Alien from L.A.

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Alien from L.A.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlbert Pyun
Written by
  • Judith Berg
    (credited as Debra Ricci)
  • Sandra Berg
    (credited as Regina Davis)
  • Albert Pyun
Produced by
CinematographyTom Fraser
Edited byDaniel Loewenthal
Music by
  • Jim Andron
  • Simon LeGassick
  • Anthony Riparetti
  • James Saad
Distributed byThe Cannon Group
Release date
  • February 26, 1988 (1988-02-26)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States

Alien from L.A. is a 1988 science fiction film directed by Albert Pyun and starring Kathy Ireland as a young woman who visits the underground civilization of Atlantis. The film was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This film is loosely based on Jules Verne's 1864 novel Journey to the Center of the Earth with some minor allusions to The Wizard of Oz.


Wanda Saknussemm is a nerdy social misfit with large glasses and an unusually squeaky voice who lives in Los Angeles and works at a diner. After being dumped by her boyfriend for "not having a sense of adventure", Wanda is informed by a letter that her father, an archaeologist, fell into a bottomless pit and died. She flies to Zamboanga North Africa ("Deepest Africa" says the envelope's return address) and while going through her father's belongings, she finds his notes about Atlantis, apparently an alien ship that crashed millennia ago and sank into the center of the Earth. Wanda comes across a chamber beneath her father's apartment and accidentally sets off a chain of events that ultimately cause her to fall into a deep hole.

An unharmed Wanda wakes up deep within the Earth to find Gus, a miner whom she protects from being slain by two people. Gus agrees to help Wanda find her father, whom she believes is alive and trapped underground. Wanda soon discovers that both she and her father are believed to be spies planning an invasion of Atlantis. People from the surface world are referred to as "aliens" by Atlanteans, who appear virtually identical to surface dwellers, and when Wanda is overheard talking about Malibu Beach by a low-life informant, she soon becomes a hunted woman and must dodge efforts at capture, both from the mysterious "Government House" and from thugs in the pay of the crime lord Mambino.

Wanda's efforts at escape are aided by Charmin', a handsome rogue who (briefly) assists her flight and falls for Wanda. She is ultimately captured by the evil General Rykov, who wants to kill both Wanda and her incarcerated father. Before the Atlantean leader can decide what to do with Wanda and her father, Gus shows up and helps the duo escape while fighting off General Rykov and her soldiers. Wanda and her father board a ship that takes them back to the surface, and the film ends with Wanda on the beach, wearing a bikini and a sarong. She refuses the advances of her ex-boyfriend, and is soon reunited with Charmin', who inexplicably appears on a motorcycle.


  • Kathy Ireland as Wanda Saknussemm
  • William R. Moses as Guten "Gus" Edway
  • Richard Haines as Professor Arnold Saknussemm
  • Don Michael Paul as Robbie
  • Thom Mathews as "Charmin'"
  • Janie Du Plessis as General Rykov / Shank / Claims Officer
  • Simon Poland as Consul Triton Crassus / The Mailman
  • Linda Kerridge as Roryis Freki / Auntie Pearl
  • Kristen Trucksess as Stacy
  • Lochner de Kock as Professor Ovid Galba / Paddy Mahoney
  • Deep Roy as Mambino, The Boss of Bosses


Kathy Ireland plays the film's lead Wanda Saknussemm

During the troubled production of the Rusty Lemorande directed Journey to the Center of the Earth, producers Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan dissatisfied with Lemorande's rough cut approached Albert Pyun to finish the film.[1] Pyun accepted the job saying he would finish the film for free if they allowed him to film Alien from L.A. for under $1 million which was a repurposed version of Pyun's own take on Journey to the Center of the Earth, which they agreed.[1]


Kathy Ireland was chosen by director Albert Pyun after seeing a photo of her, and without doing a screen test.[2] Ireland had little acting experience and said "No one was more surprised than I was", stating that she took acting lessons afterwards.[2] The film was Ireland's debut in a major motion picture.[3] According to director Albert Pyun, Ireland was cast for her tall stature, as he wanted to illustrate a physical difference between people from the surface and people who were closer to the Earth's center.[4] The character's surname of "Saknussemm" is taken from the original Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne.[5]

Ireland says that changes were made to her character between the time when she was cast and when filming began.

"And when I got on the set I found out that they had changed my whole character around which surprised me but I liked her better. When I read for the part she had been a flirty Madonna type. They had changed her to a geeky clumsy shy type of girl which I liked better. The changes made her more likable and I was able to draw on a couple of periods in my life when I went through awkward phases."[6]


Namibia's Skeleton Coast

The filming locations for the film include Los Angeles, California, Redondo beach, South Africa, and Namibia.[6] Pyun was asked by Cannon to film in South Africa due to positive relations between the Israeli Globus and Golan, as well as their desire to use "blocked funds" that could not be taken out from the country per South African government mandates.[7] The various gold mines and gold dumps located around South Africa served as shooting locations for the underground setpieces as residue left over from the mining operations created an unusual looking landscape.[7]

The film was mostly shot in Johannesburg, at producer Avi Lerner's studio, plus additional shooting in Durban, South Africa and Swakopmund, Namibia. Locations ranged from South Africa's deep digging mines and gold fields both on the outskirts of Johannesburg. There was one additional day of shooting at a safari complex near Pretoria. Most of the Namibia shoot took place in and around the old German colonial town of Swakopmund, with additional scenes also shot along Namibia's famed Skeleton Coast. The film was also shot in Los Angeles, California.

The sets of the film are inspired by "future noir" from films such as 1979's Alien and 1982's Blade Runner.[5] Two songs used in the film were "Once Upon a Time", performed by Steve LeGassick, and "State of Heart", performed by Donna DeLory.


Alien from L.A. was released on February 26, 1988. Alien from L.A. was released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment in June 1995.[8] It was later released on DVD by MGM on June 7, 2005, paired with Morons from Outer Space; the only special feature for the release was the film's trailer.[9] It has been released and is currently available in a Blu-ray edition by Vinegar Syndrome that includes an interview with director Albert Pyun (“Making a Fairytale”), an interview with actor Thom Mathews (“Putting the puzzle together”), and an audio interview with actress Linda Kerridge. Alien from L.A. was followed by a direct-to-video sequel called Journey to the Center of the Earth (also directed by Albert Pyun), which was released in the United States in 1989. The film had Kathy Ireland reprising her role as Wanda Saknussemm.[3]


Joe Bob Briggs called it a "pretty decent film", awarding it two stars.[10] Rebecca Harris of the Abilene Reporter-News gave the film 2.5 stars out of 4.[11] Film reviewer David Picking said the film was "a cheapo adventure movie without a single redeeming quality"[12]

Reviewing the DVD release, Rob Thomas of The Capital Times, said "Completely awful – you can't believe they're serious." Daniel M. Kimmel of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette gave the film one out of five stars.[13]


  1. ^ a b Biodrowski, Steve (July 1988). "Cannon Shelves its other". Cinefantastique. Fourth Castle Micromedia. Retrieved July 17, 2023.
  2. ^ a b "California actress balances careers". Tyler Morning Telegraph. United Press International. February 5, 1988. Archived from the original on November 27, 2022. Retrieved November 27, 2022.
  3. ^ a b "Your Guide to Cannon Films' Crazy Sci-Fi and Fantasy". Popular Mechanics. 2015-03-05. Archived from the original on 2022-11-29. Retrieved 2022-11-29.
  4. ^ Shout! Factory (March 20, 2013). Casting Kathy Ireland in Alien From LA - MST3K Vol. XXVI Bonus Clip. YouTube. Google, LLC. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  5. ^ a b One book, the whole universe : Plato's Timaeus today. Richard D. Mohr, Barbara M. Sattler. Las Vegas: Parmenides Publishing. May 5, 2010. pp. 319–320. ISBN 978-1-930972-61-2. OCLC 649912168.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ a b Roberts, Jerry (March 3, 1988). "Model's Future Covered". San Pedro News-Pilot. San Pedro, California. Archived from the original on November 29, 2022. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  7. ^ a b Biodrowski, Steve (July 1988). "Alien from L.A." Cinefantastique. Fourth Castle Micromedia. Retrieved July 20, 2023.
  8. ^ Alien from L.A. [VHS]. ASIN 6303566723.
  9. ^ Tyner, Adam (May 8, 2005). "Morons from Outer Space / Alien from L.A." DVD Talk. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  10. ^ Briggs, Joe Bob (March 20, 1988). "Spaceship full of aliens sinks like Atlantis". The San Francisco Examiner. Archived from the original on November 27, 2022. Retrieved November 27, 2022.
  11. ^ Harris, Rebecca (February 28, 1988). "'Alien from L.A.' Strange but Okay". Abilene Reporter-News. Archived from the original on November 29, 2022. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  12. ^ Pickering, David (March 2, 1988). "It muts be Spring: Bad movies fly in with Robins". Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Archived from the original on November 29, 2022. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  13. ^ Alien From L.A. - Movie Reviews, archived from the original on 2022-11-29, retrieved 2022-11-29

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