The 80s were over and most low budget film producers had moved away from Mad Max rip-offs to make ninja movies instead, but producer/director Cirio H. Santiago is not one to let a genre die easy. In this installment we have bandits of the wasteland harassing a small village who then get help from a group of warriors to teach them how to defend themselves. So not only is this movie a Road Warrior rip-off it’s also blatantly taken the plot from The Magnificent Seven, but that’s okay as that was just a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai. Hell, even Roger Corman himself took a shot at that story with Battle Beyond the Stars, and it even turned up in an episode of Battlestar Galactica called “The Magnificent Warriors.” Basically I’m saying a Mad Max meets The Seven Samurai was not so much a case of if but of when.
Shockingly the movie doesn’t open with the standard narration, we do eventually find out that this is at least a couple of generations after a nuclear war, but opens with a BANG as an army of nefarious baddies shell the crap out of a ramshackle village. This army is led by a warlord by the name of William (Luke Askew) and he is after water. His men lob rocket after rocket into this town, in between machine gunning down the fleeing inhabitants, unfortunately this town doesn’t have much water but after interrogating one of the villagers they learn that the town of Chinle has a large supply of this most precious commodity. William orders a group of his men to secure Chinle while he and the rest of the men forage the area for more supplies. Um, isn’t water a most crucial supply? Why send a handful of men to hopefully secure your armies life’s blood when you could easily take it with your full army and then forage later from a secure location?
To be fair the men he sent do this job easily take over the village of Chinle, but then they “secure” the village as ordered and not just wipe out the inhabitants. This is a change in tactics with no logical reason. Now in The Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven the bandits needed the village to provide food, if they just road in and murdered all the farmers there would be no one to plant and harvest more crops in the future. Thus keeping the villagers kowtowed but alive was crucial, but in Dune Warriors the town of Chinle has apparently a spring of inexhaustible water and the last time I checked you didn’t need farmers to plant or harvest water. So exactly why are these people being spared? In the opening scene William had his men murder an entire village before finding out if they had water, which they didn’t, but for some reason he doesn’t order the extermination of the people that do. All the sparring of Chinle does is allow the movies heroine time to sneak out and find warriors to help free the village. Enter Val (Jillian McWhirter) a pretty blonde who asks her fiancé, “Luis, don’t you want to see something of this world other than this valley?”
Luis (Henry Strzalkowski) is the son of the Reynaldo (Joseph Zucchero), a member of the village council, and both father and son are duplicitous cowardly asshats. When William’s men take the village these two jerks do their best to convince the town folk to submit to this new ruler, and Luis doesn’t even try and prevent Val from an attempted raped. Val’s brother on the other hand does try and help and he gets shot for his trouble. With the death of her brother, and the wishy washiness of the villagers, Val decides that she must go elsewhere for help and so one night she sneaks off into the dark.
These Jawa wannabes chase after our poor unarmed Val but before they can catch and…eat her? Well before they catch and do whatever a band of angry desert dwarves would do with a young woman, she is rescued by Michael (David Carradine). His rescue consists of waving his arms and saying, “Get out of here” and though this technique works I must say Ben Kenobi’s krayt dragon impression to scare off the Tusken Raiders was way cooler. Val asks Michael where she could find warriors to recruit for her cause and he says the best place to look would be in Freetown.
In Freetown she witnesses two men jousting on motorcycles which tells us a couple of things; one that these men are fearless badasses, and secondly that Cirio H. Santiago is a fan of George Romero’s Knightriders. Later at the local salon she approaches John (Rick Hill), Dorian (Blake Boyd) and their friend Ricardo (Dante Verona) to ask for their help, but before she has a chance one of the saloon patrons recognizes John and Dorian as conmen who hoodwinked his whole town. A bar fight ensues and the two escape by jumping onto Michael’s truck. When Val fills them in on her town’s need, and the endless supply of water as a reward, they decide to help her. While on the way to Chinle they run into Miranda (Maria Isabel Lopez) a friend of Michaels who is a fellow warrior of the wasteland, and thus we now have our Magnificent…um…five?
Our warriors stage a brilliant night attack that easily defeats the men holding Chinle, but John and friends don’t get the warrior`s welcome they expected as Luis and his father are constantly working the villagers into giving into William’s command. Luckily Val’s father gives a rousing speech, not quite a St. Crispin Day speech but it’s enough to get the villages motivated to fight, and so John and friends proceed to train these hapless farmers in the art of war. Oh, and by art of war I mean mostly training them in using their farming implements for staff fighting. Think Seven Samurai only don’t because that will make you feel sad as you could be watching something like that rather than this thing.
This is a problem that turns up in many films that decide to use medieval weaponry against modern ones. In Star Wars the use of a sword against a laser blaster would be ridiculous if it wasn’t for the fact that their swords are made of energy and they have The Force to help them, while in films like The Sisterhood and Masters of the Universe the guy using a sword against a gun comes across as a bit of a moron.
It’s not all hard work and training for the people of Chinle as we also have Luis getting jealous of Dorian who is making moves on Val, and being Luis is an established weasel and a coward we know how this is going to turn out. That she never loved Luis, it being an arranged marriage to end strife between two families, certainly didn’t help his case. That isn’t the only love that blooms as we also get a tryst between John and Miranda which is of course immediately forgotten when she dies.
The cuckolder Luis helps two of William’s men escape so that they can warn the warlord of these interlopers and their plans, but then the king of delegation sends just five more vehicles to once again secure the town. William is apparently waiting around the desert for some gasoline convoy which never shows up. Of course five “Road Warrior” modded cars should be enough to take out a town that has plywood walls, and is guarded by farmers with sticks, but they did not count on John’s secret weapon.
Seriously, they take out an armored car with a fucking rope net. Defeating this one car turns the tide and William’s men are soon captured and their weapons added to Chinle’s arsenal. Meanwhile back with William he is in trouble because the gasoline convoy he’s been waiting for has not shown up and he’s about out of water. This is why dicking around the desert for days, doing who knows what, was a poor choice when his army could have easily wiped out Chinle ten times over and then gone out to find this mysterious convoy. Finally realizing water is kind of crucial to his army not dying of thirst they had to Chinle, but they are repulsed by flamethrowers mounted on the walls of Chinle.
Traitorous Luis sneaks out of the village, cutting the fuel lines to the flamethrowers before leaving, and he runs off to inform William on how best to take the village. Meanwhile John has sent Ricardo to sneak into the enemy camp to destroy their water supply so that William can’t win a siege. What the fuck? How does John think there is even going to be a siege? William has dozens of armored vehicles, many of which contain rocket launchers and mortars, and Chinle has the aforementioned plywood walls, a couple of machine guns, and a bunch of sticks. How could a battle between these two parties last more than an hour let alone turn into a siege?
Reality does win out as William attacks in the morning, and despite a valiant attempt by the villagers, William and his army kick their asses. Miranda is killed, the place is shelled to pieces, and most of the good guys have to flee into the hills.
Val and Dorian are captured and for some reason William decides that Jason (Val Garay), his second in command who failed to take Chinle, must have a duel to the death with Dorian. Strangely we don’t find out who would have won because just as the fight is getting good, well as good as poorly choreographed knife fight can get, John and Michael launch a counter attack. But wouldn’t this attack be suicidal? How could our band of farmers hope to overcome a vastly superior force? Well turns out while hiding in the hills one of the village kids found a cave that contained weapons and munitions depot. How’s that for lucky?
That those weapons that were just laying around a damp cave for decades still function is a bit farfetched but even more so is the villages ability to use them with thirty minutes of training. Using an RBG or a mortar is a bit trickier than a stick. Regardless our heroes are victorious and Michael gets to face off against William, who we learnt was responsible for the death of Michael’s family, and after a brief sword fight he disarms William. But once losing his sword William goes for his gun, which begs the question, “Why the fuck were you getting into a swordfight for if you had a gun?” Clearly this dude did not learn from Raiders of the Lost Ark on how one deals with a man wielding a sword. Though even with a gun he is a bit useless as he gets off a shot but Michael just shrugs it off, he is after all David Carradine, and he lops off Williams’ gun hand.
The day is saved. Michael and John ride off into the sunset while Dorian stays behind with Val to become a farmer, because if you’re going to rip-off The Magnificent Seven you might as well do every goddamn beat including the ending. As a Road Warrior/Seven Samurai hybrid there is some novelty value, but the action is by the most party repetitive and boring. If you cast David Carradine, star of television’s Kung Fu in your movie and yet you relegate him to practically second banana status next to Rick Hill you have made a tragic mistake. Also this film is called Dune Warriors and yet there are no bloody DUNES in this entire movie, just the same rocky quarry local we see in all these film. The repeated locations and props from all of Cirio H. Santiago’s previous films certainly do not help remove the stench of refried action here. Dune Warriors should only be watched if properly medicated with a good quantity of alcohol.
Check out more post-apocalyptic movie reviews here: Road Warrior Rip-Offs: Guns, Babes and Dwarves in a World Gone Mad.
Dune Warriors (1991)
Cirio H. Santiago brings another post-apocalyptic retread with the hopes that stealing the plot of The Seven Samurai would offset the staleness of his Road Warrior rip-off elements. It does not.