2019: After The Fall Of New York (1983)

Welcome to our newest feature here at the ISCFC – “movies with the current year in the title”. There are two gems, both starring a fellow by the name of George Eastman, for the current year, and we’ll be covering them both.

 

If anyone’s interested, we could also review movies set in 2019? That covers stuff like the Ethan Hawke vampire movie “Daybreakers” (even released in a few places as “2019 – Year of Extinction”); all-time classics “The Running Man” and “Blade Runner”; ISCFC favourite “Steel Frontier”; ISCFC non-favourite “Heatseeker”; and Ewan MacGregor movie “The Island”, among others.

 

Today’s choice, though, is one of the huge number of post-apocalyptic movies made in Italy – check out THIS LIST which isn’t even all of them. It might fairly be said, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, and when it comes to this movie it might fairly be said that you’ve seen it multiple times.

It’s most similar to “Escape From New York”, but there’s elements of “Mad Max”, “Death Race 2000” and even a little “Buck Rogers” to go with dozens of scenes that look lifted from sci-fi classics of the time. The situation is, there’s been a nuclear war between the Euraks (Europe / Africa / Asia) and the Pan-American Alliance (North and South America, basically) and the Euraks won. The nuclear war has left all the women sterile – this being a movie made by masculine men, no mention is made of the state of their reproductive parts. Somewhere inside New York is the one remaining fertile woman, and the Alliance wants her.

 

They send definitely-not-Snake-Plissken Parsifal (Michael Sopkiw), by bribing him with…a place on a space-ship to Alpha Centauri, where there’s a livable planet, apparently. We’re first introduced to Parsifal when he wins a sort of Death-Race-style race, and is awarded a bunch of tokens which allow him to freely murder up to 5 people, and a woman. I’m not sure the sexual politics in this are going to be the strongest, dear reader.

He gets a couple of sidekicks for the mission – the strongest man in the Alliance, who just looks like a fairly solidly-built middle-aged guy, and a chap with a metal arm who was abused by the Euraks, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the city of New York. Remember that. Encyclopaedic knowledge. So off these three guys pop into the heavily guarded city of New York to retrieve the last fertile woman.

 

Literally thirty seconds into the city, Mr Knows The City is panicking and asking Parsifal which way to go, and no-one comments on it or asks “why the hell are you here?” so, I guess just enjoy him tearing a few throats out with his metal arm. They run around, encounter a few gangs, then I guess the boss of the Euraks becomes aware of them. The Eurak boss has what I assume is meant to be the original “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso in his office, and seems aware of what it means, so perhaps there’s meant to be more nuance in the original script? Who knows.

 

If you really like people running around disused warehouses and so on, then there’s a lot to enjoy about the second half of this movie – otherwise, not so much. Parsifal finds a girlfriend, who he thinks is the fertile lady but isn’t, there’s an occasional double-cross or two, and a curiously bleak atmosphere overlaying proceedings. I like the sexily evil female second-in-command of the Euraks (Anna Kanakis), who does a lot with her screentime.

Is it any good, though? I mean, some movies are sort of derivative of genre classics, and others are just straight-up ripoffs; it wouldn’t surprise me if this wasn’t released somewhere in the world as an unofficial sequel to “Escape From New York”. I’ve seen more than my fair share of Italian-made post-apocalyptic movies, and I keep hoping one of them will try and do something different, use the building blocks in a more interesting way, but none of them do. They’re all Trumpian in their sexual politics, they all have that same washed-out colour palette, they all have the same sort of anti-hero…I guess if you only watch one of them every two years or so, it ceases to be a problem, or think of it as, say, a retelling of the same story, and it might not be too bad.

 

I’m sorry I can’t be any more decisive about this one. It’s…tolerable?

 

HOW WELL DOES IT PREDICT THE PRESENT? Well, if it had been set in certain areas of St Louis, I’d have called it not bleak enough (satire?) but it does appear like we dodged a nuclear annihilarion bullet, preferring the slow annihilation of environmental collapse and fascism.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle

 

Advertisements

Code Name: Wild Geese (1984)

Most misleading DVD cover ever?

Most misleading DVD cover ever?

For British people of a certain age, Lewis Collins occupies (still, probably) a big place in their psyches. As the former SAS paratrooper and mercenary turned anti-terrorism operative Bodie, Collins and Martin Shaw (as Doyle) kicked ass, indulged in light-to-medium sexual harassment of women and saved the day for the UK in “The Professionals”, which ran from 1977 to 1983. Loved by many, but…I never watched it. I was 7 when it finished and, so the story goes, Martin Shaw almost immediately disowned it and blocked any repeats til the mid 90s, by which time I was firmly in the grasp of the nerdy interests I still have. Collins, on the other hand, loved it, and got himself a black belt and joined the Paratroop regiment of the Territorial Army – he was also a drummer in early 60s Liverpool and turned down the chance to audition for the Beatles, the idiot.

 

So, “The Professionals” was a huge hit, and afterwards Martin Shaw went off to a long career in TV and film. Collins, on the other hand, had a slightly different arc, meeting with producer Cubby Broccoli  for the part of James Bond (which he lost due to being too aggressive in the audition, apparently); making the hit movie “Who Dares Wins”; then signing a contract with some German / Italian producers to make three action films which were commercial flops, of which “Code Name: Wild Geese” was the first. After that, he did bits and pieces of TV  before retiring from acting to sell computer equipment in the USA.

 code-name-wild-geese

Collins’ director for his three Italian / German movies was Antony M Dawson (Antonio Margheriti), who also directed ISCFC non-favourite “Yor The Hunter From The Future”, and had a hand in the Andy Warhol-produced “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” movies too. I discover, delightfully, that these movies represent the end (along with ISCFC favourite “Strike Commando”) of the “Macaroni Combat” genre, Italian movies, with Spanish or German involvement, often filmed either in Italy or the Philippines – a genre that lasted from the early 60s to the late 80s. This is a long preamble to a movie which, realistically, doesn’t deserve that much, or any, research.

 

I’ve not even mentioned the weird casting! As well as Collins and his gang of European soldiers, there’s Ernest Borgnine as their DEA handler Fletcher; Lee Van Cleef as the helicopter pilot who signs on to help partway into the mission; and weirdest of all, Klaus Kinski with a dubbed English accent playing Charleton, the rich guy who’s funding Fletcher’s mission out of the goodness of his heart. That mission is to go into the “Golden Triangle” and destroy some opium refineries and distribution systems, so off set Commander Robin Wesley (Collins) and his guys.

 

Such emotion!

Such emotion!

To say it’s one-note is almost an insult to things that are one-note. They go into the jungle; kill some drug producers and blow up a refinery; some of them die; go to another place and blow something else up; more of them die; by the time of the last thing to blow up most of them are dead. A woman shows up at 35 minutes, but she’s really not that important and feels like she was inserted because one of the producers realised at the last minute it was a total sausage-fest. There’s also the twist reveal of who the real villain is, which is so obvious I was sure it was going to be a double-bluff – sadly, that was crediting the movie with too much intelligence.

 

Borgnine and Van Cleef have a grand old time, both seemingly doing it for the sake of a free holiday – although Margheriti directed many of Van Cleef’s spaghetti westerns, and I suppose he wasn’t that expensive to hire by the late 80s. Kinski goes nicely over the top, but his accent is so weird that it was difficult to concentrate on him. Collins, though, was a complete charisma vacuum, a stoic who betrayed no emotion at any time – if it was a character choice, then it’s a really weird one. It’s not like Collins didn’t have the range (he got his start on a sitcom) so, er, I got nothing. It’s hard to have any sort of connection to a lead character when he’s just a blank slate, I guess. There’s a thing about his son dying due to drugs, and this making it personal for him, but you’d never guess that was the case.

 screen-shot-2015-03-23-at-2-01-17-pm

The thing is, its very relentlessness and curious choices make it rather entertaining. There’s very little down-time in terms of action and bizarre conversations (seeing Ernest Borgnine act opposite Klaus Kinski is just entertaining in itself), so if you give its leading man a pass, you’ll probably have a good time with this. Just don’t expect too much.

 

Rating: thumbs in the middle

screen-shot-2015-03-23-at-2-01-06-pm