I discovered this I-never-heard-of-it before and somewhat newly-uploaded ditty back in September of last year during one of my many You Tube-rabbit hole excursions. And knowing a B&S About Movies’ movie when I see one . . . I left it on my “need to watch” back burners, waiting for the right moment . . . then Sam the Bossman came up with another apoc-theme week. So blame him for this review. And video purveyors Trans World Entertainment for releasing it.
At first glance at the VHS sleeve description, you want to call out this direct-to-video writing and directing debut by Scott Pfeiffer as a ripoff of Kevin Costner’s The Postman — only Costner’s apoc romp was released a decade later. You may know Scott Pfeiffer’s work courtesy of his next effort, the Asian white slavery romp Merchants of Evil (1993) — and that’s only because no one ever passes up a film starring William Smith (his B&S resume). After that, Pfeiffer produced a dozen other low-budget direct-to-video features, the best known of those being a sequel to Hell Comes to Frogtown. And, in a David A. Prior twist: Scott cast his brother, James, as the lead in his two writing-directing efforts.
In this apoc-obscurity, we meet a bickering husband and wife (James Pfeiffer and Janice Carraher; she vanished from the biz shortly after) — she wants a divorce and he won’t give her one — as a radio station voice-over advises us the world is on the brink of world war. Then the ubiquitous phone call: we come to learn hubby is not only a dickhead of a husband, but a dickhead of businessman involved in a nefarious South American business deal that has “the feds sniffing around.”
Luckily, our fair lady runs off into the mountains to be with her grandad. And in those same woods, a merry band of prisoners commandeer their police transport van. And hubby has to hightail it to South America to cover up his company’s corruption, because, well, everyone needs to end up in the same patch of woods. . . .
So, all of our key players are in place. Cue the apocalypse.
America is wiped out by a voice over and stock footage nuclear war. And our just another run-of-the-mill businessman in the pre-apoc world sees the all-new, wiped-out America — well, at least west of the Rockies — as the land of opportunity. Now, is it possible that Scott Pfeiffer read David Brin’s The Postman source novel released in 1985 (Costner greatly detracted from the novel in his film version) . . . because we have another psycho-businessman (in The Postman, General Bethlehem, played by Will Patton, was a photocopier salesman) with aspirations to become the land’s new neo-fascist ruler with his merry band of warriors — courtesy of those less-educated escaped prisoners. And as they travel the countryside, the rules are simple: join us or die, just like in The Postman. Meanwhile, our ex-wife and ‘ol grandad are the leaders of a peaceful, wooded enclave. And she finds love again in the arms of — not a postman — but Wilkes (co-writer Butch Engle), a wandering trader.
Do you see where this is all going? If not for the holocaust, we’d have ended up in divorce court or ended up in a ripoff of Kramer vs. Kramer — or worse: one of those psycho-husband romps of the ’90s. Now their divorce plays out — the husband’s Raiders vs. the wife’s Traders (and let’s not forget the poor Radiated People) — in the wooded battlefields of Northern California.
Is this as bad as the Canadian in-the-woods-talking SOV apoc-romp Survival: 1990? Nope. Is it any better than the Gary Lockwood-starring South America-doubling-for-Texas apoc slop that is Survival Zone? Nope. Did this all need a touch of David A. Prior? God help me, but yes . . . for once, where was David A. Prior when we needed him with his fleet of post-apoc Jeep Cherokees and his celluloid partner-in-crime David Winters’s concrete-blocked wall space ships (i.e., the not-the Battlestar Galactica Southern Star in Space Mutiny).