Note: This new Blu-ray release includes both 3D and 2D versions of the film, but this review is based solely on a 2D viewing.
The 70s and 80s were a time in which a handful major trend-setting franchises created their own global phenomenon of subgenre copycats. Star Wars, Alien, and Conan The Barbarian each inspired a deluge of knockoffs, but perhaps the most surprising and stylish shadow was that cast by the vehicular mayhem of Mad Max and its leather-clad, post-apocalyptic future-punk sequels. Hidden among these countless ripoffs is one of the earliest directorial efforts of future cult producer and Full Moon head personality Charles Band.
As a fan of Band’s early productions (and of course Mad Max), I was intrigued to finally check out this little known movie with a mouthful of a title. Indeed, the title encapsulates the film almost perfectly: it’s silly, action-packed, needlessly incomprehensible, and ultimately feels overly long (despite the film weighing in at only a lean 80 minutes or so).
The film trades mainly on its Mad Mad roots, with a dash of science fiction thrown in. Its tagline promises “High Noon at The End Of The Universe” (a phrase I swear I’ve heard applied to at least three other movies), though if I hadn’t known that I would have assumed it was simply another post-apocalyptic earth full of mutants in the desert (rather than aliens on another planet).
The plot, as best I can make out, involves a roguish hero type named Dogen (Jeffrey Byron), who looks and dresses a lot like Max Rockatansky, but lacks his personality. Dogen’s hot on the trail of evil sorcerer/sandman/robber-baron Jared-Syn, played by Mike Preston. Preston also played the leader of the oil colony in Mad Max 2, making this one of the few Mad Max knockoffs with an actual link to the franchise, however slight.
The film’s first act is really rough. After some setup and travails including a brief romance that gets unceremoniously cut short by the bad guys, Dogen ends up partnering with Rhodes (Tim Thomerson), an inebriate who can help him find a lost city that houses an artifact that can help them even the odds against Jared-Syn. Here, the film does start to pick up, thanks in part to Thomerson’s charisma being added to the mix, but the film is literally at the halfway mark by the time the two set out on their quest. Despite all their talk about the Lost City being impossible to find, they almost immediately and anticlimactically locate it on what appears to be a pretty well-traveled road. The next big boost in the story comes as they encounter a party of “Cyclopean” aliens led by the hulking Hurok (Richard Moll), a militaristic type who could as easily kill them or become their next ally.
The film’s story makes little sense, but at least the impressive effects, production design, and creativity are on full display. The coolest character in this respect is Jared-Syn’s son and top enforcer Baal (R. David Smith), a mutant cyborg whose left arm is a fearsome looking claw appendage capable of spraying his foes with green acid, which causes his victims to enter a surreal hallucinatory state in which Jared-Syn can enter their dream and murder them like a more handsome, less charismatic Freddy Krueger.
If Metalstorm ultimately didn’t resonate with me (and it didn’t), it’s certainly not from a lack of trying. The film is incredibly ambitious – perhaps to a fault. The world-building and 3D aesthetic inform every part of the film, including its title. As the episodic subnomer “The Destruction Of Jared-Syn” indicates, Band really tried show us a small chapter of a huge world, ripe for exploring. Even though it takes place on a small scale, the film constantly references the people and places of its evidently rich universe, but gives the audience little reason to actually take interest. All the dense history, non-sequitur plotting, vaguely scientific sorcery involving colorful crystals, and frankly goofy names (Jared-Syn, Dogen, Dhyana, Hurok, etc) unfortunately add up to swirling confusion rather than an enchanting fantasy. Nor does it help that Jared-Syn and Baal both speak (or in Baal’s case, mentally projects) their dialogue in barely audible whispers. Nor did any sequels materialize, making this a one-shot chapter in what feels intended to be a larger saga.
Metalstorm: The Destruction Of Jared-Syn is available on Blu-ray today from Shout! Factory. The disc boasts both 3D and 2D versions of the film, as well as features including a making of doc, trailer, and radio spot.
— CultOfBluRayAddicts (@COBRAcollector) August 25, 2016
Special Features and Extras (42:13)
High Noon At The End Of The Universe
This Making Of feature is terrific. I actually enjoyed it more than the movie. Band, Byron, Moll, and Thomerson all make appearances, along with other crew folks involved with the production, and they present a pretty earnest look at the making of a low budget film and the work involved. There are a lot of interesting recollections shared here, like shooting in 3D, Charles Band’s sneaky method of securing financing, and the role of Jaws 3 in the film’s theatrical release. This doc improved on my enjoyment of the film itself, filling in some details on the more confusing aspects I didn’t understand.
Theatrical Trailer (1:23)
Still Gallery (10:26)
Radio Spot (:30)
With its cool post-apocalyptic aesthetic and vehicular action, fans of Charles Band and Mad Max knockoffs may find something special here. But even though I fit both categories, I found it rather dull and disorienting. For anyone that likes the movie, though, this is a great package, buoyed especially by the incredible Making Of feature.
Some of the cast members and production elements from Metalstorm would make their way to Charles Band’s Dungeonmaster (1984), also available from Shout! Factory in a Blu-ray 2-pack along with another film. Given their similarities, this pairing as a double feature would probably have been the optimal release for both films.
Get it at Amazon:
Metalstorm: The Destruction Of Jared-Syn – [Blu-ray]