Kenneth Johnson's miniseries V was a boffo May Sweeps success for NBC back in '83. His story of alien invaders was a smartly veiled allegory for the unspeakable tyranny of the Nazi regime and the corrupting influence of power. But when the network clamoured for a longer sequel on a tighter budget and timetable, well, Johnson opted out and, sadly, it shows. V: The Final Battle (1984, 267 minutes) revels in constantly ripping off the lizards' phony human faces and showing them toss live critters down their gullets, while dramatically upping the gunplay, explosions and, in turn, the body count. Sure there's some lip service paid to the not-so-niceness of fascism, the moral dilemma of abortion and especially relevant today, the sobering horrors of biological warfare. But, boy howdy, that ooey-gooey birthin' scene is a CLASSICK!!!
The movie: When last we saw Julie and Donovan (Faye Grant and Marc Singer) they'd led their rag-tag resisters through a successful Visitor scale tanning, thus providing some measure of hope for an end to E.T. tyranny. Well, not so fast. There's nearly five more hours to fill. This produces three cliffhanger'd together episodes of our plucky human heros cooking up and executing schemes to rain on the reptilian parade. First up, they decide to expose the alien conspiracy by yanking off Supreme Commander John's doughy mug mid-press conference (Richard Herd). Later, they attack a pumping station that's sucking the Earth's oceans aboard the Visitor mothership. Then, as the title implies, there's the "final" battle involving red talcum powder that turns any actor it touches into Bill Shatner taking a gut punch. If any of this works, it's due to CineSchlocker fave Michael Ironside who stomps into the resistance group with the subtlety of a drunken Clydesdale and takes to telling everyone what clueless yahoos they are. And he's RIGHT most of the time! As Ham Tyler, his checkered, mercenary past and gaggle of TNT-happy goons provide Julie's neuvo-guerillas some much needed education in carnage creation. There's also the inevitable return of Robert Englund as Willie, everyone's favorite cuddly value-sized iguana, who still can't quite grasp the English language. Lizard Queen Diana (Jane Badler) now spends much of her time honing her bitchery by making humans wear unflattering white tights whilst subjecting them to her riotously absurd Brainwash-O-Tron. But the biggest jaw dropper of the miniseries is Robin (Blair Tefkin emoting all over the place) who offered herself up in the original as a one-woman welcoming party and got herself knocked up with a space-alien baby. When Ms. Horny Toad sprouts ghastly scales around her neck, it's a pretty goldang strong indication the delivery ain't gonna be anywhere NEAR a Hallmark moment! CineSchlockers not totally creeped out by the "Star Child" finale will likely harbor a morbid desire to endure the 19-episode TV series that documents both the further hijinks of the supreme iguaness and her feisty resisters AND the comic effects of a dwindling budget.
Notables: No breasts. 213 corpses. Gratuitous slow-mo nightmare sequence. Refer madness. Boot licking. Mouse munching. Alien porno. Firesuit stunts. Rock 'n' roll laser show. Puking. Bottle to the brainpan. Implied lesbianism. Laser-blasted Bible. Gratuitous Dick Miller appearance.
Quotables: Nurse Maggie plays Mata Hari, "If you're talking about a date, I'm interested. If you're referring to something more horizontal, I'm not -- at least not yet." Donovan puffs up his chest and bellows, "You're just as free as the LEASH you're on! You tug it too hard and they'll hang you by it!" Julie snarls, "Congratulations on selling out your people to a bunch of NIGHT CRAWLERS!!!" But Ham really gets all the best lines: On a dead Visitor, "Now that's a waste of good luggage!" On Father Doyle's failed scheme, "You know, you start believing this 'Peace on Earth,' good will stuff, there's no telling how screwed up you're gonna get." And on the invaders in general, "I may bring down the neighborhood, but they'll EAT it!!!" and "The Visitors came to suck us dry, and when they're finished with this planet, they're going to take it like an empty beer can and toss it over their shoulder!"
Time codes: Marijuana plants under sun lamps at resistance HQ (A 4:01). Behold this space-age GOLF CART! (A 17:20). First instance of rodent gobbling (A 23:20). These sound effects should be familiar to Trekkies (A 35:15). Kindly Willie rejoins the saga (A 52:30). Supreme Commander "John" loses face (A 1:18:15). Tough-talkin' Ham shakes things up (B 2:08). Cheeseball monster puppetry terrorizes our heroine (B 30:16). Then she goes ga-ga for a shirtless Beastmaster (B 56:26). This super-icky birth ranks right up there with The Fly II and It's Alive (B 1:29:40). Nasty little Daniel (David Packer) finally gets his due (C 19:32). Alpha males Donovan and Ham mix it up in a thrilling two-man brawl (C 32:20). "The Final Battle" actually begins (C 54:45). Diana makes like Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back (C 1:21:18).
Audio/Video: There's been some hand wringing over this being presented in widescreen (1.85:1) given its made-for-TV pedigree. But the framing of this no-thrills transfer seems completely natural throughout, regardless of whether there was ever intent to screen the series theatrically, perhaps overseas. The strictly utilitarian audio will likely disappoint all but uber-fans who bristled at Johnson's "enhanced" 2.0 track for the original.
Final thought: A handful of memorable moments and performances are ultimately betrayed by an exceedingly cringe-inducing finale. But fight through it and enjoy. Recommended.
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.