(Italy/France - 1983; US release 1984)
Directed by Martin Dolman (Sergio Martino). Written by Julian Berry (Ernesto Gastaldi), Martin Dolman (Sergio Martino) and Gabriel Rossini. Cast: Michael Sopkiw, Valentine Monnier, George Eastman (Luigi Montefiori), Anna Kanakis, Roman Geer (Romano Puppo), Edmund Purdom, Vincent Scalondro, Louis Ecclesia, Serge Feuillard, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Jacques Stany, Tiziana Fibi, Siriana Hernandez, James Sampson, Angelo Ragusa, Giovanni Cianfriglia. (R, 96 mins)
While THE ROAD WARRIOR provided the chief template for the early '80s Italian post-nuke cycle, the influence of John Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK weaved its way in from time to time. This was certainly the case with Sergio Martino's 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK, which may very well be the best that the Italian post-apocalypse subgenre had to offer, not counting Enzo G. Castellari's 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS, which isn't really a post-nuke but is almost always cited as one. Released in Italy in the summer of 1983 and in the US by Almi in December 1984 minus the "2019" portion of the title, 2019 is a case study in making the most of budgetary limitations. Even a major cue in the "Oliver Onions" (Guido & Maurizio De Angelis) score is recycled from their soundtrack for Antonio Margheriti's YOR: THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE (1983). What Martino's film lacks in gonzo car stunts and the ability to recreate a convincing NYC (even Carpenter had to let a declining East St. Louis, IL stand in for the ruins of the Big Apple), it makes up in imagination, perseverance, and old-school special effects techniques. Sure, the matte paintings, the miniatures of a bombed-out, radioactive Manhattan, and what looks like a half-melted souvenir model of the Statue of Liberty that appear to be set up on a workbench in Martino's basement will probably evoke derisive snickering upon a first glance, but after the opening skyline shot, he makes their appearances sparse enough that they're eerily effective when you do get fleeing glimpses of them later on. Martino's got very little to work with from a visual effects standpoint and knows just how much of it to show to keep the film from collapsing in on itself.
presented to Plissken by Lee Van Cleef's Hauk, then you picked up on the not-very-subtle borrowing of elements from ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. Parsifal, Ratchet, and Bronx eventually encounter a group of survivors, where they pick up Giada (Valentine Monnier) and dwarf Shorty (Louis Ecclesia) while being pursued by coldly ambitious Eurac soldier Ania (Anna Kanakis). Bronx takes an early exit in the form of a bullet to the head but not before he gouges out the eyes of the nefarious Eurac commander (Serge Feuillard). Eventually, the motley crew cross paths with a band of mutants led by the hirsute Big Ape (George Eastman)--or, as he was known in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, "The Duke" (you can also conclude that Shorty is this film's "Cabbie")--who ends up tagging along just because he wants to be the one to plant his seed in the fertile woman, Melissa (Tiziana Fibi), when they find her.
|The more "Michael Sopkiw is almost
Kurt Russell" poster design.
|Greatest credit ever?
BLASTFIGHTER, which reteamed him with Eastman, and the future MST3K-favorite DEVIL FISH, which again paired him with Monnier. In 1985, he starred in Michele Massimo Tarantini's MASSACRE IN DINOSAUR VALLEY, a belated entry in the post-CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST gut-muncher craze, and that was it. Sopkiw went back into modeling in NYC before pursuing his interest in medicinal plant science, and went on to run the Los Angeles-based American importing office of the Dutch glass company Miron Violettglas. As 2019's cult grew over the years, so did the interest in the elusive Sopkiw, who re-emerged from obscurity to be more or less a bystander on a controversial, kamikaze commentary by a "post-nuke expert" on Shriek Show's 2003 DVD release of the film. The DVD was quickly withdrawn and re-released without the commentary, which found the moderator in question more or less using the opportunity to take cheap shots and settle scores with various figures and discussion forums in Eurocult's online community. The DVD's anamorphic transfer holds up well, but with the re-released version out of print for several years now, the film is long overdue for a Blu-ray upgrade. In recent years, Sopkiw has maintained a low profile but periodically appears at fan conventions, usually when there's a panel on '80s Italian cult movies.
HANDS OF STEEL, with its arm-wrestling cyborg hero and John Saxon hoisting an over-the-shoulder laser bazooka, belongs under the umbrella as well), 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK featured several Eurocult mainstays in its cast, such as Eastman, Puppo (billed as "Roman Geer"), Purdom, Jacques Stany as a Eurac flunky, and Hal Yamanouchi in a small role as the leader of a band of radiated mutant goons who gets his head split open in a memorable shot. The other noteworthy cast member was 20-year-old Kanakis as the ambitious Ania. Kanakis made headlines five years earlier when she was named Miss Italy 1977 only to be disqualified from the eventual Miss World competition when the organization discovered that she was only 15 years old. She claimed that the Miss Italy people never told her that the minimum age requirement was 17 (1977's Miss Malta, also 15, was given the boot as well), but she soon ended up with an acting career, with 2019 her second post-nuke in quick succession, following Enzo G. Castellari's THE NEW BARBARIANS (1983), released in the US in early 1984 as WARRIORS OF THE WASTELAND. Kanakis, who was married to Goblin leader Claudio Simonetti from 1981-1984, remained sporadically busy over the next 20 years, primarily on Italian television. Her last acting appearance to date was a starring role in the 2007 Italian TV mini-series LA TERZA VERITA.