In 1982, you could not read a comic book without seeing the ad for Megaforce. It’s the first hype I can truly remember, save for the similar ad strategy for 1977’s Orca. As a ten-year-old chubby geek, I needed to know all about Ace Hunter and his crew of super soldiers.
I wondered, “As a small child living in a small town, could I truly be ready to join Megaforce?” The answer was no. I was too small for the bikes, too rotund for the jumpsuits. But it was a dream. A dream I have refused to give up on.
The Republic of Sardun is peaceful. Gamibia, a neighboring country, is not. So they send General Byrne-White (Edward Mulhare from TV’s Knight Rider and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir) and Major Zara (Persis Khambatta, Star Trek: The Motion Picture) to ask Megaforce for help. The conflict will bring their leader, Commander Ace Hunter (Barry Bostwick from The Rocky Horror Picture Show), into conflict with his former friend and now rival, Duke Guerrera (Henry Silva, Killer Kane from 1979’s Buck Rodgers, Chained Heat, Fists of Steel, Amazon Women on the Moon).
That’s alright, though. Megaforce has incredible motorcycles, dune buggies and a big RV. Things will all work out.
Zara decides to try out as Hunter falls in love with her. She passes, but he cannot allow her to join them in combat — she’d throw off the rest of the guys. That’s right — an empowered woman success against the odds but can’t make it to the team because these guys wear spandex and headbands and need to just be guys, alright? It was 1982. The glass ceiling for Megaforce was ankle level.
Megaforce attacks Gamibia and blows up the base, then have some trouble getting out of the country. Seems that all these tanks are in the way. No worries — the boys all make multicolored smoke come out of their vehicles, which self-destruct and they leave on foot, except for Hunter, who flies his into the cargo plane. Even then, he gives Guerrera the thumbs up, which the bad guy returns. Again, this was 1982. America was back, baby, and if we wanted to blow up all the vehicles instead of saving them, no matter how great and unique they were, we were going to do it. Who the fuck are you to deny Ace Hunter? Does he come down on the corner and knock the dicks out of your mouth? Don’t presume to tell this bandana-clad gentleman how to lead Megaforce.
Barry Bostwick was all in on this movie. And why not — he had a three picture deal in case things picked up. His interviews at the time are so wonderful, like when he said that the Pentagon tried to stop the movie because of how close Megaforce was to covert CIA strike teams (one only wonders if they all had flags on their bikes and crazy collared dress uniforms, too). Or when he opined that the world needed a real-life Megaforce.
Megaforce came to us from Hal Needham, a former stuntman who went on to direct Smokey and the Bandit, Hooper, The Cannonball Run, Stroker Ace and 80’s BMX megafilm (seriously, it ruled the video stores of my teenage years) Rad. He even had his own toy — the Hal Needham Western Movie Stunt Set! You don’t even have to guess if I had it as a kid.
Barry Bostwick and Hal Needham weren’t alone, though. There were other members of the team, like Dallas (Michael Beck from The Warriors and Xanadu), who has a Confederate flag on his uniform, because we didn’t understand racism in 1982. Other team members have one name and are one note, like Ivan, Suki, Sixkiller, Anton and Lopez. All of their clothes were designed by Mattel, who saw big toy potential in the film, but only ended up making a playset and some Hot Wheels. My brother and I had them, even if he would not allow anyone else to play with his Megafighter dune buggy. There was even an Atari game!
That said — the film flopped hard. It’s been forgotten by nearly everyone, save the ridiculous folks like me that kiss their thumb and give people the “Megaforce salute.”
In fact, two of those people were Matt Stone and Trey Parker. There is no way to watch their Team America: World Police without seeing echoes of Ace Hunter’s hard work.
And the government itself got really interested. After the military refused to aid the production, they asked Needham for the plans for the Megaforce vehicles. He happily handed them over and claimed that Desert Storm’s hardware came directly from this film.
I cannot stress how completely dumb this film is. No one is ever in danger. No one ever appears to be a real human being. Therefore, it is wonderful and I also recommend that you seek it out. Deeds not words!
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