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Prisoners of the Lost Universe
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by Jack Sommersby

"A Pretty Fun Guilty Pleasure"
3 stars

Released overseas but relegated to cable by its financing company Showtime.

The phenomenal actress Kay Lenz is something of a frustrating case in that she's both beautifully voluptuous and extremely talented yet continually chooses to appear in material that is far beneath her. She made a sensational impression in the title role in the 1973 Clint Eastwood-directed Breezy but thereafter chose to partake in mostly lackluster TV fare, with her last cinematic effort as James Woods's sexy, duplicitous girlfriend in the prison drama Fast-Walking where she effortlessly stole the show from that stalwart Woods, which, as anyone knows, is not an easy thing to do. Now a year later there's the low-budget cable-television fantasy-action picture Prisoners of the Lost Universe where, as Los Angeles television reporter Carrie Madison, Lenz once again sublimates her true abilities in a mere sketch of a role, and you can't help but wonder if she's perhaps self-destructive for this character is mostly comprised of reaction shots that constantly belittle her. Luckily, the movie is enjoyable and not a total waste of time - it's incorrigibly good-natured and unapologetically goofy. Carrie is assigned to do a story on a controversial scientist at his mountaintop homestead; he's perfected an experimental device that can transport an object to another part of the universe, a dimension we can't see. Carrie volunteers her makeup case for a test, and it does in fact disappear and then reappears seconds later. Due to a series of minor earthquakes going on the scientist gets knocked off-balance and into the time-traveling laser and is gone, and subsequently so is Carrie and the martial-arts-expert electrician Dan Roebuck (the solid Richard Hatch of Battlestar Galactica) who shows up at the abode due to his wrecked truck - they find themselves in a barren medieval land complete with horses and a castle and dungeon, and populated by mutant creatures and ruled by the dastardly king Kleel (the always-welcome B-movie veteran John Saxon) who thinks he has a genuine sorcerer in the scientist who manages to stay alive with his crude inventions and making of explosives. Soon Carrie is captured and Dan must fight off adversaries every step of the way to rescue her, with his only real ally the conniving midget Malachi (an amusing Peter O'Farrell) who's always trying to steal Dan's gold watch. Prisoners of the Lost Universe is a fairly sloppy production (it was filmed in South Africa, and it's blatantly obvious from the get-go it was shot outside the U.S. being at the beginning we see both Carrie and Dan driving vehicles with the steering wheels on the right driver's-side door!), and the lackluster writing and special effects leave quite a lot to be desired. Miraculously, though, the movie emerges as semi-worthwhile. The pacing is better than it should be, the happenstances bestowed upon our hero are inventive, and the handsome Hatch and forceful Saxon are solid as far as these things go - Saxon, in particular, makes his stale dialogue all his own with unbridled brio, with Hatch displaying genuine charisma and adeptness. For my money I think it's preferable to Don Coscarelli's cult classic Beastmaster which I found stodgy and overlong; Prisoners of the Lost Universe is looser and more engaging, and it actually knows it's trash and squeezes every bit of entertainment value out of itself it can hold. The movie is the very definition of disarming irreverence.

To see Lenz's true abilities, check out John Mellencamp's extraordinary "Falling from Grace."

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=25380&reviewer=327
originally posted: 10/25/20 08:23:28
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USA
  15-Aug-1983 (NR)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  N/A


Directed by
  Terry Marcel

Written by
  Terry Marcel
  Harry Robertson

Cast
  Richard Hatch
  Kay Lenz
  John Saxon



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