Dave Galanter
December 1st 1969 - December 12th 2020
He was loved.

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Subj: Re: Sci-Fi Cinema #31 - The Ultimate Warrior (1975)
Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2020 at 10:18:14 pm EST (Viewed 57 times)
Reply Subj: Sci-Fi Cinema #31 - The Ultimate Warrior (1975)
Posted: Sun Nov 15, 2020 at 04:38:34 am EST (Viewed 86 times)

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The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

Sometime in the 1980s a plague wiped out most plants on Earth. Now it's 2012 and most of the livestock is gone too. In an eerily deserted New York City, a few survivors eke out an existence in the streets. Baron (Max von Sydow) leads a mostly peaceful commune of survivors who have staked out a few blocks of city and created a wall of debris to keep looters out. Carrot (William Smith) leads a more bloodthirsty gang that roams the streets outside the commune and will kill anyone who ventures outside. One day Baron spots a man standing shirtless in the street posing like a statue. The man is Carson (Yul Brynner) and he's a survivor and a fighter. Baron tries to recruit him to fight for the commune, offering him a place to sleep without rats and three times the food ration of anyone else. Shortly after making his pitch, Baron's entourage is attacked by Carrot's men and we get to see Carson in action, dispatching several bandits with his trusty knife.

Back at the commune, Baron offers Carson some cigars and they talk about the old world. Von Sydow and Brynner elevate this material, both men radiate goodwill and charisma. Baron shows Carson their gardens. Cal (Richard Kelton) is a gardener and has found a few precious seeds that have survived the plague and started growing crops. But there's no dirt here, he needs to relocate somewhere with more land. Carson says he's on his way to an island off North Carolina that he's heard about. Baron soon strikes a deal for Carson to take Baron's pregnant daughter Melinda (Joanna Miles) and the seeds to the promised land. He says the seeds are the most important thing for the continuation of mankind. "Along the way, if you have to choose between my daughter and grandchild or the seeds, choose the seeds" says Baron.

More happens around this. A group of Carrot's men climb the wall to the commune, kill Cal and steal a lot of vegetables before Carson can dispatch them. A desperate mom leaves the commune to find milk for her baby. By the time Carson finds her, Carrot's men have killed her and the baby. They seem to kill for no reason. It's not like they're eating their victims. You'd think they'd be useful for labor something.

Baron is pretty cold himself. When one man is framed for stealing a tomato, Baron has him thrown out to the streets to be killed. To add insult to injury, they bind his hands and put a bag over his head so he's totally defenseless. When the people of the commune find out that Baron has snuck his daughter out with Carson to escape, they wonder why they weren't included in the plan, and they turn on him.

The final act sees Carson making his way through an old subway tunnel with a pregnant girl in tow while Carrot's men pursue him. It's a marathon fight as he picks off groups of men along the way. Finally Carrot himself fights Carson to a pretty grisly finish.

I felt like this movie was pretty well made, but without any humor or positivity along the way like in Dawn of the Dead, it's pretty depressing. It fits in a long line of apocalypse survivor movies like The Omega Man and Mad Max. Even those gave the hero a break from time to time.

Director Robert Clouse may be best known for directing Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon two years earlier.

Yul Brynner had a surprising warmth to him in the scenes where's not killing everyone. The only other movies I've seen him in are The Ten Commandments, The Magnificent Seven, and Westworld where he was a little more stoic. Von Sydow I've seen in a ton of things and I usually like his stuff. William Smith is one of those actors who's done a ton of tv and movies and I know his face but I can't always remember where I've seen him. I suppose I most associate him with Conan the Barbarian (as Conan's dad) and Red Dawn as the Russian commander.

The trailer gives away the whole movie so I'll just leave this scene to whet your appetite.

This is some what of a weird movie for Brynner to choose. However he did have a history of taking unusual roles so maybe not so strange after all. I think Robert Clouse was over rated as a director. Outside of ETD he just never elevated his movies to the level they could have attained. I do not think he really understood how to make a martial art movie excepting ETD which not only had Lee but a supporting cast that that was just a dream -Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung were extras! The only miss was the main villain and man if Jackie Chan had that part and allowed to do his thing ETD would have been what it may be anyway. The greatest martial arts movie of all time. I remember Clouse saying The Big Brawl didn't work because Chan was too soft! Wow-way off topic but I am not wasting all this typing.
Ultimate Warrior may not have been a great movie but watching Brynner is always a delight and I still give it a watch every few years. It preceded Mad Max and about the same time as Death Race. I wonder if it was a bit ahead of its time or would have been with better production,a bit more plot and depth,also a better director?

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