Def Con 4 (1985)

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

Or, as I like to call it: Escape from Nova Scotia, is another caveat emptor from the video ‘80s with another bogus post-apoc film that doesn’t live up to its flashy poster/video box art work. (They never really do, do they?) So, instead of a massive, crashed spaceship (like in the Mark Wahlberg Planet of the Apes remake) you get a dinky geosphere-pod thingy stuck in the dirt (that doesn’t look big enough to house the crew cabin we seen earlier in the film) and there are no decayed skeletons inside space suits sticking out of the arid landscape, either. And no disrespect to the late, Texas-born actor Tim Chaote (Zathrus from TV’s Babylon 5) as Howe . . . but he’s no Snake Plissken or Max Rockatansky.

If ever a film ever needed a shot of Michael Sopkiw and Mark Gregory under the lens of Sergio Martino or, even better, Cirio H. Santiago, this would be the film. At the very least we need a bubblegum chewing and ass kicking Roddy Piper saving the Canadian east coast. Even some Steve Sandor beefcake water-chasing would be welcomed. Yeah, this Nova Scotian hell needs a Frogtown.

Anyway . . . we get Dr. Sheldon Cooper, I mean, Tim Choate, as one of three astronauts, including Jordan (Kate Lynch; Meatballs, Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives!), stationed on Nemesis, a top secret, joint Canadian-U.S military nuclear platform in Earth orbit when World War III erupts by “accident” . . . courtesy of a Libyan-stolen cache of cruise missiles shot into Russia (that we learn about via a TV transmission on the spaceship . . . yawn).

Hey, wait a minute, R.D . . . aren’t you confusing this movie with Steve Barkett’s Mad Max vanity project, The Aftermath (1982) . . . the one where an astronaut fights a biker gang led by a villain named (Toe) Cutter who rules the post-nuke wasteland? You know, the one that became a U.K Section 3 video nasty?

Dude, I wish I was . . . at least that movie had the awesome Sid Haig (Galaxy of Terror) to cut through the post-apoc crapola.

Sid Haig? No. Richard Moll from Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn starred in The Aftermath.

No, you’re thinking of Survivor (1987) starring Chip Meyer, which has the same ol’ Mad Max-inspired astronaut returning to a slow ‘n’ boring, low-budget apoc-chatty chat world.

Well, anyway . . . in place of Haig and Moll we get our favorite Canadian-American character actor, Maury Chaykin (Jim Sting in WarGames, Sam Tipton in My Cousin Vinny), as a crazed survivalist with a captive school uniform-clad babe in the cellar (Canadian scream queen Lenore Zann of Happy Birthday to Me, Visiting Hours, American Nightmare; the voice of Rogue in X-Men: The Animated Series). But not even Chaykin’s thespian scene chewing can save us from the post-nuke no-action boredom punctuated with lots of chitty-chatter about “radiation zones” and “clean zones” and “terminals” and everyone telling us how the world ended up this way. Yawn.

The film starts off promising enough on the space station and setting up the story during its first 30 minutes . . . it has a decent spacewalk scene . . . the scenes with Howe receiving a ghostly message on the radio from his wife after the war is over and his trying to save a fellow astronaut being yanked through the sand by “something” as they dig themselves out of the wreck are especially chilling. Then the fast forward button on the VCR remote goes into overtime once Gideon (a reference to an Old Testament military leader, really? While you’re at it, why not name the rest of your characters Stryker or Hunter like all the other apoc movies do? Geeze.), the perfectly-coifed Shaun Cassidy clone (Kevin King, Iron Eagle) shows up as the requisite dickhead, ex-military school-army brat who goes all despotic on the poor slobs shuffling around the Scotian woods. Yeah, this film really needs a Sig Haig . . . or a Lee Van Cleef . . . to villain up the joint, not this snot-nose punk kid that needs his ass spanked and sent to his room without supper. Lord Humungous, we beg for your vengeance!

Anyway, it turns out Giddy-boy hacked the space platform and forced the astronauts back to Earth, since they have the technology to help find a “clean zone” to escape the contamination that will wipe out the survivors in two months. (Huh? Well, wait . . . if Giddy the Gimp has the technology to hack a military nuc-platform, then it follows he has the technology to find a way off Nova Scotia . . . oh, never mind. I’m overthinking the plot.) And with that, we get lots of boring Battletruck tomfoolery . . . and talking, talking, and talking . . . and talking, with people babbling in the woods (sans the truck or motorcycles . . . or laser crossbow weapons or Whistler Swords) that they need to get off the isle of Nova Scotia and onto the mainland before a malfunctioning warhead on the crashed platform explodes in sixty hours.

Dear Lord! Will somebody start kicking some ass around here? Snake! Max! Parsifal! Trash! Stryker! Even Paco Queruak would be welcomed! Where are you, guys! We’ll even take the headbanded Chip Meyer from Survivor (yikes, he looks like the lead singer from Canada’s Loverboy!). Someone help these dolts Escape from Nova Scotia, already!

The real pisser of this film: It was made with Canadian Government Tax dollars via what seems to have been some bogus program to encourage film production in the Great White North—at the tune of 1,750,000 Canadian . . . its worldwide gross barely broke a million dollars in box office. Granted, it eventually cleaned up on home video market, but as a Canadian tax payer, I’d be pissed the government taxed my hard earned money for Roger Corman’s benefit.

And another thing: It’s not only CNN that references the Def Con System incorrectly (in defiance of The Donald)so does this film. In fact, the correct title for this film should be Def Con 1, which means “imminent war” . . . as in the shit has already hit the proverbial apoc-fan and the Earth is about to be burnt to a cinder and ruled by the leather studded, metal-hockey masked Humongous. A Def Con 4 is a picnic in the park, as this Newsy report on the media’s perpetual Def Con faux pas tells us. You got that, kids? Def Con 1 is bad. Def Con 5 is good. And if you don’t . . . well, ‘ol Commander General Jack Beringer is just gonna kick you in the ass until you do! And for god sakes, when you’re trying to be a bad-ass, don’t say your “taking this baby up to Def Con 6,” you’ll only end up looking like a dick.

At least the interjections of Commander USA of Commander USA’s Groovy Movies make Def Con 4 more entertaining. Check it out (complete with the original commercials and promos for USA’s Saturday Nightmares airing of The Intruder Within!) on You Tube. If you’d rather watch it without the Commander USA gibberish, then check out this clean VHS rip uploaded to You Tube. You say you want a better copy for your personal library? In January 2019, Arrow Video released a 2K Restoration from the original 35MM interpostive. The Blu-ray features all new interview vignettes and a color booklet with more behind the scenes information on the film.

Do you need more apocalypse Intel? I invite you on a journey through the radiated landscapes with the Medium article, “Warriors of the Pasta-Apocalypse: Michael Sopkiw and Mark Gregory Kicking Ass in the ’80s Italian Wastelands,” which serves as a career retrospective on both actors, along with reviews of 2019: After the Fall of New York, 1990: The Bronx Warriors, and Escape from the Bronx.

You can catch up on the wide array of post-apocalyptic adventures with B&S Movies’ “Atomic Dust Bins” Part 1 and Part 2 featuring 20 mini-reviews of movies you never heard of, along with a “hit list” featuring all of the apoc-flicks we watched for September 2019’s Apoc Month.

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