Zeder

Color, 1983, 95 mins. 49 secs.
Directed by Sergio Martino
Starring Michael Sopkiw, Valentine Monnier, George Eastman, Anna Kanakis, Romano Puppo, Edmund Purdom, Paolo Maria Scalondro
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), 88 Films (Blu-ray & DVD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)


After the Fall of New YorkAfter the Fall of New YorkNever ones to miss a trend, Italian filmmakers were quick to jump on the wave of dystopian sci-fi films that were flooding theaters around the world in the early '80s. Of course it all started with Mad Max, but the floodgates really opened with its sequel, The Road Warrior, and John Carpenter's Escape from New York. The general trend is to refer to the Italian variations as post-nuke films since they usually involve the various bizarre aftermaths of nuclear devastation and total societal breakdown, and one of the best of these is undeniably After the Fall of New York, also known as 2019: After the Fall of New York. This would be the first post-nuke offering from famed giallo filmmaker Sergio Martino, who had also been dabbling in sex comedies and even the big reptile favorite The Great Alligator. Martino would return to similar territory three years later with Hands of Steel, both of which proved his ability to pull off an exploitation sci-fi hit as well as anyone.

Two decades after a nuclear apocalypse, the skies are cloudy and dark, trumpet music fills the air, and misery is inflicted by the EURAC After the Fall of New Yorkmonarchy who caused the conflagration. New York is a violent wasteland still wracked with radiation and deformed creatures, and no children have been born anywhere in years. The President of the Pan-American Federation (Purdom) learns that the only woman capable of bearing a child is being held inside New York After the Fall of New York(and would be perfect to kickstart the human race in Alaska), so for the future of humanity he decides to send headband-loving, shaggy-haired Nevada car racer Parsifal (Sopkiw) in to rescue her -- against his will, a la Snake Plisskin. After infiltrating the city sewers with companions Ratchet (Geer) and Bronx (Scalondro), he encounters numerous oddities including torture via medical experimentation, a hairy ape man (Eastman) dressed like Genghis Khan, sexy she-warrior Giara (Monnier), various mutants, and lots of mayhem involving flamethrowers and knights on horseback.

Fast-paced, bloody, and lovably weird, Martino's film is a great time from start to finish. You know you're in for something special when Sopkiw is introduced in a futuristic auto demolition derby in the desert with the winner annointed by a chattering cyborg clown with a big glowing eyeball on its head who presents him with a deep-voiced sex worker named Flower because, well, why not? After the Fall of New YorkSolidifying the film's cult credentials is a pounding synth score by the great Guido and Maurizio De Angelis (which still hasn't had a soundtrack release in any format), and if you After the Fall of New Yorkwant to the craziest tough guy talk this side of Kurt Russell, look no further. A new piece with Martino (15m59s) finds him sitting at his desk and usual and talking in English about how he maximized the film's low budget and pulled off some ambitious special effects that have won the film generations of admirers.

The video history of After the Fall of New York is an odd one following its American theatrical run from Almi. It first bowed on VHS from Vestron, where it earned a place in the hearts of '80s kids everywhere, and then made it to DVD from Media Blasters in 2003, sporting a ragged but passable anamorphic transfer of the standard English version (in 2.0 or matrixed 5.1 options), the theatrical trailer, and three interview featurettes with Sergio Martino (14m15s), George Eastman (5m18s), and "Rat Actor King" actor Hal Yamanouchi (4m35s); the first two are fairly generic and pat, but the last one is a welcome rare conversation with the star of such films as 2020 Texas Gladiators and Endgame, who compares the longevity of this "existential" subgenre to the Bible. More controversially, that release also had an audio commentary with Sopkiw and moderators David Zuzelo and Dolph Chiarino, which featured several verbal barbs that got the disc recalled After the Fall of New Yorkalmost immediately and After the Fall of New Yorkrepressed without it. That revised disc stuck around for several years and also made it into a "Post Apocalyptic Triple Feature" set with Enzo G. Castellari's 1990: The Bronx Warriors and The New Barbarians.

In 2017, Code Red brought the film to Blu-ray in a new special edition featuring a fresh HD scan of the English version (just as well since that's what the actors were speaking), which looks substantially better and more stable with the best presentation of the film to date. It also features more visual info on the top, bottom, and right sides, making for more balanced and spacious compositions. The DTS-HD MA English stereo track sounds strong enough considering the nature of the source, which was never the most dynamic mix in the world but fine overall. Along with a brief and oddly disturbing intro featuring Sopkiw and the label's talking banana, the film can be played with a new Sopkiw commentary moderated by Damon Packard with occasional comments from the label's Bill Olsen. Sopkiw has a pretty good memory for most of the key players here and chats a great deal about his career both before and after his brief acting days including his modeling stints and the SAG snafu that caused him to lose his membership. He also notes he had no idea he would be dubbed, explains his extremely limited experience with movie watching over the years, and reveals how he managed to get that magical five o' clock shadow throughout the whole film. All three featurettes from the DVD have been ported over here, but numerous new interviews have been added as well including a new After the Fall of New YorkSopkiw interview (9m56) about how he got hired through an agent in Milan and ended up plunging into a short career in Italian films with numerous friends made along the way (also including three other Italian cult favorites with Blastfighter, Devil Fish, and Massacre in Dinosaur Valley). The gorgeous Anna Kanakis (who plays leather-clad Ania) gets a new chat here After the Fall of New York(10m20s), "Future Is Now," speaking in Italian with English subtitles about working with both Sergio and Luciano Martino including learning all of her English dialogue by heart despite the "Babel" feeling on set and working inside the wild futuristic sets. His comments about the film's matte painting of the Twin Towers are especially fascinating and poignant, too. The always colorful Eastman gets a fairly low-key interview for him out of his batch of Code Red featurettes, as "Meet the Apeman" (5m37s) finds him speaking positively of both the finished product and working with Martino even if he was "distant." In "Hook Man" (20m31s), Scalondro gets an extensive opportunity to cover his dramatic career in Rome, the challenges of trying to work with a hook hand and convincingly gouge out someone's eyes, and his motorcycle skills that came in handy during the shoot. Finally, set designer Massimo Anotello Galeng gets his turn in "Welcome to the New Middle Ages" (11m21s) explaining how he aimed to bring a "metaphysic abstraction" to the film by combining futuristic elements with the medieval past. Shortly after the Code Red release the film also hit UK Blu-ray and DVD from 88 Films; that edition is not available for review at this moment for comparison, but it features different interviews with Martino, Galeng, and a joint one with Galeng and Ginacarlo Marin.

MEDIA BLASTERS FRAME GRABS

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Reviewed on April 21, 2017.