Sunday 16 June 2013

Two very eighties post-Nuke movies with years in their titles (1983, 1986)

So far as I can ascertain, the peoples of the world spent the late fifties and all of the sixties alarmed by the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation  and made many colourful films about how we were all going to die, but, after making 'Beneath the Planet of the Apes' in 1970, they forgot all about The Bomb until the early eighties, when a new breed of nuclear terror emerged, reigning until the end of the Cold War.  Here are two eighties films about what life would be like after the forthcoming nuclear apocalypse.

2019, After the Fall of New York (1983)

'Big Ape', who dresses like a prince of pumpkins.
It's 2019, which is now closer than I'm quite comfortable with, and in front of an obvious model of ruined New York humanity is playing out its final adventures.  Men drive aggressively, fight dustily, and mutate into people very slightly hairier than is generally considered acceptable.  Our hero Parsifal is commissioned by the President of the Pan-American Confederacy to seek out and recover the only fertile woman on Earth, who has been in suspended animation, and guarded by dwarves (presumably seven of them) since before the Nuke.

The story of Sleeping Beauty is only charming so long as nobody impregnates her while she is sleeping.  Alas, a charismatic mutant by the name of Big Ape, who claims to be the most virile man alive, is implied to do just that, though it mercifully occurs off-screen.  This isn't one of those sexy films, you know.  Nonetheless, it's hinted at and never really addressed, and seems horribly out of place in a lively adventure film.  People rightly complain about female characters whose sole merits are their fertility, but this seems to take the problem up to the next level, since the slumbering begetter never so much as speaks.  She sleeps, she carries humanity's future in her loins, and eventually wakes to smile beautifully and silently, as if she were the Duchess of Cambridge.

'They baked the Big Apple'
It's remarkably eighties, and makes the bold promise that a mere six years from now, people will be able to wear absolutely whatever they want and get away with it.  Indian head-dresses, pied top-hats, pumpkin costumes, you name it.  On that basis, it's a future I look forward to, with the only real problems being radioactive waste, the hordes of fluffy, flesh-hungry rats, and the decent chance of being shot with a flare-gun and burning to death while flailing around.

The film is Italian, but is generally shown dubbed into English.  Its script is enjoyable enough, occasionally delivering a memorable line or two.  But the whole thing fails in its mission to be 'Star Wars'.  It's the same year as 'Return of the Jedi', so a sci-fi runaround like this is surely chasing the same crowd.  Despite ambition, enjoyable design and a cross-breed of Chewbacca and Han Solo in the form of Big Ape, the film doesn't pull it off.  Part of the problem is probably a lack of money, part is in the direction - not that the film is sloppilyy directed, but I couldn't grasp which location led to which, and why each was important - something always clear in that famouser trilogy.  Here, a swift drive down a corridor could be a triumph, a retreat, an advance towards a prize or a journey back to the President and to safety, and I could never be sure which was which.

America 3000 (1986)

The Tiara of Frisco meets the PRESIDENT
In the year 3000, the consequences of nuclear disaster are even more significant.  It's one of those stories where women rule the Earth, and where this is obviously a Bad Thing.  The film has nothing particularly novel or profound to say about gender politics, except that if men were ever subjected to the oppression women have been under for the last 6,000 years, they'd be able to turn the tables in half a week.  The men are the heroes, you see.

This is an America where men are subjugated, used as 'machos', who do the hard labour, and 'Seeders', who do the sex.  Coitus is as messed up here as in the earlier film: women (or 'Fralls', as they're known) accept childbearing as a duty, and at a certain age they're tied down by their peers and impregnated by an anonymous man in a burqa.  This is far more horrible than sex ought to be, or so I'm told.  Since this too is not a sexy film, we never see the above occur, as the seeder is (perhaps rudely) interrupted by explosions and adventures.

The darker the eighties hair, the more villainous.
The sexual revolution starts when some guy (Chuck Wagner) finds a book of ABCs, using it to learn speech.  Naturally, this leads in no time at all to full conversation, sophisticated turns of phrase, rhetoric and wisecracking.  He's fortunate enough to fall down a hole, where he discovers the long-lost survival chamber of the President of America.  Since 'PRES-I-DENT' is still looked to as a god in the year 3000, Chuck gets to dress in a jazzy gold space suit and pretend to be the almighty commander in chief, the only man that the army of women would ever listen to.

The film seems to be on the same page as the equivalent era's 'Doctor Who', with its crude village of slang-spouting females seeming like a cross between 'Paradise Towers' (1987) and 'The Mysterious Planet' (1988).  'Plugots got neggy smarts for tricking nobody,' and, 'Nukin' Fralls gets us nothing but nuked Fralls,' are lines I can well imagine spouting from the former story's Bin Liner or Fire Escape.  I suspect they're leaning on the same sources - or at least that their bizarre flavour and look is likewise an attempt to put the style of eighties comics and graphic novels on the screen.

Mercifully, 'Paradise Towers' and 1988's 'The Happiness Patrol' spared us the ending we find here, as the armies face up against one another, but, seeing their leaders making out, discover within themselves the urge for romance, though whether this is love winning the day or hormones inflaming a long overdue season of lust, who can say?  The film's incessant, sarcastic narration flares up, and we cut away to follow Aargh the Awful, this film's Chewbacca-analogue, dancing into the sunset with a getto-blaster.

'America 3000' is only available on VHS, which seems entirely appropriate.

1 comment:

  1. Phenomenal review. "2019: After the Fall of New York" is perhaps the most thorough treatment of the post-apoc 5 Boroughs in cinema history. The fight scene amid the defunct buses? I swore to god that was outside Shea Stadium, in Corona, Queens...

    Take a peek at my blog. Hope you don't mind that I linked to your page for a screenshot from 2019.