Give Fred Olen Ray credit — the guy’s a survivor. While his name has never been attached to a genuine B-movie classic — although Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers definitely has its fans — he’s found a way to remain, if not exactly relevant, at least employed for decades now and has , according to official IMDB totals, written 56 films, produced 80, starred in 143, and directed a staggering 128! Granted, directing 128 movies isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds when most have two-or three-day production schedules, but still —
Anyway, Fred seems to be settling comfortably into the tail end of his career now helming SyFy network made-for-TV numbers and “Skinemax” fare such as Busty Housewives Of Beverly Hills, but back in the late ’80s/early ’90s the straight-to-video market was wide open territory for low-budget mavens such as himself and he was more than willing to help blaze the magnetic tape trail once the celluloid one he’d been treading previously dried and crinkled up with the demise of the drive-ins and downtown exploitation houses that had helped put food on his table (and we’ll get back to gastronomic analogies at the end of this review, just you wait and see!). A true visionary never gives up, he just gives it his best in another venue, right?
Unfortunately, even Fred’s best was never all that great, and the movie in our proverbial crosshairs today, 1990′s Alienator is far from his best indeed, although you’d never know it based on its drop-dead awesome premise, to wit : a supposedly evil intergalactic criminal genius/madman named Kol (Ross Hagen) is about to be executed on a distant spaceship-prison thingie but , of course, manages to affect a semi-daring escape in a shuttle that eventually crash-lands in a forest on Earth. There he makes friendly with a park ranger (who’s got the park ranger-iest name you’ll ever come across), Ward Armstrong (John Phillip Law) and a bunch of annoying teenagers, but little do Kol and his new-found comrades suspect that the spaceship commander (named, simply, “Commander,” and played by Jan-Michael “anything for a buck” Vincent) from whose deadly clutches he managed to free himself has sent a Terminator-esque super-tracker after him, the ultra-deadly — and titular — Alienator herself!
Yes, I said herself — the Alienator, you see, is played by a female ( I think, at any rate, although it wouldn’t surprise me if she had some chromosomal issues going on, and I wouldn’t bet on her ability to pass an Olympic-style genetic screening test) bodybuilder who went by the snappy one-word name of Teagan at this, the apex (such as it was) of her career. She’s basically a cyborg — or maybe android, I never could tell the the difference — chick in a metal bikini who is damn hard to kill and displays, as you’d expect, the emotional range and affect of, say, a walnut. A single-minded killing machine with what appears for all intents and purposes to be a giant pair of binoculars on her boobs, arms that are thicker than my legs, and legs that are thicker than the trunk of the tree in my backyard. Are you afraid yet? You should be — but not so much of the Alienator her(him? it?)self as the unfortunate movie that bears her name.
I know, I know — you read about it on paper (or, as the case may be, your computer screen) and think to yourself “my God, how can you go wrong here?,” but trust me, friends, you can — this flick is a drag. All the actors play it disarmingly straight when by all rights they should be hamming things up, the pacing is dull as toasted rye, and the special effects aren’t good enough to be — well, good — but aren’t bad enough to be hysterical. In short, it’s all an exercise in sleepwalking, “get-it-in-the-can”-style movie-making, and can barely hold your interest despite the fact that by all rights it sure should given its appealingly blatant absurdity.
Still, if you’re in the (entirely advisable under most circumstances) habit of ignoring me, you can check it out for yourself as Alienator came out last week on DVD from Shout! Factory as part of their new “4 Action-Packed Movie Marathon” two-disc set where it shares billing with another early-90s DTV number from Ray, the Heather Thomas (yeah, I forgot about her, too) “starring” vehicle Cyclone, as well as the pretty-decent-all-things-considered Gary Busey revenge flick Eye Of The Tiger and fan favorite Cannon actioner Exterminator 2. The technical specs for Alienator are as follows : digitally remastered (and darn good) widescreen transfer, remastered mono sound, and no extras. Which is fine, really, especially since this package retails on Amazon for eight bucks.
Look, we might as well be honest here —odds are that if you’re gonna get this thing it’s for Exterminator 2 (I know that’s why I picked it up) so anything else is literally (okay, metaphorically — told you we’d get back to that) just gravy, but ya know, sometimes turkey (or beef, or chicken, or whatever) tastes better plain, and Alienator is a cinematic condiment you can definitely skip and still get more than your money’s worth out of the main entree on offer here.
Which is kind of a shame, really, because it sure sounded good on the menu.