Writer / Composer / Cinematographer / Casting Agent / Sound Effects Editor / Special Effects: Mark Hicks
Starring: Mark Hicks, John McCuin, Jennifer Hamill
“Qava! I want you to start rounding up all of the Laffrodites off the Boulevards en masse! They will become infamous in the Maximus.” (Polpox, Actium Maximus)
Many amateur filmmakers dream of making the next underground smash, the next low-budget gem that does a Night Of The Living Dead or Clerks and emerges from obscurity to take over the world.
Mark Hicks, who is seemingly some sort of real life Garth Merenghi figure, clearly had this goal in mind when he wrote, directed and acted in Actium Maximus. Unfortunately, during this process he failed to notice his complete lack of writing, directing and acting ability.
I’m going to attempt to explain the plot here, but bear with me. I may have been writing professionally for over a decade now, but even I have my limits.
Actium Maximus is set in the Actium colony of the planet Actium – incidentally, if this lazy ‘just call everything Actium’ naming structure doesn’t already ring alarm bells it should.
The people of Actium are ruled by the evil dictator Grand Automaton Polpox, a large talking stone column thing with a blue light. Polpox is supported by a giant cone-shaped spiky rock, which acts as his right-hand man even though Polpox doesn’t have hands and it isn’t technically a man.
Every year, Polpox hosts a large gladiatorial event called the Actium Maximus, where giant dinosaur things fight to the death. I say fight, they just sort of bump into each other a lot while rock music plays in the background.
Polpox uses these events to keep his oppressed colonists happy while he secretly plans to commit mass genocide by wiping out the Laffrodites, a squid-like alien race that lives on Actium.
You see, the Laffrodites are rebels and keep trying to kill Polpox, so… actually, never mind, it literally isn’t important because it’s a plot thread that eventually just gets completely ignored and ends up unresolved.
Instead, the real star of the story is Jacinlun Axezun, a space hunter played by – you guessed it – Mark Hicks.
He’s been tasked by Polpox with travelling the galaxy in search of more dinosaur thingies to take part in the next Actium Maximus event, so he heads to a mysterious alien planet and badly greenscreens himself onto it.
Instead he finds something more shocking: the ruins of a massive ancient spaceship containing the information from every computer in the galaxy…
Actually, never mind, because this ends up unresolved too. Instead, he decides to fight a big monster that looks suspiciously like a penis. Then Polpox is attacked by a giant moth for no reason. And that’s the end of the movie.
Look. I know I’ve been away for a while. Due to a wrist injury I recevied, this is the first review on That Was A Bit Mental for nearly three months.
But I promise I haven’t lost my ability to concisely summarise the plot of a movie. This one just makes no fucking sense, and doesn’t even seem like it tries to half the time.
There are lengthy scenes where Polpox and his fucking obelisk sidekick talk shite for ages, and you’re literally just watching two inanimate objects spouting out sci-fi gobbeldygook that Mark Hicks has pulled out of his arse without even having the courtesy to run under the tap first.
Even worse, the ridiculous voice effect Hicks gives these characters is so distorted and filtered that you can never make out what’s being said. Hicks realises this and gives us subtitles… but only at completely random moments. Here’s an example: please watch it and tell me I’m not losing my fucking mind here.
Something else you may have noticed from that clip (though you’d be forgiven if you couldn’t make it out) is that the dinosaur combat footage is also abysmal.
I make no exaggeration when I say these are the worst green screen effects I’ve ever seen, and the dinosaur puppets look like the sort of thing a rebellious 13-year-old would make out of papier mache before his parents realised it was time to knuckle down and sort him out.
There’s no real ‘combat’ to be had either, despite the title promising a war. Instead all we see is loads of footage of the puppets opening and closing their mouths while accompanied by admittedly excellent 80s rock music (which, you’ll be unsurprised to hear, was also composed by Mark Hicks. At least he’s good at something).
The music is actually fitting, because the horrible special effects, terrible acting and eye-achingly saturated colours throughout the whole thing looks like a no-budget music video shot by an early ‘80s prog rock band who’ve borrowed the drummer’s sister’s camcorder for the weekend.
At the time of writing, That Was A Bit Mental is nearing its 300th review. Many of the films on this site are so bad they’re good. Actium Maximus feels like that for all of about 90 seconds, then the laughter turns into anger.
Anger that somehow Mark Hicks was able to get this dreck scraped onto a DVD and actually make money off it, while my equally entertaining three-hour film of me arranging blades of grass in order of size continues to go unpublished.
A final thought. If you managed to miss the bit in this review’s heading which stated which year this came out, have a look at the screens again and see if you can guess. Mid ‘80s? Early ‘90s at a push?
Scroll back up and check for the answer. Then order some swimming trunks from Amazon and breaststroke through the salty pool of tears you’ve unwittingly created.
Actium Maximus’s low rating earns it a place in the notorious TWABM Hall Of Shame and makes it only the fifth film to earn the site’s lowest ‘half a star’ score. Click here to see what other pishfests made the grade (or, indeed, failed to).
HOW CAN I SEE IT?
If you really want to suffer, Troma Entertainment – the otherwise fantastic B-movie studio who had a brief mental fart and released Actium Maximus – have put the entire movie up on their YouTube channel so you can legally watch it free of charge. Um, hooray.
SHOW ME THE FULL MOVIE, THEN: