Original Title:

Battletruck






Alternative Title(s):

Warlords of the 21st Century - US and many other countries

Year of Release:

1982

Duration:

91 minutes

Country of Origin:

New Zealand

Tagline(s):

After the oil wars, out of the rubble of the cities, comes… (Battletruck)

After the oil wars came a greater threat... (Warlords of the 21st Century)

Reviewed Version Rating:

UK PAL VHS 15

Review:

      By Michael Petch
               Feb 07



























































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Although I had middling expectations about this film, once the tape started to roll I started to get a bit excited. A few shots of a beefed up truck ploughing through the countryside can do that to me (weird I know). The problem here is that everything seems so promising yet whenever we think something good is about to happen it more than often doesn’t. One or two little saving graces keep it from being dire, yet it could have so easily been so much more.
 

The traditional PA voiceover at the start of the movie is interestingly taken on by a crackling radio report, filling us in on what’s happened. It mentions that there are still some people living in cities with law and order, yet there are not enough police to protect anybody elsewhere. The Oil Wars have taken their toll on the world and the majority of survivors live in small communities struggling to rebuild civilization. Cue the Battletruck, General Straker’s (James Wainwright) personal army vehicle that’s nothing more than a heavily armored lorry. Out in the countryside there's nothing to stop Straker from going about pillaging surviving communities for oil, food or whatever keeps him happy.


New Zealand Dollars

The radio intro plays over some meaningless clouds of smoke, supposedly symbolizing a war-ravaged world. I prefer to think it's clouds or radiation, as there's little else in the film to suggest nukes were involved. Next we get a shot of a rusting petrol station sign touting its wares at $59.99 a litre. Seconds later, the Battletruck comes screaming out of nowhere and ploughs through the desolate petrol station, just for fun. A nice introduction to a kick-ass vehicle, I remember thinking. Cue the long helicopter shots of Battletruck driving through the desolate brown wastelands on the dirt tracks (we all know that dirt tracks will replace real roads when the nukes fall). A nice start but the long shots of the vehicle driving down the road are something you should get used too, because there are plenty more coming up, and with such desolate bland scenery to look at, it gets tedious fast. Absolutely everything is brown, even the truck is covered in thick brown dust, and the shots are rarely as well placed as in Spielberg’s Duel, save for one hood-shot looking back at the cab. It’s nice to see they had enough money to hire a helicopter though (or maybe traded flight time for beer and movie tickets).

General Straker is obviously in the market for petrol to keep his truck (and the jeep-type thing that’s following it with a few extra men) running. Luckily their first catch of the day is a couple of locals who, riding a van that's pulled by horses, obviously have an excellent supply of the black gold. Straker captures they pair and uses his preferred weapon of a flick knife to dispose of one, scaring the other into taking them to the local hidden petrol supply. It turns out to be in a quarry (gotta have a quarry) behind some barriers that falsely claim the area is radioactive. Impressively, it's hidden in the middle of nowhere under a rock and contains more than enough to make Straker happy (happy enough to let the men have a sip of the Battletruck's lovely homebrew) and set up camp there. If Straker has some kind of motive then it must be top secret as we never quite get to find out. He seems intelligent, but he’s quite ruthless and certainly takes a sick pleasure in killing.   


Who on Earth built this thing? Why here?

Here we are introduced to Corlie (Annie McEnroe), a woman who initially seems to be Straker’s token captive blonde. In an attempt to convert her to his evil ways, he gives her a gun and tells her to kill the chap who took them to the petrol dump that's now serving as their base (i.e. somewhere to park the truck). Naturally, she turns the gun on Straker instead, but finds that it is empty of bullets. Straker kills him anyway and Corlie is put back in the truck, which must have some sort of jail cell in the back.


Somehow during the night Corlie escapes. I may have missed something but the screen goes so dark that I have no idea how she managed it. Cut to the morning and she's seen walking across the countryside. Inexplicably, when she hears the sound of Straker's men racing after her she chooses to start running down the road, neglecting all the superb hiding places that seem to be on either side of the road where there are numerous rocky outcrops (a classic move for women in horror movies). The gang spots her from miles away and are about to capture her when the hero of the movie enters. Hunter (Michael Beck) is an attempt at reproducing a Mad Max hero; unfortunately everything about him is weak. His vehicle is a standard dirt bike (with some necessary PA padding), his stature is of a gangly teen and the attempt to make him seem like a mysterious recluse just makes him seem like a boring loser who can't make friends easily. Luckily, he’s pretty nifty in a fight and he has a cool fighter-pilot style helmet. Basically, he's a polar opposite of Scorpio in I Nuovi Barbari (The New Barbarians) who seemed to have a lot going for him but couldn’t even outshoot his nine-year old friend.


If you're running away from someone, why follow the main road?


Cool binoculars. Cool helmet. Weedy bike.

The overpowering guitar music starts (a copy of the soundtrack came out in Japan, as they love this kind of thing supposedly) and Hunter soon scares off Straker's men by, well, riding over their little jeep and knocking one of them over. Maybe they were frightened by his helmet? Hunter introduces himself to Corlie who ends up going back to his hidden farm. Cue another minute-long shot of driving through the wasteland (footage we will see again later). His farm is a pretty standard wooden place hidden in some trees. At last some colour, you may be thinking, but no, these are the brownest looking trees of all time. After a brief look at some machine he uses to turn "chicken shit" into petrol (wow) they head in to clean up some minor scratch that Corlie got on her knee. Apparently, Corlie used to travel with her father until he died. Now she has nowhere to go.
 

Two minutes after they arrived they are off again, to the town of Clearwater, where all the nice friendly people will look after Corlie. Hunter doesn’t like the place. For some unknown reason most of the town distrusts him. He does however have one good friend, Rusty (John Ratzenberger) who is the town’s obligatory engineer-type genius. That’s right, John Ratzenberger of Cheers (Cliff Clavin) fame. In fact, it seems like he filmed this right before Cheers, which also started in 1982. The town doesn’t appear to have a fence all the way around but helpfully anybody who drops by heads to the huge gates they have erected at the front, even the bad guys. Hunter leaves as soon as he drops of Corlie. Not much happens for a while now. Corlie is accepted into the town and we get to see a bit of life in Clearwater (when we see the town's stream it certainly doesn’t look like clear water). Nothing exciting, although we do find out that there are lots of bachelors (pointless fact) and that Rusty has managed to make a radio and pick up some chatter from the religious nuts over at "Radio Mecca" (also pointless). Rusty turns out to be an interesting character compared to the rest of them, the one character who we would care about if he died.


Another Beer Norm?

As part of his campaign of, err, well, we still don’t know what he’s up to, but as part of it, Straker heads into town. The townsfolk fight back but are soon subdued. Corlie fears Straker, so scurries off to Hunter's farm before she's captured with the rest of them. Straker takes food from the place and talks about setting up a barracks and following his rules, but something must have been cut out (possibly a hinted-at scene where all the women of the town are taken to "please" Straker’s men) because when the Battletruck leaves to find Straker and Corlie the townsfolk seem to have been left to go about their business. Corlie arrives at Hunter's place and seems excessively upset for someone who up to now has been relatively stony-faced. Hunter soon cheers her up by taking her to his bed. Don’t get excited though, there’s no nudity in this movie.


Just before dawn the Battletruck and its support vehicle arrive at the farm. Straker sends in his men, who are cannon fodder for both Hunter and Corlie’s superior shooting skills. Hunter blows up his chicken shit petrol machine giving them a distraction to escape on his dirt bike. The support vehicle (I really don’t know what to call it; it’s like a little truck with space at the back for four or five men to stand) chases after them through the trees while the Battletruck demolishes the entire farm. Hunter luckily remembered to bring some futuristic-looking grenades with him (where on earth did he get these? eBay?). Corlie throws them at the pursuers and eventually manages to knock down a huge pine tree and block them from following. The best bit of action so far.



Here’s the bit I don’t get. Maybe I missed something. The Battletruck heads back to its petrol dump and Hunter heads to Clearwater, which now seems to be free of bad guys. I presumed the town was now working under Straker’s iron fist but apparently not. Hunter goes to see Rusty and it turns out that they tortured him for the location of his farm. Poor Rusty now has one hand which is totally burnt to pieces and useless. Being the nice guy that he is, Hunter is not annoyed at all. He wants revenge with Straker, so the town bands together to make the ultimate vehicle for Hunter to use to defeat Straker. Nice. Hunter heads back to his farm to retrieve a rocket launcher (no farm is complete without one) that was buried there. While he is out, Judd, an annoying chap from Clearwater, kidnaps Corlie and heads off in the horse-drawn truck from earlier, with her tied up in the back. He also starts a pretty pointless fire in the town. When Hunter gets back he finds out what’s happened and races after Judd. Judd hears Hunter coming and hides in the hills with a crossbow. Hunter is hit in the chest with an arrow from quite an impressive distance. Sloppily, Judd leaves him to die and carries on his way.


Note to bad guys: Always check the body! I can't stress this enough!

Staker is not impressed that Judd has helped him out in such a way. He’s obviously pleased to have Corlie back, but beats up Judd for touching her. Not exactly the warm welcome that the traitor Judd was expecting.


"You helped me, so now I'm gonna beat you up"

Meanwhile, Hunter has managed to get on his bike and slowly makes his way back to Clearwater. Hunter desires to be ready to fight the next day but the medicine woman says it will take him weeks to recover. The solution? They take a red hot poker and seal the wound. Painful but effective. Job done.


Ow, ow, ow!



Back at the Battletruck, we finally realize why Straker is so crazy about Corlie. She's his daughter. In an odd and slightly sleazy scene they hug whilst at the same time she's telling him how much she wants him to die.

Time now for the showdown. First a disappointment. The vehicle that the townspeople have spent the past 24 hours making turns out to be, wait for it, a smashed up VW Beetle. That’s right, the set designers tool a crappy broken Beetle and added some silly bits of armor and a little machine gun and that’s it. Oh well, it’s not what you’ve got but what you do with it, right? Hunter is now a man on a mission so there's no stopping to plan or think. Off he storms in the little car in what surely must be a suicide mission?


We laughed

To get into Straker's base, the Beetle has to go down a small hill. Hilariously, the car flips over forwards down the hill and somehow manages to land back on its wheels. Superb. Hunter shoots up the base (and Judd) surprisingly well and even manages to blow up the petrol dump. Straker gets in his truck with his minions and drives off. Surely the Battletruck could take on a VW Beetle? Instead the Battletruck heads off to Clearwater.


We laughed more, then re-winded the tape and watched it five more times.



Straker has had enough and plans to run the town into the ground. Hunter heads to the hills, where conveniently his motorbike and rocket launcher are being held for him by some of the townsfolk. A few rockets fired at the truck cause a bit of mayhem (surely he realises Corlie is in there) and one hit manages to blow a hole in the roof at the back. Straker goes crazy and pushes his driver to go faster. Finally, we get to see Battletruck’s controls and it bizarrely seems to be more complicated than a jumbo jet. Straker argues with his driver (a chap who seems to be his second in command but didn’t seem worth mentioning until now) and gives Hunter time to catch up on his motorbike via a few well-taken shortcuts. Brilliantly, Hunter jumps his bike off a ledge and lands in the back of the Battletruck!


If the Battletruck was an animal it would be a pig, squealing as it runs in fear of Hunter and his Beetle.



There's a reasonable fight onboard the truck, I won’t go into details as I spoil these too much already, but suffice to say Hunter and Corlie just manage to escape before it goes off the side of a cliff, killing Straker.


Why did they have to wreck such a wonderful vehicle?

 Hunter isn’t the kind of guy to be tied down though, oh no, he’s straight off to roam the wasteland on his horse instead of staying with Corlie at Clearwater. A quick passionless kiss and he’s off.


Another idiot PA hero leaves his hot new girlfriend and security for a life of lonely wandering (which is odd when you think he wasn't a wanderer to start with).

Final Thoughts:

I liked it, but I'm sure I will forget it soon. Other than the truck itself there's nothing about this film that stands out. It’s just so bland, both in visuals and narrative. I could forgive it its failings save for the fact that it could have easily been so much more. Nearly every aspect could have been improved, and not at the expense of a bigger budget. It just all appears a bit half-arsed and I can’t give them any credit for that. At lease the Italian PA try to make things fun and exciting. This is neither.

Alternative Versions:

Not known, but I believe something has been cut out somewhere.

Cast and Crew Facts etc:

Harley Cokeliss had previously been the 2nd unit director on Star Wars: the Empire Strikes Back. He must have been friends with John Ratzenberger (Rusty) as he was an extra on Empire credited as Major Derlin.

Michael Beck has been in quite a lot of films, including 1979’s The Warriors.

According to the credits, Hunter's bike was a Modified Suzuki and Hunter's Beetle was built by a chap called Tony Austin (although I would dispute that and claim it was built by Volkswagen).

Some of the music was by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

Produced by Battletruck Films Limited.

Stunt coordinator Buddy Jo Hooker has worked on a LOT of big movies.

Quotes:

“I have come to free you from this chaos.” Straker to a bunch of unimpressed captured townspeople.

Critic's reactions:

Not popular or successful. It did get some kind of cinema release, supposedly in NZ, the USA, Japan, France and the Philippines, if not more.

Regular Movie Goers Scores:

Strung out a little and very bland but might keep a regular moviegoer interested for a while.

For the PA Collector:

eBay often has Japanese movie posters and I have even seen a Japanese original soundtrack. Probably easier to track down a poster than the VHS at the moment. Lots of typical PA conventions and a number of great movie posters make this a must for the collection.

Purchase Point:

Unfortunately, you will need to hunt on eBay for this one.

Links / External Reviews:

http://www.coldfusionvideo.com/w/warlordsof21stcentury.html

 I suppose the best I can say about it is that it was a fairly painless 90 minutes, and went by pretty quickly -- and that certainly qualifies as "damning with faint praise."

 http://www.eatmybrains.com/showzc.php?id=38

“Jim has been ranting and raving about owning this big box beauty for months now, so it was a huge relief for all of us at Zombie Club when we finally settled down to watch it. And pretty entertaining it is too.”

Countries Released:

NZ, the USA, Japan, France and the Philippines, probably worldwide.

DVD Release Info:

Not available at the moment and the VHS is very hard to find.

Actual Budget/Guessed Budget:

I’m guessing between 1 to 2 million, quite a chunk spent on the truck.

Our Score:

 5 out of 10

Media:

 

Box Cover(s):

UK Pal VHS (Click to enlarge). Note that the actual truck is nowhere near as big as seen here. At least it looks correct though, unlike....


Unknown cover


Advertisement Poster(s):


Cinema poster - unknown country


Japanese mini poster

Thai Poster


Italian Poster


The bizzare US Poster


German Poster

French Poster


Alternative French Poster


Alternative French Poster


Press pack


Pages from a Japanese brochure

A US Stryker VHS cover that used artwork from Battletruck

Press Cuttings etc:

Wanted

Trailer:


Note that there are a couple of shots in this trailer not actually in the film, most noticeably the buildings at the beginning and the airplane!

 
  Comments:
 
 Post your comments here - Battletruck

Movie

Battletruck

 

 

Year:

2005 (estimate)

Civilization Ended via:

Oil War (possible nukes)

Hero Name:

Hunter

Beefed up vehicles:

Yes a couple

Crazy Gang:

Yes/Militaristic

Gang leader/villain name:

Straker

Other memorable names:

N/A

Shoulder pads:

Unfortunately not

Scenes filmed in a quarry:

Probably

Lasers or bullets:

Bullets

Swords:

No

Water Shortage:

No

Petrol Shortage:

Yes

Food Shortage:

No

Bubble Domes:

No

Mutants:

No

Nakedness:

No

Synth music:

Some

Stupid/Ridiculous Ending:

No, then Yes

Miraculous rain:

No