While colouring comic pages yesterday, I watched the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episode featuring a movie called The Final Sacrifice on YouTube. For something besides music to listen to while drawing, I'm finding MST3k to be ideal, as one often does not need to be looking at the screen at all to appreciate what's happening, and it's not as though I need to respect any artist's specifications for format and atmosphere when it comes to MST3k--I just have the video playing in a small window while I work with Paint Shop Pro in another.
The Final Sacrifice, a Canadian film from 1990, is a little unusual for MST3k fare. It appears to be an attempt at moulding a Spelbergian adventure on a budget that may not have exceeded a thousand dollars. What struck me is that there appears to have been a great deal of pride in its spectacularly mundane characters and setting. It almost seems as though its writer/director, Tjardus Greidanus, wanted to show how one of the Steven Spielberg/George Lucas style movies that proliferated in the 80s could be done right in your own back yard--all you need is attitude.
The film's hero is a prepubescent fifteen year-old named Troy.
His father was an archaeologist or something who was researching an ancient Canadian empire that predated the Mayans when he was killed by a mysterious cult of pale, beefy men in black tank tops and ski masks (the movie's stand-in for stormtroopers).
It isn't long before Troy's researches--captured in early scenes of long, unbroken shots of Troy reading and grimacing slightly--provoke the attentions of the mysterious cult. Here's the cult's resident Darth Vader leading troops into Troy's home in a shot feebly imitating Vader's appearance at the Rebel Base in Empire Strikes Back;
Soon Troy is pursued across the Canadian wilderness, a land rendered dull and nebulous by the film's casual cinematography. Troy joins forces with the film's Han Solo, one Zap Rowsdower, when Troy hitches a ride on Rowsdower's Millennium Falcon, a truck.
Rowsdower's my favourite part of the movie. Clearly meant to be the rough and dashing hero with a dark past for the adoring boy, Rowsdower's a discreetly podgy gentleman dressed in denim over sensible layers. He sports a fluffy mullet and manly moustache.
It's hard to find decent screenshots as the movie's filled with dialogue scenes with ill-considered blocking, actors' faces turned from the camera, and action scenes devoid of energy, comprised of derivative compositions and overlong static shots of nothing (when the camera inexplicably settled on a bush during a chase scene at one point, Servo adopted the voice of the bush and said, "Hi, I'm just a bush. You'll probably want to pan away from me.").
And yet the movie has a kind of enthusiasm, as though Greidanus wanted to weave magic for us, as though he wanted to fill us with wonder that such an extraordinary adventure could take place on such a banal stage with such plain players. After The Final Sacrifice, I see Greidanus became a career "making of" director for other people's movies. Somehow I don't think that's quite what he wanted for himself. I'm reminded of all the cute girls at Comic-Con dressed as their favourite anime characters, and the thousands of comic book artists and writers who probably won't go anywhere. The odds are against us, and yet we dream. I guess there's always Mystery Science Theatre 3000 . . .