The Motion Picture:
'Warriors of the Wasteland' (1982), directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Also Known As...
'The New Barbarians' and 'Metropolis 2000.'
Featuring the Talented...
Giancarlo "Timothy Brent" Prete, Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, George Eastman and Anna Kanakis.
What Is It?
An post-apocalyptic biker movie starring a bunch of dubbed Italians and pro football player turned B-movie legend Fred Williamson. Imagine 'The Road Warrior' with less class, less intelligence, more unintentional comedy, more shoulder pads and a final message that may be one of the most hilariously offensive things committed to celluloid.
So the apocalypse happened and now everyone lives in their cars and tries to survive in a ruined world that looks like the same rock quarry repeated over and over again. There are a bunch of shoulder-pad-wearing jerks called the Templars, who believe it is their duty to finish off the entire human race, so they spend their days riding around the wasteland harassing the local populace, i.e., killing them with guns and flamethrowers and dune buggies equipped with whirling blades. In steps Scorpion (Giancarlo Prete, credited as Timothy Brent), a mercenary with a heart of gold and a car of ass-kicking, who proceeds to kill more than his fair share of Templars, royally pissing off their leader, One. Yes, that's his name. Soon enough, the Templars are revealed to be an army of Christian hating gay men (yes), who capture Scorpion and ritualistically rape him (what?). Now it's up to Scorpion's rival Nadir (Williamson) to teach a psychologically emasculated Scorpion how to be a man again so they can go rescue a group of Bible-thumping refugees from the clutches of the Templars. They win the day and Scorpion kills One by steering his car-mounted drill weapon straight into his posterior. Yes, that is the plot of 'Warriors of the Wasteland.'
Shocking Acts of Violence!
Most of the violence going on in 'Warriors of the Wasteland' is of the 'Star Wars' variety. You know what I'm talking about: a lot of baddies pretend to get hit with a laser and the demolition expert waiting patiently off camera sets off the squibs filled with sparks. But then, in the middle of an otherwise perfectly PG action sequence, the film will proudly display a torso exploding like a can of Coke left in the freezer. That's when the filmmakers bring in the mannequins! 'Warriors of the Wasteland' features more violence toward mannequins than any other film ever made. Mannequins are run over by cars, mannequins are lit on fire, mannequins are blown into pieces by laser blasts and mannequins have their heads blown into bloody smithereens. It's about as convincing as you'd expect.
Sexual Deviancy and Mindless Perversity!
To call the sexual politics of 'Warriors of the Wasteland' medieval would be the understatement of any year. However, the film feels stupidly naive instead of hateful and malicious -- this movie is like your wacky grandfather who says wildly offensive things but all your family can muster in response is "Oh, grandpa!" This can be seen when Scorpion rescues a girl from certain death and he forcibly charms her into some late night action inside a transparent neon green inflatable tent. It can also be seen during the sequence where, uh, the Templars are revealed to be gay nihilists who want to destroy the world. For what it's worth, the rape of Scorpion is about as tastefully shot as a colorful psychedelic montage set to blazing synths can be. Special attention must be paid to the bullet-proof suit that Scorpion wears to the climactic battle scene, right before he kills the bad guy by shoving a large drill where the sun doesn't shine. I... I think this speaks for itself:
Is There a Robot?
Although it takes place in the future, 'Warriors of the Wasteland' contains approximately zero robots. But who needs robots when you have badass cars specifically designed to cease the heartbeats of your enemies? However, all cars are like wet paper next to Scorpion's ride. Designed by a possibly psychotic German child who lives in a trailer and tries to kill Scorpion whenever he wanders by for repairs, it's like a cross between a Connery-era Bond vehicle and that car Homer Simpson designed. My favorite feature? The ability to launch the driver's side door at your enemy just in case someone attaches a sticky bomb to it.
Just How Cheap Does It Look?
Mannequins. So many mannequins. That and the fact that the entire movie looks like it was shot in the same quarry. And the fact that all of the actors except for Williamson are apparently dubbed. Perhaps the film's scope can best be summed up by the opening credits, which represent an apocalyptic nuclear war by flashing a strobe light over a still image of a city and turning on a fog machine. Move over, 'Terminator 2!'
"Books! That's what started this whole apocalypse!"
"Hate! Hate! Hate with all of your heart! Hate and exterminate!"
"They are people from a sect. They believe in something called -- God!"
It's embarrassing how many times I've watched this film. I've put on 'The Godfather' twice, maybe three times. I've seen 'Warriors of the Wasteland' at least ten times. This would automatically qualify it as one of my favorite films of all time if it wasn't just so, so, so terrible. It really is a special kind of awful: it's badly made and offensive to my sensibilities!
Let's jump around the potentially controversial aspects of the film for a moment. As for a kitschy, badly made 'Mad Max' cash-ins go, 'Warriors of the Wasteland' isn't too shabby. It moves fast, has surprisingly little filler and has an absurd amount of action. When you explore the world of bad movies, you'll find that most of them, even the famous ones, are filled with arid, boring stretches of nothing, sequences that were obviously cheap and easy to film and exist only to get you to that next memorable moment. Not so with 'Warriors of the Wasteland.' Take the opening half hour: an attack on a settlement by the Templars followed by our hero shooting down a bunch of mutants and then a shoot out with the wacky German kid and some lame stunt driving. Finally, there's the car chase and the damsel in distress and the rescue and the macho posturing between Scorpion and the two henchmen and then a seduction intercut with a soul-searching campfire conversation. There is no way you can make that series of events boring, even if they are Terrible with a capital T.
It goes without saying that this is a stupid film, but it's a charming kind stupidity. For example, it's only been The End of the World for ten years, but many of the adult characters have completely forgotten what religion is (and therefore, must be taught). A group of refugees learn that a rebuilt civilization is only ten miles away, which leads me to believe that all of these characters have been running around the same quarry shooting and stabbing and burning each other for ten years while people have been going about their daily lives only a short drive away. It's like that episode of 'The Twilight Zone' where the astronauts crash on an alien planet and slowly die, only to learn too late that they've landed in the Nevada desert.
What makes a stupid film charming instead of insulting? It's a difficult question and I'm not sure if it can be answered to complete satisfaction. I'm sure most of the charm here is derived from the film's "Let's put on a show!" community theater approach to moviemaking. I can easily imagine Corky St. Clair or Mark Borchardt sitting behind the camera on this one, pouring their heart and soul into a movie where you can see the hot glue on the cardboard. After all, 'Transformers' is also a stupid film, but with the money and the technical expertise behind it, you have to raise your standards. Seeing your friends do 'Our Town' at the Podunk-Ville arts center and going to a Broadway show are two very different experiences but both deliver their own kind of enjoyment.
But I digress. What really makes this film sing is embodied by Fred Williamson, who is not a good actor but makes up for that by being the best Not Good actor of all time. Here is a powerfully charismatic man who can't act to save his life...but don't tell him that! You can see it in his eyes, in his smile and the way he often slips a John Wayne-esque pause into his line delivery. He thinks he's doing an amazing job. You don't think so and you're right, but Williamson believes in this character, believes in this movie and sells himself to the role. This is total commitment.
The result? As stupid as his lines are, as dumb as his costume looks and as stilted as his acting is, Williamson owns this movie by the sheer force of his presence. He believes the stupidity and you should, too.
However, the reason I return to 'Warriors of the Wasteland,' the reason I've forced it upon many unsuspecting friends and acquaintances, is the reveal of the Templars' identity and their motivation. After all, this is a film about the evil gays trying to wipe out all of the good Christians. It's like Fox News and the Tea Party put their knuckleheads together and decided to make an action movie! The end features the hero, his girlfriend and an orphan child standing together amidst the countless dead bodies of their morally corrupt adversaries and forming a traditional family unit. The nerve of this film! Every time I watch it, I can't help but be surprised all over again that this exists, that someone read this script, said "This is okay! I can support a film where this happens!" and everyone went out and bought film stock and cast actors and made a movie. Granted, this movie was produced nearly thirty years ago, but that's no excuse for total social unconsciousness.
Yeah, I can feign outrage all day. The truth of the matter is that the film is too silly and its message way too outrageously misguided to take seriously. In fact, I can't help but admire its audacity. It's a 'Road Warrior' knock-off with a brazen, bizarre, wholly personal and complete insane political message shoved kicking and screaming into it. It's just plain fascinating. This is why we watch B-movies, ladies and gentlemen: because the strangest, most morally questionable voices just don't work for Hollywood and sometimes the strangest, most morally questionable voices just have to be heard...not because they deserve your attention, but just so you can say you've heard them. I have seen and forgotten countless movies during my time on this planet. For better or for worse, I will never forget 'Warriors of the Wasteland.'