Give Charles Band cred­it for chutz­pah dur­ing his ear­ly years as a film­mak­er: he’d sell pitch­es for films before hav­ing a script writ­ten, start mak­ing films before the bud­get was nailed down and in gen­er­al hus­tle as skill­ful­ly as any suc­cess­ful pro­duc­er of exploita­tion fare.

Metalsto-bluHe real­ly kick­start­ed his career in the ear­ly ‘80s when he made a cou­ple of 3-D films that got nation­al dis­tri­b­u­tion, Parasite and Metalstorm: The Destruction Of Jared-Syn.  The lat­ter in par­tic­u­lar was big busi­ness for Band, get­ting a wide release and a jum­bo-sized pre­sale from Universal.  The film itself is more of an inter­est­ing arti­fact than any­thing else but it’s inter­est­ing to look at in terms of how it point­ed the way for­ward for his future career.

Metalstorm plays like a fan fic­tion mash-up of The Road Warrior and Star Wars.  Dogen (Jeffrey Byron) is a Mad Max-ish ranger who is on the hunt for Jared-Syn (Mike Preston), a nefar­i­ous war­lord with super­nat­u­ral pow­ers who is try­ing to rile up the mutants in a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic world to join him.  Dogen teams up with Dhyana (Kelly Preston), the daugh­ter of a prospec­tor killed by Jared-Syn, and a Han Solo-esque scout named Rhodes (Tim Thomerson).  Along the way, he has tan­gle with a cyclo­pean lead­er (Richard Moll) and Jared-Syn’s cyborg son, Baal (R. David Smith).  Cue the desert car chas­es, laser fights, glad­i­a­tor bat­tles and comic-book mys­ti­cism.

As a film, Metalstorm is basi­cal­ly an excuse for bud­get-priced spe­cial effects and 3-D gags.  Alan Adler’s script is as gener­ic as it gets in terms of char­ac­ter­i­za­tion and dia­logue and the plot is often impos­si­ble to fol­low.  It’s also worth not­ing that the end­ing is wide­ly con­sid­ered to be one of the most jaw-drop­ping cheats this side of Back To The Future II.

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The act­ing is sim­i­lar­ly wonky: Byron and Preston are both game but have lit­tle to work with, thus allow­ing Thomerson and Moll to steal sce­nes with their more col­or­ful side char­ac­ters. Band’s work as direc­tor is tech­ni­cal­ly com­pe­tent but suf­fers from slack pac­ing between FX gags — and though the make­up effects are rock-solid, the visu­al FX are wild­ly vari­able in qual­i­ty (the final sky chase looks like Megaforce out­takes).

Ultimately, Metalstorm is most inter­est­ing as a fore­run­ner of the kind of movies Band would put out through his com­pa­nies Empire and Full Moon.  Band would soon learn how to scale pro­duc­tions down to a doable size and use actors like Thomerson and Moll to lend more col­or to the thes­pi­an side of his pro­duc­tions.  More impor­tant­ly, Band’s eye for spe­cial effects tal­ent would help him find peo­ple who could help him refine his effects as he worked his way towards a gen­re film fac­to­ry approach where cost-effec­tive FX spec­ta­cle would be a key sell­ing point.

In short, Metalstorm is a cin­e­mat­ic foot­note but worth a look for any­one who gets a kick out of Band’s Empire or Full Moon films.  This is the seed from which those cult movie dynas­ties grew.

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Blu-Ray Notes: Scream Factory recent­ly issued this title as a 2 blu-ray set, with one disc devot­ed to the 3-D ver­sion and one to the 2-D ver­sion.  This review cov­ers the 2-D ver­sion (alas, no 3-D play­er at Schlockmania head­quar­ters) and the results are a respectable pre­sen­ta­tion of .  A 5.1 loss­less remix is includ­ed alongside a loss­less ver­sion of the orig­i­nal 2.0 stereo mix: some­times the dia­logue can sound a lit­tle “hol­low in the remix but it real­ly gives a boost to Richard Band’s impres­sive orches­tral score.

There are also a few extras, the big one being “High Noon At The End Of The Universe” (42:13), an excel­lent new fea­turet­te from Daniel Griffith about the his­to­ry of Metalstorm.  Band, Adler, Byron, Moll and Thomerson all appear here alongside sev­er­al FX guys includ­ing Allan Apone and Kenny Myers.  It gives an insight into how Band presold the film as Adler was writ­ing it, a break­down of the chal­lenges unique to shoot­ing a 3-D film in the ear­ly ‘80s and a neat tale about the film’s 3-D nature made it a lucra­tive can­di­date for dis­tri­b­u­tion by Universal.

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You’ll also learn about how it was received at the­aters, the unpro­duced sequel and how Moll shav­ing his head for the film inad­ver­tant­ly improved his chances when he audi­tioned for Night Court.  All the par­tic­i­pants tell their tales in a live­ly fash­ion and Griffith gives it all a nice pace and plen­ty of visu­al flash.

The pack­age is round­ed out by some vin­tage pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als.  An ani­mat­ed image gallery (10:26) includes pro­mo art as well as stills and behind-the-sce­nes shots plus there is a fun hard-sell trail­er and a radio spot.