In 1988, Mystery Science Theater 3000 debuted on a local TV station in Minneapolis. While it would go through many different iterations and channels over the years, the premise has always been the same: mock bad movies with a loving grin.
Yes, the movies are terrible. Sometimes they are beyond the pale awful. But Mystery Science Theater movies are generally not the type to actively try to be a cult classic. Maybe no one paid attention to the development of the film, maybe budgets were cut half way through, maybe everyone just needed a salary. regardless, MST3K movies can feel like the trash of movie history. No one knows how or why they exist, but to derive joy from them in any way is a gift.
So it’s in the best possible way that Albert Pyun’s 1996 film Omega Doom is a Mystery Science Theater movie. If Pyun’s name is known, you are probably a… MST3K veteran; they hunted him Stranger in LA, in which the protagonist learns that her father has fallen fatally into a bottomless hole.
Things are equally bleak in Omega Doom. There has been a conflict between humans and robots, and the robots have won. But, as the audience learns in a Dylan Thomas-quoting opening monologue delivered by star Rutger Hauer (most famous for Blade Runner), a human soldier was able to get one last shot after an atomic bomb sent the world back to the Middle Ages.
Their last-ditch attack went straight into the programming of robot assassin Omega Doom (Hauer). Its programming was rewritten to not make destroying all of humanity his goal, though it hardly matters at the moment. Humanity is ready. All that remains are the robots and rumors of scattered human encampments. Rutger Hauer discusses robot things in Omega Doom. Largo Entertainment
But despite what other robot apocalypse movies like the terminator you would say, these robots are not part of some beehive. They break into gangs called the Roms and Droids, for reasons the movie doesn’t explain. The Roms are more sophisticated which you can tell from the fact that they wear black, have the same haircut and sporty wraparound sunglasses like low budget Matrix precursors.
Like a wandering robot, Omega Doom wanders through a city of warring Droids and Roms. A Droid, Marko (Jahi Zuri), plays soccer with the head of another robot, now known simply as Head (Norbert Weisser, who played a Norwegian in the original The thing). Omega Doom rescues him and is rewarded with knowledge of a secret stockpile of weapons, a weapon that could influence the conflict between the robot gangs for both sides.
Omega Doom then becomes a Yojimbostyle film, meaning it is a film influenced by Dashiell Hammett’s groundbreaking 1929 crime novel Red Harvest. In Red Harvest, an unnamed detective comes to a crime-ridden city and plays the city’s gangs against each other, causing them to save the city by taking themselves out. Look how doomed this robot is!Largo Entertainment
Hammett’s novel is pure hard-boiled excitement, and Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo is a masterpiece. Omega Doom is neither. The costumes are cheap, the script isn’t as smart as it thinks it is, and everyone has awkward shuffling robot walks. Surrounding all this is Hauer, in his typical casual pose.
Pyum told Gizmodo in 2012 that Hauer is “methodical in the way he works, and he has a natural kind of — it’s not arrogance, but he’s got an attitude, and it travels with him and it’s part of him.” And I wanted to get that out, but it can’t really come out when he’s playing a regular person.” That’s what made him so effective at it. Blade Runner, and he plays the role of stoic stranger in Omega Doom good enough.
But the script is terrible, the sets are terrible, and everyone is just messing around. It’s a lot of fun. Omega Doom passes the biggest test of any film hoping to go from “bad” to “so bad it’s good” – after 83 minutes, the welcome remains. So if you and your friends want to do it yourself MST3K night, start this before they do.
Omega Doom is streaming Amazon Prime.