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Charles Band has always gone for quan­tity in a big way.  Whether you’re talk­ing about his Empire or his Full Moon pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies, Band has never been afraid to pull the trig­ger and he filled the­aters, video stores and pay cable sta­tions with all man­ner of genre pro­duc­tions.  Unfortunately, his push for quan­tity is often so intense that it over­whelms the “qual­ity” part of things — and as a result, there are a lot of Band pro­duc­tions that fail to do jus­tice to their oft-interesting ideas due to sloppy craftsmanship.

Case in point: Oblivion.  Years before Cowboys & Aliens, this lit­tle genre-bender mixed the west­ern and sci­ence fic­tion gen­res.  It fea­tures a cast packed with famil­iar faces: Julie Newmar, Meg Foster, George Takei, etc.  Unfortunately, Oblivion hap­pens to be a very dull movie despite these attrib­utes because it takes the path of least resis­tance any time con­cep­tual inspi­ra­tion or inven­tive sto­ry­telling is called for.

The prob­lems start with the script, which com­bines the least inter­est­ing west­ern clichés with the least inter­est­ing sci-fi clichés.  It takes place on a dis­tant planet, in the town of Oblivion — which hap­pens to look exactly like an old western-town movie back­lot.  The story begins with Marshal Stone (Mike Genovese) get­ting shot down by Redeye (Andrew Divoff), a lizard-faced bad­die who aims to take over the town with his band of out­laws.  The only law left in town is (Foster), a cyborg who is ren­dered help­less by Redeye’s cache of a mys­te­ri­ous futur­is­tic ele­ment that is worth more than gold.

Things change when the Sheriff’s estranged son, Zack (Richard Joseph Paul) comes home for the funeral.  Along for the ride is Buteo (Jimmie F. Skaggs), an Indian that Zack saved from a giant scor­pion attack.  It seems he was left for dead by one of Redeye’s hench­men and he’s got revenge in mind.  Unfortunately, Zack is reluc­tant to take action for rea­sons he won’t describe… and this inspires Redeye and his thugs to push their bad behav­ior fur­ther.  Thus, the town’s brave souls must band together to fight off Redeye — and Zack must tri­umph over his mys­te­ri­ous prob­lem to join in.

On the sur­face, Oblivion has a lot going for it — a game cast, good stop-motion effects from David Allen and nice pro­duc­tion design & cos­tumes.  Unfortunately, the exe­cu­tion falls flat.  The cre­ative team behind the film couldn’t decide if they were mak­ing a straight genre-mash or a satire, so you get an unwieldy mish­mash of tones.  For instance, Buteo makes wise­cracks when Zack saves him from the scor­pi­ons… but this is fol­lowed by a grim scene where he recounts the tale of how his fam­ily was killed.  Reversals like this hap­pen often enough to give the audi­ence whiplash and the waver­ing tone becomes frus­trat­ing after a short while.

To make mat­ters worse, every plot “sur­prise” has been done before (you’ll roll your eyes when a scene reveals that gold is worth­less on this planet).  They do come up with a decent reveal for why Zack is reluc­tant to fight — but then the writ­ers break the rule cre­ated by this rea­son sev­eral times.  It doesn’t help that the humor is intensely bad, espe­cially when in-jokes are involved: for exam­ple, Newmar fre­quently ref­er­ences her Catwoman past by hiss­ing and Takei gives the worst per­for­mance of his career as an over-the-top alco­holic doc­tor who spends most of his time growl­ing Star Trek puns in a dinner-theater “south­ern” accent.

In terms of act­ing, Paul isn’t bad as the lead but is hope­lessly bland — this was a reg­u­lar prob­lem with lead actors in Full Moon pro­duc­tions (the same can be said for Jackie Swanson as his love inter­est).  Foster and Divoff do okay work when the script isn’t forc­ing them into bad camp-humor sit­u­a­tions.  It’s also worth not­ing that all of Divoff’s vil­lain­ous side­kicks are annoy­ing and unfunny, espe­cially Musetta Vander as Divoff’s whip-toting main squeeze — she camps it up like a drag queen in every scene she’s in.

Finally, Sam Irvin’s direc­tion is as indif­fer­ent as every other aspect of the film: he can’t con­trol the film’s wonky tone, allows sev­eral actors to wildly over­play and gives the film a hum­drum visual style.  Like the script, his direc­tion never takes the oppor­tu­nity to do any­thing unique with the mate­r­ial.  Irvin makes the sim­plest, least demand­ing choice at every turn and the movie lacks energy as a result.

In short, Oblivion has a cranked-out feel that sug­gests every­one thought throw­ing zap guns and alien makeup into a generic west­ern would pro­duce an instant cult movie.  It didn’t and this film is best left in the straight-to-video ghetto with a lot of the other Full Moon productions.

Oblivion

Oblivion

Oblivion — DVD       ON THIS PLANET … IT’S COWBOYS AND ALIENSOn a fron­tier lightyears from the O.K. Corral, a bizarre gang of futur­is­tic des­per­a­dos have their sights set on turn­ing the tum­ble­weed town of Oblivion into their own pri­vate play­ground. Their lizard­like leader, Redeye (Andrew Divoff, Wishmaster), pumps law­man Marshall Stone (Michael Genovese) full of lead in a deadly shootout just out­side of Miss Kitty’s (Julie Newmar, Batman) 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 (Carel Struycken, The Addams Family) 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, Star Trek) team up with Zack to take back the trou­bled town in a final unearthly showdown …