Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Warrior of the Lost World (Regal Films, 1983)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2008 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

I greeted Charles, who came over from his place about half an hour after I called him, and we settled in for another Mystery Science Theatre 3000 program: one of the later ones when Joel Hodgson was still hosting, a 1983 movie called Warrior of the Lost World, directed by David Worth (and of course the MST3K crew couldn’t resist the obvious “David Worthless” pun on his name!) from his own script, though according to an “Trivia” item on this movie he was actually hired to make it and went out to Italy to find that all they had was a title and a poster — so he was obliged to write and direct a movie based on the poster art.

What he came up with was a Mad Max knock-off (“Mildly Annoyed Max,” I called it) in which the hero, identified only as “The Rider” (played by Robert Ginty, who must have played the Timothy Bottoms role in the TV version of The Paper Chase because the MST3K crew referred to him throughout as “the Paper Chase guy”), rides around in a post-apocalyptic future (the backstory is explained to us in one of those horrible receding crawls the enormous success of the first Star Wars briefly made fashionable), pretty much minding his own business — or trying to — until he’s recruited by Nastasia (Persis Khambatta, whose only well-known role is as a bald ship’s officer in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and who is virtually unrecognizable with hair), daughter of a resistance leader (whom for some reason the MST3K crew decided looked like Jimmy Carter even though the resemblance totally eluded me) who’s challenging the absolute rule of Prossor (Donald Pleasance, whose striking resemblance in the role to John Houseman must have given Ginty a sense of dèja vu), a dictator who comes off less as Hitler, Stalin or Big Brother than like the idiotic blowhard Passworthy (Edward Chapman), the piss-ant dictator in the post-apocalyptic sequences of Things to Come.

The movie has virtually no plot — just Our Rather Huffy Hero riding his motorbike around various apocalyptic sites (though the largely pastel color by cinematographer Giancarlo Ferrando is quite pleasant — this was a U.S.-Italian co-production and the studio work was done at Cinecittá, where Fellini’s masterpieces were shot — about the only connection I could think of between Warrior of the Lost World and any good movies!) and meeting up with whatever menacing weapons and vehicles the filmmakers could conjure up on a very limited budget, from “death cars” that were obviously old Dodge Darts with front scoops and rear spoilers to make them look frightening to a large truck remodeled into something called “Megaweapon” by the addition of spikes to its front and armor to its sides (the hero manages to disarm it by reaching under its big wheels and disconnecting its computer — and I can’t imagine how the MST3K crew missed the obvious joke of singing “Bicycle Built for Two” as the computer expired). The hero’s bike is also equipped with an annoying talking computer that flashes him messages and speaks in a Jewish-mother voice — an interesting off-take on the computer-in-the-car in the TV series Knight Rider— and, as all too often happens in this sort of production, the computer has all (or at least most of) the best lines.

The film drones on and on and on and on — it’s yet another one of these supposed “thrillers” that remains too leadenly-paced to achieve thrills (which seems to have been something the “brains” behind MST3K consciously looked for in seeking out films to make fun of) — leading to a Lone Ranger-ish ending in which they finally kill the dictator (though it turns out he’s half-robot and enough of the mechanical part of him survives to create a clone and bring him back to life that way — were they really expecting enough people to buy tickets for this movie to set up a sequel?) and the obnoxious computer on the hero’s motorbike tells him to kiss the heroine; he does so but then rides off into the sunset (a quite pretty sunset with the same giant-orange sun we saw at the beginning) and the final credits come up. Viewed au naturel this would have been a pompous bore, but giving it the MST3K treatment at least raised it to reasonably pleasant light entertainment.