FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: (1) *sociological*, (2) cosmological
Though it’s hard to quantify, I see a fine line separating those works that are tolerable but uninspired, and those that look like everyone involved made no more effort than punching a time-clock.
LONE RUNNER is a fair example of the former. There’s nothing in it to distinguish the film for dozens of other low-budget “Max Max” post-acpocalyptic knock-offs, though it does sport one half-memorable opening sequence. A small group of future-citizens ride through the desert in a stagecoach, and an old nanny tells a little girl about the legend of the “Lone Runner,” a mysterious hero who comes to the rescue of innocents. As soon as the tale ends, ruthless bandits attack the coach, but who should come to the innocents’ rescue but—ah, you know. After that, the Lone Runner (Miles O’Keeffe) gets involved in saving a princess (Savina Gersak) from more marauders, who in “Mad Max” tradition are garbed in all manner of goofy 20th-century castoffs. RUNNER is nothing but cheese, but O’Keeffe and Gersak are good-looking protagonists, and though the fight-scenes are unexceptional there are at least a lot of them. If one’s in the mood for this type of film, there have been many worse exemplars.
SCI-FIGHTERS, however, is just ninety minutes of dullness. In the far future convict Billy Drago becomes infected with a extraterrestial virus. He breaks out of prison, essentially an unkillable zombie controlled by alien programming designed to unleash a disease that will decimate Earth’s population. Cop Roddy Piper goes after him, aided by scientist Jayne Heitmeyer. In the down-time between shooting sprees Piper reveals to Heitmeyer that Drago was once his best friend until he went berserk and killed Piper’s wife, yadda yadda yadda. Finally zombie-Drago is vanquished and Earth is saved, amid assorted competent but boring FX-scenes.
Piper, Drago and Heitmeyer have all delivered good entertainment in other B-movies, but they’ve nothing to work with here. The only curiosity about SCI-FIGHTERS (other than the meaningless title) is that twice in the film, maverick cop Piper threatens to shoot a petty criminal in his “pink puss”—which is presumably a line no one even bothered to change when the criminal was cast with a black actor in the role.