The basic, and I mean basic, premise of this film is that a deranged president (John Hulmes) and his `Statesmen’ capture wandering nomads to fight against `death machines’ to gain their freedom and to satisfy his sadistic needs. However, the President’s mental health is failing and sensing weakness, his right hand man Ankar Moor (Richard Lynch) decides that the time is right to increase his own grip on power. Whilst this may sound like a promising story line it is unfortunately as far as the writers managed to develop the script, so essentially a five minute idea gets padded out to make a 90 minute film. This is achieved by adding a completely pointless `sub-plot’ involving mutants kidnapping a young girl from Deneer’s (Claudia Jeenings) tribe and lots of footage of bike chases. Who the mutants are and why they kidnap the girl is deemed by the writers to be completely irrelevant to the viewer.
The prop budget in this film is minimal to say the least and makes a Dr Who episode seem grossly lavish. The `death machines’ are essentially motorbikes with bits of silver metal attached and have an alarming tendency to explode at slightest contact (reminiscent of The Simpsons’ vehicles). In fact a large chunk of the budget must have been spent on pyrotechnics because things explode and catch on fire throughout the last half of the film.
The dialogue is extremely cumbersome and was probably written during a heavy smoking session. Corradine seems distracted and listless, whilst Lynch half-heartedly hams it up, leaving only former Playboy Playmate Jeenings seemingly intent on making any effort. This being a Corman production she of course has to be nude at some point (which must be considered a positive in this film) and she duly obliges during a bizarre light bulb torture scene. The same device is also used to provide a rather lame conclusion to the President story line.
Another oddity in this film is the `musical score’ which at times sounds like the keyboard player is suffering from a fit and at times alternates between droning sounds and jazz! The sound effects seemingly `borrow’ heavily from the Star Wars library – listen out for what sounds like Vader’s breathing, the phazer effects and the Tie-Fighter like `screaming’ sound whilst the bikes travel through the tunnels. With the film meandering aimlessly mid-production and in danger of not getting finished Corman stepped in and the sense of desperation can be seen in the final product. This is essentially a poor second cousin to Deathrace 2000, a film that strangely benefited from Stallone’s character. I’d only recommend this to Corman die-hards or cult completists.
Note: Watch out for the unfortunate extra who gets unintentionally set alight during the cave scenes (you can see him frantically diving to the ground and becoming engulfed in a plume of extinguisher vapour).