Sunday, 21 June 2009

What Lando did next... [Review: Alien Intruder]

I've been testing the limits of the sci-fi gene deficiency with some real elephants' graveyard movies. Alien Intruder (1993) comes from the Red Dwarf school of scriptwriting: if your script requires two starships, make sure they are identical sister-ships so you can re-use the set. Also like early Red Dwarf episodes the plot revolves around a male-only crew on a long space voyage. Here they are a bunch of criminals with different skills recruited by Billy Dee Williams' Captain Skyler who are set against each other by Tracy Scoggins' alien seductress through a virtual reality entertainment system - Homer may have had exactly this film in mind when he first penned the Iliad.

It was interesting to see what the two more familiar cast members made of this film - Williams of course played Lando Calrissian, while Scoggins has a respectable CV of major roles in classic TV series including The A Team, Dynasty and more recently Babylon 5 and Crusade.

The USS Presley has been sent to rescue its' sister ship the Holly. See what they've done there? As with the Nostromo the crew includes an android, Marlon played by Joe Durrenberger, who is perhaps the world's most irrelevant robot - he follows Skyler around, is teased by the crew a few times, but has no other role in the action until he is suddenly electrocuted.

I'd like to excuse the special effects but can't. This film comes well after 1977 and the debut of Industrial Light and Magic and this aspect really should have been better - painted cardboard box spaceships, doors covered with silver foil and water pistol ray guns just won't do, even with the magic of Coloured Lighting (TM). Similarly these are a group of male actors severely lacking in stage-fight choreography.

What works much better than anything else in this film are the forays into the men's fantasies during their VR "weekends" - deliberately cliched worlds of the Wild West, 1950s biker country, film noir and a multi-millionaire bachelor pad, each accompanied by a submissive fantasy partner. While these sequences are highly exploitative, they are also realised with imagination, and the way Scoggins' character Ariel appears in each setting and introduces some much-needed sadism into the outcome of each fantasy plot is both funny and sinister.

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