A Movie A Day #102: Space Riders (1984, directed by Joe Massot)


Since today’s episode of Twin Peaks featured Gavan O’Herlihy, I decided that today’s Movie A Day would also feature him.  I nearly reviewed O’Herlihy’s best known film, Death Wish 3, but then I remembered that, at some point in the future, I am going to review all of the Death Wish films together.  Instead of reviewing Death Wish 3, I watched Space Riders on YouTube.

In Space Riders, Gavan O’Herlihy plays Ron Harris, a Grand Prix motorcycle racer who is lured out of retirement (and away from Marina Sirtis, who also appeared with O’Herlihy in Death Wish 3) to join a racing team sponsored by a Japanese motorcycle company.  Also on the team are Japanese racer Masao Yamashta (played by Toshiya Ito) and 2-time Grand Prix champion, Barry Sheene.  Sheene plays himself and Space Riders even opens with a recreation of an accident that nearly cost Sheene his life in 1982.  (In the movie, Sheene is trying to make a comeback after the accident.  In real life, the accident eventually led to Sheene’s retirement from the sport.)

There is no real plot to Space Riders.  It’s just one race after another, with the emphasis on the motorcycles and less on the men riding them.  The racing scenes are occasionally exciting and there’s some spectacular stunt work but it is nearly impossible to tell who is on each motorcycle until the race is over and everyone takes off their helmets.  There is an interesting scene where Yamashta imagines that he is being chased by a samurai on a motorcycle but that is pretty much it as far as character development is concerned.  O’Herlihy does okay with the role Ron, playing one of his few good guy roles.  (Even on Happy Days, the main thing that stuck out about O’Herlihy’s Chuck Cunningham was that no one liked him.  After O’Herlihy left the show, Chuck was never mentioned again, leading everyone to wonder what terrible fate has befallen Richie’s older brother.)

One thing that does distinguish Space Riders is the classic 80s soundtrack.  Who would have guessed that Hungry Like The Wolf would turn out to be perfect racing music?  Even though it’s no On Any Sunday, Space Riders will be enjoyed by motorcycle racing enthusiasts.

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