And now we’ve come to the 70’s. There is just something cool about the movies made during that time and the post-apocalypse genre was really coming into it’s own. We were now moving a bit away from the standard Atom Bomb and the Mutated Monster and beginning to portray a society that had devolved into barbarism and ruin. The movies started becoming more violent and edgy and having either a sole individual or a group of people fighting for their life. Some of the movies retained a simpleness of the 50’s and 60’s, while others (like Zardoz and Wizards) got “a little out there”.
As in the previous installments of “My favorite postapoc films…”, click the image to be linked to a video. Most of the videos this time will be trailers instead of the full movie.
A Boy and His Dog. “World War IV lasted 5 days. The politicians had finally solved the problem of urban blight. 2024 A.D.”
It’s with an opening series of blossoming mushroom clouds and the preceding text that we are introduced to the film adaptation of the novella Vic and Blood by Harlan Ellison. Starring an excruciatingly young Don Johnson as Vic and his dog, Blood, this movie takes place in a desert wasteland for approximately the first half of the film and in an underground oasis for approximately the second half. Vic and Blood spend their days looking for food… and women. I reckon there wouldn’t be much else to do for a boy and his dog in the ruins of the old world. The movie is rather darkly humorous and the voice of Blood is hypnotizing – oh, did I not mention that? Yeah, Blood the dog can talk – well, telepathically anyway. The conversations between the two are the real stars of the film.
The movie did not receive rave reviews when it was released, but it became a cult phenomenon in later years, especially when released on VHS. The one thing that it may be most well known for is the last line of dialogue, which is spoken by Blood. It was absolutely hated by Ellison, who criticized it as a “moronic, hateful chauvinist last line, which I despise.” You’ll have to be the judge – I thought it was hilarious.
A little tidbit in regards to the Book of Eli – if you look on the walls of the room Eli is staying in the hotel, there is clearly a movie poster of A Boy and His Dog.
Damnation Alley. I first saw this on network television back in the early 80’s. Back in the day when we had all of two channels. It would be years before I would get to rent it over and over again. Since then, I have watched it a number of times and have read the book it was based on by Roger Zelazny. The similarity between the book and the movie is essentially restricted to the title.
Featuring Jan-Michael Vincent in his earlier days as 1st Lt. Jake Tanner, it also starred the likes of George Peppard, Dominique Sanda, and Jackie Earle Haley. The story revolves around a group of Air Force missile silo personnel who survive a nuclear attack on the United States. The tension between 1st Lt. Tanner and Major Eugene “Sam” Denton (Peppard) is palpable. So much so, that it wouldn’t surprise me if the two actors didn’t much care for each other on set.
They discover a radio transmission that originates from Albany, NY. Bad news is that they are currently somewhere in the California desert. So what do they do? They climb aboard two of the most iconic vehicles to ever grace the silver screen – the Landmaster. Giant 12-wheeled armored vehicles that look like they could make accordion music as they travel. Early into their exodus, they encounter a freak storm and one of the Landmasters is destroyed. Along the way, they come across survivors, dirtbags, mutant armored cockroaches, freakish aurora borealis-type skies, and gigantic irradiated scorpions.
The ending scene was filmed right here in Lakeside, MT. Apparently George Peppard was a fan of Montana and coaxed them to film here. I feel oddly bonded to this film.
The Final Programme. Based on the book of the same name by Michael Moorcock. I’m not really sure where to start with it. It is a favorite of mine in the sense that it is fairly obscure and such an odd bird. A group of British scientists are on the hunt for information that will allow them to develop “The Final Programme” – a process that involves combining a woman and a man to form an hermaphroditic all-purpose human being. The result?
Tell ya what, just watch the trailer…
Logan’s Run. The quintessential science fiction film of the 1970’s (barring Star Wars). Loosely based on a book of the same name by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson (there is actually a trilogy of books – they’re all quite good), the story takes place in the year 2274. After a nuclear apocalypse that happened long ago, the remnants of humanity live in dome cities where life is a utopian paradise. The downside? Life ends at 30. When a citizen reaches “Lastday”, it’s off to “Carousel” where they are vaporized… er, I mean “Renewed”.
The story follows Logan 5. A “Sandman” (always loved that job title) who’s job is to catch “runners”. Runners are those who do not believe in renewal and choose instead to, well…. run. Their destination? Sanctuary, of course. A place where people can be free to live to a ripe old age.
Logan 5 is tasked to find Sanctuary and destroy it. In order to do this, his lifeclock is fast-forwarded to last day and he is forced to run. He meets Jessica, a runner sympathizer, and they make their way outside of the dome city, in search of Sanctuary. They are pursued by Francis 7, Logan’s fellow Sandman and best friend. Francis is not aware of Logan’s mission and thinks that Logan has actually turned runner.
There was a short-lived television show in the 70’s based on the movie and going by the same title. The pilot episode is essentially the same as the movie with a few changes. The rest of the series takes place outside and follows them in their search for Sanctuary. I am quite fond of the television series.
The question remains, do they ever find Sanctuary? The answer is not as simple as you might think…
Mad Max. “The warrior Max. To know him you’d have to go back to another time…”.
This is where it all began. The genesis of Max Rockatansky’s past and the events that turned him into a wanderer of the wasteland – a road warrior. You see, Max once had a house, a family, a job. He was a cop, a husband, and a father. In the roar of an engine, it was all taken away from him. He lost everything.
Max was the best of the best. So much so that he became afraid of becoming that dragon he was so effective at slaying. Taking a vacation with his family, he is hunted down by an outlaw gang, led by one of the best bad guys ever – Toecutter (played by Hugh Keays-Byrne). After losing those he holds most dear to this gloryroader and his minions, he returns to secure the “last of the V-8’s”, donning his leathers and heaters, and setting out to kill each and every last one.
No Blade of Grass. A British film based on the book The Death of Grass by John Christopher, this one deals with a future in which civilization has broken down because of a plague. Global famine ensues and food riots rip cities apart. The story follows a man who tries to get his family to the safety of Scotland. It is a great tale of survival and the extremes a man will go to in order to protect his family.
Omega Man. The second incarnation of I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. Also the most well-known version. It is also the one that is most loosely based on the book. But, it’s got Charlton Heston killing mutants, so who cares.
In 1975, U.S. Army Col. Robert Neville, M.D. (Heston) find himself the sole survivor of a biological attack that has either killed or turned the population into albino mutants. Neville was able to inject himself with an antidote before the total breakdown of society and is effectively immune to the plague.
Neville spends his days running 4 minute miles (um, yeah….ok). When he’s not doing this, he is hunting down “The Family”, mapping the city, and dressing up all fancy like. He likes to haggle with imaginary car dealers,take sports cars for a spin, and having conversations with store window mannequins.
Phase IV. Not so much post-apocalypse, but perhaps closer to gettin’-damn-near-to-the-apocalypse. In the Arizona desert, a group of scientists study the rapid evolution of a colony of ants. These ants are smart… and they are up to some fairly odd shenanigans. Building towers for no apparent reason. Creating mirrored glass focal lenses that direct sunlight to the scientists’ lab in order to heat things up. Gaining access to the lab and mucking around with the AC. Yeah, these little guys are up to something, but what?
Taking over the world, that’s what. The end is something akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Just plain weird, but fascinating at the same time.
And as an added bonus, if you want to watch most of the entire movie, Phase IV was featured on a very early episode (the 9th episode, 1989) of MST3K. Enjoy!
Quintet. Another film that makes it difficult for me to nail down why it is a favorite. Quintet takes place sometime during the next ice age. The main character, Essex (Paul Newman) and his pregnant girlfriend, Vivia (Brigitte Fossey) wander across the frozen wastes. They come across a snow and ice covered settlement and things just get weird. Trying to follow the storyline can be an exercise in futility at times.
People spend their days playing a game called Quintet. You know what, I’m not even going to attempt to describe it. You can find the rules here. Trust me, you’ll be in a far better place if I don’t try to explain it.
The movie did not do well, but like most of these films, it gained a cult following in later years. It’s one redeeming quality is it’s bleak visual setting. Maybe that’s why I like it so much…
Ravagers. Getting back to the good stuff, back to basics. Moral decay and, well… ravaging. This one is based on the book of the same name by Robert Edmond Alter. Some time after a nuclear war, humanity does what it can to survive against mutated marauders – or in this case, Ravagers. The story follows a man whose wife is killed by these vermin and so begins a vengeance tale. He finds a community of people that live on board a ship until it is destroyed by ravagers. He does what he can to lead the survivors to someplace safe where they can live in peace and free from – yep… ravagers.
Soylent Green. What was is about the 70’s and the dominance of Charlton Heston in post-apocalypse films? Omega Man, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and now Soylent Green…
The year is 2022 and the world is severely overpopulated. Couple this with the ravages of pollution, war, and disease, you’ve got a perfect storm for a delightful dystopia. New York City alone is populated with forty million people. Where do they live? In the streets, on stairwells, on each other, anywhere they can fit. What do they eat? Wafer-like crackers called Soylent. Purported to be made from plankton (“sea greens and protein from the sea”… pardon me, I still have Logan’s Run on the brain), it is the chief foodstuff of the future and rationed to the hordes of homeless.
Enter NYPD Detective Frank Thorn (Heston) and his old friend who remembers “the time before”, Solomon “Sol” Roth (Edward G. Robinson). The scenes with these two are worth the watch. While Thorn is investigating various and sundry illicit goings on, Solomon is investigating something on his own – just where Soylent comes from. I won’t tell you what it is, but the answer is delivered only as Charlton Heston can.
The film is a fairly fun romp, and remember, Friday is Soylent Green day…
The Ultimate Warrior. “After the ultimate war, comes… the Ultimate Warrior.” After the last world wars have almost wiped man off the earth. With food disappearing, water scarce and all machines stopped, one lone band of survivors cuddles behind walls of debris under the leader they call The Baron (Max von Sydow). There’s only one man who can get through the roving street people. This is… Yul Brynner…. er, I mean… the Ultimate Warrior!
A refreshing, simple tale of good versus evil. A group of people trying to simply survive are constantly harassed by a gang led by a leader with such a terrifying name that it is sure to strike terror in even the bravest of souls. What is his name, you ask? I hesitate to say. You may never sleep again. You may end up looking over your shoulder at every passing shadow. Alright then, I warned you…. Carrot. CARROT!!! Fear the dark, feel the sweat start to…. awww, forget it.
The plotline is simple, The Baron enlists the aid of a lone wanderer to help his community combat Carrot and his minions. It is reminiscent of Kurosawa’s film Yojimbo. It is a fairly violent film and the fight scenes are *ahem* well orchestrated.
Wizards. An animated feature by Ralph Bakshi, the same talent behind the animated features The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. It features Mark Hamill in one of his earlier animated voice-overs as Sean, King of the Mountain Fairies.
The story takes place some 3,000 years after a nuclear war wiped out the planet. There has been a return of magic and sorcery, fairies and goblins. There are two rival wizard brothers, Avatar (the good one) and Blackwolf (the bad one). Blackwolf discovers technology that will help him “take over the world!”. It is up to Avatar and his friends to combat Blackwolf and his army of goblins. Done in pure Bakshi form, this movie is an animated acid trip.
Click the poster for the full movie…
Zardoz. Sean Connery in thigh boots and a red nappy. Need I say more?
This one takes place in the year 2293. Earth has been devastated by war and two factions of survivors exist – the “Brutals”, those who live in the wasteland and scrape by on a measly existence, and the “Eternals”, those immortals who live behind an impenetrable barrier that separates their lush, green, paradise (the Vortex) from the blasted landscape.
The Eternals consider the Brutals as nothing more than cattle. Using them to grow crops and as slave labor. The story centers around Zed (Connery), who is an Exterminator. Exterminators are brutal in every sense of the word, their sole purpose being to terrorize and kill Brutals at the whim of Zardoz – a gigantic flying stone head. In exchange for grain and food, Zardoz offers up to them guns and weapons of war.
One day, Zed hitches a ride on Zardoz and is taken back to the Vortex, where he is enlsaved and experimented upon. There are some Eternals that determine this man is the answer to ending their boring, corrupt existence.
It’s a bit violent, a bit wacky, but I mean come on… Sean Connery in a red nappy and thigh boots!
And so ends this episode of “My Favorite Post-Apocalypse Films of….”. The 70’s really changed the way we see postapoc films. Some became grittier, more violent, while others took us on a kind of psychedelic mind trip that was indicative of the time. Next time we’ll be taking a look at the 80’s. The decade of delicious Italian Mad Max 2 ripoffs and straight-to-video diamonds in the rough.