Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

Now, this is what I call a movie. Robert Clouse, the magnificent director behind Enter the Dragon never managed to repeat that success, but made one after another of competent action movies until his death in 1997. The legend says he was almost completely deaf and relied more on visuals than dialogue, but having competent co-workers controlling how the dialogue and the rest of the sound worked. The Ultimate Warrior is in a way pretty unique. It came several years before the big post-apocalyptic boom, but I’m sure it was inspired by The Omega Man, Soylent Green and The Last Man On Earth. Most of all it reminds me of The Omega Man, with similar locations and here with a group of people holding stand against the raving maniacs outside the barricades. But I would say this is a much better movie than Chuck Heston’s movie.

After a plague most of the earth is dead, that includes everything from humans to plants. The place is New York and Baron (Max von Sydow), a hippie-style self-proclaimed leader is holding up against the violent gang lead by Carrot (William Smith) on the outside and people who just seem to be desperate and crazy. They live their little nice life in there, but what Carrot does not know is that they’ve become fewer and fewer. They need a warrior, and there’s where Carson (Yul Brynner) comes in. But Baron has other plans, he’s not planning to use Carson to protect their little village, but to escape from New York with his pregnant daughter together with seeds and start a new life. This is of course not approved by the other members of the community and as their relationship with Baron falls apart Carrot and his gang is getting closer to get inside the compound…

This is a very gritty movie, probably quite low budget too, shot on left-over sets at some studio area. The houses looks a bit to TV-movie for me, but maybe they’re the real thing. But f**k that, it’s still a gritty f**ker of a movie. After watching Clouse’s martial arts flicks this could come as a disappointment, but the fighting is just very different – maybe even “realistic”. It’s mostly Yul Brynner (who looks great, pushing closer to sixty here) stabbing bad guys in different ways, and it feels convincing. It’s not beautiful, but in a movie like this the violence shouldn’t be beautiful to watch.

What’s even more interesting is the character of Baron (or The Baron) and his people. Obviously a hippie-collective, but still a clear fascist mini-state. If someone steals something the punishment is hard and cruel, which suddenly change the tone of the movie when it happens. I like how we’re fooled to believe how good they have it inside the village, but they are basically the same like the wacko’s on the outside – just more organized and clean.

But the best thing is the actors – which also includes a very young Stephen McHattie. Max Von Sydow do one of his finest characters from his seventies career, with a weird mix of warmth and complete coldness. But the big thing with The Ultimate Warrior is the two macho men vs each other, William Smith and Yul Brynner. Both do excellent work here, Smith as his usual psycho and Brynner as a strangely emotionless gun-for-hire. The start of the movie is iconic, with Brynner standing on top of the entrance to the subway (or maybe it’s a phone booth?) waiting for something to hire him. I will steal that sometime in one of my own works.

The Ultimate Warrior is a very underrated piece of work and once again shows the talent of Robert Clouse as a master storyteller. For fans of Yul Brynner, William Smith and post-apocalyptic movies this is essential viewing.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

KIss from mother of Ninja Dixon...:-)