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 — 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 …