If you are even remotely lactose intolerant, then you should give Megaforce a wide birth. Because rarely have I seen anything quite as cheesy as this notorious 1982 bomb. You really hope that this was the result of a 1980s style coke binge, because the idea of this being green lit, shot and then released with the expectation that it would clean up at the box office by people in their right mind is utterly depressing. Inevitably, audiences stayed away in droves and most of the planned Megaforce merchandise failed to materialise (what few toys and games did appear are probably collector’s items now, because I doubt anyone bought them).
This is one of those movies where you know right away that it will be terrible – it then simply becomes a matter of how terrible.
There’s a pre-credit caption that sets things up:
“Despite official denials by leaders of the free world, sources now confirm the existence of Megaforce, a phantom army of super elite fighting men whose weapons are the most powerful science can devise. Their mission….to preserve freedom and justice battling the forces of tyranny and evil in every corner of the globe.”
Quite. We then go straight into the opening titles, backed with what is possibly the trashiest bontempi electro rock theme tune you have ever heard. Have you seen Manborg? The score sounds like that. But Manborg was a satire – this seems to be deadly serious.
The story, what little there is, sees Major Zara (Persis Khambatta, who saw a rapid decline in her career after Star Trek) and stiff upper-lipped General Edward Byrne-White (Edward Mulhare) recruiting Megaforce – led by ahem Ace Hunter (Barry Bostwick) and his good ol’ boy right hand man Dallas (Michael Beck) – to help stop military incursions into the peace-loving nation of Sardun by the militaristic (and probably Communist) leaders of neighbouring Gamibia, who have mercenary Duke Guerrera (Henry Silva) – an old friend, or possibly lover given their body language when they meet, of Hunter’s – on their side. This Megaforce ‘help’ seems to consist of a single foray into Gamibian territory to attack their forces, and proves to be rather useless, given that it is seen as an act of war. The Sardunese (Sardunians?) immediately back off and Megaforce have to make a run for it, leaving all their equipment behind. Some elite force fighting for freedom and justice they turn out to be.
Megaforce cost $20 million – a pretty hefty chunk of change in 1982 – but manages to look like an episode of the Logan’s Run TV series. The costumes are utterly ridiculous, the vehicles look like cheap mock-ups and the special effects are dismal – you’ll wonder how a film costing so much, and coming in the wake of several special effects spectaculars, could possible feature such dismal blue-screen processing. The damn thing even takes place almost entirely in a desert – the hallmark of cheap TV shows.
And the TV style even extends to the clumsy dialogue and the fact that no one actually seems to die in the massive missile battles that take place. Tanks might be hit, but in the tradition of The A-Team, the film shows the occupants scrambling for safety before the thing explodes. Still, at least Megaforce get their shots on target – the Gamibians and their mercenary helpers are such terrible shots that a dozen tanks firing at a couple of low flying large aircraft only manage a couple of hits.
There are scenes in the film that beggar belief, quite frankly. You have to wonder what the producers had to be on to look at the ‘romantic’ sky-diving scene with Bostwick and Khambatta, which reaches a new low in blue-screen effects, or the moment where Bostwick’s motorcycle sprouts wings no bigger than 18cm and takes off. This is laughable enough, but the fact that it again features dismal effects and an inexplicable, jaw-dropping moment where he flips the bike upside down while flying through the air will leave you wondering if you are actually seeing this or if someone might have slipped something into your drink.
Barry Bostwick is the least convincing action hero you’ll ever see. With his gold jump suit emphasising his skinny frame, his bouffant haircut and inexplicable pale blue ribbon tied around his head, he looks like he’s come straight from an audition as backing dancer for some ghastly 1970s variety show. Khambatta seems to be in the film simply because the makers didn’t want it to be a total sausage fest – she’s allowed to show that she’s just as tough as the boys (while of course falling in love with Bostwick in one of the most unconvincing and rapid romances in film history) but then told she still can’t take part in the mission and so reduced to standing around pining. Everyone else is a one-dimensional stereotype with the exception of Silva, who clearly knew exactly what the was involved in and so hams it up ferociously.
So Megaforce is terrible in every way imaginable. Thankfully, it’s so relentlessly awful that it becomes inadvertently entertaining. The lousy effects, lousy costumes, lousy dialogue and lousy plot developments combine to create a film that is often hilarious, even as you shake your head in wonder at the mad folly of it all. Certainly, the Megaforce uniforms give the film an added camp appeal and the bargain basement effects will have you falling off your chair in disbelief.
This is hardly the film to remember the late Hal Needham for, but if you do have to watch it, make sure it’s with a crowd and aided by a lot of alcohol.