DEF-CON 4 (with the dash in the middle) is the title of a spectacularly bad movie, made in Canada in 1983 and released in 1985. No, I don't mean 'spectacularly bad' as in 'fun' I just mean...yeah, just terrible. Bad bad bad bad. Badder than that. Awful.

Well, maybe not that bad - but Lord, it wasn't good.

Maury Chaykin, who may be familiar to you as a character actor, was in this movie. So was Kate Lynch - and they were so proud of this that they proudly put her prior role ("MEATBALLS!") on the poster next to her name. This should be a clue.

In fact, the poster itself should be a clue. It's a relatively famous movie poster, because it is the epitome of the adage that "the crappier the video rental, the sweeter the poster art." It's true; the poster is excellent. Never mind that it has almost nothing to do with the plot of the movie. It's awesome. Seriously, have a look. The movie made more than five times its $1.1 million (Canadian? In the 1980s that made a serious difference) budget, mostly in video stores and probably entirely on the completely mendacious promise of this poster/box art. Interestingly, this picture looks an awful lot like this one. Title Brighter Suns, it was painted by the famous SF artist Angus McKie for an art book by Syd Mead called Flight of the Icarus and also submitted for inclusion in the awesome Terran Trade Authority picture book Spacewreck: Ghost Ships and Derelicts of Space.

The plot? Oy gevalt. Well, if I must. It's one of the few Canadian entrants into the post-apocalyptic movie genre. Three astronauts orbiting Earth in a nuclear-missile armed spacecraft, Keeping Watch On The Soviets, end up watching in horror as nuclear war breaks out below (a nickel if you saw that one coming). As they're arguing over whether to contribute their own weapons to the holocaust, they detect a missile closing on their ship, and instead use their weapons to intercept and destroy it. A few months later, as they're still arguing over whether to go home or not (kudos to whoever designed their life support system) their ship decides that it's going home without asking them - the computer has been 'overridden' from the surface.

They crash-land somewhere on the east coast of Canada, and before they can even recover from the impact, one of the two men is pulled forcibly from the craft and vanishes, his bloody arm falling back into the hole! Oh no! Yep, that's right, cannibal zombies! WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT? Anyway, the other guy goes to find help (God knows where he's gonna look) and finds, instead...Maury Chaykin, armed and wearing a kilt, forted up in a house like Charlton Heston in The Omega Man but not nearly as bad-ass. He comes back with Chaykin in Chaykin's Damnation Alley-reject truck to rescue the woman astronaut, and they're all captured by a teenage tyrant and his zombie army, because...

No. No, I can't, it's just too silly. No, worse: it's just stupid. If you care, find out for yourself. The 1980s, my friends - they were a period of innocence and wonder and some godawful movies. All hail the VHS rental market.

Fun piece of trivia - this movie was made by a pair of Canadian brothers (the Donovans, Paul and Michael) who started a film company (Salter Street Films) to cleverly take advantage of some funky period tax law, attracting investors to a 'tax shelter'. No word on whether the schlock they produced did its job for its investors. However, they went on to continue to make bad movies and even television, and I think they were eventually responsible for the TV series Lexx - also about a big spaceship, but one shaped entirely like a penis.

If you actually enjoy this movie, I encourage you to seek out and watch an American entrant into the gonzo post-apocalyptic genre, this one with a 1930s sensibility - Radioactive Dreams. No, it's not any good either, but you said you liked this one, right?

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