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 forgotten 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.
Title: Land of Doom
Tagline: A 21st century mad land!
Released by: Lightning Video
Director: Peter Maris
Plot: In a savage wasteland ravaged by nuclear Armageddon, a feminist warrior teams up with a rugged soldier of fortune to search for a rumored “paradise” as they fight off a gang of brutal marauders intent on death and destruction.
Thoughts: Boy, I sure do love me a good low budget Mad Max rip-off! For my generation it was the closest thing we had to the old westerns our fathers grew up on. The landscape and themes were the same, but rather than the lawless past we were in the post-apocalyptic future. A place where horses and stagecoaches are replaced by muscle cars and motorcycles expending the last few drops of gasoline that remains on the planet. Indians and bandits are substituted with leather fetish attired barbarians and mutated psychos. Our protagonist is still the classic embodiment of the strong, silent hero with a natural code of morality, but this time his main goal is survival, and the cowboy hat and six-shooter is given a leather suit and sawed off shotgun/crossbow makeover. One of the films coming up this year that I anticipate the most is George Miller’s long awaited Mad Max Fury Road. I’ve really got my fingers crossed on that one!
Back in ’86 B-movie maverick Peter Maris set out to make himself a low budget post-apocalyptic film that set itself apart from the rest of the herd. This was after all the filmmaker responsible for the brain damaging Terror Squad, which boldly dared to tackle the issue of domestic terrorism as a trio of Libyan slime wreaks havoc in a tiny Indiana town. Like that discovered gem, Land of Doom is a flick that completely evaded my radar and I actually worked at a video store during the time. I came across a copy while searching on Amazon marketplace and once I saw the cover and the modest selling price for a brand new copy, I purchased it at once. Much like Maris’ other work, this one gets pretty darn gonzo.
It takes place long after the final war in a desolate, rocky wasteland, which in reality is the lovely country of Turkey. A gang of motorcycle riding marauders dressed like members of the band Judas Priest attacks a settlement of innocent survivors and rape and pillages the living shit out of everything in sight. These guys are so brutal; they actually get into fights and kill each other over whose turn it is to rape next. A main villain named Slater who sports a shiny metal arm, a weird Phantom of the Opera-esque mask and a beautifully feathered mane of blonde hair with a crazy brown skunk stripe down the middle leads them. That and the actor’s over-the-top-even-for-the-WWE acting style really make for a a memorable character.
Luckily an extremely attractive-but-tough feminist warrior woman named Harmony (Deborah Rennard) is the only survivor of the slaughter. She sets out into the wasteland armed with only her crossbow to search for food and water, eventually coming across a wounded badass named Anderson (Garrick Dowhen) who’s in search of a mythical land where there is peace and plenty for all. However in order to get there they must cross miles of desolate desert terrain with Slater’s raiders searching for them, while evading clans of mutated cannibals that speak in exotic French accents. They are joined in their quest by a friendly, Ye-Olde-English talking, puppy dog-loving bicyclist and a race of helpful Jawa-like creatures. This all culminates into an explosive finale and an end credits theme song that would make the lead singer of Europe roll his eyes at the cheesiness of it all.
Unlike most low budget Mad Max rip-offs, this one is not Italian (The Bronx Warriors, The New Barbarians) or from the Philippines (Stryker, Wheels of Fire). Americans in Turkey made this baby! This means no dubbing, which gives it less of that spaghetti western feel and more of a John Ford vibe if the guy who shot the music video “Lick It Up” for KISS directed it. It is also hands down the absolute rapey-ist post-apocalypse film ever made! The main motivation of the female warrior character is to avoid being raped by everyone else. This forms an uneasy relationship between her and our hero, who we think might actually hook up at some point, but alas never do. Honestly, romance is a hard thing to find in an environment where survival, starvation, plague and rape are the only things to choose from. Why do you think I’ll never go on another Turkish vacation again?
CHECK OUT THIS BAFFLING CLIP BELOW: