Posts Tagged ‘cirio h. santiago’

EQ3

 

Let’s be honest — if I don’t review a foreign-made Road Warrior knock-off here every couple of months at a minimum, I’m just not doing my job. And it really does take a certain amount of dedication to my (unpaid) responsibilities to make it through normally-reliable veteran Filipino  exploitation auteur Cirio H. Santiago’s 1987 snooze-fest Equalizer 2000. All I can say is — thank God for Corinne Wahl.

If you’re unfamiliar with the luscious Ms. Wahl (shame on you!), she was a two-time Penthouse “Pet of the Month” back in the early 80s,  was voted “Pet of the Year” in 1982 was married to former Wiseguy star Ken Wahl before he hooked up with one of the Barbi Twins (remember them?), gave acting a try there for awhile, and now works with her sister as a tarot card reader to the stars. She spends a goodly amount of time in this flick running around in skimpy, tight-fitting leather bondage-ish gear (or less), and gets to do things like point a big ol’ gun at a group of standard-issue post-nuke ruffians and exclaim “I’d love to blow you all right now!” What’s not to love, I ask you?

equalizer-2k-3

 

Well, quite a lot as it turns out, because unfortunately the list of Equalizer 2000‘s relative “merits” begins and ends right there. The plot here is your usual insipid, by-the-numbers stuff — after the requisite “nuclear winter” we were all scared shitless of when I was a kid, Alaska (by way of the Philippines) has become a scorching, irradiated desert wasteland lorded over by an outfit of elitist pigs called “The Ownership” who horde all the oil that’s left in the world (a “world,” we’re told, with “no vegetation” even though plants are clearly visible in a couple of scenes — whoops!) and protect themselves from the disorganized rabble who semi-populate the wastelands via the services of their paid mercenary biker forces.

After “The Ownership” makes the mistake of killing his father, our tale’s ostensible “hero” , a mercenary named Slade (Richard Norton, who had a decent career in Hong Kong martial arts flicks but gets a chance to display exactly zero of his skills here and instead spends the entire film doing his best imitation of a rock), tells his employers to take their job and shove it and splits to join one of the disparate, nomadic bands of rebels he used to fight and kill for a living. In between blowing shit up for reasons usually not adequately explained and impressing the lovely young Karen (Wahl) with his stoic non-personality, he’s also working on a bad-ass super-gun called , yup, the Equalizer 2000, which he’s gonna use to bring the whole “Ownership” down.

equalizer-2k-4

 

I won’t kid you, folks — even by the admittedly meager standards of the post-apocalyptic genre, this is pretty bare-bones stuff. To the extent that there’s even a coherent “plot” here at all, the script diverges from it constantly to indulge in one pointless, listless “action” sequence after another, and Santiago is quite clearly “mailing it in,” as the saying goes.  It’s hard to believe this is the same guy who gave us TNT Jackson — hell, even the one other post-nuke flick on his lengthy resume, the third(at best)-rate Stryker, has more going for it than this poorly-thought-through, lackadaisically-directed mess.

Equalizer-2000-17

 

All that being said, if pretty much any flick with souped-up, junked-out muscle cars chasing around after souped-up, junked-out motorcycles that throws in some good-looking ladies and an explosion or two here and there can keep you entertained for all of about 80 minutes then Equalizer 2000 will, I suppose, get the the job done — but even then only just barely. I caught this  online via a website which shall remain nameless (it’s not out on DVD even though it got stateside distribution under the auspices of Roger Corman’s Concorde/New Horizons, but it’s pretty easy to find online, at least in 10-minute chunks — there’s a big hint) and have to admit that when Wahl wasn’t onscreen, my eyelids started to feel pretty heavy pretty fast. Oh, sure, there’s a “hey! How ’bout that!” moment when a young(-ish) Robert Patrick turns up turns up as a  generally amoral gun runner named Deke, but beyond that and Ms. Corrine’s leather ensembles, there’s not much to be on the lookout for here.

I guess, at the end of the day, the sad truth is that even if you go in to this thing with appropriately low expectations, Equalizer 2000 will have a pretty hard time meeting them — and it doesn’t even feel like Santiago is really trying to.

eq2

 

 

Weird as it may sound — or not — the best thing this movie could have done was be even worse than it actually is. It goes without saying that it was sure as hell never going to be good, but at least then it might have veered into the old “so-bad-it’s-good” territory that we all love around these parts. Still,  that usually requires a unique combination of inspiration matched with absolute inability, and this is a film that’s blessed with/suffers from neither — the script and acting are clearly, painfully uninspired, and Santiago is a perfectly capable director who just isn’t showing it here. The end result? A movie that features Corinne Wahl running around in just about nothing yet still manages to be achingly, crushingly dull. I guess that’s a semi-remarkable achievement of some sort, but it’s not one I care to witness again.

German “Stryker” Movie Poster

The flood of post-apocalyptic Road Warrior knock-offs that littered the global cinematic landscape in the early ’80s  definitely gave us some bizarrely awesome shit like The New Barbarians and 2020 Texas Gladiators, but once anybody besides the Italians were in charge, the results were rather putrid at best.

Case in point : Cirio H. Santiago (TNT Jackson, Vampire Hookers)’s 1983 made-in-the-Philippines, damn-near-budgetless glimpse of a world gone mad, Stryker , which was also released under the rather generic-sounding action title Savage Dawn.

Now, I’m predisposed to liking any flick with a title this fucking cheesy, but I gotta admit that Stryker begins to test your patience almost from the word go. The voice-over narration that begins the film pretty much gives the whole game away — the nukes flew, everything’s fucked, lawlessness reigns supreme, and the rarest and most valuable commodity in the world is water — this despite the fact that there are clouds in the sky throughout the film, so presumably, at some point, it’s gotta, you know, rain.

It’s pretty obvious from the outset, though, that logical continuity isn’t one of Stryker‘s strong suits, so any prospective viewer might as well get used to its absence quickly.

The trouble always starts this way —

After our little voice-over-monologue-as-the-bombs-go-off intro, we’re dropped right into the middle of the “action” as some supposed-to-be-bad-ass-looking thugs in souped-up junker cars and on souped-up-junker motorcycles chase down a helpless woman on foot who’s got some water and, more importantly, apparently knows where even more can be had. She’s rescued from her would-be attackers, though, by a dude in a cowboy hat with a rifle slung over his shoulder and some other guy.

At this point, it would be nice to know a few things : who are these two dudes? Is one of them the “Stryker” of the film’s title? Are they working together? If so, why? Do they have a history together? We find out the answer to the first question, but as for the others, well, that stuff is never really made clear.

The damsel in distress takes off in one of her vanquished foes’ cars and we soon learn, more through inference than anything else, that the dude in the stetson with the rifle slung over his shoulder is, indeed, this “Stryker” guy that we’re supposed to give a shit about (although “star” Steven Sandor’s seriously flat performance makes that pretty difficult — his Stryker seems to suffer from a rare psychological affliction that renders a shell-shocked survivor of a nuclear conflagration incapable of expressing any emotion — or even any mood, for that matter —whatsoever.  Must be some variation on PTSD, I’m guessing). He then walks off  and —

Wait. I have to pause for just a second here. The first clue that Stryker is a seriously second-rate post-atomic-holocaust action hero is his means of transport. While guys in other films of this genre tend to have bad-ass cars or bikes, Stryker roams the irradiated wastelands on foot. Dead giveaway that we’re looking at a pretty lame “hero” right there.

Next up Stryker and his (apparent) buddy, who we learn waaaaaayyyy later is named “Bandit,” encounter a tribe of dwarves who are pretty much dressed, and pretty much speak, just like Jawas from Star Wars — the only thing missing is the hoods and the glowing eyes. Stryker makes friends with these lovable little creatures by giving one of them some water, and of course that’s gonna come in handy later when he needs to assemble a makeshift army to take down the bad guys and set the people of post-nuke Earth free.

Whoops, hope I didn’t just give too much away there.

Then we’ve got a series of confusing scenes that I’ll just run down quickly to avoid you, dear  reader, any unnecessary pain (and because actually explaining what any of them have to do with anything is pretty well impossible ) : the girl who Stryker rescued is recaptured, stuck in a cell, raped, and tortured for information. The bad guys are lead by a low-rent Sid Haig-wannabe named Kardis ( although, again, it’s a little while before we actually learn his name), who is informed that the girl got away from the leather-sporting ruffians the first time around because they were “ambushed by Stryker and his men.” Except Sryker doesn’t have any “men.” Again, continuity is not a selling point here. When learning of Stryker’s involvement in the girl’s rescue, Kardis has a memory flash-back to an earlier fight with our stetson-sporting hero, the significance of which is never explained (and you can’t really tell what the hell is going on anyway).  Stryker and his “man” are observed by a pack of quasi-dangerous-looking Amazon she-devils on wheels who carry crossbows. They don’t do anything and Stryker doesn’t see them, so — whatever. Stryker and Bandit find a working car sitting out in the middle of nowhere (apparently the entire film was shot at a Filipino mining works — they get a “shout-out” in the credits, and it’s quite apparent, as the exact same locales are utilized over and over again as supposedly “different” places, that the movie’s crew didn’t have access to the entire quarry). Then our “heroes” attack an armed convoy escorting a tanker, not that we find out what’s actually in the tanker or why they’re attacking it until a lot later, and by then you don’t give a damn anymore because, well — you never really did in the first place. We also learn that, thanks again to zero emphasis being placed on continuity, Stryker’s cowboy hat can appear and disappear from atop his head from one moment to the next.

Things start to threaten to actually make a bit more sense once Stryker and Bandit head for an encampment of survivors lead by a guy named Trun (Ken Metcalfe), who we meet earlier while he’s buried up to his head in sand by Kardis’s men ( yes, Kardis, for his part,  really does have “men”) and gets a “golden shower” from one of them when he complains of thirst. Oh, and he also just so happens to be Stryker’s (much) older brother, and they’ve got a history of sorta-bad-blood between them, as evidenced by sparkling dialogue exchanges like this one :

Trun: But why did you leave?

Stryker : Everybody’s got their own road to hell — you’ve got yours, I’ve got mine.

Well, that explains everything, then.

Never fear, though — Stryker has a plan to lead Trun and his people to freedom — and more importantly, to water. Having sprung the girl he rescued earlier (I’m pretty sure we actually NEVER get her name at ANY point, but it doesn’t really matter a whole lot anyway), they head out for her father’s encampment, where they “locals” are  guarding a secret underground spring they’ve found that provides them with an endless supply of water.

There’s a little bit of “drama” once they get there, with the daughter and the old man having divergent views about sharing their liquid wealth (she’s the generous sort, he’s a little more hesitant — in fact, they found this spring seven years ago and he promised Trun at the time that he’d share water with him and his people if his lot ever found some, and he welched on the deal), then Trun starts to try to turn the camp into an armed garrison under martial law with himself as commander,  much to Stryker’s chagrin (being the freedom-loving “loner” type that he is), and Bandit meets himself a nice girl and gets laid.

Stryker’s through with taking shit

That’s all window dressing, though — the main point is that we’re headed for a big armed showdown between Kardis’s men, who have a couple of honest-to-God tanks, and the ramshackle band of survivors protecting their spring now led by Stryker (even though he’s not the leader type). The amazons with crossbows and the un-hooded Jawas join up with “Team Stryker,” there’s lots of explosions and guns blazing, Bandit’s new girlfriend gets killed in the closest this movie tries to come to an “emotional” moment, lots of other folks on both sides bite the bullet, and finally Stryker and his band of rebels stand triumphant after vanquishing their much-more-numerous, much-better-armed foes. It can only happen after the apocalypse, people. Kind makes you yearn to let the missiles fly right now, doesn’t it?

Oh, and did I mention that, at the very moment their courageous victory is sealed, it actually begins to rain? Looks like things are gonna be alright after all.

“The Grindhouse Experience Volume 2” DVD Box Set Featuring “Stryker”

If you’re really into torturing yourself, “Stryker” is available on DVD. It’s part of the 20-film, 5-DVD “The Grindhouse Experience Volume 2” boxset from VideoAsia — and if you think you’ve seen some bad direct-from-VHS transfers before, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This, like all the other movies in these two sets ( some of which,  like Raiders From Atlantis, are actually pretty damn good),  looks like absolute shit. They didn’t even use a particularly healthy-looking VHS tape for the rip, as there are moments throughout where the tracking goes off , and in dark scenes it’s pretty hard to tell what the fuck is actually happening. Not, again, that it particularly matters. Needless to say it’s presented full-frame, and the sound quality is straight mono and it sucks, too.

Finally, a question I would ask Cirio H. Santiago if he were still alive (and let’s not be too hard on the guy — he did give us Jeannie Bell’s topless karate scene in TNT Jackson, after all) : in the end credits, there are two women listed as “script continuity girls.” What did they actually do?

Nah, don’t answer.