Shitty Movie Sundays: Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe

What did I just see? What did I just SEE?!

Well, I saw two leading men in an action film that had no business trying either to emote, or speak lines of dialogue. One was stiffer than a two-by-four, and the other had spent so long cutting promos in the WWF that any emotion other than anger came out sounding like a first read.

Sprung from the mind of writer, director, and producer Damian Lee, Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe stars Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura as the titular Abraxas. He’s a humanoid alien police officer who is part of an elite force of Finders who keep the peace in the universe. The Finders have been around for a long time, too, with Abraxas claiming to be over 11,000 years old.

Another Finder, Secundus (Sven Ole-Thorsen), is unhappy with the subservient role of being a Finder, despite the long lifespans. He hatches a plan to impregnate a human female here on Earth, who will then give birth to a person called the Culmator. The Culmator has the innate ability to solve the anti-life equation, which Secundus believes will give him god-like powers.

The folks in charge of the universe get wind of the plan, and send Abraxas after Secundus, who has landed outside Thornbury, Ontario, looking for a suitable host for the Culmator. Abraxas captures Secundus, but not before he is able to impregnate Sonia Murray (Marjorie Bransfield), Abraxas, Guardian of the Universe movie posterwho almost immediately gives birth.

Fast forward five years. Secundus breaks out of space prison and makes his way back to Earth, Abraxas in hot pursuit. The streets of Thornbury become the battleground for the two intergalactic titans. One, looking to acquire power to rule the universe, the other, despite orders to terminate the threat at the source, hoping to protect Sonia and her Culminator/MacGuffin son, Tommy (Francis Mitchell).

There’s the overarching plot. There’s nothing wrong with it. It may be convoluted, but Asimov’s Foundation was convoluted, and it still worked. This film, on the other hand, is dogshit. According to the internet, so it must be true, the role of Abraxas was offered to Arnold Schwarzeneggar, but he turned it down to work on Terminator 2. Bullshit. Seriously. This movie came out in 1990. By that time, Arnold was one of the biggest stars Hollywood had ever seen, and this flick looks like it had a budget of a buck and a half. I doubt this screenplay ever got to Arnold to read, much less to a place where he could actively turn down the role, even though his longtime buddy Thorsen is the bad guy.

The film stock is cheap, the effects are awful, and there are basic issues with continuity and storytelling throughout. My personal favorite moments of bad filmmaking are:

  • The sudden appearance of summer leaves on the trees in a movie that otherwise takes place in the winter
  • A traffic cop visible in the background of one scene, directing cars past a shoot in downtown Thornbury that blocked the street
  • A bizarre cameo by Jim Belushi, reprising his role of Rick Latimer from Shitty Movie Sundays favorite The Principal

There are more, but one gets the gist from that small sample.

The major liabilities in this film are Ventura and Thorsen. Thorsen was given lines, which was Damian Lee’s biggest mistake. There’s a reason most of his long career in the business has been spent as muscled window dressing in action and thriller flicks. As for Ventura, he does just fine in roles like Blain in Predator, or Captain Freedom in The Running Man. Those roles were an extension of his career as a professional wrestler. In this film, Lee’s screenplay makes demands of the Abraxas character that Ventura wasn’t up to. He plays an ages-old space cop and awkward virgin with a very naive sense of justice. His ongoing discovery of how things work in human society and human relations required nuanced acting that was beyond him. The two do combine for some precious voiceover dialogue. I blame that on Lee.

The film’s loss, however, is the shitty movie fan’s gain. This ridiculous pile of sci-fi tropes is quite fun in that regard. In fact, I wish Lee had an extra zero in the budget. Not so it could have gone to better film stock or a more expensive star, perhaps Dolph Lundgren, but so he could have given us more explosions, more gunfights, more lasers, etc. By this point, we here at Shitty Movie Sundays know what makes for a great viewing experience, and it involves a combination of excess and a lack of self-awareness. Abraxas falls just short of the mark. It takes over the #273 spot in the Watchability Index from The Blackout. It’s shitty, but not uniquely so.

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