"Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone," first of the summerlode of 3-D to-dos, features Peter Strauss as a space knight-errant called to the rescue over a mysterious orb called Terra Eleven. Sounds as exciting as a supernova, but it's a stale, nebulous piece of work in which the stars aren't shining.
Molly Ringwald, a red-ringleted waif, costars as the Judy Garland of post- Armageddon -- Niki the Twister, an orphaned "earther" and only survivor of an earlier rescue team who joins his mission. "Give me some nibbles and take me wheeling," she begs in the spacey vernacular of Terra Eleven.
Strauss, as the loner Wolff, has received a Mayday from an escape pod and hyperspaced to Terra Eleven through an asteroid belt in 3-D (for Dizzying, Dark and Distracting). Three heavenly bodies in aluminum- foil jump suits who were jettisoned from an exploding mother cruiser have crashed there and been captured by a crowd of ragamuffins bristling in costumes made of strings, springs, sprockets and rockets. Three hang- gliders then loft the lovelies to Terra's Forbidden Zone. Nuclear holocaust and subsequent plague have left the Zone teeming with mutants -- one seems to be an enormous gopher in a hairnet.
Gophers or no, Wolff and Niki pursue the women in his Scrambler (an Army-surplus jeep coated with molded plastic) and are joined by an old service buddie (Ernie Hudson) in a combination cement mixer- armored snowplow. The heroes encounter a room full of ripped plastic bags, each containing a doughy, pudgy Bat Person hanging from the ceiling of an abandoned grain silo. Still to come are the Barracuda Women, ululating mermaids who live in a swamp full of plumbing materials and are played by body-builders from Vancouver. "Look girls," says one. "A good breeding man."
Meanwhile, the villainous Overdog, a former earth scientist who became lord of the Zone by hoarding plague serum, toys with the shipwrecked beauties. Apparently, the plague is a type of leprosy in which the victim loses bits of himself at a time. The diseased Overdog (played by the appropriately named Michael Ironside) has replaced what has dropped off with spare parts. The half- machine half-madman is suspended from a hydraulic crane, has retractable grappling hooks for hands and internal organs made up of a vacuum cleaner hose and several small kitchen appliances.
When the heroes make it to the Overdog's cavern and proceed with rescue operations, the Overdog, as it turns out, is not all that formidable, so there's no tension to speak of. And the relationship between Niki and Wolff is as simple-minded as the dialogue: "Us loners got to stick together."
It's not a funny film, not a scary film, not a film that thrills you or chills you. It just makes you dizzy from the 3-D glasses.