Actor Don Opper (Black Moon Rising, Critters franchise) and director Aaron Lipstadt (prolific; too many U.S TV series to mention), the writing and directing team that brought us the very clever and entertaining Alien/Star Wars knockoff Android (1982; starring Klaus Kinski) returned with this not so clever and entertaining post-apocalypse knock off set “15 years from now.” So, considering its year of release, it seems we’re in the year of 1999, across the continent from where Snake Plissken is dealing with Commander Hauk and hookin’ up with Season Hubley in a Chock Full of Nuts coffee shop.
As is the case with most-low budget apoc flicks, this means the “future” of City Limits pretty much looks like our present, except for a few techno-accoutrements to make it seem this is “the future.” And while that approach works to great success in films such as Kamikaze ’89 (1982) and Fahrenheit 451 (1967), City Limits lacks those films’ narrative focus to hold an apoc-rat’s interest.
You guessed it: As with the geographical alerts for post-apocalyptic films made in Canada and South Africa (Survival 1990, Survival Zone), this is a warning to proceed with caution with this U.S knock off of an apoc-flick . . . that’s a knock of the Italian pasta-flicks . . . that are knock offs of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York.
In this “universe” a plague has killed off most of the world’s adult population (I know that’s a plot device I’ve seen before, but I am too lazy to research those films, but I do remember Michael J. Pollard and Kim Darby starred in a ‘60s Star Trek episode with that plot) that leaves Los Angeles in the hands of two teenage biker gangs . . . who raided an Italian clothing designer’s ratty-apoc Broadway collection of costumes, complete with Skeletor-like motorcycle helmets. Can the Italian apoc-gangs the Riders and the Tigers kick their ass? Put it this way: The City Limits dweebs would be running around in pissy-pants if the rag-wearing and whitefaced Scavengers and the roller skating-metal hockey stick swinging Zombies showed up.
As with the Enzo G. Castellari apoc-universe set up in 1990: The Bronx Warriors and Escape from the Bronx, the ubiquitous “evil” corporation has moved into Los Angeles to restore civilization. The man to accomplish this goal is . . . teen idol-actor Robbie Benson (?) who, in the grand tradition of an ‘80s Adam West film (Zombie Nightmare and Omega Cop) does this from a one-room set, behind a run-of-the-mill wooden desk in an office with wood paneling . . . which is great if you’re a manager of a Walmart — not going into a post-apoc battle to restore civilization. Is Benson’s retail retaliation enough to inspire the gangs to unionize and fight back? You bet.
Considering this is a U.S production with a solid roster of U.S actors (John Stockwell of Christine, the apoc-drivel Radioactive Dreams, My Science Project; John Diehl of TV’s Miami Vice), along with a bigger budget and slicker production values than the Italian pasta-romps it aspires to be . . . there’s no Fred Williamson, Henry Silva, or Vic Morrow thespin’ against an endless barrage of fights and explosions and deaths by impalement, shotgun or, most importantly — flamethrowers. Yeah, John Stockwell is a great actor (and has become a successful director in his own right), but a movie in the apoc-genre needs a Mark Gregory discovered in a Rome shoe store, or ex-drug running merchant sailors like Michael Sopkiw running through the rubble and kicking the silver jump-suited minions of Henry Silva’s “Disinfestations Squads” to make it all work.
City Limits is a fond VHS memory of the ‘80s and it’s not a total waste of time, but it’s just that it could be so much better. You can watch it on You Tube, although the MST3K version on TubiTv makes for the more entertaining watch.
Tom Servo . . . Crooooow!