Once again, I’ve done the scut work to save you folks from wasted time, wasted brain cells(not that I can spare any), and eye damage. ARENA doesn’t sink to the level of one of those “films so bad they’re good.” It’s just bad.
I first noticed it from the title and wondered if it was based on the Fredric Brown story. Let’s see, same title, same basic plot. Man battling alien beings. No acknowledgment to Brown anywhere in the credits and it’s only the barest nod to the story anyway. Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with the Brown story. Just a coincidence with the title and the basic plot.
ARENA does steal directly from other films, ripping off my favorite line from CADDYSHACK when a man comments on a fish/alien, “The last time I saw a mouth like that it had a hook in it!” Other lines were familiar but I couldn’t place them and it’s been a few weeks since I saw this stinker. The cast had a number of folks from SF franchises. Mark Alaimo and Armin Shimerman(Deep Space Nine) are a hood and his flunky. Claudia Christian(Babylon 5) is a fight promoter. Hamilton Camp(everything from The Tick to video games to voicing cartoons) is Shorty, a four armed bartender/manager, who does a credible Burgess Meredith from the Rocky movies. Comedian Jack Carter spreads his schtick throughout the film as the Arena fight announcer.
Our hero is Paul Satterfield. He plays Steve Armstrong, blond-haired, blue eyed all- Americ-er, all-Earth boy who wants to be a fighter. He’d come to Arena to the intergalactic fighting competition. Training for a long time, he doesn’t even get a shot, deemed not worthy, and his confidence falters. It had been over fifty years since a human had won the competition. He takes a job as a bouncer in a cheap bar(where the scenes reek of the Mos Eisley cantina). Breaking up a fight in the bar one night, defeating a drunk alien causing problems, he gets himself fired after considerable damage. Shorty is also fired after coming to Steve’s aid.
Broke, they’re approached by Quinn(Christian) who offers Steve a fight. The drunk alien he’d taken out in the bar had been one of her best fighters. Refusing at first, he feels compelled when Shorty uses less than honest means in a casino and cheats the owner, Rogor(Alaimo), who wants his money back. Unfortunately, Shorty has already spent it to buy Steve a one-way ticket back to Earth. So he makes a deal with Quinn, pays off rogor(with interest), and learns Rogor has a fighter, Horn, in the competition as well. And he doesn’t like to lose. And he will cheat. That’s what he has Weezil(Shimerman) for.
The fights have a computer that fires a continuous beam over the fighters, the idea being the computer gauges their strengths and evens the fight out. it’s the skills that are supposed to win.
Of course that’s not how things go and our hero has overwhelming odds to win, save all their lives, and put the crooked system out of business. And get home of course.
Check this trailer out:
The only thing that got me to check this one out was Claudia Christian. Always thought she was a hot lady(from my geek days watching Babylon 5) and that was long before I caught a couple of those very soft core porn films from her early days.
For a selection of much better overlooked movies, and other things, go to Todd Mason\'s SWEET FREEDOM.