Post-Apoc Follies

Titles Reviewed: Crime Zone (1988), Dune Warriors (1990), The Terror Within (1989)

Crime Zone

(USA-Peru, 1988) DIR-PROD: Luis Llosa. SCR: Daryl Haney. CAST: David Carradine, Peter Nelson, Sherilyn Fenn.

According to legend, Roger Corman flew down to Peru with the intention of shooting there for its locations (or more likely, cheap resources), called around to various production companies to ask who the country's hot young director was... and the general consensus was Luis Llosa. Roger signed him on the spot, and was back on a plane to America within two hours of having arrived. (Although these days, Corman would've saved more money just by doing Skype calls.)

After directing Hour Of The Assassin for Corman's Concorde studio, Llosa followed up with this, one of the many pictures that Corman produced within the post-apocalyptic subgenre. Strangely enough, these movies were produced a few years too late, after this trend waned in popularity. This movie is interesting visually, for its grey hues and smoke-filled art deco straight out of Blade Runner, depicting a totalitarian future where crime has been wiped out of existence. Similarly, compassion has also been frowned upon. Young lovers Bone (Peter Nelson) and Helen (Sherilyn Fenn) are given a proposition by a mysterious man (David Carradine). If they rob a government building, they will get a ticket out of this oppressive city to a more utopian place. (Think Casablanca mixed with 1984.)

Sherilyn Fenn, who I usually like (and is perfectly suited for noir roles like these), is terrible here. David Carradine gives a very broad performance as the cigar-chomping Jason. Typical of his later Corman productions, the actor's top-billed role is a glorified cameo. The film is more watchable for its look than its mundane dramatics, especially since the twist ending is too preposterous even for the reality it has created. Instead it is more interesting for its smoky cinematography and portrayal of an oppressive society with surveillance cameras everywhere.

Dune Warriors

(USA-Philippines, 1990) DIR: Cirio Santiago. SCR: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver. PROD: Roger Corman, Cirio Santiago, Christopher R. Santiago. CAST: David Carradine, Rick Hill, Luke Askew, Jillian McWhirter, Blake Boyd, Maira Isabel Lopez.

Compared to the films of his fellow countrymen, the work of prolific Filipino director-producer Cirio Santiago may not be as atmospheric as Eddie Romero's, or as stylized as Bobby Suarez's, but he modestly offered competent thrills on a budget. Despite their often no frills presentations, his films are seldom dull.

It is strange to see him still consorting with Roger Corman years after it was fashionable for American producers to make films in the Philippines, but wherever there's a dollar to still be made. Why anyone would need a Road Warrior rip-off so late in the game is anyone's guess, but this post-apoc effort is a variation on the Magnificent Seven formula, itself well used by Corman in the 1980 sci-fi favourite, Battle Beyond The Stars.

Set in New California 2040 AD, an infantry led by the nefarious William (Askew) enslaves the village of Chin-Le for its water supply. Val (McWhirter), a runaway from the village, recruits the help of the soft-spoken Michael (David Carradine, in a characterization modeled after his Kung Fu days), and he in turn assembles a ruffian group of mercenaries to do battle with the bad guys and free the village. These characters are decidedly more one-dimensional than either of the films that have inspired them, although Maria Isabel Lopez is noteworthy as a hot-blooded mercenary who is also a firebrand out of her armour. (Hey, it's a Roger Corman movie.)

This movie is derivative to the extreme, and full of little boy action to prolong the inevitable confrontation between the good-guy and the main villain confrontation, otherwise this would be over in five minutes. The brief 80-minute running time is due to the no-frills excitement: little time for melodrama, exposition or resolution. But hey, I still liked it. Trivia note: David Carradine and Luke Askew were also adversaries in Concorde's sword-and-sorcery epic, The Warrior And The Sorceress.

The Terror Within

(USA, 1989) DIR: Thierry Notz. SCR: Thomas McKelvey Cleaver. PROD: Roger Corman. CAST: George Kennedy, Andrew Stevens, Starr Andreeff, Terri Treas, John Lafayette.

This begins as an agreeable post-apocalyptic rip-off, as survivors of a military outpost (with loads of cool retro analog gear like reel-to-reel machines used as art direction) search for life that hasn't been mutated by the radioactive fallout. They encounter a pregnant female survivor who appears to be normal and bring her back to the compound. Before long her pregnancy accelerates and a slimy alien baby pops out. It is here that this pretty good post-apoc movie turns into yet another Alien clone, as this baby all covered with blood and goo quickly grows to humanoid size with one goal in mind... to perpetuate the species with the other females in the compound. As well made as the movie is on a tight budget, all credibility goes out the window when the surviving humans do battle with somebody in an obvious latex suit. (I kept looking for the zipper up the creature's back.) In true B-movie fashion, the first-billed veteran star (George Kennedy) has little screen time. Hunky Andrew Stevens, who quickly went from a promising supporting player in A movies to top-billing (and sometimes director) in B movies (often ending up between the sheets with Shannon Tweed), directed himself in the inevitable sequel The Terror Within II.