EDITOR’S NOTE: Endgame isn’t just my favorite Joe D’Amato movie, it’s also my favorite post-apocalyptic movie ever made. It’s absolutely out of control for the entire movie with blind ninjas being led video game-style by psychics, fishmen all over Laura Gemser and George Eastman not being a bad guy for the whole film. It’s as good as it gets. You can get it from Severin.
I think it’s best that I watch some movies by myself. Like this one. That’s because the minute George Eastman showed up on screen, I let out an audible cheer of pure bliss. No one needs to hear me screaming like that.
2025. A nuclear war has left New York City in ruins, populated by scavengers and telepathic mutants who are hunted and killed by the elite. To keep the people of this world from revolting, the reality game show Endgame has been created, where hunters and gladiators battle to the death in the place of warfare.
Lilith (Black Emanuelle herself, Laura Gemser, credited as Moira Chen!) is a psychic who wants protection for her band of mutants. She hires the best Endgame player ever — Ron Shannon (Al Cliver from Zombi and The Beyond!) — to help. Shannon has his own problems, as he’s in the middle of Endgame and facing off against professional killers like Kurt Karnak (the much loved Eastman, who also co-wrote this film), who was Shannon’s childhood friend and has now become his greatest rival. The last time Shannon and Karnak battled in an Endgame, time ran out before they could determine which man was the best player.
Lilith helps Shannon defeat Karnak, at which point his sponsor and the cameramen show up and ask him to drink Lifeplus on screen. Lilith reaches out to him and he rushes to save her. That’s when he agrees to help her and the mutants she protects.
Karnak has lost his mind due to losing, shooting targets obsessively. Colonel Morgan and his men try to recruit him to their cause while Shannon tries to recruit his own team, including Ninja (Hal Yamanouchi, who in addition to playing Silver Samurai in 2013’s The Wolverine also appears in Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, 2020 Texas Gladiators and 2019: After the Fall of New York as the Rat Eater King!) and Bull (Gabriele Tinti, who was married to Gemser and appeared in nearly every Black Emanuelle movie).
“You’re too famous to disappear in a city that grows smaller every day,” says Colonel Morgan when he catches up to Shannon, asking him to give up Lilith. This leads to a firefight where he’s saved by Karnak! George Eastman as a good guy? Holy shit, I’m fucking in!
If you haven’t guessed by all the shouting and exclamation points, this movie is the perfect combination of everything I look for in film — it’s a ripoff, it’s post-apocalyptic, it shares Italian genre favorites and it’s in a ridiculous world where everyone either dresses like a viking or Dump Matsumoto (1980’s Japanese women’s wrestling bad girl supreme).
Meanwhile, in the wasteland, our heroes come upon mutants, which Professor Levin (oh yeah, he takes care of the telepaths) explains have combined man’s primordial caveman past with feral instincts. Which means, in layman’s terms, that they look like human fish or apes.
Think that’s crazy? They then come upon holy monks who have blinded themselves so that they can be guided by psychics and kill anyone who offends their conception of God. What follows is a scene of black-robed maniacs fighting with machine guns and grenades and knives and motorcycles and man…a cast of hundreds gets killed until Shannon finds the captured psychic and instead of saving him, tosses an axe at his head. All the monks have no idea where they are, wandering around yelling that they are blind as our heroes make their escape. If you think they aren’t going to drive over the head of one of the monks, well, you haven’t been watching Italian genre cinema!
Meanwhile, Lilith explains to Shannon that she keeps one of the young psychic kids basically autistic, because if he starts to experience emotions, he’s liable to wipe out everyone around him.
Then, the professor gets killed in a trap, but asks Shannon to save all of them. But that means Bull discovers that she’s psychic, which means that the entire team learns that everyone is a mutant. Everyone starts arguing before Karnak shows up to let them know that more enemies are on the way. Monkey-faced enemies! And a fish-faced leader who has two women with roped up bare breasts on his modified golf cart! What is going on with this movie?
Ninja and Kovack get killed and Lilith is captured. Karnak offers to help Shannon save her. Lilith reaches out to Shannon, telling him that Karnak only wants gold and then to kill him. Then, the fishman leader tears off Lilith’s clothes, yelling “Look at me while I rape you, dammit!” Shannon asks if she’s OK because he’s seeing flashes and she’s all like, “Yeah, I’m fine,” while a fish mutant slobbers all over her. Umm…
When the guys get there, Lilith is fully clothed and the mutant is passed out on the bed. So are we to believe that she enjoyed it? Or that she just went with it? I guess if you’re looking for woke feminism, a Joe D’Amato movie is probably the last place one should root around.
Then they find Kovack, who the mutants have left inside a wall. They can’t help him escape and he wants to die, so Karnak breaks his neck. He faces off against an entire room of mutants while Shannon and Lilith escape. She can tell that Karnak is in trouble, but not dead, to which Shannon replies “Fate decides the winner of Endgame, not me.”
Lilith reunites with the children and everyone celebrates that they are only ten kilometers from the rendezvous. Of course, the government is waiting to take everyone out. SS logo adorned stormtroopers show up and just start shooting, but Shannon talks Tommy, one of the mutant children, into creating wind storms and telekinetically using a machine gun and an avalanche to kill all of the soldiers. He even levitates a car that crushes several of them and sets a fire that wipes out even more. Then, he forces Colonel Morgan to kill himself.
Lilith asks Shannon to come with them, but he says “She is the future and he is the past.” She leaves while he stays behind in the wasteland with the gold. As he goes to pick up his gold, Karnak comes back and tells him they haven’t played the final round yet. He throws away his gun as we get an awesome long shot of both men, like something out of a western. They rush at one another with knives and the credits roll.
The poster for this film promises “For An Endgame Champion In The Year 2025, There’s Only One Way To Live. Dangerously.” And this film more than lives up that. If you only know D’Amato from his adult work or gorefests like Beyond the Darkness and Antropophagus, you should totally check this one out. Movies like this are why I went from worrying about the end of the world to wishing that it would happen!