Sunday, March 29, 2009

Robot Holocaust: A Depreciation

In the canon of post-apocalypse movies, few turds float as high and proud as this personal favorite, 1986’s Robot Holocaust. I first became aware of this truly independent piece of cinema courtesy of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Though the show hadn’t really come into its own (it was a first season entry), the fodder for their barbs was of such high/low caliber I sought out an un-Mystied version.

The plot has something to do with air being a precious commodity and the control thereof is in the hands of “Dark One” and his flunkies (the buxom, lisping, Teutonic totty Valaria and her robot henchman who looks like a mash-up of a Roman centurion and a crawfish). A slave revolt is outsourced to bland nomadic hero, Neo (years before The Matrix) and his ad hoc unmerry band of misfits, including his robot sidekick, Torque, a bleating “homage” to C-3PO. There’s also a man-hating Amazon, a mute barbarian and Deeja, the busty daughter of the slave rebellion’s actual leader, Jorn.

Everyone in this movie seems sedated; bland, robotic and unemotional (except, ironically, the annoying robot). In the end, when Deeja encounters her father, Jorn, who has been turned into some avocado-like blob with just his head remaining, her emotional spectrum runs from bland horror to bland acceptance. But then again, even as he pleads for her to kill him, Jorn seems pretty sanguine about his vegetal predicament.

Made by gay porn auteur (no, I’m not kidding), Tim Kinkaid, Robot Holocaust takes place in the futuristic wastelands of New York City, which seem in rather good shape despite the ominous intonations of the narrator. The skyline, seen often in backgrounds, is pristine (as the Twin Towers were still standing, it’s actually in better shape than it is now). The “ruins” consist mainly of collapsed rusty structures along the Hudson River and the ubiquitous (at least in cheapjack PA movies) remains of the smallpox hospital on Roosevelt Island . Some of the wasteland sequence also takes place in verdant Central Park. They must have shot this entire movie without permits. Oh for a DVD with commentary track!

I love this movie. Some people will casually throw around the name Ed Wood when describing a bad movie, but few ever live up to that comparison. I’ve had several friends sit through this epic with me and all have been awed by its awesomeness. If you can track down a copy (sadly only on old VHS), treat yourself to some fine post-apocalyptic entertainment. Or watch some paint dry. Your choice.

BONUS: The brief nudity left out of the MST3K version:

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