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MEGAFORCE (1982)

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"Despite official denials, sources now confirm the existence of MegaForce, a phantom army of super elite fighting men whose weapons are the most powerful science can devise."
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MegaforceDirector: Hal Needham

Starring: Barry Bostwick, Henry Silva, Persis Khambatta, Michael Beck, Edward Mulhare, Ralph Wilcox, George Furth

Screenplay: James Whittaker, Albert S. Ruddy, Hal Needham and Andre Morgan, based upon a story by Robert S. Kachler

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Synopsis: Mercenary forces led by Guerera (Henry Silva) blow up a power station in the country of Sardoon. The Sardoonian forces request permission to pursue the mercenaries over the border into neighbouring Gamibia. Permission is granted by General Byrne-White (Edward Mulhare), but countermanded by Zara (Persis Khambatta), the daughter of Sardoon’s president and a major in the Sardoonian army, who points out that despite Guerera’s repeated incursions, crossing the border would be regarded as an act of war by the Gamibians. Zara and Byrne-White are collected from an airport, and driven into the middle of a desert, where their driver says he has orders to leave them. Some time later, a rattlesnake glides towards them. Two shots ring out, the animal is killed, and Zara and Byrne-White are greeted by Dallas (Michael Beck), a member of the elite fighting squadron, MegaForce. The three enter a van driven by Zachary Taylor (Ralph Wilcox), another team member. After driving for some time, Taylor stops the truck and tells his passengers to listen. The sound of motors and explosions follows, as a team of high-tech motorcycles appears, their riders using guns and rocket launchers mounted on the handlebars to destroy their targets. At the end of the demonstration, one of the motorcyclists jumps his bike over the van, then removes his helmet to reveal himself as Ace Hunter (Barry Bostwick), the Commander of MegaForce. Zara and Byrne-White complain about the way things have been done, but Hunter shrugs this off, insisting that there are reasons for everything that MegaForce does. Inside MegaForce’s hidden base, the visitors are shown around, and introduced to Eggstrom (George Furth), who is in charge of research and development. Hunter explains that MegaForce has cutting edge equipment and weaponry supplied by all the countries of the world. Later, Byrne-White is shown a surveillance system capable of monitoring conversations in every military instillation all over the world. To demonstrate, Byrne-White’s own dossier is called up. The general objects, demanding to see Guerera’s instead. Hunter starts reciting it verbally, revealing that he knows Guerera. Over dinner, Hunter further explains that he and Guerera trained and fought together; that Guerera turned mercenary after being betrayed by his own country; and that at one time, he, Hunter, almost convinced Guerera to join MegaForce. In a briefing room, Hunter outlines a plan for MegaForce to attack Guerera’s forces, intended to lure him over the border at a designated time and place and deliver him to the Sardoonian forces. Zara demands to join the mission and, when Hunter tells her she isn’t qualified, insists on being allowed to demonstrate her skills. She passes every test set but, in the end, Hunter must still deny her the chance to join the mission, explaining that an outsider could disrupt the team’s functioning. Zara reluctantly accepts her fate. Word comes that Guerera’s forces are moving, and MegaForce moves into action. Hunter and Zara kiss, and make a date to meet when the mission has been completed. The transport plane takes off….

Comments: This one comes under the heading of "Me And My Big Fat Mouth"….

Let me tell you a story: Back when we were organising the "Secret Santa" Roundtable, the copy of America 3000 sent to me by Keith Allison went missing in the mail, entirely as a result of my own slackness (I forgot to update my address in our database). Feeling bad, and at that time unable to locate a replacement copy of the film, I started looking for a suitable substitute, and suggested MegaForce, as something that would deliver a roughly equivalent degree of pain. I happened to mention this offer to Ken Begg in the course of our correspondence, eliciting the following response:

"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA!!!! Oh, boy, I can't wait to see *that* one."

As luck [sic.] would have it, however, I eventually located America 3000. Ken was mightily disappointed (the sadist!), and took the opportunity to point out that I did owe him a favour, since he had supplied the copy of The Pumaman, the film I assigned to Joe Bannerman. So I foolishly (very foolishly) offered to review MegaForce anyway, "as a Christmas present".

Hmm. Well, as you may have noticed, it’s now March, and no MegaForce. Unfortunately, what mortals speak in jest carves itself upon the hearts of the gods; and so one of the Bad Movie deities (I won’t be so presumptuous as to assume it was the Bad Movie deity) decided to interfere in my affairs, making it impossible for me to find a DVD copy of the film I wanted to review this week in any of the dozen video stores I visited. (I’ve sworn never to watch this film in pan & scan again. You’ll understand why when I do get to it, hopefully next week.) So, left stranded, what could I do but give in to the promptings of my guilty conscience…?

Stupid conscience!

The opening credits of MegaForce are justly (in)famous, a combination of negatively-printed snippets of the film’s "action" backed by some truly horrendous synthesizer music. For me, however, it was not this that sent a shudder down my spine, but the following:

"Filmed in INTRO-VISION. Parachute and flying sequences by ZOPTIC SPECIAL EFFECTS SYSTEM."

If watching movies has taught me anything, it’s that special credits such as these, in films other than outright comedies, are harbingers of doom. Remember the credit for N.A. Fischer Chemical Products’ "Automatic Billion Bubble Machine" in Robot Monster? Or the solemn disclaimer on behalf of the "industrious, hardworking American honey bee" that concluded The Swarm? And then there’s the fact that this particular credit promises the audience parachuting, an activity which, along with scuba-diving and rock-climbing, pretty much guarantees that a film will come to a screeching halt. And if there is one thing we sincerely don’t need, it’s anything that makes MegaForce seem longer than it actually is. Anything else, I guess I should have said, since the "plot" and the "acting" in this film do a pretty good job at making the whole thing seem longer than Gone With The Wind.

In point of fact, the credits themselves do not open the film. Instead, we get the traditional onscreen crawl, explaining that MegaForce (the team, not the movie) is "a phantom army of super elite fighting men", whose mission is to oppose "the forces of tyranny and evil in every corner of the world". This crawl is not only printed on the screen, it is read out loud, which at least tells us who MegaForce was intended for: illiterates. Appropriately enough, then, the film proper opens with a revolutionary type guy stumbling awkwardly through some pseudo-Commie manifesto, while a bunch of people (his followers? captives? who knows?) listen in undisguised weariness and boredom. Looking even more bored (although not as bored as the viewer, all of a whopping 3 minutes in) is the mercenary Guerera, who interrupts the clumsy speech and orders his tanks to open fire on a power plant of some kind, which duly blows up. (The model work here would have been laughed off the set of Thunderbirds.) Actually, we are now at one of ("one of" – HA!) the movie’s high points, as we discover that Guerera is played by Henry Silva. You know, I like ol’ Henry. He’s one of those people I’m always glad to see in a film, no matter how bad the film itself is. I dunno, there’s just something about the guy. Those razor blade cheekbones, perhaps, or the way his beady little eyes spin in opposite directions…. His appearance in MegaForce was the one thing about the movie that didn’t make me want to claw my own eyes out, and puncture my eardrums with an ice-pick.

Anyhoo, we now get an unwise overhead shot of Guerera’s "forces", and we see that they consist of about six tanks. They are under attack by a similar "force", which represents the sovereign state of "Sardoon". Or something. The leader of the Sardoonian squadron radios for permission to follow Guerera across the border into neighbouring "Gamibia". Permission is granted by the inexplicably British General Byrne-White, but countermanded by Zara, a Sardoonian officer whose position as "only daughter to the president" seems to override any consideration of "rank" or "chain of command". (Later on, this apparently antiquated notion takes an even more thorough pummelling.) We now learn that Guerera has attacked Sardoon four times in the past month (so why don’t they just camp themselves along the border and wait for him?), but that if the Sardoonians follow him back into Gamibia, it will be regarded as an act of war. This ruling seems to have been handed down by the Department Of Ridiculous Kontrivances, as without it there would be no reason for "our heroes" to even appear in this story. Unsurprisingly, D.O.R.K. will continue to make its presence felt as the story progresses.

Cut to an airport, and Byrne-White and Zara in civilian garb. They are collected by a chauffeur-driven Rolls, and taken out into the middle of a desert, where they and their luggage are deposited. MegaForce has the distinction of boasting some of the most irritating characters ever gathered together in one film. You may wish to amuse yourselves by debating just which one is the most irritating. In this scene, Byrne-White turns in a powerful bid for the title. As usual with bad films, each "character" is given one bit of schtick by which he or she is defined. Byrne-White’s is "allegedly comical British bluster". Thus:

"Where the hell is this? No welcoming committee? Would you mind telling me where we are? This is absolutely preposterous! What about that bone-shaking three-hour ride, across those impossible roads? And that chauffeur! Yes, what about him? I wonder which side he’s on? Oh, my God, it’s hot! Did you notice that in the last two and a half hours of that interminable journey, we didn’t pass a single petrol pump? Slipshod, that’s what it is! Cremation was certainly not on my agenda for today! They didn’t even have the decency to send a helicopter! Or a cool vodka and tonic! You know, even in the worst days of the Yemen desert campaign, we received more civilised treatment! – and we were prisoners at the time!"

And so on, ad nauseum, throughout the entire film. During this "hilarious" speech, by the way, we learn the reason why Byrne-White and Zara aren’t in uniform – and it isn’t so they can remain incognito. Zara, who is wearing a clingy red dress and heels, plonks herself down on a handy rock as the general spouts off, and hitches her skirt way up over her knees, allowing the camera to do a slow and rather creepy crawl up and down her legs. Also while the general is spouting off, a rattlesnake crawls towards the two – although it never actually gets close enough so as to be in the same shot as them. Two gunshots suddenly ring out, the snake thrashes around, and we are introduced to Unbearably Irritating Character #2, MegaForce team-member Dallas, who wears jeans and a T-shirt, boots and a cowboy hat, and delivers his dialogue in an accent thicker’n moe-lasses in December:

"Howdy! Sneaky little devils, ain’t they? They don’t always play by the rules – they’s s’poseda rattle! How was y’all’s trip?"

He then casually identifies himself by name, causing Byrne-White to (blusteringly, which you can pretty much take as read from hereon in) demand his rank. This elicits the following astonishing response:

"Rank!? Why, ain’t nobody got a rank in MegaForce! ‘Cept the Commander – and we all call him Hunter!"

Ain’t – nobody – got – a – rank…. In a "super elite" military force. Oh, yeah, that’ll work! Actually, the true horror of this remark lies in what it reveals about this film as a whole. There is, of course, no need for ranks, or chains of command, in military outfits where nothing ever goes wrong and no-one ever gets killed. My bold prediction? – by the end of this extraordinary work, we will have seen lots and lots of explosions, and lots of people being thrown through the air by them, but not a single fatality, or even an injury; which might, after all, rob this "action-comedy" of some of its "humour".

(It occurs to me that America 3000 was also classified as an "action-comedy". There’s a lesson here….)

Well, Byrne-White isn’t having any of this. He points out (blu---well, you know) that he is a general, and should have been met by someone of equal rank and authority. "Aw, shoot, General!" replies Dallas. "Now, you know there’s a big ol’ difference between rank and authority! And you," he then exposits helpfully, if somewhat non sequitur-ly, "are Major Zara Ben-Dooda (!!), only daughter to the president." Dallas looks Zara up and down, adding, "And the kind of officer that makes bivouacking in the woods seem downright desirable!" If we needed any more proof that this story takes place in some kind of twisted parallel universe, we have it in Zara’s response to this charming remark, which is not (i) a blistering military put-down, or (ii) a karate chop to the throat which, even if it didn’t kill him, would at least render him incapable of further speech, or (iii) a knee to the groin, but a little giggle and one of those fluttery, "Oh, you!" looks that women in movies always seem to reserve for the slimiest of male behaviours.

Dallas then seizes Zara’s bags (how did he know which ones?), leaving Byrne-White (spluttering in an outraged manner, of course) to carry his own, and leads the way to a van parked about five yards away, the approach of which neither of our military geniuses noticed. BW starts complaining again (yuck, yuck, yuck), and Dallas gives an order to the driver of the van. A nearby boulder is suddenly replaced by a hologram of a Hawaiian girl cavorting in the water – which is a damn good trick in the middle of the day, in the middle of the desert; as indeed is the music that seems to come from this "vision". We then meet another MegaForce team member, Zac, the token black guy. He’s listening to music, and BW immediately inquires, "Gladys Knights and the Pipps?" (!!) Of course, Zac floors him with the stereotype-outraging response, "Vivaldi." (A black man listening to opera!!?? Preposterous! As preposterous as – as – as a Texas sheriff listening to opera!) This witty exchange completed, they drive off. We then learn that the van is being monitored from MegaForce’s secret base (which can’t be all that secret, if they keep inviting their potential clients into it. And a three hour drive from an airport isn’t exactly the middle of nowhere, is it?). A potential "hostile intruder" is detected, and the van receives a signal to stop. The "intruder" turns out to be an armadillo (!!), of which one of the base team remarks, "Judging by his speed, I’d say he’s had a pretty hard night. I envy him!" (We will see more of this gentleman later on, and I will introduce him properly then. Right now, I can only wonder if he often fantasises about having sex with female armadillos…?) Anyway, the van starts up again, with Zac again proving himself "unusual" by quoting Shakespeare. Unwisely, however, he chooses MacBeth’s "Returning were as tedious as go o’er" speech" – a sentiment which anyone who has watched the film this far – all 12 minutes of it – will be prepared strenuously to repudiate.

The van then stops again, and Zac tells the blustering (sigh….) BW to "listen!" We hear motors, and explosions, and then – we see it!! MEGAFORCE, in all its goofy glory!! Specifically, we see three guys in skin-tight beige lycra jumpsuits riding motorcycles equipped with guns and rocket launchers (!!), who demonstrate their "awesome" skills by blowing up a bunch of floating, balloon-like targets. Wow! I guess if you’re ever invaded by people whose main weapons are deadly beach balls, then these are the guys you call! (Maybe they should let them take over security at the Sydney Cricket Ground. [Regional joke, sorry.]) As the Megaforcians show off their moves, we notice not only how utterly absurd all this looks, but that the weapons on the motorcycles are fixed – so that you could only hit a target if it happened to be just the right distance and angle away from you. (They can turn from side to side, but of course, so does the motorcycle.) Still, this being the kind of film that it is, I’m sure that the bad guys will obligingly maintain just such a distance. The display over, one of the MegaForce guys detaches himself from his comrades and heads straight for the van. BW and Zara instinctively duck as he comes towards them – only for him to sail over the van and land safely on the other side (in slow motion, of course, which, as we all know, makes anything look cooler.). The rider then whips off his helmet, and we are introduced to Our Hero.

Oh, Lordy, Lordy, Lordy….

I’ve mentioned the beige jumpsuit already, although not that it zips up the front. Imagine one of these accessorised with black knee boots, a synch-belt around the waist, and a baby blue bandanna knotted around the forehead and flowing down the back of the head. Further imagine this ensemble worn by someone sporting an embarrassingly bouffant mid-eighties hair-do and beard (by someone who, in fact, looks like a long-lost Gibb brother; the one that got kicked out of the Bee Gees for not being macho enough. [Hmm….Robin, Barry, Maurice, Ace…. Yeah, that’d work!]). Ladies and gentlemen – Ace Hunter!

Having introduced himself to BW, Hunter gives Zara the seemingly obligatory up-and-down. Oddly, although she took no offence at Dallas for doing this, Zara is immediately visibly riled by Hunter’s behaviour - which naturally means that she’s secretly overcome by his smoldering masculine charms. Meanwhile, one of the other motorcyclists – Suki, the token Asian – comments, "Target sighted!" Although she starts off with a friendly "Call me Zara!" (well, if your surname was Ben-Dooda, wouldn’t you? [actually, here it sounds more like "Venvooda", so who knows?]), Zara begins to complain about the way things have gone. Needled by this (which probably means that he, too….), Hunter assures Zara that "there are reasons for everything we do!" Well, that’s good to know. I’d hate to think that these guys blow up defenseless beach balls just for the heck of it. Zara becomes still more agitated, which perhaps accounts for the peculiar structure of her next sentence: "And do they include leaving your guests to bake in the middle of the desert, greeted by cowboy, and be attacked by wild creatures?" Alas, she should have known better than to take on Ace Hunter in a battle of wits! (Uh, that is what this is supposed to be, in case you haven’t figured it out.) "Well, if you’re looking for a comfortable tour," Hunter retorts, "I’ve got connections – at Disneyland!" "Target destroyed!" concludes Suki (!!). BW agrees that Zara has been zing-ed beyond all hope of recovery. "My, my, my! – you do have a way with words!" he tells Hunter admiringly. Our Hero throws a challenging look at the fuming Zara and sneers, "Is that the general consensus?" Zara, apparently unable to think of a sufficiently asinine response, remains silent, which means it’s game, set and match to Hunter. "Battles are won and lost on quick decisions!" he taunts her, adding contemptuously, "Major!" Zara continues to seethe. Oh, she hates him! Hates him!! – so of course they’ll be in lurve before another five minutes have passed. The final comment on this pivotal scene comes from the third motorcyclist, the token French (?) guy, who observes, "And that’s the way it is!" This irritating catchphrase, being irritating, will naturally recur throughout the film.

Once Zara is out of earshot, Hunter sees fit to question Dallas about the "wild creatures" that "attacked" his guests. Dallas explains that it was "an ol’ no-shoulder" (!!!!). The two then josh each other a bit, in an excruciating scene meant to demonstrate that Hunter is not only "a great leader!" (as we are later assured) but "one of the guys". Wow! No wonder his men are so willing to follow him on these deadly dangerous missions, from which all of them will return safely…. Back in the van, Dallas asks BW what he thought of the "target practice". "An absolutely dazzling display!" responds BW enthusiastically. We can only assume that he somewhere found a healthy supply of the "vodka and tonic" he’s been moaning for since the film started. We then learn that the motorcycles were the work of someone called "The Egg" who, Dallas informs us, "has been clucking over those things like a mother hen, ever since he hatched ‘em on his slyyyde roool!" "Egg?" questions BW. "The Egg," Dallas corrects him. We further learn that this individual is MegaForce’s Head of Research and Development, and that he has "more degrees than a red-hot thermometer!". And just in case you were wondering – his real name’s Eggstrom! Get it? He’s called Eggstrom, and he’s an egghead! So they call him "The Egg"!! And, oh, gosh, those cracks about him "clucking" over things, and "hatching" them - !! Those MegaForce boys and their razor-sharp wits, huh? "Weird," Dallas sums up his colleague, "but damn, he’s smart!"

(Which would seem an opportune moment for revealing that The Egg is the gentleman with the armadillo fetish. Tsk, these scientists - !)

Anyway, Dallas hasn’t finished demonstrating his mastery of the bon mot. Inside MegaForce’s secret base (which is clearly where the film-makers blew most of their budget, and which is, sadly, really, really lame), he gets to announce, "Here is The Egg – and that’s no yolk!" The gentleman so indicated – short, middle-aged, balding, labcoat-and-tie-clad, glasses-wearing, habitually absent-minded (have we got it yet? – he’s a SCIENTIST!!!!) – proves to be no slouch with the witty repartee either (must be one of the MegaForce recruiting requirements), commenting, "Dallas, when a person doesn’t have less on, they have - ?" "More on?" responds Dallas, bemused. "Exactly!" pounces The Egg. Zing! The Egg and Hunter then have a mysterious conversation about "it". "It" is ready, we learn; and Hunter has to remember, it’s the red buttonsone, and then two. The lack of explanation leads us to conclude that "it" will be revealed during the film’s climactic scenes (though it’s unlikely that any viewer could anticipate precisely what "it" is). Hunter then starts giving his guests the Grand Tour, and the movie gets stupid. Yes, now it gets stupid – because now we learn how MegaForce works. As they wander around gazing at matte paintings of the complex, BW gasps, "It puts the pyramids to shame!" One level of the complex is filled with military hardware from all over the world – which is where the Goofy-Meter runs off-scale. Remember how the opening crawl told us that the team’s mission was to fight tyranny and evil in "every corner of the world" (even made-up ones)? Well, here we learn that MegaForce is under the control of an organisation called S.C.U.F.F. – "Supreme Command United Free Forces" – which includes the leaders of "the Free World", who secretly contribute their "best men" and "most advanced equipment". Fine – except that we’ve just established that one of the "donor" countries is Russia! In 1982!? Hoo, Nelly!! Also, at this point you might be wondering how this base was built – or rather, bases, as there are apparently several – and by whom, and where? And also, if BW and Zara need telling all of this – how did they contact MegaForce in the first place!? Anyway (ignoring these little details), it is further revealed that every man in MegaForce has been "written off" in the outside world, their files altered to show that they were deserters, or – "Better yet", as Hunter helpfully puts it – dead. Dallas adds with a shrug that you have to "volunteer just to get in" – and we are left with the mystifying question of how, precisely, one would go about volunteering for a top-secret organisation!?

(In the background during this scene, you can hear a P.A. announcement: "Dr Needham, report to your office!" Director Hal Needham does indeed make a cameo appearance, and I am going to reverse the usual convention and announce that, as a director, Needham makes a great actor.)

We then cut to Zara in her quarters, which quite frankly look like rooms in a brothel that were decorated by colour-blind monkeys (and no, not an infinite number). She’s in uniform, but daringly undoes her top button. The hussy! Hunter invites himself in, and we see that he’s now dressed in a dark blue jumpsuit, with one lapel turned back to reveal an orange lining (!). His baby blue bandanna has also been converted into a cravat (!!). Hunter ogles Zara even more than he did when she was wearing her clingy dress, and observes approvingly that there’s no "Good Conduct Medal" amongst her decorations. Zara comments that she’s at a disadvantage, since he’s not wearing his medals; and Hunter replies that it’s okay, that after all you can’t tell everything about a soldier by looking – "at his chest!" "Or hers?" Zara replies suggestively. Then their hands touch as they both reach for the door switch. Whoo, can’t you just feel the sexual tension? And really, it’s no surprise at all when they----

----have dinner. But not yet. First we get the film’s most idiotic moment. (Oh, okay, one of the top five.) BW is being shown the base’s surveillance equipment with which, we learn, MegaForce can monitor every conversation in every military instillation in the world!!!! Oh, yeah, I can just imagine everyone agreeing to that little arrangement, can’t you!? This also means, by the bye, that they’ve accumulated a dossier on every important military figure, including – gasp! – BW himself. (He’s important!?) They trot this out by way of demonstration, and BW must listen in embarrassment as everyone hears details of his private red-and-white helicopter, which has "air conditioning" and "shag carpeting". BW then diverts attention by demanding Guerera’s (remember him?) dossier. This he gets verbally from Hunter, who reels off the mercenary’s family details and background without missing a beat. "You’ve memorised it?" comments BW. "No," says Hunter solemnly. "I didn’t have to. I – know him." Dah-dah-daaahh….

Over dinner, BW refers to Guerera and his men as "fanatics"; we learn that they have been busy "toppling one country after another" With SIX TANKS!!?? Bloody hell! (So why haven’t they just "toppled" Sardoon?) Hunter takes exception to the word "fanatic". We learn that he and Guerera trained together, fought together – all the usual action movie guff, in fact – until Guerera was "betrayed" by "cowardly politicians" in his own country (we never learn how, exactly), and turned mercenary in disgust. Apparently that’s better than being a "fanatic". Once, during a mutual drinking binge, Hunter almost convinced Guerera to change sides again; but alas – Guerera’s final response was to steal Hunter’s lighter! After dinner, they all retire to a briefing room where, helped by a hologram map, Hunter outlines the plan for luring Guerera over the Sardoonian border at a designated spot, where the local forces can then beat the tripe out of him, nice and legal. This plan is mapped out down to the millisecond, which would be insane in any organisation but one where nothing ever goes wrong and no-one ever gets hurt. When the briefing concludes, BW comments that this is the best hologram they’ve seen yet (what, better than the cavorting Hawaiian!?), and for some reason this provokes Dallas into starting up one of – a drunken dancing pig. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Zara then announces – in another moment that cracks the Incredibly Stupid Top Five – that she’s going on the mission.

Okay, now I am probably the least military minded person you could ever meet. Even so, my immediate response to this proposition was, "Don’t be stupid! You can’t take an outsider on a team mission, you’d mess everything up!" This isn’t Hunter’s response, however. Instead, he casts aspersions on Zara’s abilities, pointing out how unlikely it is that she’s up to MegaForce’s "standards". "Try me!" she inevitably challenges him, and sadly, he does. Cut to a plane. Zara’s first "test" is parachuting. Hunter himself is going with her, since as the leader of a crack secret paramilitary organisation in the period immediately prior to an important mission, he wouldn’t have anything better to do with his time. Hunter reels off a string of instructions, and Zara hurls herself out of the plane. Hunter follows and---why, she’s great! (We never do learn whether she already knew how to do this, or whether she’s a really quick learner.) And then, folks, it’s the dreaded "parachuting" sequence, proudly brought to us by the ZOPTIC SPECIAL EFFECTS SYSTEM. Zara and Hunter kind of mess around in mid-air for a while (as you do on top-secret military missions), finally joining hands and floating around together as what I suppose was called "Love Theme from MegaForce" plays over the scene. And then, just to prove it really truly is Zara and Hunter up there – we get some close-ups. (Novices might be tempted to proclaim this the worst blue-screening they’ve ever seen; but then, they haven’t watched the end of this movie yet….) Zara pulls Hunter’s ripcord (and no, thankfully, that’s not a euphemism), and then her own. And I must say, as military parachutes go, these are a couple of beauties! Huge, brightly coloured, stripey things! – almost like you’d see in a sky-diving display, at a football match or something! The two land safely (rats!), and when a helicopter comes to pick them up, Zara demands to be allowed to fly it. Then we cut to her final "test" (I hope there was something a bit more exacting in between!), as she blows up targets on some kind of simulator. (We see how serious Zara is about joining MegaForce: she, too, has donned a skin-tight, zip-fronted jumpsuit – purple, as it happens – and has a red scarf knotted around her neck. She also has her zipper pulled down even further than Hunter [gasp!] – but only just.) Zara records a perfect score, and turns triumphantly to Hunter – who lowers the boom on her.

(BTW, Hunter has also changed outfits: he’s wearing a silver jumpsuit even more revealing than his beige one. And here it comes, my inevitable Simpsons moment! – Ned Flanders’ body-hugging ski suit: "Feels like I’m wearing nothing at all!" Waggle, waggle….)

After three days of grueling testing, Zara learns she’s not going on the mission anyway. Now Hunter gives her the "no outsiders" speech – leaving both Zara and the viewer to wonder why the hell he didn’t say that in the first place! (Because then we wouldn’t have had the ZOPTIC SPECIAL EFFECTS SYSTEM parachute sequence, I guess – two minutes, thirty-eight seconds by the clock, people!) Incredibly, despite having been jerked around to an almost inconceivable degree, Zara again fails to take any of the three options I outlined earlier with respect to Dallas (she’s a better-tempered woman than I am, obviously), and takes her dismissal on the chin – once Hunter assures her it’s not "because she’s a woman", that is. In fact, she praises Hunter’s behaviour! – telling him that it his ability to make the tough decisions (like not being square with her in the first place?) and so look after his men that makes him what he is – "A great leader!" (Excuse me!!?? Exactly when has our jumpsuited doofus shown any leadership of any description!? Darn it, I musta blinked….)

(Taking the concept of "adding insult to injury" to new heights [or depths], this scene is played out with Hunter and Zara in silhouette against a mauve background. In other words – they are ripping off ‘Singin’ In The Rain’!! You unmitigated BASTARDS!!!!)

And then it’s time for "Operation: Hook Line And Sinker". Heh! The Egg reminds Hunter once more of "it" and those red buttons, "one – two!", while BW wishes him luck, calling him "old son". Yechh! Hunter stands by the door of the transport plane, gazing wistfully into the distance. She’s not there! But wait! Yes, she is! "Even though I’m not going, I’m glad I came this far!" she announces. Hunter tells her he knows "a great little hotel in London", and the two make a date for after the mission. Zara then kisses him impulsively. Hunter expresses his delight not in words (he’s a guy, after all) but in actions, grasping a strut at the back of the plane and twirling himself on board (!). And then things get really weird, as he and Zara bid farewell by, uh, kissing their thumbs at each other (!?) (Provoking me to prove that it isn’t only members of MegaForce who received a classical education, by growling, "Yes, I do bite my thumb, sir, and yes, I do bite my thumb at you!") The plane takes off, accompanied by MegaForce’s "Action Theme", which perhaps isn’t as bad as its "Love Theme", but runs it a mighty close second. We see that Hunter, contemplating Zara, is having a tough time keeping his mind on the job (he’s a great leader!). Observing, Dallas helpfully repeats something that "an old buddy" once told him as they set out on a mission: "You love ‘em in blue and you love ‘em in red. But most of all, you love ‘em in blue."

(At which precise moment, the person I was watching the film with suddenly exclaimed, "That reminds me! I have to go to the Foot Clinic on Monday!" Rather bemused, I stopped the tape, and we debated what, exactly, had reminded him of that; but we were unable to reach a decision. [My guess is the script, which reeks like sweaty socks.] Oh, well. At least we were spared listening to Dallas for a minute or two.)

Hunter objects that this is totally inapplicable to anything that’s going on (duh!) and dumb (double duh!), and demands to know who said that? "You did!" Dallas springs on him. Yuck, yuck, yuck. We now meet the rest of the team and, crikey! – it’s like the bridge of the Starship "Enterprise" up there! We’ve got the "tokens" we’ve already met, and a token Hispanic ("Lopez"), and what I think is supposed to be a token Native American. One of the guys is working on a Rubik’s Cube ("How To Date Your Film In One Easy Lesson"). Two more are chucking a knife at one another while they also work on a crossword puzzle (!). Finally (thankfully), they reach their first objective, and two guys (the Hispanic and the Native American) parachute out. We later learn that this is to set-up a computer-operated re-fueling depot; a good trick, as they are carrying minimal equipment (i.e. none). We get a brief cut to Guerera, playing (or rather, cheating at) chess with a colleague hereafter designated "Unfunny Russian Guy", or URG (how appropriate). Then it’s back to the plane, where we see Hunter and his team preparing to parachute – on their bikes and stealth-cars!! This is successfully accomplished (fancy!), and the team heads off – leaving, oh, roughly four dozen parachutes lying around behind them How this organisation has remained "secret" so long is a complete mystery.

Okay, and now we launch into the film’s big action sequence, with Hunter and his men descending on Guerera’s camp and blowing large chunks of it up. (Before they start, we see Dallas fixing a Confederate flag to his vehicle, which seems a strangely insensitive gesture for a member of such a caring and sharing, PC organisation.) As you might expect, we get lots and lots of explosions, although in very, very few cases do MegaForce’s "missiles" actually hit where those explosions occur. We might also notice that when any of the buildings blow up, there is surprisingly little debris (as was the case with the power plant at the beginning of the film), almost as if – they were hollow, or something. We see, too, that my prediction about "no casualties" is borne out (not amongst the opposing forces, however: I guess there are men in those tanks, right? – but who cares about them!), as no-one is injured; although two guys fall off their bikes (we are assured of one that "the only thing hurt was his pride!") and another (Token French Guy) has his stealth car damaged. (In case you’re wondering, these are kind of dune buggies with laser guns attached.) Seeing this last, a remote technician (Hal Needham, I do believe) turns the damaged stealth car "into a detonator" and blows something up with it. Later, he sees three guys with a bazooka about to get the drop on Our Heroes, and vapourises them completely. Charming. Guerera grabs his walkie-talkie and starts shrieking that this is "a full-scale invasion!" (At least in the same sense that Guerera himself has "forces".) As MegaForce departs, Guerera orders Unfunny Russian Guy to follow them, which he does, and indeed will do, on and off, for the rest of the film, most unfunnily. Technician Needham reports to base that "we have sixty happy guys, less three vehicles". The Egg celebrates so enthusiastically that he smashes his glasses. Comedy! Meanwhile, at the re-fueling stop, Token Native American Guy is complaining to Token Hispanic Guy about being left out of the mission, and wondering what he will "tell to his people". (Uh, that would be the "people" who think you’re a deserter or, better yet, dead, right?) "Ay carumba!" responds Token Hispanic Guy. Hunter contacts the two, giving them the squadron’s ETA. We learn that Token Native American Guy’s name is "Six-Killer" (!!!!).

Elsewhere, the Department Of Ridiculous Kontrivances is making its presence felt again, and BW and Zara are receiving bad news "straight from the Embassy". They climb into BW’s red-and-white helicopter, of which we have heard so much, and take off.

Hunter and his men reach the re-fueling stop. Token Native American Guy inquires of Dallas whether they "brought back many scalps". Nearby, URG is watching – and Dallas, watching him in turn, distracts him during his report to Guerera by summoning up Cavorting Hawaiian Girl. Just as MegaForce is about to set out again, a Red Cross helicopter (not to be confused with a red-and-white helicopter) appears. It lands, and who should emerge but Guerera! Why, that sneaky so-and-so! To the dismay of the troops, Hunter and Guerera greet each other with shouts of delight and lots of hugging (manly hugging, of course). They reminisce over that drunken binge of theirs, and we see that Hunter’s famous lighter has "Ace" emblazoned on one side, and the MegaForce logo on the other. (How has this thing been kept secret, again?) Suddenly, BW’s helicopter appears. Hunter explains what it is and, Guerera expressing a desire to meet BW, invites him to stick around. BW and Zara do a double-take at seeing Guerera, but it is clear they’ve got other things on their minds – as Guerera knows already. BW finally breaks the news that word of Sardoon’s involvement in MegaForce’s incursion into Gamibia has gotten out (well, duh, since the Sardoonian leaders are right there in MegaForce’s camp!); and the Gamibians have announced that if Sardoon lets Hunter and his men back in, it will be regarded as an act of war. Okay, question #1: how are these two countries not already at war? Question #2: since everything that Sardoon does seems to be construed as "an act of war" by the Gamibians, why don’t they just have the damn war and get it over with? But no. What this means is, Hunter & Co. are stranded in Gamibia, betrayed by those "cowardly politicians", just like Guerera was. Oh, bitter irony!

Stiff upper lip to the fore, Hunter tells Zara that, no matter what, he’ll keep that date with her; and then they do that icky thumb-kissing thing again. Ugh! She and BW depart, and Guerera spells out Hunter’s situation, i.e., the Gamibian army is massing nearby, and there’s only one place Hunter and his men can be picked up from, "the Dry Lake", and Guerera’s forces are already there. Checkmate. (Of course, this implies that only a transport plane can collect the team, and blithely ignores the many helicopters that MegaForce have at their disposal. However, this sets up the end of the film, so we won’t quibble.) Guerera offers to take Hunter out, if he’ll leave his men, but of course Hunter refuses. Guerera then produces one of the film’s most "Huh?"-inducing lines, telling Hunter that, "In the seventies we could be idealists, but today, it’s too expensive!" – a remark which seems about a decade out in either direction. Hunter replies scornfully that, "There are some things you can’t put a price on!" "If you had said anything else, I would have been disappointed," Guerera tells him. "I love you! – but you’re hopeless!" And with that, he departs. Well, Henry, you’re half-right, anyway.

But all is not lost. After consultation with The Egg, Hunter announces that they have two options. One, they can split up and head for the border individually. This is obviously the logical way to proceed, so naturally the idea is immediately dismissed amongst much guffawing. Two – they can use the "stealth mode" on their vehicles to sneak up on Guerera through the mountains at his back, "punch a hole" through his "forces" (those six tanks, minus casualties), and meet up with their transports in the lake bed. This is agreed upon, and two transport planes head in, drawing Guerera’s fire. (It pains me to report that Pilot #1 is played by Robert Fuller, who also played the doomed Dan Murphy in The Brain From Planet Arous. Among other things.) During this time, much "witty" banter is exchanged between the pilots of the two planes; they don’t even miss a beat when one of the planes is hit and has to withdraw. (Apparently, being hit by a shot from a cannon causes a plane to "develop a malfunction". You’d think.) This means that due to space restrictions, MegaForce will have to put its equipment on "self-destruct" when the team is evacuated. Oh, goody, more explosions!

Anyway, the attack suddenly begins and, yup, lotsa explosions, all right! In fact, we see about ten times more tanks blow up than Guerera actually has. Although the MegaForce team is supposed to be trying to "punch through", they kind of hang around for a while, blowing up anything they can (and all with strangely controlled explosions, we notice – barely a square inch of shrapnel to be seen! Just as well, too, or Hunter might have lost his reputation as a great leader.) Anyway, finally they do "punch through". The plane lands, and to stop Guerera’s forces (what’s left of them) from firing at it or them, the team-members release huge clouds of smoke from their motorcycles and stealth cars. All different colours, too! I guess it’s to match their parachutes. Then, just when everything seems to be working out – Hunter falls off his bike. And he lies stunned on the lake bed. Oh, no! He’s gunna miss the plane!! – which is, it almost goes without saying, under orders to take off two minutes after landing – no more, no less. Meanwhile, Dallas is overseeing the boarding of the men, desperately worried about Hunter. Then – the two minutes are up. And orders – particularly Hunter’s orders – are orders; and Dallas must insist on their great leader being left behind.

But wait! Hunter’s back on his feet! He pauses just long enough to bid Guerera farewell ("I just wanted to remind you that the good guys always win – even in the eighties!" Hmm, well, I can think of several nations that might disagree with that sentiment) before grabbing his bike (just as well it wasn’t damaged, hey?) and setting out after the taxiing plane. As the plane takes off, Dallas sees him, and begs the pilot to set down again (which he rightly refuses to do). But Hunter ain’t licked yet! Remember The Egg, and "it", and those red buttons, one and two? Now we learn what "it" is! Button one – wings emerge either side of Hunter’s bike. Button two – a jet propulsion system bursts into life. Yes! This motorcycle can fly!!

And fly it does – in the worst – the absolute, inarguably WORST blue-screen effect in the history of motion pictures!! Honestly, you don’t know what "embarrassing" means until you’ve watched this scene.

Below, Guerera can only gape in disbelief (believe me, Henry, we know exactly how you feel!), but on board the plane, Dallas and the others fail to see anything wrong. They all wave their arms madly, shouting, "C’mon! C’mon!" and finally, yes! – Hunter lands his bike in the back of the plane! He then dismounts, with a broad ta-daah! gesture that almost challenges the blue-screen work for "embarrassment quota". And then there is much manly backslapping as MegaForce flies off into the sunset, while Guerera cheers his rival’s escape. Meanwhile, in Sardoon, BW is holding a press conference, "deploring" the "incident" in "law-abiding Gamibia", but denying "any involvement" or "prior knowledge". Just at that moment, of course, he gets the news of MegaForce’s escape. The plane comes into view, the cargo door still wide open. Hunter turns his motorcycle, aims and fires – and blows up BW’s precious helicopter.

Now, can we think about this? Sure, BW was busy washing his hands of MegaForce, but Hunter didn’t know that, did he? So I guess he blew up the chopper because BW was the one who broke the bad news about the Sardoonian government to him. And there was me thinking that killing the messenger had gone out of fashion about two thousand years ago!

Anyway, Zara bursts into hysterical laughter at Hunter’s, uh, "parting shot", then she and he do that icky thumb-kissing thing again – thankfully, for the last time. And that’s The End – except it isn’t! We’re forced to endure replayed "highlights" from the film, as the credits roll beside them, while "Theme Song from MegaForce" plays over both. Those sadistic bastards!!

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Ace Hunter - Super Stud

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Zara does her perverted Sardoonian thumb-kissing ritual

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Whee!!!

These pictures were stolen from Jabootu's,
and I didn't ask permission or nuthin', so there!

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