Friday, 16 May 2008

2019: After the Fall of New York (1983)

Behold! The last hope for humanity (not pictured: ape-man)

Another entry in the sizable catalog of cheap 1980s post-apocalyptic action films, but this time the Italians aren't only to blame. Also the French! Sergio Martino's 2019: After the Fall of New York is a French-Italian co-production that combines the souped up muscle cars (except in the finale when they are inexplicably traded for a family station wagon) and desert locations of Mad Max with the "man on a mission" plot of Escape From New York. But did those films have George Eastman as an ape-man? No. No they didn't.

An opening narration reveals that the world has split into two factions, the Pan American Confederacy (America i.e. the good guys) and the Euracs (Asia, Europe, Africa... basically everyone else). The ensuing nuclear war has left the planet a barren wasteland and women infertile. No child has been born in fifteen years (sorry Children of Men, the Italians were there first), and the evil Euracs are combing the ruins of New York for survivors they can use in genetic experiments.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Nevada, a group of post-apocalyptic punks excitedly watch a demolition derby taking place in an abandoned quarry. The winner is a grizzled longhair in tight jeans named Parsifal (Michael Sopkiw). He claims his prize from a creepy cyborg clown: a handful of License-To-Kill tokens, each good for one free murder and all the victims possessions, and a hermaphrodite sex slave. A few miles out of town he ditches the slave and the tokens (this is how we know he is a good guy), and is soon after captured by some Pan Am Con soldiers in a hovercraft. He is taken to a cheap model of their secret headquarters in Alaska, where is he is offered a mission.

Luckily for the human race, the Pan Am Con has determined that there is one (1) fertile woman left in the world, secreted away somewhere in the ruins of New York. If he retrieves her, he will be given a seat on a spaceship that is headed to a life-sustaining planet somewhere in Alpha Centauri. He is joined by Bronx, a New York native with a robotic hook for a hand, and Ratchet, a one-eyed strongman with some sweet retractable chains with metal balls on the end. They ride their motorcycles to the shore, where a radiation-scarred man plays a mournful tune on a trumpet. He should start a band with the drummer from 1990: Bronx Warriors. "See that?" He says "They baked the big apple!" Mmm... baked apple.

After being attacked by some punks in a scrapyard and having hot oil dumped on them by hobos, they come across the Needle People, a tribe that hunt rats with metal spikes (the humans have the spikes, not the rats). In true Italian fashion, dozens of presumably real rats are impaled, squished and flagellated. Sorry little fellas. Our heroic trio are captured when they intervene to save the life of a midget.

That evening, by virtue of capturing the largest number of delicious rats, one of the tribe members gets his pick of the women. Understandably he picks Giara (Valentine Monier), who boasts any number of attractive features over the other women, not the least of which being her lack of weeping pustules and full head of hair. Before things go too far, the Euracs bust in and start with the killing. Ratchet escapes, but Bronx and Parsifal are captured, as well as a handful of the Needle People.

Back at Eurac HQ, Parsifal is restrained and interrogated by sexy Eurac officer Ania. She is played by one-time Miss Italy Anna Kanakis, last seen in another post-apocalyptic film The New Barbarians. Ania tries to seduce the information out of him, he buys himself some time by falsely identifying Giara as the fertile woman. Bronx, meanwhile, is interrogated by a less sexy Eurac commander, and uses his metal claw to gouge out his eyes. As punishment he is strapped to a futuristic torture device, and Parsifal is conveniently taken there to watch the results. Parsifal manages to overpower the guards and together they rescue Giara and escape.

They are aided in their escape by the midget they helped earlier, and he takes them to the underground hideout of his midget tribe. He goes by the unoriginal name of Shorty, and just so happens to know the location of the fertile woman. He promises to take them to her in exchange for passage out of New York. He doesn't seem to show much compassion for his midget brethren, but this is soon made irrelevant when the Euracs arrive with an sonic device that kills the entire tribe. Our heroes, including Shorty, manage to avoid a grisly death by stuffing their ears with wax and absconding.

The subsequently run into a tribe of ape-men, led by Big Ape, a man in cheap Planet of the Apes makeup and dressed like a flamboyant Arabian prince. He is played by post-apocalyptic juggernaut George Eastman (The New Barbarians, 1990: Bronx Warriors) . After defeating a rape ape with a sneaky kick in the balls, Parsifal reveals their mission to Big Ape who insists on accompanying them so he can impregnate her with his simian seed.

Once they get to the secret laboratory where the fertile girl is being kept on ice, they find that the professor is dead. Luckily he left a high-tech method of transportation to help them escape the city... an early-80s station wagon! Shorty, Parsifal and Ratchet head to a junkyard to find some makeshift armour, during which Shorty sacrifices himself to help them escape. While they are away, Big Ape knocks down Giara and presumably knocks up popsicle-woman, but by the time they return Giara has recovered from her bludgeoning and doesn't seem to care.

After reinforcing their vehicle they manage to plow it through a brick wall and a series of Eurac barricades. Even a huge laser cannon is no match for the little Station wagon that could. During their escape Big Ape gets fried by a laser, but not before decapitating three Eurac soldiers with a single throw of his scimitar!

Once they escape into the safety of the desert it's revealed that Ratchet was a cyborg and planning to kill Parsifal all along. For some reason. The two of them engage in a fight that leaves Giara fatally stabbed in the gut. She mutters some gibberish about humanity being worth saving before expiring. Parsifal and the frozen girl return to Alaska and the two of them are blasted off into space. I guess that nine months later she gave birth to an ape-baby.

Oh yeah, there's a bit before this where the Eurac commander gets his eyes replaced and chastises Aria for failing to capture the heroes. She shoots him and takes over, but we never see her again after that point, so who gives a shit?

The effects are about as cheesy as you'd expect from a film like this. The equally cheesy synthesiser score is by Guido & Maurizio De Angelis (aka Oliver Onions) the duo behind the awesomely bad title song from Yor: The Hunter From the Future. There's a bit of gore, but nothing out of the ordinary, and no sex or nudity. The two leads, Michael Sopkiw and Valentine Monnier, aren't too bad, actually.

It's a good thing this film moves along at such a brisk pace. Any lull in the action might cause it to collapse under the weight of it's own stupidity. If you don't stop to question the enormous plot holes and inconsistent character motivations, you might find yourself enjoyably swept along by the action. If you only watch one post-apocalyptic film this year, watch Mad Max 2. Then Escape From New York. Then The Warriors, I guess. But if you aren't sick of the genre by the tenth or so film, then try this one.

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