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  Ultimate Warrior, The After The Fall Of New York
Year: 1975
Director: Robert Clouse
Stars: Yul Brynner, Max von Sydow, Joanna Miles, William Smith, Richard Kelton, Stephen McHattie, Darrell Zwerling, Lane Bradbury, Nate Esformes, Mel Novak, Mickey Caruso, Gary Johnson, Susan Keener, Stevie Myers, Fred Slyter
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: The year is 2012 and mankind has suffered a huge depletion in its numbers thanks to a worldwide plague. Small pockets of survivors hold out against the now-desolate planet, hostile not only because it is difficult to find enough to eat, but also because there are gangs around who are determined to grab what they can, even to the point of murder - and cannibalism. One of the communities in New York City struggling to get by is led by Baron (Max von Sydow), and he has cultivated a small crop on a rooftop garden, as well as hoarding preserved food, but outside the evil Carrot (William Smith) is wearing him down...

What kind of a name for your bad guy is Carrot? All right, he has red hair but that's no excuse. Anyway, he is played by that past master of action antagonists Smith, so he helps you forget his daft moniker while this very solemn science fiction thriller unfolds. The Ultimate Warrior was in effect the missing link between the likes of the Charlton Heston post-apocalypse movies like Soylent Green and The Omega Man and the soon to arrive eighties versions such as the Mad Max series and, seeing as where this is set, Escape from New York.

So if this looks like one of those imitators from the following decade, it's due to writer and director Robert Clouse being so forward thinking in his scenario. Here, however, things are not quite as trashy as they would become, as we're in no doubt this is to be taken very seriously, even to the point of the story not actually being much fun. It does work up a certain grandeur on its middling budget, and the two men mainly responsible for that are the two stars, von Sydow and the chap playing the title character, Yul Brynner, fresh from reminding everyone how great he could be in Westworld.

These two bring gravitas to what could easily have been your basic knockabout succession of fisticuffs and grim prophecies, and it's impressive to see them interact as Brynner's Carson makes his presence felt as the man who will save Baron's people from Carrot's hoodlums. At first we think Carson will be a mystical personality, appearing as he does standing stock still and shirtless (Yul was in great shape even in his fifties) with his eyes closed outwith the gates, waiting for Baron to approach him. But when he starts to talk, he seems much friendlier and is willing to assist Baron in return for food, essentially becoming the community's bodyguard.

The unspoken question in The Ultimate Warrior, yet one which is always on your mind as you watch, is this: is humanity worth saving? If we were all as noble and filled with fine intentions as Baron, then the answer would be yes, but here it's as if they're not so sure because not only is there the violent gang waiting to pounce in the area, but the besieged survivors are no angels, increasingly taking opportunities to undermine their leader despite him only having their best interests at heart. We can understand it is their dire situation that clouds their minds and colours their actions, but by the end you're thinking, what an ungrateful lot. For all this bleakness, there is a triumph at the end, although at some cost, that should restore your faith in the best of people, and if this is far too glum to really get lost in, it does command the attention. Music by Gil Melle.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Robert Clouse  (1928 - 1997)

American director who, after directing Darker Than Amber, settled into a string of martial arts thrillers starting with the Bruce Lee favourite Enter the Dragon. His other films include Golden Needles, Black Belt Jones, The Ultimate Warrior, Game of Death, The London Connection, The Big Brawl, camp classic Gymkata, China O'Brien and its first sequel.

 
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