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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 03.04.08] post apocalyptic

Year: 1975
Director: Robert Clouse
Writer: Robert Clouse
IMDB: link
Trailer: Link
Review by: Agent Orange
Rating: 6.7 out of 10

The years have not been particularly kind to Robert Clouse's classy PA drama, The Ultimate Warrior. Often lumped in with the absolute dregs of 70s exploitation cinema, you're much more likely to find it topping trashy 42nd street top tens than being praised for its great cast and fairly reasonable production design.

I mean, its got Max von Sydow and Yule Brynner in it for frak's sake! If that doesn't immediately guarantee a proper R1 DVD release then I don't know what would. But alas, with run down VHS tapes currently going for a whopping 50 bucks(!) on Amazon [editor's note: since this review, a DVD has become available. You can buy it here] the chances of people rediscovering it anytime soon seem pretty slim. Oh well, sometimes the search can be just as fulfilling.

For some reason I thought that Yule Brynner played another crazed android a la Westworld when I first came across the box cover for this years ago, but it turns our he's just a stone cold killer that gets hired by Max von Sydow to protect a compound of peace loving apocalypse survivors who are sick of being marauded by a rival gang.

If that sounds more than a little familiar it's probably because this plot's been used in everything from Seven Samurai to The Road Warrior. But I guess that's the test of a good plot though isn't it? If even under the questionable direction of Robert Clouse (who admittedly hit a home run with audience fave Enter the Dragon) it still feels fresh, then you know it must be a good yarn.

But there is a strange incongruity to The Ultimate Warrior that, as a viewer, I find interesting. An intriguing juxtaposition between the film's made for TV qualities and its extremely violent tone and imagery that makes it much more jarring an experience then it probably should be. See, with it's backlot locales, intense lighting, and hippie hangover Robin Hood chic, it fools you into thinking you're watching an extended episode of Flash Gordon or something until BAM! Max von Sydow sticks a sac over a guy's head and throws him to the cannibals for stealing a tomato, or BAM! an entire family is slaughtered while looking for powdered milk.

As much as I'd like to say that there are enough surprises in the Ultimate Warrior to aggrandize it to the level of a "forgotten gem," I have to say that it's very much just run of the mill 70s PA. In fact, despite the film's rarity and some well choreographed but few and far between fight sequences, The Ultimate Warrior is pretty much in keeping with the style of other popular end of the world films from the seventies like The Omega Man, or the equally hard to find, Damnation Alley.

Of course if you're like me and you live and breath this stuff then yeah have fun tracking it down, or wait for it to finally come out on DVD. But as a word of warning to the casual viewer I'd say you don't have to spend a paycheck to get it.

Recommended Release: The Ultimate Warrior

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Bontle (9 years ago) Reply

No, there are enough zomibes in the apocalypse world; what we need are people to survive and rebuild civilization. Another person is one more set of eyes and ears as well as another defender to watch your back. Although if the were a liability (attract too much zombie attention or simple can't be trusted) there might be an accidental trip or a zombie surprise them.

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