Battle for the Lost Planet / Mutant War Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome
Battle for the Lost Planet
Written and directed by Brett Piper
1986, 101 minutes, Not Rated
Released on February 26th, 2019
Matt Mitler as Harry Trent
Denise Coward as Dana
Joe Gentissi as Mad Dog Kelly
Bill MacGlaughlin as Prof. Isaac Hoffenstein
Helene Michele Martin as Toni
Harry Trent is a master thief attempting to steal military secrets from a powerful corporation only to be chased by security to a remote hangar occupied by a space shuttle. Trapped inside, he opts to steal the shuttle, but damages it during take-off and is unable to navigate in space. The shuttle defaults to an autopilot mode that will return him to Earth in five years, so he has little choice but to make the best of his isolation. Coincidentally, as his journey begins, Trent is witness to an alien invasion as an armada of spacecraft close in and attack the planet destroying most of civilization within a matter of minutes. Helpless to do anything but drift, Trent sets out on a long journey that will test his fortitude and his sanity.
When he finally returns home, Trent discovers that pig-faced aliens have taken over the planet and the countryside is populated by hideous mutant creatures. The aliens brought along some giant monsters to assist in the invasion and these creatures now roam the land terrorizing people. What is left of mankind are small travelling packs of nomadic tribes living in the wilderness or within the ruined remains of domestic structures. Dana, a beautiful warrior, rescues Trent from a mutant attack and helps him navigate this strange new world. Trent and Dana head out on a quest to fight the aliens but are attacked by one of the giant monsters while in a compromising position. Help arrives in the form of a rogue motorcycle gang lead by a man named Mad Dog Kelly who rescues our heroes and introduces them to his way of life. They strike an uneasy alliance and come up with a plan to fight the aliens. It turns out that the secrets Trent stole before his big escape hold the key to destroying the invaders and restore order to the planet.
Battle for the Lost Planet (aka Galaxy or Galaxy Destroyer) is a low-budget love letter to big science fiction and the work of legendary special effects artist Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts, 1963). Writer/ director Brett Piper (A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell) has created an old-fashioned serial full of adventure and spectacle. His reluctant hero Harry Trent is a likeable guy pushed into something no less important than saving the world! Piper delivers where he needs to and while the majority of the material is teen friendly; there is some language and brief nudity to keep adults engaged too. His stop-motion effects work is impressive and charming and he proves to be quite resourceful as an artist. Everything looks cheap because it is, but it all fits perfectly into this world he has created.
In his opening act, Piper tells the story of an Everyman character escaping danger and ending up stranded alone in space for five years with only a talking computer for companionship. Piper spends a decent amount of time building a bond between the audience and our protagonist and the script benefits tremendously from this material. Back on Earth, Trent moves from one action-packed scenario to the next, fighting mutants, aliens and monsters at a steady pace. He makes time for the lady Dana and the two hit it off nicely. She matches him for survival skills and is likely smarter than him and is good in a fight too. Matt Mitler (Deadtime Stories) and Denise Coward (Sudden Death) star as Trent and Dana, and the two work well off each other with Mitler quick to make a joke whenever possible.
Piper tells an epic story and proves very creative and resourceful when it comes to putting dollars on screen. The miniature models are crude and the fight scenes are clumsy but he keeps the tale moving at a rapid pace that allows viewers to skip past any shortcomings and enjoy the next big set-piece. There is not much in the way of actual human vs. alien activity, but there are a few nice run-ins with giant stop-motion beasts. Battle for the Lost Planet is not really a forgotten gem, but rather a look at the work of a director on the rise. He knows how to tell a story and doesn’t allow finances to limit his vision. Harry Trent is a fun character ripe for adventure and would return two years later in Mutant War, a sequel that is just as ambitious.
Written and directed by Brett Piper
1988, 82 minutes, Rated R
Matt Mitler as Harry Trent
Cameron Mitchell as Reinhart Rex
Kristine Waterman as Spider
Deborah Quale as Beth
Steve Bulyga as Punk Leader
Robin Lovett as Alien Gunrunner
Harry Trent returns for an all-new adventure, this time involving an opportunistic sociopath kidnapping young women for breeding purposes. One day while out exploring the countryside, Harry crosses paths with a young teenage girl named Spider who asks for his help. Her sisters have been taken against their will into the mutant village and are most certainly doomed if they are not rescued soon. Harry reluctantly agrees to get involved and before he knows it is up to his neck in mutants. His first effort fails to produce her family, but together they manage to rescue a woman named Beth. They flee to the hillside near the woods where they are attacked by a gang of punks. The mutants follow and capture Spider. Harry stages a second attempt on the village where he comes face to face with white slaver Reinhart Rex. This is a dangerous man who thinks himself king, building an army of mutants to take over the world. Trent must face off against huge odds in order to save the day, but this time it won’t be so easy.
Writer/ director Brett Piper (They Bite) found success with Battle for the Lost Planet and was encouraged to make a sequel. With Mutant War he expands the Harry Trent universe with a tale that explores the question of what happens after the hero lives happily ever after. Having successfully rid the world of alien invaders, Trent is not content to stick around and bask in the glory. He is a restless hero in need of new challenges. Piper doesn’t have much interest in diving too deeply into Trent’s psyche, rather he simply moves him from one scenario to the next. There are more giant monsters this time and more mutants too, but the heart is missing from this sequel.
Matt Mitler (The Mutilator) is back as Harry Trent, the man who saved the world - sort of. Harry and his friends discovered a neutron bomb that when detonated wiped out an entire race of alien invaders. What nobody expected however, was the wave of radiation that poisoned portions of the land, giving rise to countless mutations. Small tribes of humans still live in the wilds outside of town but they are largely without weapons or the sheer numbers of bodies needed to overthrow the mutants. These creatures have a new leader in the form of Reinhart Rex, played by acclaimed actor Cameron Mitchell (From a Whisper to a Scream) in one of his lesser roles. Mitchell plays the man as a leering villain teetering on quiet madness. He doesn’t have a lot to do, but he does it gracefully.
Mutant War has enough stop-motion action to make for a fine way to spend eighty minutes. Fans of the first picture anxiously awaiting the next chapter may leave a little disappointed, but it is still nice to see Harry Trent back in action; he just deserves better. Director Piper has been very vocal about interference on the project, having the film taken away from him and re-cut, but what remains is not a total mess. It’s just not as fun as the original. These titles have long been out of print and are finally being reissued as a double feature. Piper fans will be happy to add them to their collection and newcomers will find a lot to like in the first picture as well.
Video and Audio:
Both movies arrive in their original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with the picture restored in 2K from the original camera negatives. The image is crystal clear and filled with rich detail, something that doesn’t always benefit the special effects sequences. With that caveat, the picture looks terrific with bright colors and deep black levels.
Each film comes equipped with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track that preserves the original stereo recordings. The audio is in surprisingly good shape and despite some source limitations remains clean and free from distortion.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Brett Piper sits down for the new interview Battle for the Lost Film (21 minutes). He is candid in his memories of shooting these two films and details the problems on both starting with actor conflicts on Battle and producer interference on Mutant War. He is not very fond of his work here, as it was too early in his career and he sees only the flaws. Piper’s an interesting guy with a lot of experience in his field and this segment is well worth a look.
Both films include a brief introduction from the director encouraging viewers to have a fun time.
The original trailer for Mutant War has been included.
|Battle for the Lost Planet:
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