Four Sci-fi/Fantasy Films from MGM
Journey to the Center of the Earth (October 31/05)
According to the Internet Movie Database, only the first eight-minutes of Journey to the Center of the Earth were actually helmed by the film's credited director - the oddly-named Rusty Lemorande. The rest of the movie is actually a sequel to the 1988 Kathy Ireland vehicle Alien from L.A., and has absolutely nothing to do with Jules Verne's classic tale. The story revolves around three characters who inadvertently travel to the center of the earth, where they encounter an entire civilization that's inexplicably obsessed with Wanda Saknussemm (the character played by Ireland in Alien from L.A.) While it seems entirely possible that small children might get a kick out of the weird creatures and outlandish sets, even they'll be scratching their heads at the disjointed storyline and thoroughly baffling conclusion. The performances are expectedly terrible, while the special effects are decent (albeit in a low-rent, Ed Wood sort of way). But really, it's clear that this movie shouldn't even exist; there's a reason filmmakers generally don't cobble together a film out of two separate entities.
The Magic Sword (November 1/05)
It comes as no surprise to learn that The Magic Sword was the object of Mystery Science Theater 3000's scorn and ridicule, given that it's an incredibly campy and thoroughly inept piece of work. Heavy on laughable special effects and outrageously broad performances, The Magic Sword has aged extremely poorly and will likely appeal only to small children and intoxicated adults. The story revolves around the efforts of Sir George (Gary Lockwood) to rescue the beautiful Princess Helene (Anne Helm) from the clutches of an evil wizard (Basil Rathbone), who keeps threatening to feed her to a two-headed dragon. Along the way, Sir George and his fellow knights encounter a series of absurdly preposterous stumbling blocks - including a huge creature that couldn't possibly look more like a guy in a suit and a river of acid (one of Sir George's cohorts slips in and seconds later, a human skull surfaces). Despite a distinct vibe of earnestness at work here (did the filmmakers actually believe they were making a good movie?), The Magic Sword comes off as nothing less than a colossal misfire - although there are certainly a number of unintentionally hilarious moments, including an inexplicable appearance by a chatty, chess-playing chimp.
Robot Jox (October 7/05)
It's hard to be too critical of Robot Jox, as the film's clearly been designed to appeal solely to young boys and nobody else. But the rampant silliness, juvenile bits of humor, and cheesy special effects all but ensure that most viewers will find themselves bored almost immediately. Fifty years after World War III, the remaining nations solve their disputes by pitting enormous robots against each other. Our hero is Achilles (Gary Graham), a national hero who's facing stiff competition from a genetically-engineered fighter named Athena (Anne-Marie Johnson). There's also an unreasonably evil villain thrown into the mix - Russian competitor Alexander (Paul Koslo) - as well as an over-the-top Texan (Michael Alldredge) who evidently serves as a one-man cheerleading squad. Though the script's been written by noted science-fiction author Joe Haldeman, Robot Jox has the depth of a Saturday morning cartoon - complete with cardboard characters and overly simplistic storyline. And though there are a few intriguing references to the film's futuristic society (ie women are encouraged by the government to have lots of kids, for obvious reasons), this is - by and large - irredeemably ridiculous.
Sinbad of the Seven Seas (November 3/05)
Based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe (!), Sinbad of the Seven Seas follows the titular hero (played by Lou Ferrigno) as he embarks on an epic journey to collect four mystical crystals that have the power to overthrow an evil, power-hungry wizard. Though Sinbad of the Seven Seas (much like the aforementioned Magic Sword) is thoroughly awful on many, many levels, it is nevertheless one of those so-bad-it's-good movies that is sporadically good for a few laughs. Ferrigno's astonishingly wooden performance is counterbalanced by John Steiner's scenery-chewing turn as the diabolical warlock Jaffar, who - at one point - forces Sinbad to kneel before him, Zod-style. The garish visuals and unconvincing sets are complemented by Enzo G. Castellari's clumsy directorial choices, something that's particularly noticeable in the inept fight sequences (Sinbad and his opponent lumber around for a few minutes, until Sinbad finally throws the guy against a wall). Dov Seltzer's score sounds like it was recorded on a cheap Casio keyboard, while the special effects are shoddy and underwhelming. There is one particularly humorous moment, though, revolving around Sinbad's battle against a monster that shoots lasers out of its fingertips. But really, this is best left for the kids (who will, undoubtedly, thrill to the over-the-top antics of Sinbad and his crew).