Captive Women/3000 A.D. (1952)

Captive Women (1952)‘You are the first of all Norm women to come to a Mutate husband of her own free will.’

More than a thousand years in the future, the atomic war has left the world in ruins. What remains of the population is divided into warring factions of Norms and Mutates; those who escaped the disfiguring effects of radioactivity, and those who have not.

Unusual, low-budget science-fiction from producer Albert Zugsmith (with a title by Howard Hughes!), which was the first film ever to depict a post-nuclear holocaust society. We’re over a thousand years into the future here, and all that remains after the bomb is a twisted New York skyline and scattered scraps of humanity living in the wreckage. Our virtuous heroes are the cave-dwelling ‘Norms’, untouched by the nuclear scourge and busy preparing for the wedding of the chief’s son, played by cult movie legend Robert Clarke.

Our hero’s bride-to-be is dark-eyed Gloria Saunders, who proves to be less than an ideal romantic choice. For a start, she happens to be the daughter of the high priest (not usually a good sign) and she’s carrying on behind the scenes with the ambitious Jason (Douglas Evans), who’s hungry to sit in the big chair currently occupied by Clarke’s father. Across the river (via a hidden tunnel) are the Mutates, led by Riddon (Ron Randell). They’re ugly and scarred and their main preoccupation seems to be kidnapping ‘Norm’ women in the hopes of birthing ‘clean’ children. On the bright side, they’ve kept their faith in God, while the Norms worship the devil! Also mixing things up are the nasty ‘Up River Men’ led by Stuart Randall.

The film opens with more than five minutes of ‘flashback’ stock footage, including planes, trains, the UN building and the inevitable mushroom cloud. Wonderfully self-important VoiceOver Man informs us that what we are about to see might really happen and he seems to be enjoying the possibility far too much. Given that the film only runs 64 minutes, it’s quite a chunk of the film’s total length. When the future finally arrives, it turns out to be a small, poorly-lit sound stage peopled by extras dressed in what appears to be left over costumes from a low budget production of Robin Hood! The dialogue is similarly old-fashioned and formal and most of the women have been relegated to cooking the grub and serving the ale. Weapons of choice are bows and arrows and quarterstaffs, and Clarke tops it all off with a nifty Errol Flynn moustache. His character is even called Rob!

Captive Women (1952)

‘Get Thee to Nottingham Castle, Robin!’

Up-River Randall and his goons conquer the Norm’s stronghold with the aid of the treacherous Evans and bad girl Saunders. Evans gets his predictable comeuppance, of course, while Saunders becomes Randall’s new woman and lords it over everyone including feisty heroine Margaret Field. But, not to worry! Robin and Little John (sorry, Clarke and his anonymous sidekick) team up with the Mutates to restore the balance of power. Because they might be ugly but their quite a nice bunch, despite forcing themselves on kidnapped women for the past few decades. It helps that their leader is the handsome Randell, who’s hardly scarred at all really. So he’s ok.

The script here is by Jack Pollexfen and Aubrey Wisberg and includes a surprising amount of Biblical references. We never see any evidence that the Norms are practising Satanists (no surprise, there!), and a less generous commentator than myself might think that’s just an excuse to give Randell the opportunity to pontificate about his faith in the Lord, although he is quickly interrupted by rabble-rouser William Schallert. However, later on, we get a direct parallel to Moses parting the Red Sea, which Clarke is happy to appropriate as a plan (thought he was supposed to be a Satanist?!) All this action moves along at quite a fair clip, but nothing that happens is remotely surprising.

Writer Pollexfen was used to plundering the classics, given his scripts for ‘The Son of Dr Jekyll’ (1951) and ‘The Daughter of Dr Jekyll’ (1957) and it’s pretty clear this one owes more than a slight debt to H G Wells’ ‘The Time Machine.’ Clarke went on to cult movie godhood with a CV that includes ‘The Man From Planet X’ (1951) (which also featured Field and Schallert), ‘The Astounding She Creature’ (1957), ‘Beyond The Time Barrier’ (1960), the title role of ‘The Hideous Sun Demon’ (1958) (which he also directed!) and a few projects with bad movie legend Jerry Warren, including ‘The Incredible Petrified World’ (1959) and the bat-shit crazy ‘Frankenstein Island’ (1981). Randell appeared in slightly more legitimate productions such as musical ‘Kiss Me Kate’ (1953) (playing Cole Porter!), ‘The Story of Esther Costello’ (1957) and Christ biopic ‘King of Kings’ (1961).

Captive Women (1952)

‘You can get married so long as you don’t play that Bryan Adams song.’

But the real success stories lie elsewhere. Supporting actor Schallert went onto a screen career that lasted over 65 years, only ending with his death in 2016 at the age of 93. His credits include featured roles in ‘Gremlins’ (1984), ‘In The Heat of the Night’ (1967), ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’ (1969), ‘Charley Varrick’ (1973), ‘Innerspace’ (1987), and TV appearances on ‘Roseanne’, ‘True Blood’, ‘Star Trek’, ‘ER’, ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’ and dozens of other hit shows. You may not know the name, but you’d certainly recognise the face.

Director Stuart Gilmore was three times Oscar nominated as an Editor, for his work on ‘The Alamo’ (1960), ‘Airport’ (1970) and ‘The Andromeda Strain’ (1970). He also fulfilled the role on ‘Sullivan’s Travels’ (1941), ‘Journey To The Centre of the Earth’ (1959) and ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ (1967), among others.

This is a production with some points of interest, but not a great level of entertainment value. There are also some very mixed messages about the importance of physical appearance, although the film’s heart does seem to be in the right place. Unfortunately, its moral and physical conflicts result in highly predictable outcomes and the cheesier aspects rob the drama of any real punch.

Watch for curiosity value.

Raiders of the Sun (1992)

Raiders of the Sun (1992)‘Hey, relax, man! Take a laxative.’

In the aftermath of the nuclear war, the democratic Alpha League struggle to rebuild civilisation and maintain law and order. Their existence is threatened by groups of well-armed renegades and the conflict turns on which side will be able to acquire new sources of gunpowder…

No-one travelled into the atomic wasteland more often that Filipino director Cirio H Santiago. Even more than a decade after Mel Gibson hit it big as ‘The Road Warrior’ (1981), he was still making the trip. This time out our small budget ‘Mad Max’ is Aussie martial-artist Richard Norton (again!) who dispenses post-apocalyptic justice via his considerable brawn and arsenal of automatic weapons. But, unusually, instead of just focusing on him, we get two heroes for the price of one, and we spend a fair amount of time in the company of each on his solo adventures before they join up for the big finish.

Typically, Norton is the lone wolf, who doesn’t want to get involved. Everyone is an enemy to him, until a skirmish goes bad and he is nursed back to health by the mysterious Lani Lobango in her native village. This ‘lost’ kingdom is conveniently located in a thriving rainforest that has somehow escaped the holocaust (as rainforests do) and just happens to be sitting right slap-bang on top of a pile of explosive black powder. Of course, the Head Man wants nothing to do with Norton or his violent ways, until the villainous William Seis and his black-clad associates come a-calling.

ln the other narrative strand, we follow good guy soldier Talbot (Blake Boyd), whose homecoming is rather spoilt when the wife (Brigitta Stenberg) is kidnapped by unscrupulous warlord Hoghead (Rick Dean). Boyd infiltrates the tyrant’s gang, a process which involves a rather impractical ‘fight to the death’ while swinging from ropes. The Thunderdome it ain’t. Stenberg is worth it, though, as she’s not just eye-candy, getting free on her own and icing one of the main villains with a car. She does hand the wheel to Boyd afterwards, though, which is a bit disappointing, and not a great tactical move when you’re desperately trying to escape from a gang of well-armed cut-throats.

Raiders of the Sun (1992)

Getting a signal after the apocalypse was a pain in the ass…

This was a Roger Corman production, so it’s highly likely the split narrative was down to cost-cutting. Perhaps two crews were shooting simultaneously, as they used to do for old movie serials, or perhaps it was down to the availability of the actors, or other filming logistics. Surprisingly, some of the scale is quite impressive, especially in terms of the number of extras dodging flash grenades and jumping off rocks in the battle scenes.

At least it is until you realise that a lot of it is just footage from the director’s own ‘Wheels of Fire’ (1985) and ‘Equaliser 2000’ (1987). To be fair, it’s not that obvious, although it probably helped that both Norton and Seis originally appeared in the latter of the two older films!

Norton certainly had some good moves, and the (sadly) brief combat scenes where he uses them are the best thing in the picture. These days he’s working in Hollywood as a stunt man on such major projects as ‘Suicide Squad’ (2016) and ‘Ghost ln The Shell’ (2017). Rather brilliantly (and perhaps inevitably!), he also appeared on screen as part of the cast of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015).

This effort was written by old hand Frederick Bailey, who was also behind the word processor for Santiago’s ‘Future Hunters’ (1985), as well as the afore-mentioned ‘Wheels of Fire’ (1985) and ‘Equaliser 2000’ (1987), in which he also had an acting role. His story hits all the same old familiar beats, never straying far from the well-worn template for this kind of adventure. Villains only seem to have guns when it’s not inconvenient for our heroes, or simply forget to use them.

A predictable and anonymous project.

ldaho Transfer (1973)

Idaho Transfer (1973)‘Just have a beautiful time like all the other junk litter in the universe…’

A scientist working at a secret government facility in the desert has discovered a gateway 56 years into the future. Mankind seems to have vanished after some kind of ecological catastrophe, so he keeps his discovery a secret and plans to permanently relocate a group of young people there to restart the human race.

Unusual, low-budget science fiction from director Peter Fonda, who had made his name in the ground-breaking, counter-culture classic ‘Easy Rider’ (1969). These days, he’s more familiar as a jobbing actor, although associations with high profile duds like ‘Ghost Rider’ (2007) and John Carpenter’s ‘Escape From L.A.’ (1996) have done little for his career. He sat in the canvas chair as a filmmaker on only three occasions, the other two being on Westerns made at either end of the 1970s.

The story and script here are by Thomas Matthieson, who has no other film credits, and shows very little inclination to pander to the audience in terms of providing exposition. This is a nice change to the endless captions and voiceovers favoured today, but ultimately proves to be a little frustrating. We join the story with the set-up already established; scientist George Braden has recruited a group of more than a dozen teenagers, including his two daughters, to make trips into the future and examine its’ ecology. Arrival there occurs inside metal containers buried beneath the desert (a nice touch) and the flora and fauna seem to be normal. However, expeditions to local population centres (which we don’t see) have found them completely deserted with no sign of human life.

One of the Prof’s daughters, played by Kelly Bohanon, is the new girl on the block and this does allow for a few explanations. Only young people can travel into the future because an unspecified kidney problem will kill anyone older who tries it, and travellers have to strip down to their panties to go because any metal fittings will fuse with their bodies (obviously, no metal-free clothing was available!) The time travel SFX are very simple, but surprisingly effective with subjects ‘flickering’ out of existence. Things start to go seriously wrong when suspicious military types turn up to close down the project and the youngsters flee into the future to escape. Only to find themselves marooned there when the machines are turned off.

This is a premise with bags of potential, but the film begins drifting when our stranded explorers head for the closest city. Given the obviously tiny budget, it’s fair to say the audience aren’t really expecting them to get there. The group splits into three groups for no discernible reason, leaving us in the company of Bohannon and geeky Kevin Hearst. Whereas we might reasonably expect some kind of Adam and Eve business to follow, Hearst seems strangely reluctant, the more so when Bohannon is confirmed as the selfish, whining brat we always thought she was. There is a pleasing lack of the kind of mystical mumbo-jumbo that plagued cinema at the time, but our protagonists might be any normal, irritating teenage couple out for a hike in the great beyond. Hearst does find an abandoned train filled with hundreds of corpses in body bags, but the unpleasantness is kept strictly off-screen (see the ‘tiny budget’ reference earlier). So just what has happened to mankind and are we ever going to find out? Probably not if we’re relying on these two.

Most reviews of the film tend to concentrate on the cast. Almost without exception, they were amateurs that Fonda selected from kids he met in everyday life and very few managed any subsequent acting credits. To Fonda’s credit, he does manage to elicit fairly naturalistic performances, but, perhaps inevitably, none of them really manage to create a character that encourages emotional investment from an audience. The only face you’ll probably recognise is Keith Carradine, whose big screen appearances include Ridley Scott’s ‘The Duellists’ (1977), Walter Hill’s ‘Southern Comfort’ (1981) and ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ (2011) with Daniel Craig. He’s perhaps more recognisable from TV, where he’s played in everything from ‘Dexter’, ‘Fargo’, and ‘The Big Bang Theory’ to Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ music video! Having said that, his appearances here are brief and inconsequential. Hearst moved onto the movie sound department, where he worked on ‘Home Alone’ (1990), ‘My Cousin Vinny’ (1992), ‘Beverly Hills Cop ll’ (1994) and ‘Stargate’ (1994), among others.

Idaho Transfer (1973)

🎵You’ve heard of the wonders our land does possess…
Its beautiful valleys and hills…
The majestic forests where nature abounds…
We love every nook and rill…🎶

The major problem here is a script that drags badly around the mid-point and leaves too many questions unanswered. There’s a big twist as well which should have been very telling indeed, but is rather poorly handled. Obviously, most people will focus on the left-field ending, which initially appears to be quite the head-scratcher. However, if we consider the selfish nature of Bohannon’s character, the underlying theme of man’s exploitation of the planet’s finite natural resources and all those body bags on the train, then we finally get an idea of what Fonda was shooting for.

The film also ends with the caption ‘Esto perpetua’ which roughly translates as ‘Let It Be Perpetual’. It’s the state motto of Idaho, but here seems to be more of a comment on mankind and our total inability to learn from our mistakes. This is quite effective when given some thought, but too much is left unexplained during the film for it to really hit home.

Unfortunately, a week after its initial release, the film’s distributor went to the wall and it was pulled from theatres. After that, it went unseen for 15 years until it surfaced during the 1980s home video boom. So it never really had the opportunity to find an audience, although it’s unlikely that it would have ever become anything more than a cult item.

Although flawed, it’s undeniably a project of more than a little interest, and it’s a shame Fonda had such a short career as a director. With a tighter, more developed script and a professional cast, this could have been quite something. Remake, anyone?

Ultra Warrior (1990)

Ultra Warrior (1990)‘There were even observation decks where you could watch the glow from the Zirconium gel sacs.’

As the world recovers after the holocaust, the mineral element Zirconium is vital to mankind’s continued survival. Deposits are known to exist in the radioactive wasteland known as Oblivion, but the region is occupied by warring mutant factions. The authorities send a small team in to investigate…

Hefty slice of post-apocalyptic tomfoolery cobbled together from various sources, and designed to cash in on the global success of ‘Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior’ (1981). Unfortunately, it’s about 10 years too late and several hundreds of thousands of dollars short. Getting all hot and bothered is our leading man, Max – sorry, Kenner – played by Dack Rambo (his real surname, folks!), who sweats and shoots his way through an adventure so incoherent and messed-up that it’s sometimes a real challenge to keep a handle on what’s going on.

The plot is simple enough; Rambo drives his cut price Max-Mobile into the desert, where he teams up with Uncle Lazarus (Ramsay Ross) and his group of peaceful mutants to fight the motorcycle thugs of bad guy The Bishop (Orlando Sacha). As a fringe benefit, one of the mutants is the lovely Grace (Clare Beresford) who doesn’t look mutated at all. Rambo’s supposed to be looking for Zirconium, of course, but after fighting beside his new friends for a while, he finds that ‘a heart joined with others beats stronger than any alien star converter.’ And you can’t argue with that.

Ultra Warrior (1990)

‘What film are we in again?’

What sets this picture apart is its ham-fisted execution. At first, it appears that this was an unfinished project, and narrative gaps needed to be filled somehow to bring it up to a (barely) feature length 75 minutes. However,  the picture began life as ‘Welcome To Oblivion’ (1990), executive produced by legendary low budget mogul Roger Corman. The film only had a very limited theatrical run and came to home video shortly afterwards under its new name. Apparently after a heavy re-edit.

What emerged is a fine example of car crash cinema. The first 10 minutes features footage seemingly sourced from multiple other Corman productions, as VoiceOver Woman gives us a potted history of the apocalypse and its immediate aftermath. Ok, we can just about accept that, although it’s all a little bewildering. We then join Rambo in a fuzzy neon 80s bar where he picks up a brunette and they have sex in his room. We never see their faces during this wrestling match (scored with lazy porn saxophone) and it appears that he’s put on a blonde wig for some reason or other. Then he’s off to Oblivion along with Totally Redundant Sidekick and Totally Redundant Sidekick’s Pointless Girlfriend.

On the way there, Totally Redundant Sidekick relates an irrelevant anecdote about a summer job working for his dad at an underwater Zirconium mine (conveniently allowing for footage from ‘Lords of the Deep’ (1989); a Roger Corman production). Soon they come across lots of explosions and action scenes (conveniently allowing for footage from ‘Battletruck/Warlords of the 21st Century (1982), not technically a Roger Corman production but he was involved!) Later, mutant babe Beresford tells Rambo about an attack on a genetics lab for no real reason (conveniently allowing for footage from some other film that l’m guessing just may have been a Roger Corman production). Oh, and yes, aliens have invaded from a parallel universe (conveniently allowing for a couple of space battles from ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’ (1980); strangely enough another Roger Corman production). Do we ever see the aliens? No. In fact, they never get mentioned again. Yes, every few minutes or so, one of the characters provides some more information about the planet’s recent history and we get footage from another film. It happens so often, it starts to get seriously funny.

Ultra Warrior (1990)

I remember a time of chaos… ruined dreams… this wasted land. But most of all, I remember The Road Warrior. The man we called…oh, hang on…’

Aside from this (somewhat) fractured narrative, what else do we have? Well, not a lot, really. Uncle Lazarus is some strange green guy who lives in a box and proclaims Rambo as ‘The Chosen One’ to lead his people to the Promised Land, Corman has a cameo on a TV screen as the President of the World (or something?), we get a lot more explanatory work from Voice Over Woman (cheers, girl!) and the film ends with an obscure quote from Rudyard Kipling! All perfectly reasonable.

The film was shot on location in Peru and produced by native Luis Llosa, who went on to a brief Hollywood directing career, which peaked with Sylvester Stallone-Sharon Stone double header ‘The Specialist’ (1994) and ‘Anaconda’ (1997) with Jennifer Lopez. He also directed ‘Crime Wave’ (1989) with David Carradine, which has Beresford’s only other screen appearance (as ‘Policewoman #1’). Rambo was a minor TV star with credits on some soaps, the revival of ‘Gunsmoke’ in the early 1970s and the lead on crime show ‘Sword of Justice’ which lasted 10 episodes in 1978. He retired in 1991 after contracting AIDS and spent the last 3 years of his life raising awareness of the disease.

But almost unbelievably, there is a success story coming out of this film and it belongs to co-director Kevin Tent. He gave up the megaphone and switched to the Editor’s chair, beginning in the exploitation arena for director Frank Henenlotter on nasty stuff like ‘Basket Case 2’ (1990) and ‘Frankenhooker’ (1992). Slowly, he worked his way up to big budget projects like ‘Girl, Interrupted’ (1999), ‘About Schmidt’ (2002), ‘The Golden Compass’ (2007), ‘Nebraska’ (2013) and ‘Downsizing’ (2017). He was Oscar nominated for his work on ‘The Descendants’ (2011). He is not credited as working in an editorial capacity on this film, and I have the sneaking suspicion that he may have left it off his CV completely.

There was little chance these puny warriors of the wasteland were ever going to challenge Max’s supremacy of the post-apocalyptic highway, but they did deliver a total train wreck of a film that just doesn’t know when to quit.

Highly recommended.

Five (1951)

Five_(1951)‘Four men and one woman are the last five people on Earth…This is their story!’

Nuclear war wipes out mankind. Four strangers survive in an isolated area of the United States, but can they put aside their differences and make a new life together? Things seem to be working out, but then a newcomer arrives…

Arch Oboler had found considerable success on both radio and television in the 1940s and made the step into film shortly afterward. His scripts and themes did not find favour with the major Hollywood studios, which were beginning to disintegrate as they lost control of theatre chains under new anti-trust legislation. So Oboler became part of the first wave of independent filmmakers, and also the filmmaker to tackle the subject of life in the aftermath of nuclear war.

Early scenes of an abandoned, small town are undeniably eerie and effective, although there is a notable absence of corpses in the street. It’s clear from the off that little was known about conditions after a nuclear strike as the weather remains fine throughout, and fall out doesn’t get a mention. Anyway, desperate, pregnant Susan Douglas reaches the hilltop home of friends on the outside of town, only to find it occupied by lone wolf William Phipps. They strike up an uneasy alliance and are later joined by bank manager Earl Lee and black man Charles Lampkin.


Parking problems in the city had reached serious proportions.

Given the film’s vintage, it’s no surprise that Lampkin’s colour is mentioned, but that non-issue is swiftly abandoned when the quartet take refuge under the same roof. The equality of their relationships is presented in a pleasingly matter of fact and everyday way, which makes for an excellent, and subtle, anti-racist statement. Having said that, of course, our hero and main man is white bread Phipps. By the end of the decade Harry Belafonte did have a more central role in the similar, and under-rated, ‘The World, The Flesh and the Devil’ (1958).

The snake in the ointment is Eric (James Anderson), who is washed up on a nearby beach, having survived the bombs by being halfway up a mountain at the time that they struck. Rather stereotypically (sadly), he’s a foreigner, and doesn’t really take to all this communal living palaver. It’s no surprise when he indulges in a few racial slurs and plans to run off with Douglas after she’s had her baby. Anderson later played a similar role in the slightly more well known ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ (1962).

There’s an obvious ‘Garden of Eden’ parallel here, and, unfortunately, as the film progresses, it’s rather layered on with a trowel. But it’s the lack of action that really sinks the film. It’s very talky indeed and, although this is quite realistic, and very different to all the mutations and monsters that were shortly to follow, inevitably it’s not very exciting. We spend too much time in the house on the hill, even though its avant-garde design by famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright does helps to reinforce the other worldly atmosphere. Excellent black and white photography by Sid Lubow and Louis Clyde Stouman also adds atmosphere and a stamp of quality.

An unusual, and ground~breaking, production that’s shackled by the conventions of its time and by the limited resources available to the filmmakers.

Verdens Undergang (The End of the World) (1916)

Verdens Undergang (1916)‘Tonight when the sky is in flames, we will let the stars dance for us.’

An astronomer discovers a new comet and calculates that it will enter the Earth’s atmosphere and cause widespread death and destruction. A financier suppresses the news in order to make a killing on the stock market, but even riches cannot protect him when the apocalypse comes.

Danish silent film that was the first cinematic depiction of the end of days. Our focus is mainly on a rural mining community, in particular on the family of the colliery manager. He has two daughters; one virtuous and kind, the other flighty and sinful. These archetypes are pretty clearly defined; subtle shadings of character not being all that common in silent cinema. So it’s no surprise when the naughty one runs off with the owner of the mine to the big city. There she lives a life of luxury and indolence, her wellbeing apparently entirely dependent on expensive gifts. Virtue stays home, of course, pledging her troth to her childhood sweetheart, who becomes a sailor.

However, the mine owner isn’t content with just corrupting young girls, although let’s be honest, the girl in question didn’t take a lot of persuasion! No, now he sees a chance to make millions on the markets after being clued in to the details of the upcoming apocalypse by his stargazing cousin. The editor of the local newspaper joins in for a cut of the pie, displaying the kind of journalistic integrity we’ve come to expect from the mass media. All of this is only made possible by the fact that his cousin is seemingly the only astronomer on the entire planet who has his telescope pointed in the right direction.

When the apocalypse arrives, it’s surprisingly well presented, considering the vintage of the film. There are some big crowd scenes, flames in the sky and falling rocks. This is all supposed to be ‘fire and brimstone’ of course, as the presence of a local preacher throughout proceedings has left little doubt that the hand of god has been guiding the meteor in its wayward course across the heavens. And as our sinful duo host a wild party to celebrate Armageddon, complete with a banquet and dancing girls, while the poor miners run through the streets, it doesn’t take a genius to know how things are going to turn out for all our protagonists.

Verdens Undergang (1916)

The hills were alive…oh, hang on…

Throughout the film there are a surprising number of exterior scenes, and these are well composed and handled. These serve to sidestep the stilted appearance of many silent movies of the period and lend an air of accessibility to a modern audience. The sanctimony and religious subtext is pretty overt but it’s not overly preachy and doesn’t detract from the proceedings in general.

Performances are rather of the period, of course, but there’s a high level of all-round professionalism and the scenes of aftermath are quite effective. It all makes for quite a satisfying experience and the exisitng print, preserved by the Danish Film Institute, is in wonderful condition.

It’s no classic, but it does set quite a high benchmark in very early science fiction cinema.

Hands of Steel/Vendetta dal futuro (1986)

Hands_of_Steel_(1986)‘It’s impossible – no hand could do that kind of damage.’

In a polluted near-future, a blind political leader stands up against the corporations who are poisoning the planet. People listen and he takes on almost messianic status so a dodgy businessman has a cyborg created from a badly wounded soldier and sends it to kill him.

Sergio Martino (credited here as ‘Martin Dolman’) followed up his trash classic ‘2019: After The Fall of New York’ (1982) with this not-so classic ‘Terminator’ (1984) re-boot. Our hero – part mechanical, all beefcake – is played by U.S. actor Daniel Greene and the main villain by b-movie legend John Saxon (‘Enter the Dragon’ (1973), ‘Blood Beach’ (1981) etc, etc).

The film has some promise at the beginning as Greene sneaks into a backstreet tenement to carry out his mission. At the last moment, his human side wins out over his programming and he goes on the run instead. Unfortunately, when he holes up in Janet Agren‘s truckstop motel, the proceedings come to a shuddering halt. There’s some arm wrestling and snake decapitation with George Eastman’s local bullies while both the villains (Claudio Cassinelli in charge) and the FBI close in before a bullet soaked climax.

His new combat technique featured a mean seagull impression.

His new combat technique featured a mean seagull impression.

This is so 1980s and typical of the kind of flick you’d find down your local video store. There’s the usual pounding synthesiser score, the female cyborg is a dead ringer for Darryl Hannah in ‘Blade Runner’ (1982) and our muscular hero looks like he’s been to Mel Gibson’s hairstylist. Sadly, it’s not a patch on Martino’s previous film; this is just a generic actioner with a science fiction gimmick. There’s lots of bad dubbing and a couple of big explosions near the end. That’s about it, although the final freeze frame and caption is pleasingly nonsensical.

John Saxon refused to film his scenes in the U.S. because it was a non-union shoot. The American filming featured a helicopter in which he and Cassinelli were supposed to be travelling. It crashed and Cassinelli was killed instantly.

Buy ‘Hands of Steel’ here