Since George Miller unleashed Mad Max: Fury Road into cinemas last year I’ve been waiting for one thing, the inevitable rip-offs. When Miller gave us Mad Max and Mad Max II (aka The Road Warrior) back in the late 70s and early 80s we were inundated with countless post-apocalyptic Mad Max rip-offs, but we have yet to see an army of low budget Road Warriors following Miller’s latest installment. So until that happens let’s look at the first post-apocalyptic film from one of the kings of the genre,Cirio H. Santiago and his film Stryker.
It begins as most post-apocalyptic films do with some narration explaining how nuclear war has devastated the planet and that the key to man’s survival is the most precious commodity of all water, “For water is power, and whoever controls the water controls the world.” The search for water in an arid wasteland seems like a more important commodity than gasoline, which even Miller didn’t really address until his fourth installment. So we are off to a good start with a simple basic premise; people need water and both good and bad people are striving to control it.
The movie begins with a band of leather clad villains chasing after a beautiful woman by the name of Delha (Andrea Savio). She apparently knows where a huge supply of water is and this gang, led by the evil Kardis (Mike Lane), will do anything to get that location. She is chased off the road and overtaken at her little desert campsite, the goons discover she has caches of water and demand that she tell them where she got it from. That these escapees from a leather S&M bar seemed much more focused on getting water and not on the fact that Delha looks pretty good in her tiny leather hot pants really impressed me. I expected this movie to jump right into the attempted rape of this poor girl so this was a nice surprise, and even better is when our two heroes arrive, Stryker (Steve Sandor) and Bandit (William Ostrander), to “save the day” they seem about as interested in the scantily clad beauty as the villains were.
While Stryker and Bandit are great at taking out a bunch of thugs they are not so good in the spacial awareness category as they are too busy working out who gets how much water to notice Delha sneaking away to steal Stryker’s car, which she then uses to run over Bandit’s bike. That may seem like a harsh thing to do, considering these two dudes just saved her life, but really I can’t blame her it all as this isn’t the kind of world that builds trust easy, and is especially dangerous for women. Unfortunately her stolen car breaks down a little while later and Kardis’s men catch up with her. Meanwhile Stryker and Bandit, while crossing the desert on foot, run into…Jawas?
Stryker shares some of his water with the little guys and then he and Bandit continue on their way until they come across Delha being taken away by Kardis’s goons. Don’t ask me how Stryker and Bandit caught up to Delah when they were on foot, maybe the wasteland is just really small. Also witnessing the abduction is a group of Amazon women wearing your standard Road Warrior sports gear.
Neither the Amazons nor Stryker and Bandit are able to get to her in time, so Stryker goes with the plan of hijacking one of the badguy’s water trucks, crash it into their town, which creates an excellent distraction allowing him and Bandit to infiltrate the facility. Unfortunately our heroes weren’t fast enough to spare Delha from being raped by her interrogators. *sigh* Yeah, thought we had dodged a bullet earlier but that is not the case. I’m not saying a movie should never depict rape, if it’s justified by the story for sure, but in the films by Cirio H. Santiago that is rarely the case. This is clearly part of the exploitation nature of the genre and one element I could do without and we can certainly be shown how evil are villains are without this component. I mean the guy has a hook for hand and we find out he beheaded Stryker’s wife, how much badder does he need to be?
This movie is fundamentally a collection of action sequences in search of a plot. Stryker and Bandit rescue Delha, they bring her to see Trun (Ken Metcalfe) who runs a rival gang and who also turns out to be Stryker’s older brother, but Trun has been captured by some of Kardis’s gorillas and must be rescued. Cue next action sequence. Later back at Trun’s camp Delha is abducted by the Amazons, but they in turn run into more of Kardis’s men. Cue next action sequence.
We learn that the Amazons are actually warriors belonging to a group that years ago located an underground spring, and their leader has been keeping the secret of this place for seven years. Delha is the leader’s daughter and she had left the safety of the caverns to find Trun, who her father was originally supposed share the location of the spring with. She hoped to find him and his people and let them in on the secret spring because this somehow would free the people of the world from Kardis’s tyranny. Her dickish dad was not too keen on this plan.
The movie tries to get a bit deeper into the philosophical ramifications of power. Kardis and Trun both want power but Trun assures his brother that he’s “One of the good guys” so he won’t abuse it like Kardis does. Delha’s dad has been complete dick by hording the water all these years, but then when Trun is let in he starts to immediately take over with the “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” schtick. A disgusted Stryker decides he can’t handle working for “The Man” even if it is his own brother and he takes a hike, but not before giving Delha a farewell kiss. Stryker is then almost immediately captured by Kardis’s soldiers.
Aside from some simplistic rhetoric from a couple of the characters this is just your garden variety Mad Max rip-off with one key component missing and that would be in providing us with a likable hero or even anti-hero. Stryker is just plain boring, he is given almost no dialogue in one assumes is supposed to give some kind of mystique to his character, but really it makes him out to be a bit of a bore. And aside from being shown to be a good shot with a rifle there isn’t much more to him. His kissing Delha goodbye is clearly something they thought was required for the story but they didn’t bother putting anything in the script that would justify it. The running time is even padded out further by giving Bandit a love interest as well, and like Stryker’s it serves no purpose other than to allow Bandit to be kind of sad at the end when she dies in battle.
The movie then ends with a battle weary Stryker finding a crying baby down in the spring caverns, he picks it up and brings it out before the people…and then it rains. Seriously, it just up and rains. I haven’t a fucking clue what that was supposed to mean. Did the sight of a baby’s innocence melt Stryker’s jaded heart and this somehow made it rain? Exterminators of the Year 3000 (another Mad Max rip-off which came out the very same year) had that same bullshit ending where all of a sudden the sky opens up, rain pours down, thus making the entire proceeding struggle pointless. It’s like the filmmakers hadn’t a clue how to end the movie so they just went with, “And the rains came” roll credits.