I fondly remember watching this movie as a kid with my dad. The good old days when you had to go down to the video store and pick your Friday nights entertainment. Funnily enough I rediscovered this gem from my childhood on Netflix. It's not the same as having the physical videotape cover in your hand and being all excited as a youngster. As an adult I was hesitant at revisiting this movie but I'm glad I did. 'Arena' is best described as being a mashup of both 'Rocky' and 'Star Wars'. Set in the distant future where intergalactic species battle one another in an Arena designed to make the fights fair. It's all a bit silly but still hugely entertaining if you don't expect too much from this 80's cheesefest. Because cheesy this movie certainly is!
Starring Paul Satterfield as Steve Armstrong, the first human contender in fifty years. He takes on all kinds of weird looking creatures in an attempt to become champion of the universe. Managed by Quinn played by Claudia Christian, Armstrong soon works his way up the ranks and heads for a showdown with the menacing champ called Horn played by Michael Deak. He was menacing when I was thirteen, now he just seems like a bit of a tit. This film is ludicrous and I cringed several times throughout my revisit. The supporting cast also consists of Hamilton Camp as Shorty. A four armed alien who is Steve's sidekick. Armin Shimerman and Marc Alaimo play the villains dead set on stopping Armstrong from becoming champ. The cast is completed by the utterly gorgeous Shari Stattuck as Jade, the villainous love interest with a heart. I remember after watching this film as a teenage boy I had a major crush on her. That said the acting by everyone is terrible but not as bad as Shari Shattuck's singing and the nauseating musical score that sounds constantly high pitched and out of tune. Direction is also feeble as is editing and dialogue.
This film is in truth poorly made. But who cares! What isn't poorly made Is some of the makeup and prosthetic effects. It is obvious that this movie had a measly budget but some of the creature effects are pretty decent. Set design is ok for the time of production even if the special effects would look dated for a film produced in the 70's never mind the late 80's when this movie was actually made.
On Netflix this film was presented in 4:3 aspect ratio but did look like it may have had a minor restoration. Image quality wasn't as bad as to be expected baring in mind the last time I watched this was on VHS thirty years ago. Sound was also ok. There was plenty of stereo effect from the crowd during the Arena scenes. Also Shari's out of tune singing came through loud and clear. I forgive you Shari because I think I'm in love again!
All jokes aside 'Arena' is a film that has a place in my heart. Call it Nostalgia. The young audience of today would laugh at how bad this film is. But for those of us who grew up watching it. It's a nice trip back down memory lane. With all the pointless remakes and reboots Hollywood is churning out. Why not give this movie a new lease of life?
Review by stevenrotherforth from the Internet Movie Database.