Sunday, January 17, 2016

Alien from L.A. (Albert Pyun, 1988)

In order to convince the audience that Kathy Ireland is a colossal dork in Alien from L.A., director Albert Pyun has her wear glasses. Done, and done, right? Wrong. Taking the tried and true method of making a conventionally attractive woman less attractive by putting her in glasses one step further, Albert Pyun has a bespectacled Kathy Ireland crouch on the beach in oversize t-shirt next to a radiant Kristen Trucksess. You see, by doing this right away, Albert Pyun was able squash any doubts we might be having when it came to buying Kathy Ireland as a colossal dork. Of course, Albert Pyun could have just told Kathy Ireland to act like a "colossal dork." But since this was Kathy's film debut, you can understand why he put her in glasses. At the end of the day, it wasn't necessary at all, as Kathy Ireland gives a nuanced and understated performance as Wanda Saknussemm, a Vista Verdes drive-in waitress with low self-esteem and Daddy issues. On top of those things, Wanda also has bad hair, she walks funny, her voice is annoying, her clothes make her look frumpy and she doesn't like to travel. Oh, and just to clarify, this isn't me talking, this is what her surfer boyfriend tells her as he's breaking up with her.

The actual list of things Robbie (Don Michael Paul) thinks is wrong with Kathy Ireland's Wanda Saknussemm goes a little something like this: "You never want to go anywhere... your glasses make you look stupid, your hair is ugly, you dress like a nerd, you walk like a clod and your voice gives me a headache."

While what he says might sound a tad on the way harsh side, it actually serves as the kick in the pants Wanda needs. Of course, there's not much Wanda can do about changing her life at the moment. It's true, there is indeed room to move as a fry cook drive-in waitress, working at Saks Drive-in alongside her Auntie Pearl (Linda Kerridge) isn't moving her anywhere right this minute.

This all changes when Wanda gets a letter from "Africa." Informed that her father, Professor Saknussemm (Richard Haines), an explorer/adventurer, fell into a bottomless pit, the letter contains a plane ticket. Why does her father's colleague/friend/sidekick/gay lover want her to travel all the way to "Africa"? Doesn't he know that she's deathly afraid of flying? That's right, he doesn't.

Nonetheless, recalling what her surfer boyfriend said to her before he dumped her, Wanda musters up all her courage and hops aboard the next flight to "Africa."

Every time they would refer to "Africa," as if it were a country, I would cringe. Thankfully, all references to "Africa" cease the moment Wanda arrives in... "Africa." Judging by the climate and architecture, I'm guessing she's going to Egypt or Tunisia.

Oh, and, by the way, I looked up Zamboanga, the so-called city in Africa where Wanda's father went missing. And the only Zamboanga I could find is in Mindanao, Philippines.

It doesn't matter, because Wanda isn't going to spending that much time on the surface world. What's the "surface world," you ask? Why it's the world that exists on top of a super-secret subterranean mega-city.

Remember the 1980s? Yeah, well, remember how totally awesome they were? Well, get this, the residents of the super-secret subterranean mega-city at the center of this movie act like it's 1980s all the time. (Yeah, because it is the 1980s.) You don't get it, man. These cats take living in the 1980s to a whole 'nother level. (I get what what you're saying, but it's still the 1980s.) What I think I'm trying to say is, the residents of this particular super-secret subterranean mega-city will be living in the 1980s long after the 1980s are over.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Remember when everyone, for some strange reason, started wearing flannel and listening to Creed? Well, that doesn't happen in the super-secret subterranean mega-city. Uh-uh. Instead of cutting the decade off at the knees, they continue to expand on what its progenitors envisioned in 1980. Meaning, we get men in make-up, peacock feather eye-patches, Japan albums, neon clothing and welding goggles... lot's of welding goggles.

Oh, and don't bother looking for any actual welding in this movie. Welding goggles are worn as everyday eye-wear in Alien from L.A., and I couldn't be more pleased.

If you're thinking about wearing welding goggles as everyday eye-wear, never buy them from a boutique. If I see a "Cyber Goth" or an "Industrial Goth" wearing welding goggles that have been obviously purchased at a boutique, I give them the stink-eye. I know, you're thinking to yourself: Then wear do I get my welding goggles from? I got two words for you: Hardware store.

Eventually falling down the same bottomless pit her father did, Wanda finds herself in Atlantis. Yep, it would seem like the pit isn't bottomless after all. Either way, she stumbles upon Guten Edway (William R. Moses), who is in the middle of arguing with some trolls. Seeing that Guten is outnumbered and is about to be killed by the trolls, Wanda decides to lend Guten a hand.

I have to say, this was a pretty impressive display. I mean, just yesterday Wanda was being scolded for not wanting to go anywhere, and now she's throwing rocks at trolls. And not only that, she's throwing rocks at trolls in an underground wasteland near the center of the earth. I think it's safe to say, that Wanda is well on her way to becoming a well-rounded human being.

Tagging along with Guten, who she calls "Gus," Wanda hopes to find her father in Atlantis. Unfortunately, the city is a quasi police state that is ruled by Govco. In other words, people from the "purported surface world" (the state run media deny their existence) are not welcome in Atlantis.

She might not be milfy, and she might not be a scientist, but Shank (Janie du Plessis) is definitely a lady and she's clearly wielding a syringe filled with iridescent liquid. Instead of calling Shank a milfy lady scientist who wields a syringe filled with iridescent liquid, I'd say she's more of a demonic Trad Goth who wields a syringe filled with iridescent liquid.

Roaming the streets of Atlantis looking for surface folk to drug and kidnap, Shank overhears Wanda talking about Malibu Beach, and decides right then and there that she's from the surface and needs to be drugged and kidnapped, and brought to Membino (Deep Roy), the boss of bosses, for 400 shiny ones.

Judging by Shank's Trad Goth wardrobe and Membino's giant red eyelashes, I would say that a lot of effort went into the costumes and make-up seen throughout this film. And it doesn't stop there, the set design (very Blade Runner) and the production design is noteworthy as well. In fact, the "do-a-vator" (a device used to put on make-up) looks like something straight out of Life on the Edge (a.k.a. Meet the Hollowheads).

Okay, if the film has great costumes, make-up, set and production design, why was it featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000? The only reason I'm mentioning this because I recently watched City Limits, another movie that doesn't deserve to be featured on  MST3K, and I'm slightly annoyed that these films are being unfairly dismissed as bad. Trust me, I know bad movies, and these movies are not even close to being bad. Sure, Kathy Ireland isn't the most accomplished actress in the world, but I thought she handled herself rather admirably.

Speaking of handling oneself in an admirable fashion... (You're not done writing about this movie?) Just one more thing. Speaking of handling oneself in an admirable fashion, most of the principle actors play multiple roles. Take Janie du Plessis, for example, who plays the aforementioned Shank, she also plays General Rykov, a Govco stooge (I loved it when she tells a fellow Govco stooge that his pantyhose are on too tight). And remember Linda Kerridge as Aunt Pearl? Well, she shows up later as Roryis, the owner of Roryis' Saloon. There are a couple of other prime examples of multiple role mischief, but I've already said too much. In closing, if you like Radioactive Dreams, Vicious Lips (both directed by Albert Pyun) and The Dark Backward, you'll like Alien from L.A.


  1. It's cool to see alien from L.A. Pop up on here and i also agree with that it's not a bad film. Btw I'm curious to know if you've seen a movie that also came out in 1988 called the fruit machine?

    1. I can't believe this the first I'm hearing about The Fruit Machine. I mean, I'm supposed to be up on these things. Anyway, it looks good.

    2. Lol, I know right. I only discovered the film recently when I was looking threw Robbie Coltrane's IMDb.