Saturday, September 21, 2013

It's been a "Megaforce" kind of week ...

The title song to the 1981 Hal Needham military action comedy, sung by "707" (think of them as "SURVIVOR Light") has the lyrics of ...

There's something moving
In the air tonight
Something moving
At the speed of light

And it's calling
Calling, calling to you

I got a feeling
Rushing through my head
We might never get
This chance again

And it's calling, calling
Call to you, yeah

If the time should call
Should they'll find
What we believe
Then you can believe
I'm coming on

Like a mega force
Mega force
Like a mega force

"Megaforce" was calling to me.  For an entire week, "Megaforce" was calling to me.

It started out plainly enough ... I've got 707's song "Megaforce" on my iPod so I listened to that and started thinking how those first few guitar chords pretty much summed up the whole decade of the 1980's.  The '80's started out so strong ... so different, so full of hope, than the previous bleak, bland 1970's and here was a song that in just a few string licks pretty much summed the entire decade up.  As I thought about that, I realized that it had been a few years (quite a few) since I'd last seen "Megaforce."  I have it on DVD in my collection but it's a transfer from the VHS so "DVD Quality" is nowhere to be found.  Still it's viewable and in DVD format which is good since my last VHS player bit the dust many moons ago and I've never replaced it because the amount of VHS tapes I still own is less than the number of girlfriends I've had so ...

So I thought I might watch "Megaforce" again, maybe on a Friday night, grab a pizza and sit down with an old friend from long ago for about an hour and a half of mindless fun.  Simple enough.  Then I took my youngest daughter to the city park playground to play.  I like to look around the playground for stuff that people leave behind, just I guess some kind of sociologist / archaeologist fetish ... to try to figure out, from the stuff left, what kind of people had come before me.  Sometimes kids leave toys, broken toys, garbage, trash, broken toy jewelry, a condom wrapper or two (who fucks in a playground?) and other stuff.  This time was no different but I did find something pertaining to my plans ... there, in the dirt near a tube slide I found ... this!

It's one of the latest incarnations of the Hot Wheels "Megaforce Mega-Destroyer" fast attack vehicle as seen in the movie.  Armed with a gatling gun, an automatic cannon, triple rocket rack and a laser gun which raises up on a rear pedestal and can rotate 360 degrees, the "Mega Destroyer" had both a stealth skin and could run silently on electrics.  Hot Wheels planned a big tie-in with the movie, going to offer several die-cast toy cars but when the movie bombed at the box office the Hot Wheels stuff (and probably a lot of other cool toys) never appeared.  A few "Megaforce" Hot Wheels did hit the market but they were rare, low production and are sought after collectors items today.

Unfortunately the "Megafighter" and "Tac-Com" are mislabeled.  The dirtbike is the "Megafighter" and the six wheeled ATV is the "Tac-Com".  Mattel put some money into this line in anticipation of the movie being a big hit and when it wasn't, well, the MegaDestroyer and Tac-Com vehicles were kept and simply given new names and reissued every few years in different color schemes.  The Hot Wheels "MegaDestroyer" I found in the city park is missing the laser gun, the rockets on top and is painted in a bright yellow paint scheme which includes the words "Nitro" and "Payback" on each side.

Here is a pic of how the original "Megaforce" Hot Wheels were packaged.

"Megaforce" ... Long a guilty little pleasure (right up there with Roger Corman's "Battle Beyond The Stars" and other '70's cheese), "Megaforce" is a movie that is often bad mouthed and ridiculed mainly by pseudo-overly intelligent movie savants that "just don't get it."  "Megaforce" hit the screens in 1981, was the work of Hal Needham (who brought us "Smokey and the Bandit") and starred a host of then promising faces; Barry Bostwick, Persis Khambatta (now with hair, last seen bald in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" as Ilia), Michael Beck, Edward Mulhare (who would later play "Devin" in "Knightrider") and Henry Silva.

So, I had the week started with sponging to 707 - "Megaforce" ...

Then I found the latest incarnation of the Hot Wheels "MegaDestroyer" at the city park playground ...

Then two nights later a friend on FaceBook posted a link not only to the 707 "Megaforce" song video but also to a remake by none other than KISS guitar alumni Ace Frehley ...  Frehley's Comet - "Calling to You" 

And that's when I just said "to hell with it".  "Megaforce" was calling to me in a big way and who was I to deny it?  Friday night I got pizza, sat down and watched "Megaforce".  My older daughter opted out of watching it (she knows my taste in movies) but my youngest daughter sat spell-bound watching the explosions, lasers and vehicles doing their stunts.  She loved the motorcycles and the dune buggies and when they started emitting different colored smoke screens she really liked that but when Ace Hunter's motorcycle lit the jet engine and started flying, well, that was just the cat's meow for her ...

... and sharing that with her I remember why I really like this movie.  It's just plain fun.  It's campy, it's cheesy, it's unbelievable, it's funny, it has some neat hardware (and pre-CGI whored out special effects) and above all this movie is just a C-130 full of fun.  If you can't have fun watching "Megaforce" then chances are your childhood wasn't a great one and you're probably not a very fun person to be around today.

So many people are quick to ridicule this movie and add it to their top ten list of bad movies that they miss what this movie really was; an allegory of the Cold War.  Maybe "Megaforce" didn't start out like that or maybe it wasn't intended to be an allegory of the Cold War but that is what "Megaforce" is.  

 Let's look at this concept closer ...

"Megaforce" starts out with two fictional countries, the peaceful Republic of Sardun and their aggressive neighbor Gamibia. Unable to defend themselves from the Gamibia incursion, Sardun seeks help from SCUFF (Supreme Command United Free Forces) for help.  Now Sardun and Gamibia are simply arbitrary, they exist as convenient stereotypes of any of a number of second and even third world nations out there torn between aligning their selves with either the USSR or the USA during the Cold War.  SCUFF is representative of NATO and "Megaforce" is a united nations ghost army, consisting of the best of the best, independent thinking soldiers from every free country in the world come together under one command to fight for freedom and fight against tyranny and injustice (aka "communism").  In other words, SCUFF is NATO and "Megaforce" is a multi-national crewed world police force capable of military strikes anywhere on the globe, they are the world's, the free world's preeminent police force and in that regard they represent America.

It's a bit of a stretch but that's what makes it fun.

Looking at the late 1970's and early 1980's, it was America's (and Europe's and NATO's) worst fear that the Russians would roll their armor into the Fulda Gap and that would be the end of Europe.  In that regard, America knew that we couldn't match Russia tank for tank so we made our tanks better.  We made our weapons better ... the M1 Abrams tank, the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the AH-64 Apache, the A-10 Warthog ... America took the technology high road and used technological superiority to counter numerical superiority.

It worked.

Of course had the Fulda Gap ever been overrun with Russians the obvious answer from NATO would have simply been to drop a few neutron bombs on the Fulda Gap and turn it into a giant parking lot full of glowing Soviet tanks but that scenario also never happened, thank God.

"Megaforce" wasn't just a allegory, it was a prediction that superior technology could counter vastly superior numbers and that better training and individual thinking could overcome group thinking and political indoctrination.  

On one hand, you have Megaforce ... the best soldiers and technology that the free nations of the world can put together, composed of an elite raider force operating machinegun and rocket armed dirt bikes, machinegun, cannon, rocket and laser armed dune buggies and all coordinated by a six wheeled cannon and electronic warfare capable ATV known as "Tac-Com."  Supplemented by electrics, stealth paint and smoke screens, the vehicles of Megaforce are more than a match, one one one, for the outdated, lumbering armor of Gurerra and his forces.  Even the lowly armed dirt bike can take out a main battle tank all by itself if it can get close enough.  The Cold War allegory here, again, is a well trained, technologically superior military force can and will overcome a lesser trained, numerically superior force operating with a lesser technology base.  This was, in essence, the position of the East and the West during the Cold War.  Russia had more, America had better.

"Megaforce" visited the long standing conflict between the idealist and the realist ... Ace Hunter (Bostwick) remains an idealist while Duke Gurerra (Silva) has become and remains a realist.  One of the more striking moments of dialog in the film occur between Hunter and Gurerra when Gurerra says that Hunter shouldn't worry about his men, that the other members of Megaforce are expendable, they are just numbers to powerful commanders like Duke and Ace.  Gurerra says that in the 1970's that commanders like himself and Hunter could be idealists but in the 1980s that being an idealist was too expensive. 

Another blatant tip off to the Cold War allegory.

Later in the movie, Hunter sizes up the situation knowing that he and his men are heading into a trap and he uses one of the best cliches of the Cold War ... tried and proven true time and time again ... "Sometimes what works for you can work against you ..." and we see the Fulda Gap scenario reversed.

I won't spoil any more of this movie.  If you've seen it, you either hate it or love it and if you hate it you might hate it for the wrong reasons.  If you love it, I might just have given you another reason to do so, especially if you're like me and you grew up in the '80's during the Cold War.   

If you go into "Megaforce" expecting "Last of the Mohicans" or "Masterpiece Theater" then you're headed for disappointment.  Stark, bitter disappointment.  Otherwise, you're in for a treat.

If you haven't seen "Megaforce" (and why haven't you?!) then do so.  It's hard to find but worth the effort.  Pick a Friday night, order a pizza and sit down to an hour and a half of pure cheesy camp, of guys wearing spandex, riding rocket and machinegun armed dirt bikes, jumping over tanks and dropping handgrenades down open hatches ... if you like laser armed dune buggies and of cliches and humor that survive even over three decades later then you're in for a treat.

"Megaforce" is one of the forgotten classics, a cult film, a two liter of your favorite soft drink and pizza movie that is not only retarded but it's the good kind of retarded like so many lovable '80's films were.

Enjoy and remember ... the Good Guys always win.  Even in the '80's.

For more info, check out this fan site ... Megaforce HQ