Twenty years after a devastating Third World War, the nuclear fall-out has reduced the landscape into a vast harsh, desolate, infertile wasteland with feral radiation-contaminated nomadic hordes scuttling about. Among the many scattered tribes populating the planet are a pair of warring factions: the barbaric, slowly dying above ground dwelling Tyrogs and the more civil, untainted subterranean Drones. Ordered to capture an uncontaminated Drone woman to prevent the Tyrogs from becoming extinct, scruffy, but decent Tyrog super warrior Zerak (a surprisingly credible turn from the Incredible Hulk himself, Lou Ferrigno, who sports a black eye-patch and a studded black leather outfit) captures and subsequently befriends benign Drone lady Racela (nicely played by the gorgeous Shari Shattuck). Uncomfortable with having Racela being used for desperate last chance procreation purposes by his grubby tribe, Zerak, assisted by a rescue party led by Racela’s father, decides to spring her and go on the run, therefore starting a bloody feud between the Tyrogs and the Drones.
Although quite obviously made on a paltry two-cent shoestring budget and technically real rough around the edges, “Desert Warrior” ain’t half bad for a no-budget cheapie. Director Jim Goldman keeps the pace galloping along at a zestful clip. The action scenes are fairly violent and staged with a reasonable amount of vigor (said action includes lively gun-play, a few down’n’dirty sword fights, and brutal hand-to-hand grappling). Marita A. Manuel supplies a bouncy, rousing synthesizer score. The generally grim tone only becomes repellently mushy at the very end. Cinematographer Fred Conrad gives the film a convincingly spare, grainy look. The other tribes are neatly varied; the black clad sword-swinging ninjas and hairy hatchet-wielding caveman midgets are especially cool. The rather uneven acting is mostly up to snuff, with solid performances from Ferrigno and Shattuck. The script by Carl Kuntze and Bob Davies has a pleasingly thoughtful subtext on man’s deep-seated need to survive, draws the characters in unusually complex shades of gray, and offers some intriguing insights into both civil and primitive ways of life (the Tyrogs are crude, but hearty and honest people while the Drones hide their true rigid fascistic nature behind a polite, polished veneer). All in all, this movie sizes up as an acceptable and pretty enjoyable entry in the 80’s post-nuke sci-fi/action genre.