This is a list to all those films that fell by the wayside as goliaths of the genre and decades marched on. These films are by no means the best films ever made, they all have issues (Some greater than others…). The point to be made however is that they are unjustly forgotten or dismissed in favor of those that dominated the box office and pop culture. Or perhaps they simply deserve to be given a chance for audiences that didn’t know of their existence. It is a list for the misfit toys that deserve a fan base as they all offer some really special… effects, plots, characters and worlds just waiting to be explored.
1. Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
Off the back of the success of Star Wars, it is no surprise that in the 80’s there was a surplus of B-rate knock offs trying to cash in on that success. With an overabundance of one type of film, comes more than a few that inevitably fall behind and be long but forgotten in time. Battle Beyond the Stars is one of those films. Like most films on this list, it is by no means perfect. There must be a reason they have not stood the test of time, or why they were not engrained into the cultural zeitgeist. But, to make a case as to why these should be revisited is easy.
To give it a one line pitch, it is Seven Samurai in space. A planet is in danger and seeks protection. The protagonist then allocates himself with the task of rounding up six other characters to help them defend against the return of this evil.
It is a film with such charm, with each character being unique and memorable. It has special effects that at times, even rival Star Wars in quality. The design of planets, costumes and ships will leave lasting imprints on your memory; with matte paintings that will leave you in awe.
It is most certainly more than entertaining and worth watching, its charm will inevitably captivate any audience member.
2. Q (1982)
A David Carradine helmed science fiction film. With a winged serpent that has been sighted preying on rooftop victims and running amuck in the skies above. Q is its name. A charming monster flick that isn’t shy to showing some surprisingly frightening visual imagery. This film is a hugely satirical and a very pessimistic look into politics, bureaucracy, an individuals’ greed and one’s own self interest, it really is quite fascinating to watch it all unfold. On this note the shared protagonist of Quinn is incredibly interesting and unlike most other hero’s of a film like this. The direction his character takes is genuinely fresh and interesting. This film is an innovative look at the typical monster film. It is certainly more grounded in reality with its characters.
David Caradine is wonderful as a police officer on the case, investigating where this creature came from. He portrays a cop that is sick of the world he lives in. Nobody agrees with him and he is downtrodden by past experiences and those around him.
The creature sure looks dated, but there is a certain degree of charm that comes with that. It is really wonderful to see how the film uses smoke and mirrors to escape budget and technological shortcomings. The film shows the creature sparingly until the climax. From Stop-motion superimposed onto real footage, to giant heads and claws, poor green screen and puppetry…There really is something quite charming about it all; mixed in with a gritty and cynical view on the world with some truly great characters. It more than pays its dues and offers a whole lot to be enjoyed and explored.
3. A Boy and His Dog (1975)
A Boy and His Dog is a forgotten post apocalyptic science fiction film that is not mentioned as much as it should be. It has incredible world building, and a unique and surreal story to boot. The film follows well, a Boy, Vic and his Dog, Blood. They are scroungers in this post apocalyptic world where society has long since collapsed. The world is a wasteland, filled with sand and very few remnants of the world that came before. Our lead travels with his dog, who he can inexplicably communicate with through telepathy. The dog has a personality, a voice and thoughts of his own. He is actually the mastermind of the duo providing some great witty comments.
The plot is where some will be on board and others will not. It follows Vic on his lustful quest to be with a woman again. Bear in mind Vic is not a good person, nor is he ever portrayed as though we should think he has great morals. This is a man that lives in a terrible world with no societal order. He wants a woman, through any means necessary. This will understandably turn a lot of people off. But his character is supposed to be bad; the viewer is simply following him as a vessel to witness this awful future.
No different to witnessing a murder, this film is not attempting to show his acts in a positive light. It is also important to remember that when confronted with certain deeds, he cannot continue. This ultimately shows that there is a glimmer of hope within him still. The plot from then on switches the power dynamic, from male over female, to female over male. This is not intended to spark a fire, as film will always hold a level of subjectivity. What is acceptable to one will be unacceptable to another.
It is understandable that this film in today’s world is controversial. But if one can look past this, it really does offer a lot of great and innovative additions to the post apocalyptic genre. In particularly its world building, most of the viewing pleasure comes from seeing how the world has changed and how these people now live.
4. Trancers (1984)
The shortest film on this list, yet it offers the most effective world building in only a manner of seconds. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable aspects of science fiction is world building, fleshing out the small details that give the audience with a much more rewarding viewing time. Trancers is this in a nutshell.
The film follows the wonderfully named Angel city trooper in the year 2257, Jack Deth. His job is to pursue and kill these humanoid Trancers (Not Bladerunner, I promise you). What they are is shrouded in at times, a frustrating mystery. But from what one can ascertain, they are followers of a cult leader, Whistler. They appear to be quite human, but once they are discovered, they have a much more crazed and zombie-like nature. Whistler has gone back in time to the year 1985 to kill individuals that will benefit his future. Trooper Jack Deth must go back in time, inhabiting his ancestor’s body to stop him (It’s not Terminator, I promise you. Thank the Lord this came before Highlander).
For a start, Angel city is gorgeous. The opening scene, paired with the gorgeous Synth soundtrack this film has will have anybody watching this film hooked immediately. The gorgeous aesthetics, certainly influenced by Bladerunner, beautifully capture a neo-noir feel for this future world. The film is contagiously creative, fun and unique. Despite most certainly being influenced by other media, it adds enough to stand on its own merit. It also perhaps coincidently, was also released in the same year as the first Terminator.
The film is serious when it needs to be, yet offers great levity through cheesy ones liners and a great snarky attitude from the lead. A very young Helen Hunt is a great counter to this; their dynamic allows for a lot of fun high jinks to ensue. While the film certainly has its holes, and will lead to some head scratching moments, but after finishing it, it is hard to argue that this film should definitely be talked about more.
5. Logan’s Run (1976)
This film is another where its story and world are its strongest aspect. The film provides a future in which the population age is capped at 30 years of age. Once you reach this age of your own volition, you will engage in a sort of ritual in which you give your life to begin anew. But perhaps there are more nefarious plotlines at work behind this rite of passage? Each person is born and imprinted with a life clock. Michael York plays a ‘Sandman’ who hunts ‘Runners’, those that defy this time limit on life. He is chosen by the all seeing and all knowing computer to infiltrate the runner’s hidden society and expose it.
This film has a really wonderful story and the world’s design is a beautiful expression of the 70’s futurism. There are some wonderful miniature shots showing the city as a whole as well as some great set designs. The film is essentially a large chase scene, which offers a rather surprising amount of excitement and tension.
It falls flat in terms of expanding upon the films themes. Any semblance of depth is brushed aside rapidly in favor of plot and excitement. This is a double edged sword, because on the one hand it creates a visually stunning and realized world, with an exciting story and tense set pieces. On the other hand, it can leave the audience wanting more, asking questions that are not explained by the end. This can be frustrating considering the interesting conversations that are aching to be had with this film’s setting.
Overall though it more than earns its place, and is an entertaining 70’s science fiction film with a memorable, captivating and exciting story.