Born in late 1971, I was raised on a steady diet of Star Wars, Willy Wonka, King Kong and The Sound of Music -- but once I got just old enough to figure out the correlation between TV Guide and the family tube, I was off and running. And let me tell you this: If you were a teeny little sci-fi geek in the early-to-mid '80s, and you didn't mind digging back a few years for your cinematic treats, you probably sat through some exceedingly weird flicks. I'm not here to trash or praise these movies, but to shine an affectionate little beacon on the fact that ... damn, those were some weird-ass movies!

Flash Gordon (1980) -- OK, here's where I break two rules right out of the gate: 1. Flash Gordon was released in 1980, so technically it's not from the '70s. Sorry. 2. I said I wasn't here to trash or praise the films, but if there's one flick out there that makes me feel like I'm nine years old again, it's Mike Hodges' adorably kitschy Flash Gordon. Boasting a production design that's as dazzling as it is kooky, a wonderfully out-of-place (yet still rockin') Queen score, a handful of really ripe acting performances, and more than a few bizarre occurences, Flash Gordon is grade-A loopy, but it's still a whole lot of fun.

Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) -- Ape-maker Arthur P. Jacobs was absolutely intent on squeezing just a few final drops of blood from his played-out simian series, and the result is a movie in which apes and the human slaves do battle with a bunch of mutants who somehow have lots of nifty weapons. Plus, c'mon, you know you wanna see Claude Akins, Paul Williams and John Huston dressed up in full ape-face regalia.

Silent Running (1972) -- Special effects genius Doug Trumbull makes his directorial debut -- with a screenplay by Stephen Bochco ... and Michael Cimino? OK, sign me up. Let's check the back of the box ... hmm, an outer-space greenhouse manager is told to destroy his beloved forests (which happen to be the very last ones in existence) and return home. But since the main character is played by Bruce Dern, I suppose "he goes a little insane" is a foregone conclusion. Plus the flick has shrubbery, murder and robots -- and despite my snarky attitude, I think it's actually quite a good movie.

Soylent Green (1973) -- We all know the "surprise ending" by now, but Richard Fleischer's 1973 sci-fi / murder mystery still holds up surprisingly well, despite its rather outlandish "2022 New York" setting. Look beyond the somewhat meandering gumshoe machinations and you'll find one of the grimmest and darkest depictions of the future ever created for a mainstream movie. Plus, Chuck Heston is always good for a few great pieces of over-ripe scenery-chewing, and he does not disappoint here.

A Boy and His Dog (1975) -- A post-apocalyptic Don Johnson wanders through the wastelands while telekinetically chatting with his furry canine companion. Things seems to be looking up for Don when he stumbles his way into a community full of women who need impregnating, but (believe it or not) things get even weirder after that. Based on a novella by Harlan Ellison, this flick's enjoyed a pretty solid after-life as a forgotten cult classic ... but I just don't get it.

Logan's Run (1976) -- Also known as "the very first sci-fi movie I ever saw, and the one that blew my brain out the back out my skull, but not literally." Here's the scoop: It's the 23rd Century, and once you hit the age of 30 you go to "Carousel," which is where your body is zapped dead by lasers, but your soul is transported to the body of a lovely new baby -- or so everybody thinks. (Why is everybody in the future so damn gullible?) Those who doubt that "Carousel" does what it promises decide to "run," and that's where the nasty "Sandmen" come in: Their job is to track and kill the "runners" before they make it out of the domed city, but what happens when a "Sandman" is forced to become a "runner"? Well, let's just say it involves Farrah Fawcett, a frozen robot, and some of the wackiest set design ever caught on film. But for all its accidental goofiness, I think Logan's Run still holds up as a damn fine sci-fi adventure. That robot sure was silly though...

Zardoz (1974) -- Sean Connery, clad only in an ill-fitting red diaper, leaps from a giant floating evil god's head and must deal with stuff like Eternals, Brutals, Apathetics, Renegades, Vortexes and forced erections. (Don't ask.) Despite being one of the very strangest sci-fi flicks ever produced, Zardoz is actually pretty darn watchable, what with all its outrageous costumes, indecipherable dialogue, and semi-lofty concepts. If anything, Zardoz proves that it's entirely possible for a major motion picture to be made while the entire production crew is zonked out on LSD.
categories Cinematical