The Apocalypse on a Budget

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The Apocalypse on a Budget

If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, George Miller must really be feeling the love right now. Neil Marshall’s anticipated follow-up to The Descent, Doomsday hits multiplexes tomorrow and looks to pay more than a little lip service to Miller’s big-screen beacon of post-apocalyptic mayhem, the Mad Max series. In light of Doomsday’s high-dollar riff on the bleak world of tomorrow, it seemed to me the perfect time to look back at some of the better Mad Max imitators which popped up on video store shelves with clockwork regularity in the ‘80s.

World Gone Wild - Bruce Dern, Michael Pare, Adam Ant… it’s the ‘80s alright, and it’s a kick-ass post-apoc romp from the good folks at Reagan-era home vid stalwart Media Entertainment! Aside from some nicely choreographed action, the film features a surprisingly acidic, self-reflective sense of humor, long before such flights of cinematic irony were considered cool. Dern leads a commune of hippies (including son Pare) against Ant’s Church of Charles Manson followers and roving bands of mutant cannibals in a resource-deprived future. Director Lee Katzin also helmed a spate of exceptional MFTV movies in the ‘70s and the Steve McQueen racing opus Le Mans.

Steel Dawn - crazy Swayze tackles a gang of murderous bandits attempting to seize control of a peaceful village’s water supply. Remember when Swazye was a high-quality low-rent action star - Red Dawn, Road House, Next of Kin? After Ghost the dude really lost his way. The film also featured turns by Brion James and Arnold Vosloo, and a score by original Mad Max composer Brian May. Dawn owes as much to the western genre as it does anything else, with Swayze’s nameless hero doing a bit of a by-the-numbers Shane routine. Cheesy, to be sure, but in the best sort of ‘80s way. Features a rather spectacular sword fight and all manner of stoic Swazye posturing.

Hell Comes to Frogtown - sleaze impresario Donald G. Jackson unleashed this truly bizarre spin on a world where fertility is at a premium, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper’s junk just might rep our only hope to propagate the species. A tried and true “B” picture if there ever was one, the film’s just gonzo enough that it charms when it really has no right to. The acting’s atrocious, the production design’s lower-than-low-rent, and the action’s primarily of the “awkward grappling” variety. Conan starlet Sandahl Bergman co-stars in this “USA Up All Night” staple. An exploding chastity belt reps a central plot device, if that helps further set the tone.

2019: After the Fall of New York - mini-maestro Sergio Martino helmed this Mad Max / Escape from New York hybrid rip, which again makes the search for fertility in a post-apoc wasteland a major plot point. NYC has fallen into the hands of an evil empire, and the remnants of global government hire an unshaven anti-hero to infiltrate Manhattan and rescue a young woman thought to have the ability to bear children. I’m not saying Children of Men owes a debt to the guy who directed The Island of the Fishmen, but it does seem awfully convenient, doesn’t it…? In all seriousness, this is one of the better examples of Italy’s bizarre fascination with Mad Max clones, and features a great supporting turn by “George Eastman” (Luigi Montefiori), perhaps best known as the fetus-scarfing madman in Anthropophagous, playing a character named “Big Ape”.

Equalizer 2000 - let’s be straight off the top here – this is a bad movie. Not good-bad, just bad. It just didn’t feel right putting this list together without mentioning the man responsible for more Mad Max clones than probably anyone else, Cirio H. Santiago. We have this guy to thank for Stryker, Wheels of Fire, Future Hunter, Dune Warriors, Raiders of the Sun, and hell, I don’t know, probably five or six more I’ve missed. I decided to pick on Equalizer 2000 in particular because there may have been some eerie foresight involved there. After all, I did pay $3.55 a gallon to fill up my tank yesterday and we’re only eight years removed from that titular date. Cirio – perhaps you’re something of a savant after all.

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Rhythm-XMarch 13, 2008 10:28 PM

This list is a good start, but needs to be longer as it seems that SIX STRING SAMURAI, RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR, and THE NEW BARBARIANS are all missing from it.

CheechWizzMarch 13, 2008 10:43 PM

Not completely off-topic: I heard about a fourth Mad Max movie some time ago but kinda lost track of it until I stumbled upon this article today.
Seems the 4th movie is still on from reading the article.

Ard VijnMarch 13, 2008 11:24 PM

Ah, the eighties: Battletruck, Bronx Warriors...

(as opposed to the nineties: Waterworld, The Postman...)

Strange that no-one has ever seemed able to adequately mine the concepts laid out by "Road Warrior". These wannabees are all fun at most, atrocious at worst!

Simon AbramsMarch 14, 2008 12:40 AM

Is there? I had just thought it was me and...maybe Collin? I don't think Collin's seen it.

But yes, if you consider my unabashed enthusiasm for the film to be a surge, then yes, I am the surge.

That should be my quote: "I AM THE SURGE! DEVO CHAMBER! RAR RAR!" I'll make sure to say that to Stephen Chow next time I interview him. Especially that RAR RAR part.

Collin ArmstrongMarch 14, 2008 12:47 AM

Saw it many years ago when it first came out, but haven't seen it recently. I *could* borrow my friend's DVD, though. Might have to now.

Kurt HalfyardMarch 14, 2008 2:54 AM

We Love QUIET EARTH by the way. :)

JustinDMarch 14, 2008 4:41 AM

Nifty. I've never heard of this "Quiet Earth" place and now I think I'll be a regular...

Agent OrangeMarch 14, 2008 5:23 AM

Awww, thanks for the kind words guys! Like I said, no spamming intended here, just sharing. We love Twitch and kind of consider them our unofficial bros. I guess you could say its like a bromance... thanks again!

Collin ArmstrongMarch 14, 2008 7:23 AM

Nice list, Agent Orange - good site to keep bookmarked, too! Thanks for posting the link!

theravenknightMarch 14, 2008 10:15 AM

Granted I know it's anime but the FIST OF THE NORTH STAR is literally ripped from Mad Max.

SwarezMarch 14, 2008 7:36 PM

Rollerblade warriors is also a good one. And I remember one particular called America 3000 which had a striking poster featuring a Big Foot type creature holding a boom box and the American flag. It was produced by B movie gold mine Cannon and featured B movie queen Laurene Landon.

I love Hell Comes to Frog town and it's a shame that Roddy Piper didn't do more action films cause the guy was really enjoyable. Frog Town did get a sequel but I don't think I've ever seen that around, on VHS even.

Kurt. Maybe Mario Bros would be a good candidate for the movie club podcast.
For some reason a trailer for it was on the Howard The Duck DVD and I had forgotten how bid budgeted and star studded this film was at the time.

zen99October 2, 2008 1:31 AM

Fist of the North Star was also made into a live action film.