ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON 9/12/09
I’ve never quite understood the concept behind the ripoff or the knockoff. Perhaps it’s simply because I’m a moderately creative person myself, and hence it’s fairly easy for me to come up with my own ideas, or perhaps it’s because I’ve never made a dime on any of my creative pursuits, and hence I’m just kind of ignorant of the financial realities involved, but I just don’t get it. I mean, I understand hommages, sequels, re-imaginings, narrative debts of honor, I even understand the rationale behind remakes in some rare circumstances, and I can even understand knockoffs in things like toys (“Ok, so we’ll make them look just like GI Joes, but with slightly different names, and we’ll call them ‘Government Issue Jose’ and the parents will mistakenly buy them for their kids because what parent gives a crap what their kids are watching, anyway? Then we can ride on Hasboro’s coattails”), but in film it’s mostly beyond me. In this instance, I can not for the life of me understand why anyone would be attempting to rip off “The Terminator” in 1991, seven years after the original movie came out. What? Like no one would remember that movie?
The Terminator (1984) was itself a fairly blatant ripoff of an Outer Limits episode from 1964, “Demon with a Glass Hand,” written by Harlan Ellison, and starring Robert Culp: Time Traveler from the future with the fate of the world (Literally) in his hands travels back in time to save the human race, while pursued by nasty killy things from the future, and is befriended/assisted by a 20th century gal from LA. The difference is that James Cameron (A writer/producer/director of unquestionable talent that I none-the-less have very mixed feelings about) decided to rip off Harlan’s story and shift the focus from the Time Traveler to the Gal, turning the story in to an odd riff on the Virgin Mary story: What if the Messiah’s mom was a totally kickass babe, who saved the future with her own two gun-totin’ hands? (And Connor is unquestionably intended as a Messiah figure. It’s no coincidence that his initials are “J.C.”) So while he unquestionably ripped off Ellison’s story as a framework, and there would have been no “Terminator” without “Demon,” Cameron at least shifted the focus and went somewhere different with the story, so at least he’s got that going for him.
“Abraxis,” though, wow. Just a mess. Of course I don’t call this feature “Saturday Morning B-Movie Crapfest” because I’m exposing you kids to Fellini here, now do I?
PLAY BY PLAY
We start out with the future ex-Governor of Minnesota, Jessie “The Body” Ventura, strapped to a chair, grimacing in mock pain, and randomly bleeding while a computer does something to make his skin ‘strong as steel’ and asks him questions. We find out that he’s a 9000 year old alien cop working for some nebulously-defined universe-spanning police agency. There’s a lot of exposition in voiceover form (Delivered in a mock-Noir hardboiled detective style), and then he’s sent by “Warp Wormhole” to earth. There’s some patter from his bosses, two guys in a badly lit control room, one with Robert Smith hair, the other with Early 90s hair (This was a transitional period in the styling industry, after all) discuss how Araxes (Ventura) was once partnered with Secundus (Sven-Ole Thorsen), until Secundus went rogue a century or three back. We’re told that Secundus wants to knock up some earth female so he can produce something called a “Comator,” for nebulous purposes.
On earth, Abraxis and Secundus have a very low-budget fight in the snow-filled woods in upstate New York, until a Pontiac pulls up with some teens in it, and they start to make out. Well, the guy tries to make out, the girl - Sonia (Marjorie Bransfield) - will have none of it. Because, see, she’s the Virgin Mary character, get it? Secundus drags the guy out through the window of the car, then takes Sonia and impregnates her simply by laying his glowing hand on her belly. He then lets her go, and she stumbles through the snow while Abraxis gets the drop on Secundus. Captured, Secundus laughs and says that he’s already won - Abraxis can’t defeat him now without killing the girl, and his own sense of honor won’t let him do that. The two bosses with the disparate-yet-equally-bad hairstyles beam Secundus off to an alien hoosegow somewhere, and Araxes’ “Answer Box” - a