turned? And why is Greenie there at all? Can Kleel's shabby band of thugs really be such a threat to all life in Vanya? He hasn't got more than 100 men, if he has that many. How much nitroglycerin could one man have made for him? I saw no signs of large reaction vessels in the lab, so anything he made must have been made in small batches. We've certainly seen plenty of other ruthless dangerous creatures in Vanya, so what makes Kleel so dangerous that he must be stopped at all cost?
Dan has a plan.
But what about poor Carrie, you may be asking. Is Dan going to leave her to die, after having known her a most of a day at this point? After all, Kleel and his small band are obviously so incredibly dangerous that no cost is too great to wipe them out, so, rather than risk blowing the entire operation by making a futile attempt to get her away while Kleel is sitting right next to her, surely she must be sacrificed for the greater good. But no. Kleel has a servant who, unlike everybody else in Kleel's ragtag band, always and most conveniently wears a hooded cloak that covers him completely and makes it difficult to see his face. Somehow Dan acquires the cloak and enters Kleel's room just as Kleel is using one of his pistols to move Carrie's dress aside so he can get a better look at her cleavage. Carrie looks pretty pale, but she keeps her head when she catches a glimpse of Dan's face, although her voice is understandably shaky when she requests some of the wine he's carrying. Kleel appears to be entirely focused on Carrie's torso, and Dan makes a try at grabbing the pistol. Unfortunately Kleel wasn't quite as preoccupied as he seemed, and he attacks Dan. Carrie is able to get the pistol, because for some reason Kleel thought it better to punch Dan instead of shooting him, but even though Kleel's been grabbing, choking, and in general threatening her almost nonstop since he first saw her, and she thinks he's the most dangerous man in Vanya, she can't bring herself to shoot him. She lets him take the gun away from her, but instead of shooting her the way he did Shareen, he stands there looking smug. I guess Carrie can put up with beating and choking but she can't stand being condescended to, because she hauls off and punches Kleel, knocking him out cold even though he's a lot bigger than she is.
Shoot him! Shoot him! S-h-o-o-t h-i-m!!! Goddamn it! You suck!
As Kleel goes down, his pistol goes off, which finally alerts his men. Dan has to fight his way out, while Carrie spunkily beans one assailant with Kleel's present, which she's still carrying. She must have quite an arm, because the man goes down and stays down. She also kicks another one from behind while she's at it. Somehow, although we don't see how, Dan and Carrie kill or disable all six of their assailants and make their way out. Meanwhile, things have started blowing up outside. I've never seen a nitroglycerin explosion so I'm no expert, but the explosions seem curiously small, considering the things I've read about nitroglycerin accidents. There's also a lot of fireballs, does nitroglycerin do that?
No, but milk jugs of gasoline buried in the dirt do.
Malachi and Greenie have acquired a horse and wagon, and I guess Kleel's men all assume that the other guy is going to deal with them, because Malachi and Greenie sit there calmly as the battle rages around them, and nobody even tries to get them off the wagon. It seems as though nobody in this movie stays down for very long, because just as Kleel reappears with both pistols, Hagrid also reappears and knocks down a shed roof on Kleel's head, but at that point, Kleel is obscured by a curtain of flame and we don't see what actually happens to him. Hagrid joins them in the wagon, none the worse for his brushes with death. Let's see, how many have there been? There was the quicksand, Kleel's gunshot...I don't know, I've lost count. They all ride off as Kleel's entire compound goes up in a lot of black smoke and pools of fire, which look an awful lot like what happens when you drop a lighted match on a puddle of gasoline. Where is all this flammable liquid coming from? We've seen no signs that these people even use kerosene.
Never mind all those innocent civilian traders, harem girls, and captured slaves...
They manage to make their way back more or less to where Dan, Carrie, and the Professor entered this world, but their troubles aren't over yet. The Professor delivers the bad news that the odds are 10,000,000 to 1 he can find the access point to their world. However, no sooner does he say this than Malachi spots Carrie's gold compact, which the Professor sent through earlier when he was demonstrating his machine to Carrie. The Professor said at the time that the compact wouldn't move in space but would be in another dimension, so it serves to mark the spot where presumably the machine can take them back. Dan and Carrie pick it up, and without further ado, vanish in a column of sparkly light. So why did the Professor need Dan and Carrie's help? Couldn't he have made some excuse to Kleel, or maybe just walked out the front gate since there seems to be no security around Kleel's compound, and hunted up the compact himself? And the Professor's carrying on as though he needed the compact to get home, but if there's a dimensional portal kept open by his machine, why would he need the random object he sent through? I have the feeling that the ending was left open because somebody was planning a sequel, which thankfully never happened.
Scotty beams them up (too easy?).
Ignoring the fact that this movie is nothing but a series of cliches that often don't make any sense in the context of the movie's action, there are two major problems. (I'm ignoring the minor but obvious problem that Dan's and the Professor's clothing remains immaculate throughout the entire movie.) One is, how did all these wildly varying cultures and species end up in a small part of Vanya? Is Vanya some sort of dumping ground for various planets' misfits and criminals, or have other researchers in other dimensions found a way to open a gate and send all their unwanted population there? No explanation is ever given. The other major problem is, why do Dan and Carrie feel the need to end Kleel's rule? Even if he does manage to take over all of Vanya using the weapons the Professor provided, why do they care enough to risk their lives to stop him? They're going to leave this world as soon as they can, remember? So far the inhabitants we've seen have all been bloodthirsty beings who attack strangers without any provocation, with the exception of Malachi because he's a coward, and the possible exception of Greenie, although we haven't seen anything of his culture besides what he's chosen to tell Dan. For all Dan and Carrie know, Kleel may actually be the best of a bad lot, and killing him will only allow somebody worse to take over. Although in my opinion, Kleel was unlikely to get too far no matter what weapons he had. His band was small, and despite all his bellowing and his manhandling of women, he either couldn't or wouldn't enforce much discipline. I point out again, he couldn't even make his henchman leave his woman alone, even after he threatened and kicked him.
This guy is now the hero.
By the way, the fact that Dan's truck and Carrie's car had the steering wheels on the right-hand side probably doesn't signify anything except laziness. Another review mentions that this movie was filmed in South Africa, where people drive on the left side of the road and thus cars have the steering wheel on the right, and nobody could be bothered to get two vehicles with the steering wheels on the left.
Do you have any closing remarks you'd like to add, Nate?
None other than to note that it ended really strangely. We've gotten to know the Vanyan heroes pretty well (and we like them better than the dickish Dan and the bimbo Carrie) but the movie ends without any sort of back-slapping, fake-laughing final scene you've come to expect with these kinds of movies. My suspicion is that Prisoners of the Lost Universe was meant to be the "pilot movie" for a television series, which would presumably let Dan and Carrie travel back/forth to Vanya for weekly adventures. If you doubt that there is a God, the fact that no network picked this one up should be proof enough.
Written in June 2011 by Nathan Decker and Pam Burda.
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that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...