In the early 80s films about dystopian near futures like Mad Max 2 and Escape from New York were big box-office. It was no surprise, then, when Italian film-makers quickly moved to rip them off to the best of their abilities and budgets. 2019: After the Fall of New York is Sergio Martino’s contribution to this cycle, in conjunction with his producer brother Luciano and frequent screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi. (Sergio Martino uses his Martin Dolman alias, Gastaldi his Julian Berry one.)
Planet of the Apes? Escape from New York?
The film’s influences are evident from the first two scenes. Scene one gives the back-story, that a nuclear war between the Eurac Alliance (of Europe and Asia) and Pan American Confederation has left the earth devastated and women infertile, with no children having been born for 15 years. The ruins of New York are under Eurac control, with soldiers and mercenaries hunting down survivors who refuse to submit for “voluntary” medical experiments. Scene two introduces our hero, Parsifal – a name with appropriately mythic connotations – as he engages in some Mad Max style car wars in order to win some prize or other.
The Eurac leader's Picasso pastiche; only thing is he identifies with the bombers rather than the bombees
Following this, the story proper gets started as Parsifal is taken to the Alaskan base of the Confederation. A fertile woman, upon whom the fate of the human race depends, is somewhere in New York. It is up to Parsifal to find her and bring her out of the city. He is to be assisted by Bronx and Ratchet. Bronx knows New York like the back of his hand – presumably not the one that has been replaced with metal pincers – whilst Ratchet, who sports the eye-patch that is about the only aspect of Snake Plissken’s look not in evidence on Parsifal himself, is immensely strong and deadly with his bolas.
Snake, er Parsifal, and one of those early 80s blue laser beams
Good comic-book / pulp fun, 2019’s main strengths are a fast pace once the story is underway and a superabundance of action, combined with the fact that everyone involved seems on the same wavelength as far as the ridiculous and cliché are concerned: At one point a Eurac commander actually remarks to a prisoner that “We have ways of making you talk,” while George Eastman is memorably typecast as a simian mutant called “Big Ape”.
Its main weaknesses are some obvious model work and the state of many of the locations used, not so much post-apocalyptic, as with the models and mattes, as post-industrial. Arguably, however, this could also be read as in accord with the general design of the film, as with the Eurac soldiers being equipped with Wookie-type bow-laser combinations and riding white horses that contrast with their own black vaguely kendo or samurai type armour. That blue laser beam effect gets a look in, as do some blinkenlights devices and general purpose oscilloscopes; here one wonders how you test a woman’s fertility with an oscilloscope?
The Eurac troops are about as effective as Stormtroopers
Oliver Onions provide a moody Goblin-esque score, with their title theme also giving Martino the opportunity for a nice sight gag, as a mournful trumpet plays over the image of a ruined Manhattan skyline, before the trumpeter is revealed to be just off to our side. Elsewhere we also get some gratuitous gore, with a Eurac leader being enucleated and the odd gut-spilling in the fight scenes and, more awkwardly, some rats apparently being impaled for real.
While perhaps one of Martino’s less substantial efforts, 2019: After the Fall of New York is fast, funny and passably stylish.
[The film is screening this Friday as part of the Edinburgh Film Guild's Apocalypse and Beyond screening - more information here: http://edinburghfilmguild.org.uk/film.php?id=44]