Beer Goggles: Arena (1989)

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Director: Peter Manoogian

Starring: Paul Satterfield, Hamilton Camp, Claudia Christian

Review Author: Tony

It’s been almost four months since our last Beer Goggles and I would like to pretend it was a sober four months which accounts for the lack of a recent Beer Goggles but in reality, I’ve largely ignored my duty to watch unknown crap movies. Thankfully, over the Halloween period while searching through 80’s classics I stumbled across plenty of low budget sleazy thrashy movies. The shoddier the thumbnail the better. Despite finding a goldmine of thrash, a champion arose above the rest, Arena.

Arena is what happens when half the cast of Deep Space 9 and Babylon 5 are available for a Rocky knockoff set in Space. Except while Rocky is an Oscar-winning film that spanned an entire beloved franchise Arena wouldn’t even pass for a Star Trek episode. At least it doesn’t try to capitalize on the Star Wars rip-off fad of the 80’s where most science fiction films were a little too happy to borrow elements from the films.

Somewhere in Space on a large space station is a huge space arena. Competitors from all over the universe come to fight one another in hopes of becoming champion. The majority of warriors are of various alien species, Steve Armstrong (Paul Satterfield) is a rarity. Steve is the first human to compete in the arena in 50 years. Steve is reluctant at first just trying to fight to get off the station but soon finds himself fighting for the poorer inhabitants of the station. Steve has a shot at the intergalactic championship, but a shady gangster and his sniveling henchman are eager to make a buck of him before setting him up to fail.

Arena is the first film that had me hit the pause button as I knew I wasn’t inebriated enough to truly appreciate its content (I was bored and wanted to find something else). After a decent pick and mix from the drinks cabinet, I was sauteed to the point where a Rocky film in space definitely deserved a second chance and jumped in head first. Suddenly it made sense to me. Why wouldn’t we get the hardest cunts in the Galaxy to knock the shit out of each other for universal glory? The sport itself seemed honorable with both fighters being handicapped to each others strength level and the rules being to try to knock your opponent out or push them out of the ring, kind of like Britain’s Hardest sans Phil Mitchell.

Our protagonist Steve has the advantage of looking like Ivan Drago’s laid-back surfer brother but blessed with the fists to batter any creature in the universe. The chap is so hard he becomes the first human in 50 years to be even able to compete in the Arena. But while he at first fights for himself and to pay off the shady silver painted/Alien gangster, Silver Face, he soon wins the hearts of the downtrodden who happen to be humans (Nice to see a space adventure where we aren’t the assholes). With help of his really fit trainer Quinn (who doesn’t become the romantic interest but is actually written as a character), Steve punches his way through enough rubber looking Aliens to get a shot at the champ.

While I nearly turned it off I’m glad I gave Arena a second chance. It’s poorly acted, silly and the sets are particularly cheap looking but it has charm in spades. Despite the cheap looking sets I was really impressed with the costumes with some great variety between the aliens both big and small. The more I drank the more I enjoyed this lighthearted romp. In the end, some drinks were had, some Aliens were slapped, and my integrity as a critic sank even lower.

Rating: 3 / 5 Phil Mitchel’s

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