Released by: Kino Studio Classics
Released on: January 3rd, 2017.
Director: Cirio Santiago
Cast: Steve Sandor, Andrea Savio, William Ostrander, Julie Gray, Monique St. Pierre
Year: 1983 Purchase From Amazon
Of all the mutts that populated the exploitation film dog kennel in the 1980's, none were mangier than the post-apocalyptic/ROAD WARRIOR ripoffs. Usually featuring tons of explosions, dudes dressed in various types of pirate and biker leather gear driving dune buggies or monster trucks and girls looking like extras from Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield" video, this is the genre that defines "cheese."
Which leads us to 1983's STRYKER.
Lensed by Filipino B-movie legend Cirio Santiago who had a long and fruitful association with the one and only Roger Corman, this film is extremely weak sauce even by the lowly standards of this genre. After kicking off with a ropy voice-over that fills us in on the situation (there's been an atomic war and all that's left is desert and everybody is fighting for the only commodity that matters - water), we dive right into the so-called narrative. Which is, kind of nothing. There's a sexy woman being chased by bad guys because she's carrying some water. Once they catch up to her, their attempt to find out where she obtained it is thwarted by an attack from a roving gang headed by Stryker (Steve Sandor) - who starts shooting and the woman escapes in the confusion.
There's a badly conceived plot of sorts here but the editing and story-line are so poorly constructed that it's hard to follow. Essentially this is a film about rival gangs fighting each other for control of the world's water supply. Stryker is the lone wolf hero (okay, he does have a sidekick named Bandit played by William Ostrander) who wanders in and out of the two to three opposing camps. The first woman we saw is from a female gang that are encamped at a place referred to as The Colony - which surrounds a spring. This is, naturally, of great interest to main bad guy Kardis (Mike Lane) who heads the gang that we saw at the start of the film. He wants control of all the water and a spring is a great start. The women have a plan to unite with a third group run by a man named Trun (Ken Metcalfe) who are ensconced close by under the assumption that if their two groups can unite, they can repel the evil Kardis. In a further twists, Trun is Stryker's brother and Kardis murdered Stryker's wife. So... revenge!
This movie is as dumb as a paper bag filled with wet, steel hammers. That wouldn't necessarily kill it as entertainment if it had something to alleviate the repetition. Films like this need the kind of shot in the arm that a great character actor like Henry Silva or a genial presence like Al Cliver can provide. But here all we've got is Sandor's boring performance, some competently lensed action sequences and a whole lot of repetition. In fact, the competency level of the many crashes, explosions and fights ends up hurting the film. I found myself praying for some hilariously poorly conceived fight choreography to numb the ennui. Santiago had a long and busy career but this is far from his best. I'd recommend NAKED VENGEANCE if you actually want to have a good time.
Pluses? Well, the women are attractive. And I kind of like the utterly bizarre musical score. Lane has a cool Anton Szandor LaVey/Sig Haig look for his Fu Manchu-esque villain. The Filipino locations look realistic for a post-nuke world and the cars are rad. If you are a huge MAD MAX junkie this one can satisfy your jones I suppose.
Kino's 1.78.1 framed 1080p AVC encoded transfer does a good job of presenting the film in HD. Unlike most Kino titles, there were a few moments that looked slightly DNR'd but these were negligible enough that few but the most eagle-eyed would notice. There is also some minor but nevertheless noticeable print damage. Otherwise we've got solid black levels and good color reproduction with plenty of fine detail on display in faces, landscapes and clothing. This title was previously only available in a shoddy full frame DVD multi-pack so fans should be pleased.
The audio is a passable DTS-HD 2.0 mono track that occasionally gets shrill on the high end but is clear and centered. There are subtitles provided in English but I never needed them. The usual caveats apply to period mono audio tracks - don't be expecting anything immersive. That said, bottom end here was surprisingly decent for the car crashes and explosions,
The only significant extra is a commentary track featuring filmmaker and Cirio pal Jim Wynorski (who worked on a few films with the man) and Code Red's Bill Olsen with third wheel film historian Damon Packard along for the ride. This is a fun chat where Wynorski really takes the lead. The three cover a wide range of topics including Wynorski's remake of the film WATER WARS and some of the filmmaker's experiences on Cirio's sets. Bill Olsen addresses the absurdity of the plot's water conceit and the gang have a chuckle at some of the other shenanigans on display. Well worth a listen.
Beyond the commentary, the film's trailer and a few other Code Red trailers are here.
The Final Word:
Dull and repetitive, I can't really recommend this one to anyone other than the hardest of hardcore MAD MAX ripoff post-apocalyptic aficionados. I will say, however, that the commentary is strong and for anyone with a previously pleasant experience with this film that this is a serious upgrade worth picking up. Everybody else? Tread with extreme caution.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!