Editor’s Note: This review previously ran on April 19, 2018.
Sometimes, I just sit and search through YouTube looking for a movie to watch while I work. Often, that search finds horrible films that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy if I were truly paying attention to them. And sometimes, like with this movie, I end up taking a break from writing and find something I really enjoy.
Directed by Peter Sasdy (The Lonely Lady, Taste the Blood of Dracula, Hands of the Ripper), this film was a UK/Canadian tax shelter affair. But don’t hold that against it! Five strangers all wake up at the same time and have no memories of who they are, other than that they are all killers. They must travel to a Wild West town called Blood City.
Once there, they will spend a year in servitude before they can become free. Then, they’ll be able to own a business and work toward becoming immortal — free from constant worry of challenges to the death. They get there by winning twenty challenges. And there’s only one law in Blood City — Frendlander, played by Jack Palance. It’s no accident that the bad guy from Shane is playing this part. Palance might only be known to younger folks from his Oscar turn in City Slickers, but in the 1970’s he was taking whatever parts he could get. And then he’d sink his teeth into them! He’s fabulous in this movie!
Keir Dullea (Black Christmas, 2001, The Haunting of Julia) stars as Lewis, who finds himself coming up against Frendlander over and over again. The real secret of the film? None of them are in this town at all — it’s a virtual reality simulation to determine the best warriors in a future war. So basically, it’s a combination of WestWorld and The Matrix.
Samanta Eggar (The Brood) shows up as a scientist who falls in love with Lewis and inserts herself into the virtual reality experiment. Barry Morse is also in here, who you may remember as Lt. Philip Gerard from TV’s The Fugitive. And Chris Wiggins is in this as well. He was Jack Marshak on Friday the 13th: The Series.
If you’re looking for this movie, you can find a horrible transfer of it on the Mill Creek Sci-Fi Invasion 50 Pack. That said, the set is pretty worthwhile, as you also get stuff like The Crater Lake Monster, Death Machines, Sergio Martino’s Hands of Steel, Horror High, the Florinda Bolkan film Le Orme, The Raiders of Atlantis, R.O.T.O.R., Robo Vampire, one of the worst/best films ever Rocket Attack U.S.A. and more.
This is totally part of the doomed 1970’s genre and the end — where Lewis chooses the fantasy of Blood City instead of the lies of modern life — still rings true today. I completely expected a ripoff of WestWorld and FutureWorld, yet was rewarded with something really good. It’s slow moving, but if you understand that and can see a movie for what it could be versus what it is, I think you’ll enjoy it.