With its tiny budget, and even tinier imagination, this Grade Z Post-Apocalypse tale never finds its groove. Glum, but hardly serious, it imagines New York City in 2012, a place of scavenging savages who roam the streetscape, and a small group of elite survivors whose rooftop garden hold rare hybrid plants with their promise of a new beginning for mankind . . . if we can only keep those tomatoes on the vine! Robert Clouse, a cult director of Martial Arts pics (ENTER THE DRAGON/’73) must have known his script was too sobersided for its own good, more SOYLENT GREEN/’73 than PLANET OF THE APES/’68, and without a Charlton Heston-sized budget. So, Yul Brynner, fresh off a surprise hit with his robotic gunfighter in WESTWORLD/’73, got tapped. But without that film’s comic edge, Yul was stiffer than ever, and the action scenes flatfooted. The film’s biggest mystery is the participation of Max Von Sydow. He’d just finished the super-classy thriller THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR/’75 and then gets booked into this crummy vehicle? Maybe his agent thought it was the end of the world?
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: For a neat twist on Post-Apocalypse NYC pics, it’s hard to beat the formal storytelling stylings of John Carpenter near his best in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK/’81.