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Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone is a 1983 American space Western film. The film stars Peter Strauss, Molly Ringwald, Ernie Hudson, Andrea Marcovicci and Michael Ironside.[5] The film's executive producer was Ivan Reitman, and it was directed by Lamont Johnson. The film's music score was composed by Elmer Bernstein. When the film was originally released in theaters it was shown in a polarized, over/under 3-D format. The film became part of the 3-D film revival craze of the early 1980s, being widely released after Comin' at Ya! (1981). The film is about a bounty hunter who goes on a mission to rescue three women stranded on a brutal planet and meets a vagrant teenage girl along the way.


Set in the early 22nd century, the film opens with the destruction of a space cruise liner by a bolt of nebular lightning. The only apparent survivors are three beautiful women – Nova, Reena, and Meagan – who get away in an escape pod and land on the nearest habitable planet. There, they are quickly accosted by the hostile natives and taken aboard a sail-driven vehicle resembling a pirate ship on rails.

In space, an alert goes out for the safe return of the women with a reward of 3,000 "mega-credits". A small-time salvage operator named Wolff intercepts the message and heads to the planet. Joining him is his female engineer Chalmers, who learns the planet – called Terra XI – is a failed colony that fell victim to a deadly plague and civil warfare. Wolff risks the dangers believing the reward will solve his debt problems.

After landing on the barren world, Wolff and Chalmers set out in a 4-wheel drive vehicle called the "Scrambler". Soon, they join a battle in progress between a group of marauders (called the "Zoners") and a band of nomads (the "Scavs"). The Zoners take the women before Wolff can stop them and fly away on jet-powered hang-gliders. Wolff learns from the Scavs that the women were taken into "The Zone" which is ruled by "Overdog" – their sworn enemy. Returning to the Scrambler, Wolff finds Chalmers – who is really a Gynoid – has been killed. Wolff continues on alone, but soon catches a teenage Scav named Niki trying to steal his Scrambler. She convinces Wolff that he needs a tracker if he is to survive The Zone and Wolff reluctantly takes her lead.

In the meantime, the three women are taken before "The Chemist", the chief henchman of Overdog – a hideous cyborg with giant metal claws for hands – who administers pacifying drugs to the girls and prepares them for Overdog's pleasure.

Elsewhere, Wolff and Niki make camp, but soon come under attack by a strange plow-like vehicle. Wolff manages to disable the machine and learns the driver is a former military acquaintance of his – a soldier named Washington, who reveals he too has come to rescue the women. His only problem is that he crashed his ship and has no way off of the world they're on. Wolff refuses to help his rival and leaves him to fend for himself.

Still led by Niki, Wolff gets into more predicaments – from being attacked by mutated humanoids, to strange amazon-like women and a water dragon (which the amazon-like women fear). He even loses his trusty Scrambler and is forced to continue on foot. Eventually, they are found by Washington, and Wolff finds the situation reversed as he now begs his rival for help. They agree to a 50/50 split of the reward.

Wolff and Washington team up and sneak into Overdog's fortress where they find the Zoners entertained by captured prisoners forced to run through a deadly maze of lethal obstacles, hazards and traps. Wolff spots the women being held in a cage and forms a rescue plan, but a bored Niki (who was left out of the rescue for her safety) decides to snoop around. She is captured and sent into the maze. Wolff spots Niki in the maze and tries to rescue her, but she uses her prowess to reach the end where Overdog congratulates her and drags her back to his lair. There, she is hooked to a machine that slowly drains her life energy. The energy in turn recharges Overdog. Wolff comes to the rescue and jabs a sparking power cable into one of Overdog's claws. The power feedback fries Overdog and thus causes cascading blowouts throughout the entire fortress. As the fortress explodes around them, Wolff and Niki run for cover and are rescued by the timely arrival of Washington, who is driving the plow machine with Nova, Reena and Meagan driving another commandeered vehicle. They all race out of the fortress in the nick of time as it explodes behind them.

As the complex explodes, the three heroes, and the three rescued women, manage to get away. In the ending, Wolff invites Niki to stay with him and she agrees since they made good partners.

Main cast

  • Peter Strauss as Wolff
  • Molly Ringwald as Niki
  • Ernie Hudson as Washington
  • Andrea Marcovicci as Chalmers
  • Michael Ironside as Overdog McNabb
  • Beeson Carroll as Grandman Patterson
  • Hrant Alianak as The Chemist
  • Deborah Pratt as Meagan
  • Aleisa Shirley as Reena
  • Cali Timmins as Nova
  • Reggie Bennett as Barracuda Leader
  • Harold Ramis as Voice On Intercom (Uncredited)


The film was announced in February 1983.[6]

It was one of a number of 3-D movies made in the wake of the success of Comin at Ya. Ernie McNab, the 3D designer, said the effects would enable the audience to "really feel space".[7]

Producer Don Carmody said, "We never stop to pop popcorn in your face. We do have one scene where laser beams and flame-blasters are bombarding the audience fast and furious, but these effects occur during a battle scene and appear valid."[4]

Ernie Hudson says when he was first cast he was told Jeff Bridges would play Wolff.[8] Then Peter Strauss was cast in the role.[9]


Filming started under the title Adventures in the Creep Zone in October 1982. The original director was Jean LaFleur who had co written the original story and previously worked with producer Don Carmody.[9]

Parts of the film were shot in Kane Creek, Bull Canyon, Colorado River, Potash, Lower Shafer Trail, Potash Settling Ponds, Grey Hills, U.S. Highway 91, and the area south of Canyonlands Airport.[10] It was also shot in Vancouver.

Director replaced

After two weeks of filming, LaFelur and several other crew members were fired, reportedly because Columbia were unhappy with the progress of the film.[9] His replacement was Lamont Johnson.[11]

Strauss said this led to changes to his character. "There were attempts to make him a little less tough and a little more gentle and responsive to the girl, Niki. Some of his grittiness in the earlier version was replaced with a notion of more gentleness."[12]

"It was difficult because things were always changing," said Hudson. "We changed the script entirely. When Lamont came in, we got a new script, a new everything. I ended up really liking Lamont. But it was very confusing, especially in the beginning."[8]

Molly Ringwald said "I was always attracted to the character. The script was pretty — uh — but I figured that maybe I could change the dialogue a little when I got there. As it turned out, they were desperate to change the dialogue. I was quite relieved when Lamont showed up and said, 'This is awwwful. Let's change all this!' The script was re- written a lot. There was a train which started out as evil and wound up being good. People who were supposed to be friends ended up being enemies. It was confusing. I was lucky, though. All my material was improved."[13]

Hudson felt the movie "was a real stretch for" Strauss "and the confusion didn't help... Wolff was a wonderful, Harrison Ford type, but that's not Peter. An actor has to take it his own way and do something totally different. Unfortunately, you're working with people who want the Harrison Ford thing, and they want it from you... Peter had to carry his first big feature through all that confusion, and it was very difficult."[8]

Post production

The film's music was done by Elmer Bernstein who later called the film "too rushed. The studio's only concern was getting it to the box office to make quick money, riding an anticipated, lucrative 3-D boom. "The producers didn't want to fool around. They were looking for a more conventional approach. So, I wrote it like a Western with lots of straightforward heroics and a conventional orchestra, except for the Ondes Martenot."[14]


The film's advertising emphasized the 3D aspects.[15] Columbia released Spacehunter on May 20, 1983, timed to be a week before Return of the Jedi.[16]

Box office

It took $7 million in the first week[17] However ticket sales dropped sharply.[18] The film ended up grossing $16.5 million at the United States box office.[3]

Hudson says he felt people went to the movie "and expected to see something different. If you don't have something really special and different, people just ask why they should spend money to see this thing? I don't think Spacehunter was daring enough; it wasn't really risky. We never lived up to our own publicity. It wasn't a bad story as movies go. And with Peter in it, I think people expected Spacehunter to be a serious film, and it wasn't serious at all."[8]

While the film went mostly ignored at the U.S. box office, it did find some success on home video becoming the 10th best selling videocassette of 1983.[19]

Critical reception

Variety called it "a muddled science fiction tale" whose editing prevents audiences from enjoying the well-shot action scenes.[20] Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote that the film does more with its 3D than its contemporaries but is too crowded with derivative ideas to be memorable.[21] Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 23% and average rating of 3.21/10 based on 13 reviews.[22]

C.J. Henderson reviewed Spacehunter in Space Gamer No. 65.[23] Henderson commented "Watch for this one when it is finally released to cable, or to the video stores. This is one of those movies one gets more from in the living-room than in the theatre."[23]

Ivan Reitman called the movie "terrible."[24]

Home video release

The movie was released on DVD in the USA by Columbia/Tri-Star in December 2001. It was released on Blu-ray by Mill Creek Entertainment in the USA and Canada in May 2017 (without any supplemental features), by Via Vision Entertainment in Australia in March 2019, and by 101 Films in the UK in March 2020 (featuring a commentary with film historians Allan Bryce and Richard Holliss).

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983). AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved on August 2, 2018.
  2. Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983). British Film Institute. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 SPECIAL EFFECTS - THREE-DIMENSIONAL MOVIES ARE MAKING A COMEBACK Noah, James. Philadelphia Inquirer; Philadelphia, Pa. [Philadelphia, Pa]09 May 1983: D.1.
  5. SPACEHUNTER - ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE - British Board of Film Classification.
  6. NY CLIPS From the folks who gave you 3-D thrills . . . O'Toole, Lawrence. The Globe and Mail 18 Feb 1983: E.1.
  7. MOVIES: Out of the screen and into the seats: Here comes 3-D again Reich, Howard. Chicago Tribune 10 Apr 1983: d22.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Template:Cite magazine
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Template:Cite magazine
  10. (2010) When Hollywood came to town: a history of moviemaking in Utah, 1st, Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874. 
  11. SPACEHUNTER ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE IN 3-D Turner, George E; Lee, Nora. American Cinematographer; Hollywood Vol. 64, Iss. 7, (Jul 1983): 56-59,88-91.
  12. Template:Cite magazine
  13. Template:Cite magazine
  14. Template:Cite magazine
  15. Salmons, Sandra. "Advertising; All Sci-Fi's Are Not All The Same", The New York Times, 1983-06-08. Retrieved on 2021-05-01. 
  16. Harmetz, Aljean. "HOLLYWOOD FORECAST: BEST SUMMER AT BOX OFFICE", The New York Times, 1983-05-16. Retrieved on 2021-05-01. 
  17. FILM CLIPS: A LIGHT & MAGIC TOUCH WILL RESCUE 'THE KEEP' Caulfield, Deborah. Los Angeles Times 25 May 1983: g1.
  18. FILM CLIPS: SPARKLES APLENTY IF BEATTY'S ON TO 'DICK TRACY' Caulfield, Deborah. Los Angeles Times 8 June 1983: g1.
  20. Review: 'Spacehunter – Adventures in the Forbidden Zone'. Variety (1983). Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  21. Maslin, Janet. "'SPACEHUNTER,' ADVENTURES IN 3-D", The New York Times, May 21, 1983. Retrieved on 2021-05-01. 
  22. Spacehunter. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on October 28, 2016.
  23. 23.0 23.1 Citation.
  24. O'Hehir, Andrew (October 28, 2015). Ivan Reitman on directing the original 'Ghostbusters' and why fans will be 'very, very happy' with the female-centric reboot.

External links

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