Recently, I was able to scratch a 30-year old itch.
A voracious comic reader as a kid, I vividly remember the ads movie studios placed on the inside front cover or back cover of comic books. These were the films studios expected to hit big with the comic set – films like Swamp Thing, Orca, the 1977 remake of King Kong and…Megaforce.
I was never very discerning in my cinematic tastes, back then especially. If something looked cool, I wanted to see it. I vividly recall the posters for Megaforce. Smirking hero Ace Hunter (Barry Bostwick) was pointing at me in his spandex unitard with the Darth Vader-y chestplate with the phrase “Deeds not Words,” emblazoned above him.
Ace was being touted as the new superhero for the 80s – a mix between James Bond and Evil Knievel. The Bond connection was emphasized by several posters featuring Ace and love interest Major Zara (Persis Khambatta)surrounded on all sides by the “high tech” gadgetry featured in the film. I was in.
There was only one problem. Megaforce was released in June of 1982 and promptly disappeared. Critics bombed it back to the Stone Age and my Dad refused to take me to see it. As we all know, ’82 was a busy year for genre films and he wasn’t wasting his money on a film that was reviled by critics. I was undeterred however, and assumed I would catch it on cable.
For whatever reason, Megaforce never made it to my cable system. If memory serves, pay TV services like HBO or Showtime struck exclusive deals to obtain certain films, and if you didn’t subscribe to them you were out of luck. I’m assuming it was released on VHS, but I didn’t get my first VCR until 1984, so it’s possible it was out of print by then.
In any case, Megaforce became a dim memory that only reared its head when I re-opened comics from early 1982. To my knowledge, the film never was re-released on VHS or any format that followed – at least domestically. If it appeared on my radar, I would’ve watched it, no matter how scathing the reviews.
It was by no means a “Holy Grail” of mine like the Star Wars Holiday Special or Legends of the Superheroes, but it was on a mental list of films, both good and bad, I missed throughout the years. Some examples include Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps and To Live and Die in L.A., all films I could kick myself for sitting on for so many years. However, I knew full well that Megaforce was not in their league.
Finally, late in 2011, I made Megaforce a priority. God knows why. I checked out the Wikipedia entry and found a fansite devoted to the film, as well as a Facebook page. My desire to see the film was heightened and with all the digital tools at my disposal, I procured a copy (let’s leave it at that!)
Let me say right off the bat Megaforce is really bad, but it’s good naturedly bad, harmlessly bad, and kind of fun. I always thought Barry Bostwick was an amiable guy, easy to like with a sort of effortless style. He excels in comedy roles, but can handle drama as well. I have to believe he wasn’t taking the proceedings entirely seriously. In that vein, the performance works. If he was being serious, well…I still like the guy.
Megaforce is a super elite international fighting unit that seemingly exists to champion the little guy. They don’t seem to have any governmental affiliation and they’re not mercenaries. They’re just super good guys. They comprise the world’s most elite fighters and possess the most cutting edge tech. I use the term loosely.
When an army from a fictitious country invades its equally fictitious peace-loving neighbor Megaforce gets the call, sort of like The A-Team, but on a much grander scale.
At this point in the story, Megaforce resembles the Chuck Norris B-classic, Delta Force, almost chapter and verse. Since Megaforce predates Delta Force (a film I wholeheartedly admit to loving) I must assume the schlockmeisters at Cannon Films swiped the idea, and grafted it onto their tale of the real-life elite U.S. fighting force. Cannon shamelessly cribbed from big hits, but bombs? That’s a new one on me.
Much of the dialogue is hilarious. The “love story” between Ace and Major Zara (Persis Khambatta, who saw better days in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Nighthawks) gives rise to some of the film’s most eye-rolling, groan-inducing moments. The members of Ace’s team are a low-rent, ethnically diverse version of the Howling Commandos.
The highly touted special effects looked bad in 1982. Their heavy reliance on the “Zoptic” special effects system for the parachute and motorcycle flying (!) sequences not only strain credibility, they induce fits of laughter. The “tech,” such as it is, looks like Evil Knievel’s garage sale.
I would imagine the producers hoped for a potential franchise. Director Hal Needham was known for Burt Reynolds vehicles like Smokey and the Bandit and Stroker Ace, so what gave people the idea he was capable of a pseudo-futuristic action epic is beyond me.
I’m glad I saw Megaforce. Some bad movies are agonizing to sit through. This one made me laugh and brought me back to the days when I would re-read a comic ten or twenty times, thereby indelibly imprinting the Megaforce poster art on my psyche. I always pat myself on the back when, instead of watching Star Wars or Raiders for the umpteenth time, I scratch one off the list, especially one that’s been there for almost three decades!