Friday, November 27, 2009

Killer robots and global warming equal threats in 'Crash and Burn'

Crash and Burn (1990)
Starring: Paul Ganus, Megan Ward, Bill Moseley, Eva LaRue Callahan, Jack McGee and Ralph Waite
Director: Charles Band
Producers: Charles Band, Debra Dion and David DeCoteau
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

The staff of and visitors to an isolated television station in the wastelands of a global-warming ravaged, heatstorm-swept American Southwest must survive the assault of a Synthoid, a human-like robot, programmed to kill all who oppose the tyrannical autocracy of world government Unicom.

"Crash and Burn" is a fast-paced, light-weight sci-fi yarn that combines a whole host of pulp-fiction/comic-booky/cyberpunky futuristic tropes--killer robots passing for humans, giant robots, a decaying society with a questionable moral fiber that is ruled by an oligarchical global government, and plucky rebels embodied by a cranky old man and a tough young girl--to great effect and moves swiftly through its action-packed story.

The characters in the film are all as shallow and cliched as can be expected--movies of this kind are usually more about the action and plot than the characters--but the actors all do decent jobs in their parts, with Megan Ward as the cute teenaged tech genius, Paul Ganus as the dashing hero, and Bill Moseley as the handyman sidekick with a secret doing particularly well in their respective parts.

The special effects are about par for a low-budget sci-fi film of this vintage--it's got decent matte shots, make-up, and stop-motion model effects sequences--and the violence is also standard action movie fare. Everything here is pleasantly average, which puts it well above the usual fare for a direct-to-video film from the early 1990s. (I continue to be surprised by how good these old Full Moon films are.)

Another thing that surprised me about this film is that it hasn't been reissued with fanfare and a marketing push or that Charles Band & Company hasn't thrown together a sequel for it.

The film's backdrop--a world ravaged by global warming and struggling under the thumb of an eeeeevil megacorp that wraps itself in right-wing and religious rhetoric to control the masses--seems like just the sort of thing that the modern environmental movement would lap up. It seems to me that a DVD containing this film, a newly made sequel and a marketing campaign with slogans along the lines of "They didn't listen to the warnings, nor pay heed to the inconvenient truth... now the world is paying the price!" would sell plenty of DVDs.

Then again, maybe that's why I'm not in product development or marketing.

"Crash and Burn" is currently available on DVD as part of the "Charles Band Collection, Vol. 1" boxed set, which includes three other of Band's best movies from the early 1990s.