Color, 1987, 85m.
Directed by Cirio H. Santiago
Starring Richard Norton, Corinne Wahl, Robert Patrick, William Steis, Frederick Bailey, Ramon D'Salva, Vic Diaz
Code Red (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
By far the most well-known entry in the '80s cycle of post nuke films by producer Roger Corman and director Cirio H. Santiago, this Filipino-shot sci-fi action film follows the lead of its predecessor, Wheels of Fire, by pilfering elements of The Road Warrior and twisting them into a crackpot piece of entertainment tailor made for the home video market.
In the future, the world has turned into a barren wasteland with Alaska looking an awful lot like a rocky desert area in the Philippines. Instead of governments, humanity is now divided into three groups called the Ownership, the Rebels, and the Mountain People. Belonging to that first category is Slade (Norton), a buff loner who goes ballistic when his dad gets offed by one of his cohorts. The title of the film actually refers to a ginormous, scene-stealing gun developed by Slade in tandem with the only significant female character, Karen (Wahl, Penthouse Pet and former wife of Ken), which they'll use to perfect and fend off the evil Deke, played by none other than a pre-Terminator 2 Robert Patrick. Deke wants to get his hands on the Equalizer 2000 as well, believing it's the key to controlling the world, but Slade isn't giving up without a fight.
That slight premise is essentially an excuse for a non-stop barrage of action scenes, making this one of the most entertaining and ridiculous of the cheap post-apocalyptic cycle of its kind. Norton manages to acquit himself well trotting around the title weapon, though it isn't the most demanding role of a career that including several starring job opposite Cynthia Rothrock and, more recently, a turn as the Prime Imperator in Mad Max: Fury Road. Now a professional tarot card reader, Wahl manages to give that gun a run for its money in her eye-catching leather outfits; unfortunately this would turn out to be the penultimate feature film in a career that also includes such cable staples as Spring Break and C.O.D. Fans of Filipino exploitation will also enjoy supporting appearances by the great Vic Diaz (a mascot of the American/Filipino heyday) and the equally busy Ramon D'Salva, who also popped up in everything from The Hot Box to another Corman Filipino special, Demon of Paradise.
In typical Corman fashion, this film was only given a nominal theatrical release from Concorde in a version edited to get an R rating. Corman was also fond of chopping down films to fit onto cheaper VHS tapes at the time, which meant this ended up losing 9 minutes from its running time to clock in at 76 minutes for its tape debut from MGM/UA featuring one of the era's most eye-catching poster designs. Clocking in just shy of 88 minutes, the original full-length cut finally makes its American debut courtesy of the Code Red Blu-ray from 2015, a limited edition offered as a single release or as part of a post nuke bundle with Wheels of Fire and The Sisterhood. It's the best-looking transfer of the three as well, looking considerably more robust than it ever has before on home video with colors and detail that are about as impressive as a film shot almost entirely in earth tones could possibly look.
As with its companion releases, this can also be played with a Katarina's Post Nuke Theater option as hostess Katarina Leigh Waters, sporting a retro headband, fires a plastic replica of the title weapon all over the place and runs down the major credits for almost everyone involved in the production. The main video extra is a 16-minute interview with Frederick Bailey, who penned the script and played one of the leather-wearing marauders; it plays as a sequel of sorts to his chat on the Wheels of Fire disc as he explains how the story was inspired by Anthony Mann's Winchester 73 and reveals he chose Alaska as the setting because he was sick of night shoots. His memories of Robert Patrick's hard-working ethic are fun, too, including a note about how he threw up after shooting his final scene after throwing himself so thoroughly into the part. Also included are the original trailer and extra ones for Wheels of Fire, Dune Warriors, and The Sisterhood.
Reviewed on June 29, 2015.