|Copyright 1991 Altar Productions and Empire Pictures.
| Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 5 August 2001.
- Steve Armstrong - Dashing young man that always wanted a shot at the title. Learns from his mistakes, at the rate he makes them the boy is going to be Einstein in a year or two.
- Shorty - Colorful little guy with four arms (a common arrangement for Nebulites). It does not help his card playing any, but he could make a fortune as a typist.
- Quinn - The last honest promoter in the universe and Steve's only hope on both the professional and romantic fronts, the latter is never explored.
- Rogor - The Tin Man's evil brother! He has tentacles in every dirty deal on the station and manages the very best fighters, including the current champion. I think the skin coloring was meant to define his evil nature since a big fright wig just looks silly.
- Jade - New wave singer that has ridden Rogor's promotional machine to the top (take this sentence any way you want, she sure did). Starts falling in love with the rookie fighter, but ruins the magic by poisoning him.
- Skull - Schemer with an overclocked processor on his brain and a plan to hack the arena computer. Melts down spectacularly when things go wrong.
- Weezil - Rogor's violent and excitable assistant whose mother committed a heinous spelling error on the birth certificate. One thing about weasels: they don't always land on their feet.
- Horn - One ugly customer! Cyborg and current holder of the arena title. Obviously he has had the sense knocked out of him countless times and never quite found all of it.
|Rocky faced some monsters, but all of his opponents were human. Well, except for Drago. We all know that Russians are another species that Satan secretly cloned from a sample of concentrated evil. If mankind ever makes the leap to becoming a spacefaring race they may very well come into contact with other cultures. Whatever the reproductive arrangement of an alien species, you can be sure Bubba and pals will identify one sex as the males and hook them on professional sports. How would humanity fare against physically superior beings in a competition such as boxing?
According to this film we have done poorly, even though a bit of technological wizardry cancels any innate advantage gained by evolution. In fifty years of fighting in the Arena, a huge space station that transmits bouts across the universe, there has not been a single human champion. The elaborate handicap system gauges a fighter's abilities and somehow levels the playing field so that contestants can only rely on skill. What the system does is never explained, though one fighter is illuminated by a red beam and the other a blue beam. Does it matter when opponents grapple and the streams cross (and we all know that is bad)? Nope, still works like a charm. Obviously the prism effect is just to reassure the audience.
Steve Armstrong arrived on the station full of hopes and dreams at proving himself. The only thing he proved is how bad of a short order cook he is; the lad works at a snack bar with Shorty. Quinn's best fighter, a fishy looking character named Vang, tries to bully the Nebulite and gets his dorsal fins handed to him by Steve. The pair is sacked by the eatery's automated management system, forcing the blonde bomber to accept a dubious offer of hospitality from his grateful partner. Inside the station's unused maintenance spaces is a whole society of vagrants! Why the authorities do not forcibly expel them to conserve air, water, and power is a mystery.
The new home is agreeable and provides a welcome respite from the cyber rat race up above. Besides, some of the great old human champions are among the huddled masses. They are on hand as spectators when some goons start roughing up Armstrong (somebody was a little upset about him injuring Vang). Should have sent that package of whoopass with no return address though, because he kicks the goons' butts and immediately gets a job offer from Quinn.
Believe it or not, he turns her down. Disgusted with the whole mess, the young man wants a one-way ticket back to Earth. Shorty tries to help by visiting an illegal speakeasy, but luck is a lady who likes her men proportioned according to Gray's Anatomy. A police raid provides the opportunity to filch some cash from the safe, so the Nebulite does and buys Steve passage on the next ship. Oops! Weezil saw who took the money and soon both are in the audience of a very displeased man by the name of Rogor. Either the money is repaid or something ugly will happen to Shorty.
Thinking up new colorful euphemisms is going to be a headache for organized crime in the future. Who is going to worry about "sleeping with the fishes" in outer space? "Cement shoes" are not all that imposing in zero gravity either. The future, where Vinnie and us shall be spending the rest of our lives, is really looking bleak.
Quinn can hardly believe it when the promising rookie accepts her offer. The advance payment saves Shorty's neck (he only has one of those) and puts the first real human contender into the ring in fifty years. Rogor is amused at the prospect of Steve fighting in the Arena, in fact going against the crime boss' own gladiators. He probably had the same thoughts as me. Fighting a two ton toad beast with only a mouthpiece for safety gear is going to get this kid killed, handicap system or not.
Our heroic competitor is not rent limb from limb, nor crushed, by the many monstrous opponents he faces. He fully subscribes to the old adage, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." Having watched him in a few fights, I think, "That which does not kill us hurts a whole heck of a lot." would work too. It is easy to like Steve's character though. Tall and fit, he is always smiling and radiates a boyish excitement that reminds me of Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon.
Time and rungs on the ladder to success pass quickly, meaning that finally Rogor must relent and let Armstrong take a crack at Horn for the title. Despite routinely cheating by giving the cyborg injections (drug testing might work, if you can figure out where that brute's urine comes out), he takes out a fail-safe insurance policy by instructing Jade to seduce and poison the contender. He falls for it completely and sows many a row with the nubile entertainer. Egad! I just realized that if she is not completely human, there might well be multiple rows to sow. I stand appalled and a little bit intrigued.
Crisis looms the day of the big fight as Quinn's golden boy slips in and out of consciousness. Physicians catering to professional sports figures are always very competent and the sawbones on hand injects him with an antidote, assuring all gathered that he will be able to fight, just not at full ability. Due to this, Weezil's backup plan of sabotaging the handicapping system by using Skull is attributed to lingering effects of the poison. Talk about a rough day! Your head is already pounding, then somebody switches the beam on full and aims it at you. And your armored opponent is swinging punches, augmented by hydraulics, at your vitals!
Shorty notices Weezil playing around inside the control booth in the nick of time and short circuits the system (everybody forgets the importance of physical security). The resulting level playing field should have left the human with a disadvantage. No such luck for the bad guys, Steve takes Horn apart with little delay. Now maybe the Champion can figure out if a platonic relationship with Quinn is really what he wants.
All things considered, the movie comes off a lot better than you would expect. Situations are strange and new, but not enough to be completely absurd and the characters are darn near perfect. Giving Mick four arms had me laughing out loud, plus seeing them put to use (rather than just hanging lifeless) by having another actor crouch behind Shorty was simply effective. Kudos to the director and cast for hitting all the right buttons on this one.
|Things I Learned From This Movie:|| |
- You always need two more hands than nature equipped you with.
- Robots care little for human rights.
- Hologram killed the video star.
- If your chosen profession is boxing then having your Thalamus on the outside of your skull is a disadvantage.
- Plexiglas can be used to accent your garden.
- Metallic satin bed coverings cause hangovers.
- Being head butted by someone who is part bull sucks.
- 16 mins - Hey, they have an interociter!
- 25 mins - Steve must have gone to the "Hulk Hogan School of Getting Your Butt Whipped Before Powering Up."
- 28 mins - Swordfish? Hehehe!
- 35 mins - Do chameleons have to pay child support?
- 40 mins - You know, Shorty could do the old "kissing couple" sight gag and make it looks four shades of obscene.
- 47 mins - Take it to him!
- 50 mins - I want a masseuse with four hands, but female and without bushy eyebrows... ...maybe a little taller too.
- 55 mins - You have been hit in the head way too many times dude.
- 69 mins - Steve has become rather conceited, hasn't he?
- 89 mins - Cut me Mick!
- Shorty: "I've only got four hands!"
- Steve: "I might want a ticket off this barge, but I don't have to earn it in their crooked game!"
Quinn: "That's not the way I run my fights Mr. Armstrong."
| ||Audio clips in wav format||SOUNDS||Starving actors speak out|| |
||Steve: "I had this dream that one day I could come up here and fight in the Arena. There's just no room for real fighters up here anymore, at least not for humans."
||Rogor: "You're full of surprises, aren't you?" |
Steve: "What are you talking about Rogor?"
Rogor: "You didn't tell me you were a fighter."
Steve: "I didn't know I had to tell you I was a fighter."
||Horn: "Don't think for a minute that you can get into the Arena with me. I am Horn! I am Champion!" |
Shorty: "Soon to be ex-champion."
||Announcer: "Steve Armstrong represents the hopes, the dreams, the desires of every earthling."
| ||Click for a larger image||IMAGES||Scenes from the movie|| |
| ||Watch a scene||VIDEO||MPEG video files|| |
|Horn might have the "Eye of the Cyborg," but the real champion is Steve. He is mopping the floor with his metal opponent. |
The future of seating design leaves bad guys at a disadvantage (no loose steel chairs).
| ||Leave a comment||EXTRAS||Buy the movie|| |
Reply #1. Posted on April 23, 2003, 09:32:25 AM by John White
I actually loved this movie when I was little. I was weird.
Reply #2. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Thunder Warrior
Don't forget to look at the crow. Most of them are cardboard cut outs, some don't even have real heads, I think I saw a coat hanger for a head at one point. BRING ON THE B
Reply #3. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:10:12 PM by PA Torwell
I just want to mention that Quinn was played by Claudia Christian (Susan Ivanova from "Babylon 5") before several other people beat me to it.
Reply #4. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by popman
Yearr ! thanks for the information Torwell. I couldn't find where I ever saw this face.
Anyway, Arena is a very good b-movie for winter sundays afternoon.
Reply #5. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by David Fullam
Arena was one of the last things that Empire pictures made and was planned as one of their bigger budgeted (well for Empire anyway) projects. It sat on the shelf forever after Empire folded. Who can ever forget the card board cutouts that made up the audience in several scenes, or the visible wire that lifts up the hero at the end as he is lifted by Horn? It's too bad that they didn't have a bigger budget to realize their ideas. Arena may not be the greatest, but it is entertaining all said.
Reply #6. Posted on August 18, 2002, 10:33:21 PM by Josh
When I was in 10th grade I absolutely loved this movie. Looking back on it I realize what a geek I was, but I still love this movie.
Reply #7. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by zach
I went to high school (Mendocino) with the lead actor, Paul Satterfield. He's pretty damn obscure, although he does star in a sequence from Creepshow 2 ('the raft')...
Reply #8. Posted on November 25, 2006, 04:09:49 PM by Bobby882
I'd like to point out the huge misconception that is painted around the character in this movie, Horn. First of all, Horn is made out to be some disgusting monster, while many of the characters in this movie are monsters and many are just as disgusting if not more so. In the movie, Horn was beaten at a disadvantage and most unfairly and deserves much more credit than he receives. I hope I've caused you to take a second look at this movie.
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