Drive-In Friday: A-List Apocalypse

Oh, how we go on and on about the apocalypse on this site. Especially the films shot in Australia, Italy, and the Philippines. We love it so much that we waxed nostalgic — twice — about Michael Sopkiw’s and Sergio Martino’s 2019: After the Fall of New York (Sam and R.D reviews). We even went Hunter S. Thompson-gonzo (we can’t write any other way; gotta go for broke) and wrote a month of apoc film reviews this past September, which you can revisit with our two-part Atomic Dustbin round up.

But before the low-budget hoards raced out of the lands overseas beyond the rising sun, Hollywood, inspired by the apoc turns of Moses and Ben-Hur himself, Charlton Heston, in Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man and Soylent Green, the apocalypse went mainstream.

So Oliver Reed went “apoc” with Z.P.G, while Yul Brynner starred in The Ultimate Warrior, Sean Connery followed his worldwide fame as James Bond with Zardoz, and the Golden Globe and Oscar-nominated Paul Newman ended the ’70s with Quintet.

So raise ye spiked bats and chains, my warrior hoards and perloin that water, you motherlovers! (Ye must know their cheezy apoc movie quotes or die!) Let’s light up the big screen for the A-List Apocalypse!

A don’t forget to follow the dancing pop corn boxes to our snack bar. I hope you ripped those two-fer-one coupons from the newspaper.

Movie 1: ZPG (1972)

If you’re a bloxploitation fan, you know writer and director Michael Campus for 1973’s classic The Mack, starring Richard Pryor (it bombed, but is considered the best of the genre). But did you know Michael Campus went apoc? Yep, he did. Those crazy Danes purchase the rights to Paul R. Ehrlich’s 1968 worldwide best seller, The Population Bomb, and turn it into a movie. And they managed to hire Oliver Reed of Burnt Offerings and Severed Ties, Gor and Outlaw of Gor. (Now, I must point out, again: Reed was so bad ass with his #1 box office-grossing actor self, that he turned down the role of Quint in Jaws. But now, I must addendum: he accepted two Gor films and Severed Ties?)

Truth be told, while this film has no middle ground and is either loved-loved, or hated-hated (I am of the former), it came out pretty good and is the best of this evening’s quartet of films. And bonus, Geraldine Chaplin — the daughter of Charlie Chaplin — won Best Actress (well deserved) at Spain’s 1972 Sitges Film Festival for her performance in the film.

The film concerns an overpopulated future Earth, whose world government executes those who violate a 30-year ban on having children, so as to balance out the food shortage. And to maintain normalcy, the government develops realistic mechanical babies to satiate the maternal instincts of the world’s 10 billion women. But for Carol — played by Chaplin — a mechanical child won’t do. And she spirals into an obsession to have a real child. (Special Effects artist Derek Meddings — who got his start with Hammer Films, worked with Gerry Anderson on UFO and Space: 1999, along with several James Bond films (our featured reviews all of next month), and designed Pink Floyd’s stage shows — designed the machine babies.)

Are they kidding? No online PPV rental streams? You have to “buy it” for $9.99? Well, if you absolutely must, You Tube has it. Amazon wants $12.99 to buy it? What the hell?

Movie 2: The Ultimate Warrior (1974)

So, Charlton Heston was Moses in The Ten Commandments. And he went apoc with The Omega Man and Soylent Green as “the last man.” And you thought Yul Brynner, who played Ramesses alongside Heston in The Ten Commandments, wasn’t going to jump on the apoc battlewagon to box office gold? (BTW: Check out our “10 Post-Apocalyptic Vehicles” feature.)

“What’s it (yawn) all about?” you ask director Robert Clouse.

Set in a post-civilization New York City in 2012, The Ultimate Warrior depicts the struggles of a small enclave of entitled inhabitants (led by Swedish actor Max Von Sydow of Victory and Judge Dredd) attempting to survive in a compound under endless attacks by the starving hoards outside (led by William Smith of Invasion of the Bee Girls and Grave of the Vampire).

And they need a magnificent seven to help them. But they can only afford one: Carson, played by Yul. For ye is the ultimate, perpetually shirtless, warrior: a man with no name. Well, he has a “name,” but you get the point.

Ugh. No free rips? You’ll have to settle for the PPV via Amazon Prime or Vudu.

A throw-down-the-apoc-gauntlet challenge to Sam: How is it that you ragged on Mitch Gaylord in American Tiger in our Drive-In Friday grand opening — and have yet to review fellow gymast Kurt Thomas in Gymkata? Must it always be about your man-love of Sergio Martino? (Geeze, no wonder Pittsburgh’s having a T.P shortage; and we thought it was the Coronavirus straining the T.P supply chains.) How’s about showing Robert Clouse of Enter the Dragon fame — and Jim Kelly’s Black Belt Jones and Golden Needles — some love?

Gymkata, Samuel. Gymkata. Isn’t “gymkata” sort of kind of like wrestling?

Our location out in Allison Park–if you feel like making the drive–will feature No Blade of Grass, Chosen Survivors, Ravagers, and Damnation Alley. But there’s no swap shop this Sunday at Allison Park. Gotta bush hog the lot and patch some parking lot potholes. Damn those city ordinaces and inspectors.

Movie 3: Zardoz (1974)

What in the hell? John Boorman ignited hicksploitation cinema with 1972’s Deliverance (read our “The Top 70 Good ‘Ol Boys Film List” round up of our month-long review of backwoods epics) and decided a movie with Sean Connery ditching the toupee, slapping on a pair of speedos, wearing a pair of bullet belts across his chest, and slipping into a some kneehigh red boots — and, oh, a floating giant stone head spouting lines about man’s evil penis spreading his seeds on the Earth — was the way to follow up a box office blockbuster?

What’s it all about? Uh, in a post-apocalyptic world where “Brutals,” aka barbarians, worship a stone god called “Zardoz” set forth by the elitist “Eternals,” everyone fights against death and hope for an eternal life.

And how is it that they are smart enough to building an electromagnetic stone head that spits out supplies to the barbarians, but not wipe the crud off of the cover of an old story book — which they based their society on? (The “plot twist” must be seen to be believed . . . dude, not that Star Trek: The Motion Picture V’ger non-sense again. WTF!)

Yeah, this deserved being singled out in our “Ten WTF Movies” feature: for Zardoz is the definition of “WTF” more than any other movie. Well, at least until Paul Newman did Quintet.

Ack. There’s no freebies on Zardoz? You’ll have to settle for a PPV on Amazon Prime or Vudu.

Movie 4: Quintet (1979)

And you thought John Boorman’s Zardoz was a mindfuck (or bore; opinions vary).

Welcome to the apoc-world of Robert Altman. Yes, the five-time Oscar-nominated director of M.A.S.H and Nashville fame went apoc. According to a then report in Variety, 20th Century Fox President Alan Ladd Jr. told the industry trade paper that Altman was not given final cut on what he termed “a complicated picture.”

That’s putting it mildly, Mr. Ladd.

Of course, we all know a quintet is a group containing five members. And that the geometric pattern of a pentagon (as you see in the theatrical one-sheet) has five sides. And dices (aka, a hexahedron) have six sides.

Okay, that’s the easy part. Now comes the hard part.

Remember our passionate rants during our “Fucked Up Futures Week” and “Deadly Game Show Week” tributes about “Human Death Sports,” which we consolidated in our review of the The 10th Victim?

Well, take The 10th Victim and eliminate five players. And take them out of the world stage and toss them in a makeshift casino during a future, world ice age where bored humans play “Quintet,” a fight for the survival of the fittest — with human game pieces. And those who are “killed” in the game are executed in real life. (Connect Four with a knife or Monopoly with a 45-revolver, anyone? Wanna try for the “funny bone” in Operation with a 10,000 volt hookup?)

Paul Newman is a seal hunter, Essex, who impersonates someone named Redstone, and gets “entered” into the game (a similar plotline used in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1975 noir The Passenger starring Jack Nicholson). And Ingmar Bergman’s muse, Swedish actress Bibi Anderson, shows up as Ambrosia, the games crucial “sixth man.” So, uh, why didn’t they title the movie “The Sixth Man” instead of Quintet?

Your guess is as good as ours. Somewhere in the frames, Altman is being profound . . . about something.

You can watch a very clean rip of Quintet for free on You Tube.

Hey! Don’t fear the reaper. Come and take our hand and let us show you a whole list of end-of-the-world flicks with our Atomic Dust Bin round-ups, full of helpful tips on how tough out COVID-19. For there’s no paper for the loo. So you better bring your shovels to dig your own dunnys (Aussie apoc-speak; gotta keep the theme rollin’).

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

Brillant cut of the first five Phantasm films to Blue Oyster Cult’s 1976 classic, “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”

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