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  Ravagers With A Whimper
Year: 1979
Director: Richard Compton
Stars: Richard Harris, Ernest Borgnine, Ann Turkel, Art Carney, Anthony James, Woody Strode, Alana Stewart, Seymour Cassel, Brian Carney, Kurt Grayson, Arch Archambault, Bob Westmoreland, Gordon Hyde, Steve Lashley, George Stokes, Kim Crow, Kate Bray
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Civilisation broke down many years ago, leaving roaming tribes, selected individuals and those who have paired off as the sole survivors, searching the land for food and trying to avoid being killed by other tribes, most obviously the ones known as the Ravagers who make no bones about hunting and murdering anyone they feel is not one of their collective. Two people who are eking out an existence on their own in this ruined city are Falk (Richard Harris) and Miriam (Alana Stewart); he goes out seeking sustenance which he brings back to his partner, so they may endure another day. But all that is about to come crashing down, for one afternoon Falk is noticed by some of the Ravagers, and they note he has a woman with him...

Alana Stewart was of course Mrs Rod Stewart at the time, which is a nugget of information more interesting than most of what happens in this post-apocalyptic adventure, which did give you some idea of what was happening in the genre right before George Miller's Mad Max movies arrived on the science fiction scene to shake things up decisively. While that series depicted the scenario as bleak but undeniably exciting, Ravagers kept the bleak line of thought going but forgot to make it entertaining, as if acknowledging the end of the human race was no laughing matter much as the seminal Planet of the Apes franchise had done, so there was no way we were meant to be enjoying any of this.

Yes, think on, the film sternly told us, it would be awful for humanity to be reduced to this state, and they had a point if this had been a portentous documentary (of which there were a few, granted), but it wasn't and what was needed were far more thrills for the medium-wattage star cast to perform. It was no help that once we had established this future was definitely no fun to be in, they took on the most clich├ęd plotline imaginable as Harris set off on his own on a trek across the country as many had done before him and many would do again. Stephen King's novel The Stand was still fresh in the memories of the public, giving an idea of a successful method of delivering the genre, but this harked back to a more socially conscious Armageddon.

It was drawn from a book called Path to Savagery by Robert Edmond Alter, though perhaps more pertinent was the producer Saul David who had adapted a more famous sci-fi novel set in the dystopian future, Logan's Run; it could be he was hoping for another hit in that vein, but not only was the movie world moving on post-Star Wars, adventures in this style were really needing something more action-packed to hang their plots on. Not so here, as Ravagers came across like a production from five years before, not very futuristic in the least - there simply weren't the gimmicks to lift it above the drab and ordinary. Again, you could argue this situation would not be any fun whatsoever and there were works after this which said as much, but that didn't appear to be the point of the movie.

Still, that cast was interesting enough, including the then-Mrs Richard Harris, Ann Turkel, as his love interest (Alana meets a sticky end shortly after her introduction) who his character denies because he just doesn't want to get close to anyone else in this cruel world, it hurts too much. But before he knows it, Falk is gathering a small following, with Art Carney discovered in an old Army base demonstrating if nothing else the location scout was doing a decent job as some of the scenery was interesting. They're all seeking the possibly mythical Genesis, though if you'd been around in the eighties you'd be well aware Phil Collins was a real person and not a bogeyman invented to scare - no, wait, not that Genesis, this is a land where milk and honey flow, or at least there's fish in the water and fruit on the trees. That they wind up discovering Ernest Borgnine at practically the last minute, the head of a commune getting one big scene in spite of his second billing, doesn't help much, leading to an ending that seems to have presumptuously expected a sequel which never happened. Music by Fred Karlin.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Richard Compton  (1938 - 2007)

American writer and director of low budget projects who scored his biggest hit with Macon County Line. Other seventies films include Angels Die Hard, Welcome Home Soldier Boys, Return to Macon County and Ransom. In the eighties he moved into directing television full time (Star Trek TNG, The X-Files, Babylon 5, etc). He is the husband of Veronica Cartwright.

 
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