In the Survival Zone . . . death is a way of life.
Indeed, Mr. Tagline writer. Indeed.
Times were tough for ex-Star Trek and Stanley Kubrick actors . . . so bad that Gary Lockwood (1962’s The Magic Sword and 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit rip, Bad Georgia Road) traveled to South Africa (doubling for the “arid landscapes of 1988 Texas”) to star in a boring, post-nuke talk-fest pastiche of Death Wish and Mad Max. (And that “pitch” is really pushing the filmmaking meaning of the word in this pseudo-western romp.)
As with Def Con 4 and Battletruck, Survival Zone’s post-apoc ambitions sorely suffer from its lack of budget. So there’s no footage of devastated cities. No landscapes of burnt out buildings. No radiation-poisoned zombies. No futuristic hardware or soldiers. No Plisskens, Trashs, or Strykers for heroes. No desperately needed George Eastman-styled villains (Warriors of the Wasteland). There’s not even a Paco Querak to class up the nuclear mayhem.
What we do get is lots of talking and talking . . . and talking . . . with an annoying mix of American and South African accents (in Texas?) spouting dialog as they bitch about kite tails and how the world ended. What we do get are “pockets of low radiation levels” that allows Gary’s family—a hard-ass wife, a bitchy-whiny daughter (who suddenly changes from shorts to jeans while riding a horse), a bratty young son (who vanishes from the film without explanation), and a cantankerous uncle (all who make the stupidest of stupid decisions and you have no sympathy for)—to happily farm their homestead in peace. Then the post-apoc shite hits the fan when a band of marauding Indians—in the form of the apoc genre’s requisite leather-clad punk rock-biker rapists—lay siege. How “bad-ass” are these guys? The lead bad guy has the word “Bigman” emblazoned on his jacket and has a severed doll head fixed to the top of his motorcycle helmet.
Whooo. I’m so scared, Bigman. Let Ankar Moor throw your ass into the Deathsport arena and see how you do. You’d piss out your leather chaps playing Battle Ball in Ground Rules, dickwad.
So if you absolutely must be a post-apocalypse completest and watch every last piece of VHS flotsam and jetsam in Snake Plissken’s wake, then proceed at your own peril . . . it’s on You Tube. You’ve been warned, my fellow apoc-rats: For when it comes to our low-budget, post-nuked rip-off future, stay the hell out of South Africa and head for the Philippines, then Italy, then Australia, in that order.
Director Percival Rubens punched out 12 films in his not-so-illustrious career and gained minor video-store street cred with the popular (and now very, very rare and sought after) VHS rental and Cameron Mitchell starrer, The Demon. If you’re a horror buff completest, then check out that amalgamated mess of a film where John Carpenter’s Halloween meets A Nightmare on Elm Street.
If you absolutely must have a Texas-set post-apoc flick in your collection, pass on Survival Zone and get yourself a copy of the George Eastman (2019: After the Fall of New York) penned and Joe D’Amato (Endgame) directed 2020: Texas Gladiators.
Ack! I wrote reviews on The Survivalist and Survival 1990? The things I do for B&S About Movies!
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.