Sunday, March 31, 2019

Land of Doom (1986) review


Deborah Rennard (Harmony), Garrick Dowhen (Anderson), Daniel Radell (Slater), Frank Garret (Purvis), Richard Allen (Halsey), Akut Duz (Orland)

Directed by Peter Maris

The Short Version: LAND OF DOOM presents the End of the World in the silliest, most continuity error-filled way imaginable. Not only has Earth become a wasteland, but the holocaust has wiped out all stunt coordinators resulting in painfully lazy action sequences. Cows are in abundance, though, with all the leather on display. The barren plot is about the search for some mythical, barely mentioned paradise called Blue Lake. This is by-the-numbers cataclysmic camp on the cheap kept alive by outrageous character designs, a clumsy motorcycle motif, and gratuitous explosions. Virtually all the gun sound effects are either from Bronson and Eastwood's magnum collection or STAR WARS laser blasts. Yes, and those do look and sound like Jawas at the end. DOOM is primarily for dedicated devastation cinema fans; all others will find this a LAND OF ZZZZ.

A man-hating female with the ironic name of Harmony teams up with a member of the opposite sex to find a fabled paradise known as Blue Lake. On their journey they encounter various perils like cannibals, a plague, an assortment of continuity errors, and The Raiders--a marauding gang that destroyed Harmony's village.

MAD MAX (1979), and especially its far more influential sequel, THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981), are among the most famous examples of the Post-Apocalyptic action picture. Numerous knock-offs like THE EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 (1983) and WHEELS OF FIRE (1985) followed with the bulk being made in Europe and the Philippines. LAND OF DOOM hails, fittingly enough, from Turkey.

Peter Maris's movie is high camp from start to finish; occasionally dull and with zero originality and unenthusiastic action sequences. The threadbare plot is about as nonexistent as any sign of modernity in the Turkish desert. What passes for a storyline is the incidental search for a lost oasis called Blue Lake. It's not much of a forage since Blue Lake is mentioned once or twice and forgotten about. The Raiders--the main villains in the movie--have no real purpose, either; they're not looking for oil or water (two seemingly plentiful things) or the nearest Harley Davidson store; they simply attack people; neither desiring to find or even create paradise, they openly embrace the heat and arid desert.

Other than his bizarre costume design, Slater, the leader of The Raiders, lacks any presence whatsoever. In an attempt to stand out from other holocaust-themed bad guys, Slater has a metal arm. Unfortunately, like everything else in this movie that's underdeveloped, you never see him use it. Moreover, one of cinema's least imposing antagonists looks a bit like a lithe Ric Flair with a black, suitably skunk-like streak down the middle of his blonde mane, and lacking any of the famous wrestlers' charisma. "Ric" Slater's (h)air of menace extends as far as yelling into the camera a couple of times and making veiled sexual offers to an uninterested Harmony. The character isn't seen much at all and doesn't even participate in the finale apart from a brief fight with the hero who chops his fingers off with an axe. Slater disappears leaving the rest of the end-battle to a subordinate villain who is given far more screen time to begin with.

Then there's the unexplained, eccentric character who rides a bicycle, carries a puppy and a flamethrower; and is associated with a mini-army of robed midgets that look and sound like Jawas from STAR WARS (1977). 

Regarding Armageddon, you know you're in for a special kind of movie when the image of a dystopian future is set using rubber spiders to create a hazardous ambiance. Furthermore, a healthy dose of continuity errors ensures society's meltdown won't be taken seriously. One of the most prevalent and blatantly obvious mistakes is Rennard and Dowhen changing motorcycles from one shot to the next.

Discounting the scripted disorganization, LAND OF DOOM works best when chaos is onscreen with lots of gratuitous explosions; sometimes even these become monotonous when the editing occasionally repeats the same pyro burst over and over again.

The opening 'Pillage the Village' sequence is the film's most impressive moment. It sets a tone Maris's movie is unable to maintain. Virtually everything falls apart before it even has time to get revved up; this goes for the bizarre decor adorning the motorcycles and tanks the Raiders ride. It's eye-catching for a few seconds till you realize how fragile the cardboard attachments are. Hindering things further, the motorcycles have these cumbersome roll bars and other accessories attached to the front that clearly gives the riders problems trying to navigate on the desert sandscape or even on the roads in the slowest chases this genre has ever seen. 

Stage and screen actress Deborah Rennard is the heroine of the future; roaming the wasteland telling those she meets how much she detests being touched; kicking men in the nuts; and carrying a crossbow she never uses. The Nutcracker Kick is her signature move and pretty much the only one she uses throughout the entire movie. Rennard is at least spunky in the part even if it is a far cry from her popular role on the massively successful drama series DALLAS (1978-1991). The actress throws herself into the role of Harmony, though; which is more than can be said for some of the other actors onscreen.

Presumably, her resistance to men is due to the opening rape-fest when the Raiders burn her village and murder everyone in it. The filmmakers miss yet another opportunity to expound on plot and character details to make their movie less dull and undernourished than it is.

Probably the best attribute of Maris's movie are the Turkish locations. Organic and inhabited--as opposed to being actual sets--they're really startling and look unlike anything the genre has seen.

An early production in Peter Maris's directorial (and producer) career, it must have been profitable considering he went on to helm a dozen or so other movies; to say nothing of quality vs. entertainment value, he worked with some big names like George Kennedy, Ned Beatty, Yaphet Kotto, Jan Michael Vincent, Lou Ferrigno, Robert Forster, Robert DoQui, Kim Delaney, Meg Foster, and Ken Foree. 

Apocalypse acolytes are about the only viewers who will find much of worth in this LAND--barren of interest to most everyone else. Aside from the plentiful shortcomings inadvertently playing in the film's favor, compared to other examples of catastrophe cinema, this is more akin to a LAND OF DULL.

This review is representative of the Scorpion Releasing bluray. Specs and Extras: 1080p HD 1.85:1 widescreen; interview with Deborah Rennard; original LOD trailer; other trailers; running time: 01:27:28
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