When Cannon Films introduced the world to Jean-Claude Van Damme as a mainstream leading man with Bloodsport on its opening day, February 26, 1988, they simultaneously tried to make a marquee name out of a very different kind of celebrity with a smaller release competing for screen space that exact same day. Supermodel Kathy Ireland, one of the most iconic women to ever appear in Sports Illustrated, made a bid for star status with her debut film, Alien from L.A., a tongue-in-cheek sci-fi film about a wallflower who ends up having perilous adventures deep inside the Earth. Though partially shot in the titular city, the bulk of the film was lensed by director Albert Pyun (who would score his biggest hit the following year with the Van Damme vehicle Cyborg for Cannon) around Johannesburg, South Africa, a frequent locale for Cannon fixtures like producer Avi Lerner and director Alan Birkinshaw that would eventually land the studio in public relations hot water due to increasing protests over apartheid. The film barely made a blip at the box office, but it was far more successful on home video and later as an oft-quoted episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Incredibly, Pyun was brought in shortly after shooting to salvage the remains of an abandoned Cannon project by Rusty Lemorande, Journey to the Center of the Earth (1989), to shoot additional scenes with Ireland in character as Wanda, crafting the film into a nominal sequel of sorts and echoing this film’s Jules Verne-inspired tone.
by Nathaniel Thompson