Thursday, September 25, 2014

Carpocalypse Now: WATER WARS (2011)

The late, great Cirio H. Santiago sadly passed away while making another post-apocalyptic actioner. Honestly, if you have to go, I think that is a great way to do it. Some fantasize about going out in bed with a hooker, but to each his own.

Unfortunately for the film that meant that Santiago had only five days of shooting completed (which come to think of it is probably about a third of his shooting schedule). Long time financier Roger Corman turned to the man who, for better or for worse, is now known for making softcore DTV quickies in a matter of days, Jim Wynorski. Regardless of your views on the merits or lack there of, of DINOCROCK VS. SUPERGATOR (2010) or THE BREASTFORD WIVES (2007), Wynorski's early work boarders on genius. Films like the amazing THE LOST EMPIRE (1985) and CHOPPING MALL (1986) will always have a place of honor in our video shelves. On the other hand, his directing style couldn't be more in contrast with Santiago's. With little money and resources Jim Wynorski shot extra scenes and used stock footage from Santiago’s previous wasteland outings including STRYKER (1983), RAIDERS OF THE SUN (1992) and WHEELS OF FIRE (1985).

A post-nuke bikini babe Skye (Playboy Playmate Athena Lundberg), who dresses like she is from a dinosaur island, falls into the clutches of an evil overlord Bane (Michael Madsen, sounding like he’s been gargling thumbtacks and vinegar) who flaunts his evility by wearing a black leather coat in the middle of the desert wastes. He also forces his henchmen to dress like ninjas which must lead to a lot of sick days being used due to heat stroke. Bane's goal in life is not to stop The Batman as you would expect, but to hoard the world’s rapidly diminishing water supply so that he will be the most powerful man in the wastes. He will have crops and the unwashed masses will be subjugated to his will. I say "unwashed masses", but they are actually quite clean. There must be an old Purell manufacturing facility near by.

Another member of the tribe, Kenna (Playboy Playmates Monica Leigh) sets out to find someone stup- err, I mean tough enough to help her rescue Skye and get them back to their village safely. Bane even goes so far as to tie up Skye and torture her by making her watch him use a circular shop saw on some random dude. Is he betting that since she is girly, she will be so grossed out that she'll spill the beans? We may never know. After getting in a bar brawl in which her top conveniently falls open, she meets Slade (Kevin Stapleton), a neo-cowboy who just likes to drink and watch other people get killed. Clearly written for John Terlesky, Stapleton plays the reluctant savior with a deadpan delivery that makes him seem more somnambulistic than sarcastic.

Once Slade has been talked into it, he rounds up his team, a dirty half-dozen, and sets out to extract Skye. Once accomplished they head back to the village where Kenna, who apparently has had access to a lot of plastic surgery in the wastes, rewards the pasty dough-boy Slade, who should never ever have been allowed to get naked, with some jungle love by a waterfall. Of course this all leads to a showdown with Bane who is set to invade the village to secure the water for himself.

In 1983’s STRYKER it was actually kind of impressively forward thinking to figure that water would be a major commodity in a post-apocalyptic society. That idea, while now rather obvious, has been carried through-out Santiago’s wasteland epics, so it is good to see it in his final film. As of now it has still gone unofficially unreleased on video anywhere in the world. The reasons for this are as obscure as the movie itself, even Wynorski has been tight lipped on the subject, but knowing Roger Corman it couldn't be for anything other than legal reasons.

Wynorski clearly didn't have two pesos to rub together, but he does put what little he has on the screen. The climactic battle between the villagers and Bane's forces is almost all new footage and sports a full-blown firefight with plenty of automatic weapons and things that go boom. The real problem, aside from the decision to do the shakey-cam and hyper zoom thing, is that some of the footage from Santiago’s past classics seem randomly thrown in with characters and dialogue that have no connection to the story. I’m not sure whether Wynorski was trying to make us believe that these characters, who look completely different, are the same as the ones in the new footage, or whether he was aiming for a random action cut-away. Some of the clips go on way too long and should have been trimmed down or eliminated. The different filmstock and print quality is a jarring contrast to the digital video of the new footage and as much as I hate to say it, I think the movie would have been more enjoyable without it. Out of the running time of just over 81 minutes at least 20 minutes is old footage. Seems like if Corman could have thrown just a few more bucks into it, we'd have solid VOD fodder.

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