Metalstorm: The Destruction Of Jared Syn
Released by: Scream Factory
Released on: September 13, 2016
Directed by: Charles Band
Cast: Jeffrey Byron, Mike Preston, Tim Thomerson, Kelly Preston, Richard Moll, David Smith, Marty Zagon, Larry Pennell, Mickey Fox, William Jones, Winston Jones
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A space ranger named Dogen (Jeffrey Byron) is riding along in his all-terrain vehicle when he’s attacked by a flying machine. He shoots it down, but while searching the dead pilot’s body, he finds a mysterious red crystal. Meanwhile, a prospector and his daughter, Dhyana (Kelly Preston), are unearthing valuable minerals in a mine when they are attacked by Baal (David Smith), son and primary henchman of a local warlord, Jared Syn (Mike Preston). Dogen decides to go after Syn and convinces Dhyana to tag along for the ride. They learn that the crystal stores the spirits of the people it kills and that the only way to guard oneself against it is with a magic mask located in the lost city of the Cyclopians, a race of one-eyed warriors headed by Hurok (Richard Moll).
The couple are attacked by Baal and his men, and Dhyana is kidnapped and magically whisked away to the lair of Jared Syn. Dogen teams up with an ex-soldier-turned-mercenary, Rhodes (Tim Thomerson), to locate the mask of the Cyclopians, rescue Dhyana, and defeat Syn, Baal, and their evil cohorts. But first they must deal with a host of issues, combatants, and weird monsters, from glowing magical beings to snake-like creatures that live under the shifting desert sands.
Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared Syn was made to cash in on the growing 3D craze of the early 1980s; televisions were resurrecting and airing 1950s 3D movies with reckless abandon—all you had to do was pick up your polarized glasses at your local drugstore—and movie theaters were catching on to the potential. When Universal decided to bow Jaws 3 in the format, the studio realized fairly quickly that the thousands of theaters forced to install the equipment to project these films properly would need other features as well. Thankfully, Charles Band already had Metalstorm in the hopper; a 3D trailer for the science fiction film went out attached to Jaws 3D, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The son of producer/director Albert Band, Charles Band came by his interest in low-budget, personalized filmmaking honestly. In the early 1970s, he formed Charles Band Productions to produce low-budget horror and science fiction films, but by the early 1980s had regrouped his assets under the Empire Pictures banner. Later, he formed both Moonbeam (a family-friendly production house) and Full Moon Entertainment, though his work wasn’t limited to these outfits. Among the many films he either directed, produced, or released were the Puppet Master series, the Subspecies series, Mansion of the Doomed (1975), Tourist Trap (1979), Parasite (1982), Trancers (1985), Meridian (1990), and Prehysteria! (1993), among others. Most of Band’s productions were quick but enjoyable knock-offs of more profitable films, and with Metalstorm, he found a way to combine the excesses of Mad Max with a terrestrial version of Star Wars (complete with a “cantina” sequence), throwing in heavy doses of the Western as well.
Despite the film’s lack of a budget, the crew of Metalstorm managed to craft a fast-moving mix of science and sorcery so reflective of the period, with aesthetically pleasing makeup and goofy monsters. The performances, while not exactly Oscar caliber, were better than average for this type of feature, and the effects sequences were superior to other films made on similar or sometimes higher budgets. Baal is particularly effective; actor David Smith had only one arm, so he was equipped with a metal, prosthetic arm that extended outward with a metal grip and which could shoot acid, all the better for many of the film’s best 3D moments. The pacing never misses a beat, and there are no dull moments, even when the fairly clichéd dialogue kicks into high gear.
Shout’s Scream Factory imprint has brought Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared Syn to Blu-ray in both 2D and 3D versions, each housed on its own BD50 disc, the 2D with an AVC encode, the 3D with an MVC encode, and in the film’s original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Both versions are in 1080p high definition. The 3D version begins with a message noting that the elements were less than pristine, which accounts for occasional dark spots throughout. Overall, the elements look quite good, with strong and naturalistic colors, as well as very good 3D effects, some of which go back into the screen, others of which appear to come out of the screen. Consider, for example, Baal’s metal arm first extending out toward the viewer and then spewing green acid. It’s a startling effect, repeated on more than one occasion and with good reason. The 3D in no way, shape, or form results in lessened detail; much of the film was shot in a rock quarry, and the rocks, dirt, debris, shrubs, and grass stand out in perfect relief. At one point, one of the futuristic vehicles comes barreling over a hill; growing up the side of the hill is a field of plants, each row of which occupies its own space within the frame. It’s a striking moment, one that makes the 3D worth sitting through. The downside is that the dark splotches sometimes hinder that detail (though not often), and when too many objects occupy the fore-part of the screen, the viewers’ eyes tend to cross a bit. This unpleasant reaction is not typical throughout the entirety of the program, but it does pop up at times, suggesting some sort of issue with the 3D transfer. There’s also a slight jerking or pausing effect during a couple of the chase sequences, something that doesn’t occur in the 2D version. Regardless, it’s a mostly gorgeous presentation, one well supported by the format, despite a slightly grainer palette than that of the 2D. Speaking of the 2D version, it’s quite gorgeous as well, and without those dark spots that sometimes inhibit the 3D, the clarity and detail really pop. In fact, both presentations allow the viewer to catch very different things in the frame, so if you’re someone who loves the film (or is only mildly interested in it), watching both versions will be of great benefit. There are no compression issues, thanks to the extended spread of the BD50 discs used, and grain is natural but not omnipresent in either version (stronger in the latter than in the former). The result is a beautifully rich, filmic experience that is sure to enhance one’s appreciation of this silly but ultimately entertaining and fast-moving film.
As is so often the standard with Scream releases, the film’s soundtrack can be enjoyed in either English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 or English DTS-Master Audio 2.0. We here at R!S!P! noticed no problems with either track on either disc. Naturally, the 5.1 track offers a more dynamic range, with greater placement of sound between the speakers. Richard Band’s terrific score sounds very nice in both, though the 2.0 track sounds a little more natural and will be the track of choice for purists wanting to recreate the experiences of a 1983 theater presentation. For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, there are optional English subtitles, which not only display the dialogue but also describe ambient sounds and music effects.
Scream has compiled some wonderful extras for the release, all of which are housed on the disc containing the 2D version. These include a faded and beat-up theatrical trailer (1:23), which really plays up the film’s Star Wars-like look, and a radio spot (0:30). There’s also a still and promotional gallery, which features images associated with the film’s release, such as posters, lobby cards, stills, behind the scenes imagery, treatment pages, script pages, storyboards, and so much more. The featurette, which contains no dialogue but is accompanied by Band’s score, runs 10:26.
None of those extras compare to “High Noon at the End of the Universe—The Making of Metalstorm,” a 42-minute documentary from producer/director Daniel Griffith’s Ballyhoo production company. Participants include former Fangoria editor Michael Gingold, producer/director Charles Band, writer/director Alan J. Adler, makeup artist Allan A. Apone, actor Jeffrey Byron, makeup artist Kenny Myers, actor Tim Thomerson, actor Richard Moll, and composer Richard Band. The documentary doesn’t just tell the story of the making of the film, it also features some great anecdotes (who knew Richard Moll had a full head of hair or that Kelly Preston wasn’t related to Mike Preston?). The program covers the scripting stage, the casting stage, the production stage, the special effects makeup and futuristic vehicles and so much more. It’s typical Griffith, so fully exploring every aspect of the film that you’ll swear it was feature length!
The Final Word:
Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared Syn might have been a knock-off of two much bigger pictures, but it has a charm all its own. Scream Factory’s two-disc special edition of the film, which features both 2D and 3D versions, is the ultimate edition. It’s doubtful a better one will come along anytime soon. The transfer on the 2D version is great, while the one on the 3D version is good within certain limitations. The nearly hour-long documentary is another win for Ballyhoo. All in all, it’s an afternoon’s worth of lighthearted entertainment.
Christopher Workman is a freelance writer, film critic, and co-author (with Troy Howarth) of the Tome of Terror horror film review series. Horror Films of the 1930s is currently available, with Horror Films of the Silent Era: Book One (1895-1915) and Book Two (1916-1929) due out later this year.
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