Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pastapocalypse Then!! 80s Post Nuke Explosions Investigated!

I had a conversation recently about my favorite blog posts, and this series is one of them.  However, when you try to link it, the parts come up backwards-so here is my piece on 80s post nuke films put together in one piece for easy reading and archiving here. The very first first thing I'd written for the web was a bit on Italian post nuke films entitled Dystopia Rides A Dune Buggy.  That article brought me to Oberlin, OH where I met my wife for the first time.  So, Post Nukes get bonus points in the pantheon of favorite films.  They were also  among the first of the euro films that really captured my attention thanks to Television showings on my local UHF channels way back when young David Z was endlessly fascinated by whatever would pop up between 1 and 4 PM on a Saturday afternoon. While working on a book with my friend Paul Cooke on Italian action cinema of the 80's I could not ignore these beloved movies. Simple action films gussied up with science fiction / Mad Max trappings-they never fail to entertain me. What follows in the next few days is a draft for an appendix to that book-this should take a few days as it is rather long.
I'm no "Post Nuke Historian" even though I did get that label slapped on me in one rather infamous afternoon-hell, I'm just a guy that likes watching grown men ride motorcycles in jockstraps. But in this little fad you can find the modernized Spaghetti Western-populated by top talents in the directors chairs and in front of the cameras! So here is part 1 of my overview of The PostNuke World of Italian Action! The Pastapocalypse!

Part 1-Another Intro!

The Wild! The Savage! The Wide World of Italian Action!

While action movies were our focus during the writing of Tough To Kill we could not help but want to include a wider variety of titles. Tough To Kill, as a genre header, embraces the hard nosed action films that resemble the Neo-Pulp aesthetic of Men's Adventures books like Mack Bolan and Nick Carter:The Killmaster as a rule of trigger guard, but there are so many marginal titles that we felt they were worth some coverage. While the action genre was expanding through Italy producers were employing the same crews to hop on trends set by films like Mad Max and Conan The Barbarian as well as capitalizing on the ever popular Beasts Going Wild theme that too this day has not gone out of style. When Conan was splitting skulls across silver screens around the world every Italian producer wanted to have at least one battleaxe of a film in hand to sell, along with with a gloriously detailed poster image to draw hungry fantasy fans into theaters. Titles such as Umberto Lenzi's fantastic Iron Master, Joe D'Amato and Al Brescia's cycle of Ator films, Tonino Ricci's Thor The Conqueror and the awesome Throne Of Fire splattered across video shelves and drive-ins, joining the American films such as the Deathstalker series to keep Sword and Sorcery fans happy. Even the god of gore, Lucio Fulci would craft his own strange take on fantasy films with the gauzy Conquest, a truly insane spectacle indeed! Giant Killer Crocodile models are undoubtedly in deep storage in a Cinecitta warehouse as I type this essay, a reminder of the creepy creatures that included Fabrizio De Angelis' Killer Crocodile films, and I'm certain a wealth of rubbery shark fins are keeping them company. A flood of evil eating machine movies cluttered the shelves, though many would never find their way into the United States either due to legal issues or distribution troubles. Bruno Mattei's Cruel Jaws, Castellari's Jawstastic “homage” The Last Shark and even the Filmirage Deep Blood are all still titles that require some searching for the intrepid viewer to spear. Other sharkers would mix in action and drama plots, especially Tonino Ricci's Night Of The Sharks.

In many cases these movies provide more entertainment than not only the rip offs that are still coming out to this day, but perhaps to even the legitimate sequels to Jaws! And hey... Fabrizio De Angelis couldn't even allow Larry Ludman a day off without ripping off The Karate Kid! Pugilism was popular, and De Angelis produced and directed the Karate Kid redux series, Karate Warrior 5 Times over, even creating another bizarre entry with the truly abominable yet stultifyingly watchable Karate Rock. These films range from boring to bizarre to wildly obscure and it did not take long before nobody cared. Sergio Martino would even throw down with The Opponent and toss in some mystic martial arts action with American Rickshaw, though these would be incredibly boring-distilling the Tough To Kill essence and leaving a hulking shell with nothing to do but languish and torment the viewer.
Even though Science Fiction elements would appear in some films, especially rip offs of The Terminator and Aliens via the Bruno Mattei factory (Robowar and Shocking Dark respectively), Martino's Hands of Steel and even the slightly sad but awesomely fun Cywarrior directed by Giannetto De Rossi, nothing could compare to the long lasting and incredibly entertaining post nuclear blast films that fell out in the wake of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. Written and directed by some of the best talents in Italy still working at the time, populated by a cast of classic faces and new stars and ruled by totally berserk scenarios... it was a great time in Italian exploitation cinema. One that is worthy of it's own look, because these films are not simple science fiction, but so full of ACTION they became epics that capitalized on a popular scenario and spun off into something special and unique. The PastaPocalypse!

PastaPocalypse 80:After They Baked The Big Apple
While Mad Max was a hit all around the world, it wasn't until Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior that suddenly jock-strap clad warriors wasting about the desolate future became an all out Italian box office blitz. Suddenly EVERY producer that was already investing in action features realized that with a minimal bit of dressing they could up convert their ballistic special effects into a world market hungry for more MadMaxian Entertainment. Grab a few dune buggies (now armor clad in bizarre bits of semi-dangerous looking metal), hockey pads and a prologue sequence explaining how “they” dropped the bomb and viola... instant sales!! Far too easily dismissed and ignored amongst the horrorcentric eurotrash fan, the Post Apocalyptic genre of Italian Exploitation Cinema is one of the best distributed types of films and most entertaining sub genres ever created. Don't argue with me, I'm set on this point. As with the action films, many top talents were employed too create these amped up spaghetti westerns in drag-and around the globe film fanatics flocked to the rental shelves for them, as did the bored and jaded viewer. Some even became staples of Saturday afternoon UHF, and would even come back as Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fodder.
While it is commonly sited that Enzo G. Castellari's The Bronx Warriors is the start of the cycle, we have chosen to include the two Bronx films in the main body of this book. Both are much more a combination of The Warriors and Escape From New York and both are certainly outstanding films worthy of the attention they deserve with full reviews. Castellari did show up loaded for mutated bear early on however with the trashy classic film, The New Barbarians. Produced by Fabrizio De Angelis, this one works as a wild pastiche that sweeps the Mad Max / Clint Eastwood drifter into a whole (urr...hole) new territory. Timothy Brent stars as Skorpion, a wanderer that stumbles on a beautiful young woman being troubled by a wandering gang of “Templars” and of course he can not resist lending her a hand. Turns out our man Skorpion is a reformed Templar member himself and the leader of the roving band of miscreants, the giant One (played with monstrous scene chomping by George Eastman), decides it is time to go to war with Skorpion based on this offense. Well, he also rapes our hero once he captures him (and watch as Brent has to sell a wounded ass limp)... so perhaps the motivations of the conflict are more romantic than they seem. Joining the fairly good side are Fred Williamson as Nadir and Giovanni Frezza as a little boy that is a whiz with machines and cars. Nadir packs his explosive arrows, Enzo packs his triple camera slow motion set ups, the special effects guys bring the blow up bodies and extra gas for the stunt buggies to fly about. It is a perfect action adventure film, unspooling with vigor like a comic strip brought to life. Unlike the usual poor connotations of being comic book-ish, this works because The New Barbarians is utterly unpretentious matinée movie fun-just as it should be. A very influential film during the PastaPocalypse to say the least, and Castellari would be copied and cloned time and again. Claudio Simonetti's score would also set the tone for almost every other film to come as the Goblin member created a minimalistic synthetic landscape that surrounds and enhances the mood and images to perfection.
During the same year, another classic was spawned and became a huge influence on what would follow as Sergio Martino cranked out the audacious combination of Escape From New York's plot and added liberal doses of consummate eurotrash scripter Ernesto Gastaldi's warped sense of humor by having the final fertile woman in the world being wooed by a mutated George Eastman as Big Ape. 2019: After The Fall Of New York, where it is proclaimed that they “baked the Big Apple,” is a rollicking action film that features a good cast, a cool Oliver Onions score and a fun range of bizarre characters mixing it up in fight scenes that are always satisfying. After The Bomb is dropped the nasty Euraks, led by the sexy Ana Kanakis, are out to find the last fertile woman in the world-and lucky for us it turns out she is hidden inside New York City's corpse. Out to stop them are the Pan American Corporation led by Edmund Purdom(!!)-who assembles a crack team of mercenaries to infiltrate NYC and bring the woman back to Alaska (hah!) where it is safe. Parsifal (Micheal Sopkiw) is our lead man-a combo of model good looks and man of action brawn, always ready to kick some apocalyptic ass,. He demonstrates this straight away in a very Road Warrior styled scene involving auto dueling, which was another post Mad Max 2 pre-requisite. Joining Parsifal are Romano Puppo, whose Ratchet character has one of the coolest weapons ever seen in an action film, Hal Yamanouchi and a dwarf they call Shorty... of course! The aforementioned Big Ape is played to the banana's hilt by George Eastman of course-full of fury and the desire to spread his apey seed! The action scenes pile up as do the exploding heads and vile sewer crawling sequences until it all ends with a downbeat series of splatter scenes for our good guys, leaving only an escape into another galaxy as a conclusion. Yes, you read that right.
2019 is more interested in special effects than Castellari's film and is full of miniature sets and backdrops that appear much grander than the means used to create them. And have no fear gorehounds, effects guru Paolo Ricci pours on the gruesome nastiness. Martino made another somewhat futuristic film-Hands of Steel-that is great fun, though it falls far shy of 2019 and becomes more a violent action film with the as-advertised cyborg angle. Very worth watching, yet somehow not very post nuclear...
Between The New Barbarians and 2019: After The Fall Of New York the tone of The PastaPocalypse was set-and perhaps it could be said that the entire cycle peaked in quality as well. But that is no knock! The fearless fun level was set and many of the next films manage to entertain as much as these two rough and raw flicks.
As the celluloid bombs began to drop hard and heavy a few Italian Co-Productions were churned out, most notably She (a very bizarre and funny “adaptation” of H. Rider Haggard) and the often mocked but beloved by lovers of warped cinema Warrior Of The Lost World. Warrior feels more Italian of the pair, with Robert Ginty and a talking motorcycle battling the evil Donald Pleasance with the help of Persis Khambatta (who couldn't turn her Star Trek role into a career it appears). Great cheap fun both... but mere time wasters suitable for a cheap night of video renting when compared with what was coming to your VCR next.
Aristide Masseccisi never met a fad he didn't love and that is a fact. Under his screen name of Joe D'Amato he made two genuinely cool action/post nuke flicks back to back with the meager resources of his production house, Filmirage. Beginning with Endgame and continuing on with 2020: Texas Gladiators he created two sterling late night action classics with all of the trappings from the PastaPocalypse rolled into there running times. The MVA-M (Most Valuable Ape-Man), George Eastman was also on hand to write Endgame and co-direct 2020:Texas Gladiators! Now that is a pedigree... 50 years after 2019 (Martino's film set the date of the PastaPocalypse it seems!) televised death sports are the game and New York City's cut rate cadaver is the battlefield. Shannon (played by the one and only Al Cliver) does the unthinkable and spares another player upon triumphing at the game-much to that participants immortal shame. And a damn shame it is that Karnak isn't happy about being tooled in his sport. Even more of a shame for Cliver is that Karnak is George Eastman! But Cliver has it good as he pairs up with a telepath in the skinny shape of Laura Gemser and gets a new mission to keep him away from the games. Shannon is to escort her and a band of mutants out from under the dreadful fist of the state police. Sure, why not? But he could not prepare for a sect of vicious blind monks, nor the other bizarre cretins the band will encounter as nearly everyone is sliced up and down and backwards and forwards in unending action sequences. Of course, it wouldn't be fun unless Giant George could get his square up showdown-and the final frame is cliched fun-a bizarre non payout that still pays off as they attack each other...for the Endgame! Silly fun throughout, Endgame lacks the gloss of Martino's effort and the style of Castellari-but it does carry the Joltin' Joe D'Amato threadbare charm and a grooving score by Carlo Maria Cordio... one that is equally as slim as the budget of the film!
2020:Texas Gladiators is the less successful film of the Filmirage PastaPoaclyptic Pair, yet this strange movie does have a lot of things going for it. The plot, though beyond minimal, is really different than the standard run of the mill action fest. Built on western styled action (hence the Texas moniker) with “indians” barnstorming the baddies and Al Cliver meeting a strangely early demise, the script also features a baddie that is TOO damn bad to stay with his own group of bad guys! Add to that bizarre notion the fact that Harrison Muller Jr. plays the nut named Jab and 2020: Texas Gladiators becomes even more outrageous. Muller Jr. is about as wooden an actor as I can name, bless his two expressions... I look forward to all of his appearances. When Jab hooks up with a badder group of evildoers in order to commit acts of rape, robbery and violence it brings him head to head with his old band of merry mother grabbers... and everyone is going to die. While it is one note, if nothing else it can be said that 2020 exceeds viewers sleaze expectations by opening with a very long sequence that fits in with the D'Amato era of Nunsploitation, using a few odd religious items to offend amidst the carnage and nasty action. 
It is all a bit scattered, but makes for fun viewing for sheer cheap thrills. Cordio contributes more good, if droning, music and there is one really well done Russian roulette sequence that is memorable. Far from a perfect film, yet somehow perfect for completists. In 1989 Filmirage would once again go dystopian with Deran Serafian's bizarrely comedic entry Interzone. This strange adventure tale stars Bruce Abbott of Re-Animator fame and lady bodybuilder Teagan Clive, and though it may not succeed as an action film at all, the movie is entertaining in the Filmirage manner. Also, Interzone is worth watching for fans of Beatrice Ring, her Zombi 3 infamy and good looks make the film more watchable.

Similar in style and tossing in a quick angle involving a nuclear submarine, Ruggero Deodato's Atlantis Interceptors / Raiders of Atlantis is tricky to pin down as a PastaPocalpytic film. A detailed review is in the main review section for your reference, and it is obvious that the film is a cash in on the quasi futuristic genre. It is all jock straps n' motorbikes as Christopher Connelly and Tony King play a pair of mercenaries that end up first battling and then hopping in a helicopter to attack ATLANTIS! Luckily for both the audience and the producers, Atlanteans appear to be exactly like Trash and the gang from Bronx Warriors in their fashion sense... and even more violent and vicious! The Oliver Onions, Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, are on hand to create a distinctly nuke like sonic atmosphere and th
e great Gianetto De Rossi lathers on the special gore effects with gusto. Sure there isn't a bomb, but the rising of Atlantis is pretty damn impressive. A lot of action, some groovy costumes and a great pair of leads... this is a fantastic film regardless of what we choose to classify it as.

The truly PastaPocalyptic Exterminators Of The Year 3000 gets the genre back on track and manages to clone the exact premise of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior by taking the “must get the substance from the tankers” routine, only replacing gasoline with water. After another bomb strikes down the atmosphere, all of the surviving souls are thirsting for now precious water. And not only that, but some brave souls hope to actually grow crops to feed the remaining survivors, and that means they need a whole lot of liquid and fast. Each time they try to get to a supposed stockpile of the soggy goods a big mean mothergrabber (his term) by the name of Crazy Bull cusses them out and attacks the little bands of transport vehicles with his own insanely bizarre moto-creations. Enter...ALIEN! While he may have bad motivations (he wants to sell the water), he agrees to help the ragtag band, bringing along his own uber-mobile for backup. Ah, and this one has a little kid as well, and while that is not usually something to celebrate, it sure helps when it involves him getting his arm torn off and then chucking around rocks with a bionic tosser! Luca Venantini plays Tommy and is nearly as grating as good old/young Giovanni Frezza... but I love Frezza and little Luca gets points for cloning one of his performances. Director Giuliano Carnivore does a fantastic with more De Rossi effects backing him up, creating a film that manages to capture the desolate post nuke ambiance and nucleon-melt a slice of mega bad guy cheese on top. While he takes advantage of having great actors like Luciano Pizzicato and Eduardo Ricardo wandering around, it is the silly and vile Crazy Bull that steals the show. Screaming in mock Shakespearean mode he thunders out line upon line of garbage and bizarre curses that will leave the audience laughing all the way home. “Into battle my merry mother grabbers,” he bellows...ah, the S.A.S. Dubbing crew must have enjoyed this one a whole lot, and we should thank them for it!
While chest protectors, multi-colored Mohawks and knee pads were the rage, Italian action icon Antonio Margheriti decided to create a truly After The Bomb Masterwork with Yor-Hunter From The Future. Though it may not start as an apocalyptic film, it ends there and goes beyond as well! Adapting Ill Rondo di Yor, a comic book by the popular Spanish artist Juan Zanotto, the film opens as a caveman adventure as the viewer meets Yor (Reb Brown)-a hunter from the future as the title has tipped us off. Yor doesn't have it all that easy in his World, as he must rescue cavefolk from dinosaurs and gets on the business end of the maxim that every woman wants a hunky blond cave battler to make sweet love to her! Hooking up with his new best buddy Pag (Luciano Pigozzi) and wooing the lovely Ka-Laa (Corinne Clery), things heat up as he battles raging eye creatures (in the longer version only of course), evil tribes and other nasty goons... while his situation only worsens as multiple women vie for his attention. But wait...this IS a post nuke film! Suddenly a laser beam cuts the prehistoric sky and distresses our clan of cave bears as well as viewers not remembering the title of the film! The nasty Overlord (John Steiner as Ham Vader) is out to take over the world. Of course, Yor swings into action (or his stunt doll double does) and saves the day, the girl and the world as the few Yorbies cheer endlessly from their living rooms. While a bit on the goofy side, there is a carefree flight of fancy that permeates Yor's World-one that not only spins on an axis of miniature Margheriti monsters and spaceships, but gyrates to a disco theme by the Oliver Onions that will remain in infamy worldwide forever. It's Yor's World...he's the man! Well, the world was bombed back to the stone age, so they never did find that one untouched hockey shop to grab a protective cup, but Steiner's Stormtroopers are certainly close to the PostaPocalyptic fashion. Also, be triple sure to watch for the Ptero-Glider that Yor creates and smile along with's all in good fun.
Another Eurohorror icon, Lucio Fulci, would toss his bloody careers cadaver into the fray in 1983 with the futuristic combat film The New Gladiators. With many of his usual collaborators in tow, including editor Vincenzo Tomassi, scripter Dardano Sacchetti and scorelord Riz Ortolani, Fulci and his producer’s assembled a cast of post nuke coolness to work in front of the cameras as well. Fred Williamson, Hal Yamanouchi (in yet another Asian kung fu master role-though he would later cop to knowing no martial arts), Donald O'Brien, Al Cliver and Jared Martin all take the stage as warriors in wacky gear out to create the most insane spectacle of violence possible for a hungry throng of viewers being fed the gore via satellite. Claudio Cassinelli plays his Rollerball styled nasty corporate producer type with reckless abandon and nearly steals the show as our villain here, because after Drake (Martin) won't play along and kill a final opponent, he frames him up for killing his wife and gets him sentenced to duke it out too the bitter end amidst a field of nasty nutjobs. A winning situation for the scumbag producer, hell for everyone else. Brutal training, a big battle and all that you would expect (and motorbikes to boot) unfold until the grander scheme is unveiled by our hero and the mighty Abdul (Williamson). All is not as it seems though, and it is up to Drake to save the world from the ultimate computer brainiac beast...but how? Fulci approaches the material without any humor and does a good job at keeping the pace smooth throughout. However the spotty script defeats the fun in many ways, by simply being so damned straight faced. Buoyed up by some well staged action, Fred Williamson simply being himself and a great score, this is ultimately a misfire of holocaustic proportions. A damn shame as Fulci fans would expect more, though it is not hard to believe that the Maestro of Zombie Mayhem may not have really been all that interested in this project.

One guy whose heart is always in the project at hand, simply because he wants to make the most commercially viable products possible, is Bruno Mattei... and his stunning PastaPocalyptic film Rats: Nights of Terror is as entertaining as it is silly, and as classic as the gore is nasty. An opening crawl of text alerts the viewer that we are now in the 225 A.B. (After The Bomb) and we join the ever welcome Richard Raymond as Kurt, along with his ragtag group of merry misfits. They are all resplendent in Post Blast fashions as they find a new place to hang their biker helmets in a strangely empty town. But why is it empty you may wonder? Because RATS have eaten everyone, a fact that is something the cast lunkheadedly plods towards discovering amidst their sex and shit talking. Short on plot as the preceding sentence pretty much sums it up... as long as I mention that most of the wandering gang is eaten, the film goes long on gore and odd characters courtesy of Claudio Fragasso's straight blast screenplay. Hammed up with a foul mouthed glee by the cast, we watch as Kurt, Taurus (a really funny looking Massimo Vanni), Cross, Video (who plays video games of course!), Lucifer, Deus, Duke and Chocolate (a sexy black girl...again, of course) get chomped and devoured. The End. Well, not exactly as Mattei pulls out all the stops to give us a giant rat beast in a decontamination suit for our money.
Rats is an interesting entry in the PastaPocalypse as it contains several action scenes, yet relies more on the horror elements of this After The Bomb nightmare world. For such a thin premise it plays out over a tense 90 plus minute runtime that is relentless with restless camera work galore, as we probe each and every chew hole the rats, or white mice dipped in black paint, can unleash on our intrepid crew. Pumped up by a great bit of electronic musical throb produced by Luigi Ceccarelli, it remains one of Bruno Mattei's most popular films with good reason. This group of atomic survivors is probably the best rendered in the genre because each is so distinctly outrageous, and the film was so popular that it was billed as Riffs 3 in Germany in an attempt to link it to Enzo G. Castellari's Bronx films! A must see, and even if it is short on exploding huts there are plenty of torn bodies to take their place!

As we continue on, it should be noted that by this time the Italians were not alone in exploiting the popular World Gone Wild Phenomena.. No matter where a renter or drive in fanatic looked they could find films shot on the cheap with a few dune buggies and beastly heroes. Most notable are the widely distributed films by Filipino genre hopper Cirio Santiago. In some ways his films are both cheaper and more outrageous than even the Italian films, but that is a story for another time. Also emanating from the Philippines is the must see ultra bizarre entry W (is War) and it's semi-sequel. For any post nuke historian this duo is a must see and well worth the hunt through the video tape bins. However, with this much product it became obvious there was not going to be a lot of viewer interest or money left as video rentals were spread thin, as almost any and everything could find a home at the local shops. A few minor entries (and one really strong one) would appear before the trend fizzled entirely. Generally written off as the nadir of the PastaPocalypse, Tonino Ricci's back to back quickies RUSH and A MAN CALLED RAGE assaulted video shelves globally. In the United States they had a post nuke clad Sybil Danning on hand to pump up the viewers excitement level thanks to some clever VHS marketing, but to no avail. The two films are almost identical in that they feature Conrad Nichols (Bruno Minniti) as the titular hero relentlessly killing every guy in a gas mask he can get his hands on. A few weak looking supercars try to spruce things up, but gone are the gloriously over the top effects and miniature sets of earlier entries, replaced by “radioactive” fog which appears to be generated by one severely overtaxed dry ice machine and (in the case of A Man Called Rage) even a PUDDLE has become something to fear! Doubly difficult to swallow is the utter lack of personality or charisma from Nichols, who looks like a slightly more fit Ray Wise more than a Mark Gregory styled mean motor scooter. Watching him RAGE is more like a child's fit and you'll RUSH to go watch another film when he appears on screen. Ricci is not what I'd call the most stylish director in the world (nor the least), but he shows little flair at all for the more atomic oriented aspects of the production. But he DOES know how to film repetitive violent action and is assisted by genre workhorse Tito Carpi's script for A Man Called Rage, which simply abandons the use of dialog in many instances and relies on rat-a-tat-tat to carry the running time.

They may be the lowliest of the bunch in some opinions, but for the action junkie (and especially the readers of this book), there are parts of each that redeem them from the scrapheap. In the case of Rush there are lots of ballistic sequences as well as an evil overlord in the form of Gordon Mitchell who does his best with the available material. Francesco De Masi's scores from previous entries into the genre pop up, and are as good as least the PastaPocalyptic video warrior can tap his toes while watching this film. It even has the lovely Laura Trotter to look at on occasion. A Man Called Rage has the aforementioned Puddle of Doom as well as even more killing and some goofy white robed religious types who believe Rage to be their savior. Also notable is a really great recap of The Apocalypse which features crying children, stock explosions and so much more. Vincenzo Tomassi probably enjoyed working on this sequence more than anything else-it has lots of horrific punch and gets things started off strong. The best part of A Man Called Rage has to be the always welcome presence of Werner Pochath, who wanders around looking buffed out while he goes on a final mission seeking catering and the paymaster. Well, he doesn't do that in the film, but we know what was really going on don't we? If you love your PastaPocalyptica then it is worth watching these back to back so that you don't really know which was which and get your cheap Rush of nuke powered Rage flavored memories from the video shops of the 80's.

Once you have gone below the Ricci line you can follow the slow death of the genre, which begins at the surprisingly cool The Final Executioner. While The Final Executioner is a great film, the production company, L'Immagine, would grind everything they could from it, destroying what could have been a legacy equal to at least the Filmirage pictures. But first, the good stuff...

Directed by Romolo Guerrieri, an uncle too Enzo G. Castellari, this is an atypical entry, a movie that is equal parts stalk and slaughter mayhem mixed with a straight up action film. Taking a cue from the ever popular Most Dangerous Game and set in the future, where human hunting is sport for the remaining rich folks After The Bomb. One couple, including Alan (William Mang), is brought to the slaughter for the delight of a group of wealthy youth. Instead of simply killing them and being done, they rape Alan's wife before offing her... and even dumber than that they screw up in classic Spaghetti Western form and leave Alan alive. As Alan flees the scene and becomes obsessed with revenge we follow the hunters around as they deal with Erazmus (Harrison Muller Jr. in his best role). The gaggle of gorehounds continue on being rich and scummy while Alan meets up with the iconic Woody Strode as Sam, the last Sheriff! Luckily, Strode is a personal trainer to the post nuke wastelands and he beats Alan into an iron rod of rage, wrath and slasher worthy annihilation. Turning the tables he stalks and slaughters those who have done him wrong... much to the audiences delight.

Well made and featuring an excellent score from Carlo De Nonno and Carlo Maria Cordio, The Final Executioner is a great hybrid of action, over the top heroics and slasher atmospherics. A canny use of locations really helps set the post nuke vibe, even if the focus isn't on the typical hyperbuggies and machine guns. On top of Strode's script smashing shouting, Mang makes a good hero, Muller Jr. is cool looking, and most males in the audience should enjoy the lovely as always Margit Evelyn Newton and her finer points making an appearance. It's stylish, it's fast paced and should appease any fan of obscure European trashy cinema. Sadly this film seems to have fallen into obscurity even amongst the hardcore viewers of such items. A shame... this is top stuff! But I did mention that this signaled the beginning of the end... and here is what happened.

L'Immagine got the brilliant idea several years later to revive portions of The Final Executioner not just once, but twice! And even more amazing is that these versions would become commonplace on video and DVD shelves everywhere while Guerrieri's film languishes unseen! Not only did these producers simply exploit a good film, they managed to kill it altogether... an unforgivable sin. Even more amazing is that Italian horror legend Piero Regnoli was hired to write these redux atrocities, which I'll assume must have been a quickie paycheck job, since there is so much stock footage on show it becomes one of the craziest patch jobs imaginable and barely scripted... at least at the French company of Eurocine they would splice lots of movies together to repackage them into one.
Starting with The Bronx Executioners and continuing on into Urban Warriors the original saga of Alan and Sam becomes somewhat new, but not nearly as good. These two films are so poor that even if the bulk of global trash featuring the PastaPocalyptic world couldn't crush the interest from weary viewers, these two films could. The Bronx Executioners lifts huge sections of The Final Executioner and centers around returning actress Margit Evelyn Newton, which is usually fine-but they add new footage of her that is a complete mismatch! Her breasts do appear to have grown several sizes in between the two productions however, and that isn't bad because any excuse for Ms. Newton's breasts to wobble across a cinema screen is nice... but only for so long. Newton is back to human hunting and she picks the wrong people to take advantage of... thankfully Woody Strode is also back to put him through the same workout routine we saw in the earlier film. Well, almost, since Strode wasn't asked back for his role there are scenes with the most amazing stand-in appearance I can recall. To call it a mismatch would be an understatement, but I'll leave it at that. Ebony and Ivory have never been so mixed with confusion. Bringing in a few new characters doesn't hurt in the creation of a patchwork film, but Alex Vitale is such a goof that he destroys even the new footage at every turn. Confusing and patched up in the poorest manner the deathbed of the PastaPocalypse has been made, and L'Immagine couldn't help but rush to tuck the bombed out corpse neatly into it.

Urban Warriors is the polar opposite of the Enzo G. Castellari films. It is stagnant, it is bland and worst of all it is boring. Well, aside from one monkey flip and a bit of hubba bubba nudity and the trademarked Banzai Landgren Lunge. Again plumbing The Final Executioner for stock footage, though far less than in the previous film, this is one slow bit of post nuke work. Three lab technicians are underground and chatting on the phone when the PastaPocalypse occurs... luckily Brad (Karl Landgren) is a bad looking dude and totally ready for such an occasion. Not so good for his pals Maurie and Stan. Stan doesn't live very long since he is played by distinctly not tough looking Maurice Poli and the two remaining guys walk VERY SLOWLY around the wasteland. But nothing is wasted? Buildings remain and it looks quite like a dumping ground here. After only a few days there are tribes of evil punks that want to kill the scientists. Why not? Is there something better to do? They fight, they escape and then they work on their car...over and over! That is until we meet a woman who gets naked and has a sloppy and boring sex scene with Karl Landgren. But she is apparently up to no good! She is killed by another gang (they are everywhere it seems) and the new gang members reveal that spinal fluid is the drink of choice in the post nuke world. There is more but you get the picture by now. Utterly ridiculous at every turn, there is more Landgren, some lunging and fighting and then a truly goofy ending to slap the viewer awake. Oh, and a long flashback narrated over The Final Executioner footage of course.


However, at this point the explosions of post nuke adventures had finally burnt bright and left the video shops as ash for this no longer fertile ground as the PastaPocalypse would go out with a whimper. While it may seem a shame that the cycle did not close on a triumphant note, it is somehow fitting as the last survivors of the World Gone Wild die off... it would appear that Big Ape failed to repopulate the world in 2019: After The Fall Of New York. Drat. No need to be sad though... the digital revolution in home video has opened the bunker and several of these films have found new life! And be they lovely restorations or fittingly cheap bootlegs of L'Immagine's releases-fans of action cinema, fans of science fiction, and fans of Eurotrash have a canon of films that nothing, not even the fallout from the implosion of the Italian exploitation cinema can deny. All hail you Merry Mothergrabbers!! They baked the big apple and it still tastes as lovely today as it did when action was king and the baddest dudes in the dead world wore jock straps OVER their pants.

Notes:  Thanks to the tireless scanning from DEVAG, this article looks better than ever!! Join there Facebook group and enjoy tons of amazing art and trailers--and say thanks! 





RaroVHS said...

Wow! Nice and long post, you must have worked a lot on it. Here are some movies from my post apocalyptic collection:

David A. Zuzelo said...

Thanks very much! This is a compilation of posts put into a simple, though long, readable order. Hope you enjoy it and thanks very much for the link!

Mike David Jr. said...

This is my favorite non-Friday entry on your blog, Dave. In a genre where I thought I've seen every movie, you've introduced me to some new ones.


Just saying. Now I'm gonna have the Yor's World song running through my head the rest of the day.

Ian Miller said...

I want a DVD of ENDGAME bad!