Exterminators Of The Year 3000 (1983)

It would be a lie to say this film was selected purely on its title. The cover and the trailer both suggested that there was a highly enjoyable Mad Max 2 rip-off to be experienced. The expectations were set to “all the violence, all the post-apocalyptic wasteland couture, but with none of the plot getting in the way”. When it became readily apparent that it was an English script performed by a mostly monolingual Italian cast the joy and hope that this was going to be cinematic mayhem, unfettered by any artistic responsibility, was just added to. With the bar set that low, how could we possibly be disappointed?

Things start well, with two maniacal cops driving through a nondescript nuclear desert (a quarry in Spain) in a spiked-up cop car. The driver permanently wore a motorcycle helmet with the visor down, the other sported mirrorshades with only one lens left in them. It looked amazing, the soundtrack made it sinister beyond all hell, and the radio chatter told us everything we needed to know about why the violence was going to kick off. This is The KLF’s road-movie The White Room, loaded up on Bath Salts. When they drove up to an abandoned car and started harassing the skeleton in the driving seat, it was proper “raised hairs on the back of your neck” time. As soon as another car, with the driver wearing a leather headband (Robert Jannucci as Alien… I shit you not), appeared and tried to run them off the road, you were ready for THE dumbass ride of your life.

And then there was a rather drawn-out chase sequence, that ended with a nifty bit of vehicular assault, but somehow failed to live up to the build-up it had been given. From there, the formula was set; excellent concepts (mostly as they were stolen from other films), nice preludes and mounting tension, some good stunts, and a whole lot of explosions, but mostly filler that made it all disjointed and overall disappointing. Whilst the good bits were satisfyingly good, and the bad bits stupid enough for you to truly revel in, there was so much mediocre filler that “get on with it!” became the watchers’ inner monologue.

Standout moments of goodness included an amazing bike stunt (jumping onto a battle truck after using a dune buggy as a ramp), the main bad guy Crazy Bull (Fernando Bilbao) sounding like he’s found Shakespeare’s lost classic “A Midsummer Night’s Massacre”, Beryl Cunnigham being an absolutely kickass female marauder Shadow, and Tommy (Luca Venantini) suddenly discovering that he’s got a cybernetic arm and that he can throw stones into people’s heads from 50 feet away. Also; the explosions. All of them. Because 50% of the budget went on gunpowder and almost none of it on health and safety.

Bits that are so bad you can’t help but giggle along, consist of the Beneath The Planet Of The Apes homage/rip-off, any moments when the lead actors tried to act through the incredibly disjointed script, and finding out that Papillon, the elderly mechanic in the hills, (played by famed Italian character actor Fred Harris), used to be an astronaut. There are also some brilliantly terrible scenes of plants dying, which look like three-day-old lettuce being placed in the world’s most complicated salad spinner. That all the sci-fi props look terrible, and all the marauders gear and vehicles look amazing, somehow adds to the amusement of it all.

But the dull bits. Oh, the dull bits. Scenes of people walking carry on for too long, pointless characters are given too much screen time then never seen again, at least three scenes involve characters escaping due to excess monologuing, and confusion mounts over what or who the Exterminator/s(?) are. It’s either the car Alien stole/owns or the marauders’ gang name, or a generic term for the remaining civilisations. But also possibly something else, as the word is definitely used but it just seems to be there to tie into the (it has to be said) very strong title. I’d say that the two female leads of Trash (Alici Moro) and Shadow add a certain something, but neither are used or developed enough to be much more than just there.

It’s a shame that the producers didn’t pull the film in either of the two directions it could have gone. At 103 minutes they could easily have taken it down by 20 minutes and had a high-intensity movie that hurtled through at breakneck speed. Alternatively, they could have kept the length and thrown in more batshit-crazy dialogue, really working with the fact that it seemed like no one knew or cared about what they were saying, or added another film to take chunks out of. Instead of opting for crazy town Treasure they played it safe, ending up with Trash that bored rather than exhilarated or confused.

The Raggedyman

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