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Retro Review: LAND OF DOOM (1986) and ROBOT HOLOCAUST (1987)

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LAND OF DOOM
(US - 1986)

Directed by Peter Maris. Written by Craig Land. Cast: Deborah Rennard, Garrick Dowhen, Daniel Radell, Frank Garret, Akut Duz, Richard Allen, Bruno Chambon. (Unrated, 87 mins)

We're really diving into the deep cuts of the '80s post-nuke craze if LAND OF DOOM and ROBOT HOLOCAUST have made it to Blu-ray, both courtesy of Scorpion (because physical media is dead). LAND OF DOOM was directed by Peter Maris, who had a somewhat prolific run as a C-list action guy in the late '80s into the early '90s, with video store staples like TERROR SQUAD, VIPER, and DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY. An American production shot in the Cappadocia region of Turkey, LAND OF DOOM gets some mileage out of the location work that lends some effective atmosphere, and it looks like it might've been filmed in some of the same spots as YOR: THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE. Otherwise, it's really just a Nick Nicholson or Henry Strzalkowski away from being a Cirio H. Santiago joint of the period, with the nominal "big" name being Deborah Rennard, then in the middle of a decade-long run as J.R. Ewing's secretary on DALLAS. Rennard, who would go on to be married to CRASH writer/director Paul Haggis from 1997 to 2015, stars as Harmony, a Mad Maxine-type badass fighting to survive in a desolate, dangerous, polluted wasteland ruled by the Raiders, a marauding, plague-infected band of goons led by burn-scarred Slater (Daniel Radell), a bellowing villain who looks like Ric Flair auditioning for Manowar. The fiercely-independent Harmony reluctantly hits the road with Anderson (Garrick Dowhen), who's on the run from the Raiders since he's the one who scarred Slater, and, seemingly immune to the plague, they head in the direction of a reported "safe zone" called Blue Lake.





That's pretty much it for the plot, which is largely an excuse for tons of explosions and a parade of subhuman bad guys, each one more repugnant than the last, including a French-accented creep (Bruno Chambon) who tries to rape Harmony before almost feeding them human flesh, as well as Demister (Radell, in a pointless dual role), a cackling Slater flunky who also attempts to rape Harmony and promptly gets his head bashed in for his trouble. The only other likable character is Orland (Akut Duz), an eccentric guy with a bicycle and a pack of friendly dogs who shows up in third act and helps Harmony and Anderson take on Slater in a climax that introduces some robed, chattering dwarves and has a score that sounds like it's on loan from a SCARECROW AND MRS. KING chase scene. Boasting the most cumbersomely-designed motorcycles in all of post-nuke, LAND OF DOOM is by no means an essential entry in the subgenre and is largely for die-hard completists only, though it certainly could've benefited from having some known B-movie people in support of Rennard instead of never-weres like Dowhen and Radell. It is interesting to note that both of the secretaries of DALLAS' Ewing brothers--Rennard as J.R.'s and Deborah Tranelli as Bobby's--went halfway around the world at roughly the same time for starring roles in low-budget exploitation grinders, with Tranelli headlining Cirio H. Santiago's Filipino-shot vigilante scuzzfest NAKED VENGEANCE.



ROBOT HOLOCAUST
(US - 1987)

Written and directed by Tim Kincaid. Cast: Norris Culf, Nadine Hart, Joel Von Ornsteiner, Jennifer Delora, Andrew Howarth, Angelika Jager, Michael Downend, Rick Gianisi, George Gray, Nicholas Reiner, Michael Azzolina, John Blaylock, Amy Brentano. (Unrated, 79 mins)

Terrible in an endearing way, the micro-budget post-nuke ROBOT HOLOCAUST makes effective use of basically two locations--the abandoned Brooklyn Navy Yard and some dirt trails on Roosevelt Island--with some cheap Ed French creature effects and sub-porn-level acting. That's oddly appropriate considering that writer/directer Tim Kincaid is better known as gay porn auteur "Joe Gage." As Gage (and "Mac Larson"), Kincaid has been an influential figure in gay porn since the late '70s, but for a few years in the mid-to-late '80s, he gave D-list, straight-to-video horror movies a shot with BREEDERS, MUTANT HUNT, and ROBOT HOLOCAUST, all three ghost-produced by Empire Pictures, apparently using some loose change from the cup holders in Charles Band's car. ROBOT HOLOCAUST looks surprisingly good on Scorpion's new Blu-ray and is even framed at 1:85:1 despite its 1.33:1 home video roots, and if nothing else, Kincaid's intentions seem earnest. Set in an post-apocalyptic NYC now known as "New Terra," the film deals with the after-effects of a robot uprising at the command of The Dark One, who now controls the atmosphere and enslaves humanity in a plot element that sounds suspiciously Cohaagen-esque for any TOTAL RECALL fans. Scientist Jorn (Michael Downend) creates a device that blocks out The Dark One's atmosphere control and is quickly taken prisoner by The Dark One's chief enforcer, a tentacle/Davy Jones-mouthed robot named Torque (Rick Gianisi). Jorn's daughter Deeja (Nadine Hart) assembles a motley crew to venture into the wasteland--South Point Park on Roosevelt Island--with nomadic warrior Neo (Norris Culf) and his robot sidekick Klyton (Joel Von Ornsteiner) on loan from the Rebel Society to lead the group and reclaim control of The Power Station, the stronghold of The Dark One.






Angelika Jager as Valaria. Somehow, Olympia Dukakis
took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar that year.
Skewered on MST3K all the way back in the show's first season in 1990, ROBOT HOLOCAUST is all kinds of awful but there's an infectiously goofy DIY quality to a lot of it, whether it's the rampant continuity errors, the iconic NYC skyline still intact and seemingly unaffected by the robot uprising, and the terrible performances from everyone, none more so than German actress Angelika Jager, who's astoundingly bad as Valaria, The Dark One's femme fatale second-in-command who keeps her job despite fucking everything up. God love her, Jager is beautiful and enthusiastic, but she makes everyone else in the cast look like Actors Studio alumni. Of course, it doesn't help that her grasp of English seems tenuous at best, but the ridiculous dialogue doesn't do her any favors ("Torque! Take him to the Room of Questions!"). Jager, Culf, Hart and several others were out of movies after ROBOT HOLOCAUST, but among the supporting players, Gianisi went on to star in Kincaid's MUTANT HUNT and later earned his place in cult movie history with the title role in Troma's SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD. The biggest surprise career path for the ROBOT HOLOCAUST cast has to be Von Ornsteiner, now known as "J. Buzz Von Ornsteiner," or "Dr. Buzz," a forensic psychologist who hosts the reality show COPYCAT KILLERS and is a semi-regular talking head when murder cases dominate the cable news cycle. Buried in the closing credits with the art department was Gary Winick, who would later direct popular '00s chick flicks like 13 GOING ON 30 and BRIDE WARS. Kincaid went as far into mainstream circles as helming Vestron's barely-released 1989 Carrie Fisher comedy SHE'S BACK before a decade-long filmmaking sabbatical, after which he returned to his "Joe Gage" roots, where he's been busy since, his most recent credit being JOE GAGE SEX FILES VOL. 23: JACK'S NEW JOB.






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