Monday, October 8, 2012

Nuking It Out: "Radioactive Dreams" (1986)

In 1996, a nuclear war has wiped out everybody on Earth (anyone remember that?). Fourteen years later, there is one unexploded MX missile left, and everybody is looking for the launch keys. Whoever finds them could hold the remaining world population hostage.

In 2010, Phillip (John Stockwell) and Marlowe (Michael Dudikoff) have tunneled out of their bomb shelter, where they have been locked up since the nuclear holocaust. They were thrown in there by Dash Hammer (Don Murray) and Spade Chandler (George Kennedy), who taught them to read using old 1940's and 1950's hard boiled detective novels before locking them in an disappearing. That is the only behavior Phillip and Marlowe know.

They spring into a pretty vacant world and run into pretty Miles (Lisa Blount), who drops the aforementioned launch keys before disappearing. Phillip and Marlowe are attacked by reject post-apocalyptic mutants fresh off the last "Mad Max" film and are rescued by Rusty (Lisa Blount), who takes the boys to a town called Edge City.

The roster of people wanting the launch keys grows, and Phillip uses his amateur magic tricks to keep them hidden. Eventually, the film degenerates into a murky chase picture, as Rusty turns out to want the keys as well. Miles makes a return to claim her property, and the climactic ending leaves much to be desired.

Albert Pyun, the writer and director, has been unfairly trapped in B-movie action flick quagmire for years now. This early film is bad, but his keen eye has dressed up what you would normally consider drivel. I wish he had stuck with the original motif (ripped off in "Blast from the Past"). I wanted the heroic duo to be hard edged private detectives, instead they drop this angle almost as soon as they leave the shelter. There is a running gag where the guys keep referring to themselves as "dicks," the 1940's slang term for detectives, that gets real old real quick. While Stockwell is okay, Dudikoff seems to be doing a Jerry Lewis impression, providing none of the menace here that we would eventually have to pull off in all those stupid "American Ninja" movies.

All the other gangs are also stranded in different eras. There are two cussing children from the disco era, lots of punk rockers, and some hippies mixed in with juvenile delinquents from the 1950's...were all these people locked in a bomb shelter and learned to read within their respective decade? The film eventually turns so dark, I missed the death of a major character at the end. Spoiler- those of you wanting a neat and tidy wrap up of who Phillip and Marlowe are in relation to Dash and Spade are in for a huge letdown- End Spoiler.

Featured on the soundtrack are dozens of songs from the mid-80's that give all pop music a bad name. They are heavy on drum machine and synth, with unintentionally hysterical lyrics.

Nuclear annihilation has never been so boring, and the attempts at a "Buckaroo Banzai"-type coolness never takes. In the end, "Radioactive Dreams" does not glow. (* *) out of five stars.