The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

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The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

Post  BoG on Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:55 pm

A double feature DVD was released not too long ago, on which this film was paired with BATTLE BENEATH THE EARTH (1967). This film is a little better than I remember. That reaction on my part seems to be happening a lot nowadays as I realize that a lot of films from 30 or 40 years ago are better than much of the senseless drivel released to theaters recently. The budgets are pretty low for films such as this (though this one at least had a couple of well-known stars/actors - Brynner & Von Sydow). But, there was at least some thought put into this.
The year in this one is 2012 - now a couple of years in the past (and no relation to the film 2012 from 2009). According to this one, things fell apart in the early eighties. I believe that plague was the cause. Cities are mostly empty and falling into ruin. There are small pockets of humanity here and there. I use the term 'humanity' very loosely. One such enclave is headed by a man mostly nicknamed as 'The Baron' (Von Sydow). His group has enclosed a city block with various junk and makeshift gates to form a tottering little fortress. The Baron clings to the last vestiges of civilization and one of his men, Cal (Richard Kelton), is successful at creating new seeds; they have a vegetable garden set up on a roof and it's precious. The Baron rules with pragmatism and common sense; the others seem to look up to him simply because he's the smartest. His daughter (Joanna Miles) is pregnant; her husband is dead.

ABOVE: Brynner contemplates the future and has no patience for ruffians
The other group is headed by Carrot (William Smith, the muscular bad guy of many seventies movies). They are less inclined to follow the old rules of civilization. They live or hover near the Baron's compound, waiting for it to fall apart or for the right moment to pounce. Brynner's character is introduced near the start of the film, standing motionless a couple of blocks from the Baron's place, as if he were in a trance. Perhaps director Clouse had been influenced by his earlier film, Enter the Dragon (1973), since Carson (Brynner) follows some kind of martial arts disciplines. Carson is a post-holocaust fighter-for-hire. The Baron hires him to help out, in exchange for food and a room. The Baron also has Carson in mind for a special task later.

The film has obvious limitations, due to budget constraints. These last inhabitants of the city wear clothes which, rather than looking tattered and very worn, have the appearance of being just stitched together the day before, like movie costumes. The main set seems just like what it is - a movie studio set made up to look dilapidated. Clouse, however, was able to convey the desperation and brutality which informs the lives of most of the characters. There's really not too much difference between the two groups of people; each and everyone would probably kill for a fresh tomato.
Brynner was still impressive here; this was almost his last film role, just after Westworld (1973). Von Sydow lent dignity to the role of the Baron. The film ends with a chase in some subway tunnels and a final duel between Carter and Carrot. A similar post-civilization film was Ravagers (1979). There are also obvious parallels to the plot of The Road Warrior (1981), in which Mel Gibson was in the Brynner role.  BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10

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