Not that long ago the video store was a mundane and sometimes obnoxious part of life; driving over to some lonesome strip mall with your friends or family to comb through the all-too-often disorganized shelves of your local shop, argue over a selection, and then be stuck with it, for good or ill. Yet, it was also sublime. And for those who lived during the true video boom, video stores also equate to another bygone commodity: VHS. When JVC’s Video Home System won the early-80’s format war, the motion picture market changed forever. The genre and B-movies that had previously filled drive-ins across the country now often went straight to VHS. Then DVD took the world by storm in the late-90’s. It was a brave new world, and sadly, many films never made the leap, trapped now on a dead format. These often aren’t “good” films, but goddammit, they were what made video stores great. For we here at CHUD are the kind of people who tended to skip over the main stream titles, our eyes settling on some bizarre, tantalizing cover for a film we’d never even heard of, entranced. These films are what VHS was all about. Some people are still keeping the VHS flame burning. People like me, whose Facebook page Collecting VHS is a showcase for the lost charms of VHS box artwork. With this column it is my intention to highlight these “lost” films and the only rule I have for myself is that they cannot be available on DVD.
Tagline: A warrior of tomorrow on the highway to hell.
Released by: Embassy Home Entertainment
Director: Cirio H. Santiago
Plot: It’s the post-apocalyptic future and all the world’s water has dried up! A gang of vicious marauders has captured a beautiful amazon who knows the location of “the spring”, which is believed to have an endless supply of clean H2O. A road warrior named Stryker unites with a group of good guys and frees the woman, but they all must quickly prepare for an onslaught from the horde of well-armed (but extremely parched) barbarian bad guys who all just want to wet their whistles.
Thoughts: Ah, the good old cold war eighties and all those great low budget post-apocalyptic action movies. The success of The Road Warrior in ’82 launched a vast array of rip-offs that flooded the sci-fi section at the local Mom & Pop video shops, as well as influencing the look of a lot of rock videos from the era for bands like Kiss and Loverboy.
But there was no filmmaker that embraced the genre with as much gusto as Filipino B-movie auteur, Blaxploitation pioneer and ‘Nam action master Cirio H. Santiago. In the 80’s and 90’s he made an astounding number that included: Wheels of Fire, Equalizer 2000, Dune Warriors, Raiders of the Sun and Robo Warriors. Stryker was his first and arguably his best.
According to the opening voice over narration an error of some sort caused the “last war” and civilization has been utterly destroyed. The most precious commodity in this barren wasteland is water and men will do anything to get a few measly drops. For some reason there’s absolutely no problem finding fuel because the roads are filled with scavengers driving gas-guzzling muscle cars that are armed to the teeth with plenty of guns and ammunition. A bald villain with a metal hook for a hand named Kardis (Mike Lane) has captured a hot babe amazon chick named Delha (Andria Savio), who’s part of a clan of hot babe amazon chicks that fight with crossbows and wear leather Daisy Duke-style short shorts. He tortures her to obtain the location of a rumored “spring” containing a continuous flow of nourishing water, that she and her sexy sisters have sworn to protect.
Lucky for her she caught the fancy of a bad ass named Stryker (Steve Sandor), a desert roaming gunslinger in a black Mustang, who mounts a successful raid on the bad guy’s stronghold and rescues her. The ragtag group hightails it back to “the spring” where they prepare for an offensive from the heavily armed, yet extremely thirsty enemy forces, which are all equipped with cars, motorcycles, dune buggies, three-wheelers and tanks. Stryker leads the good guys (which are comprised of his comrades, the amazon babes and a pack of mutant dwarfs) to victory in an action packed finale that plays like Hamburger Hill meets Rambo and Return of the Jedi while under the influence of peyote.
It was shot entirely in a gravel pit masquerading as a desert in the Philippines and it’s dubbed, which adds to the spaghetti western aesthetic on display. There’s some very good action sequences, cool stunts, nice nudity and awesome violence that fulfill all the expectations you would have for one of Santiago’s exploitation epics, plus he even throws in a romantic sub-plot to spice things up. The story is formulaic and the film is a little cheesy, but it’s a lot of fun, well shot and definitely worth seeing if you’re a fan of the cheap Mad Max rip-off sub-genre.
Next week’s review: Blood Tracks (1985)