Friday, May 29, 2015

RADIOACTIVE DREAMS (1985) - Albert Pyun

When I was a young film nerd still peddling my BMX Schwinn to the local video store, this VHS box cover always caught my eye but, for some reason, never my 99 cent rental fee. The drawing on the front stoked my overactive imagination, then plagued nightly by mid-'80s nuclear war anxiety dreams. The two guys on the cover were dressed in anachronistic '30s detective duds and appeared to be having a grand old time among the apocalypse. They looked like they were being chased by Road Warrior style motorcycle gangs and--even better!--accompanied by a New Wave soundtrack. I immediately flipped the bulky clamshell over to read the back.

Sure enough, the characters' names were Philip Chandler (Dean Stockwell) and Marlowe Hammer (Michael Dudikoff), a mash-up of the noir detective greats, due to the fact that they'd lived most of their lives in a fallout shelter and only had Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane novels to read. Now they were coming out of the shelter to meet the Apocalypse, and I imagined something along the lines of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in a Mad Max setting. Just two guys hanging out in vintage duds, speaking in outdated hardboiled dialogue, maybe killing some mutants and meeting a few mutant dames along the way. Sounds like a fine way to spend two hours, no?

If only I had left the disc in my flipbook, as I once wisely left Radioactive Dreams on the Mr. Video shelf. The movie plays out nothing like I described. Director Albert Pyun's wasteland is a lifeless, low budget affair, the humor hackneyed sub-'80s spring break movie quips. The detective-noir angle is mostly incidental. There's a recurring joke with two little kids dressed as John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever who love to curse and shoot guns, which you'd think would be an easy laugh but is particularly trying to endure. When Pyun does attempt the hardboiled dialogue, it sounds all wrong, as if he read no more than a paragraph of the books in his heroes' fallout shelter. The new wave soundtrack is there as advertised, but it's strictly C versions of '80s B sides. And Michael Dudikoff is...well, he's Michael Dudikoff. He should probably stick to American Ninja, steer clear of sarcasm and the apocalypse. I still contend he's a perfect candidate for yet another Expendables movie.

I guess some dreams are better left unrealized. Until they make Fear and Loathing in Barter Town, I'll keep watching the pre-teen version in my head.

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