Sunday, August 30, 2009

Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983)

We are in Post-Apocalyptica again. Judicious use of atom bombs has destroyed the ozone layer completely and turned the Earth into a dried-up wasteland where roaming bands of would-be punks called exterminators duke it out against each other. How fortunate for them that there's no lack of petrol.

One remnant of civilization still remains, though, in the form of a bunch of people living in caves and using their own private waterhole to help their greenhouse plants grow. But these people have troubles of their own. Their well will dry up any day now, leaving them ill prepared for survival.

At least they know where to find more water. Trouble is, the water source is hidden in the territory controlled by a gangleader called Crazy Bull (Fernando Bilbao), who isn't really someone you could start up diplomatic relations with or even meet without getting killed and probably eaten. Thus, the first man trying to reach the water hasn't returned yet. The cave dwellers decide to send out a second badly armed group to get the precious liquid, but a run in with Crazy Bull's men leaves only the child Tommy (Luca Venantini) and his pet hamster (presumably called Boo) alive.

So Tommy, in his annoying kenny-like way, decides to get to the water on his own. On his way, he falls in with the local more assholish semi-Mad Max, Alien (Robert Iannucci). Alien's not trustworthy at all, but at least he is an enemy of Crazy Bull, since he stole Bull's favorite super car, The Exterminator.

Not that Alien was able to keep the thing. He has learned the hard way that you shouldn't leave your car unlocked - not even in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

On their way to the water source, Tommy and Alien have various silly adventures and meet interesting people like the ex-astronaut/now mechanic Papillon (Luigi Pigozzi/Alan Collins hamming it up beautifully) and Alien's ex-girlfriend, the honest thief Trash (Alicia Moro).

Giuliano Carnimeo's Exterminators starts out with half an hour of nearly non-stop post-apocalyptic carnival car stunt driving and assorted fighting, and at that point contains already more of it than 90 percent of Italian Mad Max imitations. One would expect that the well of fun would then start to dry up (see what I did there?) and the rest of the film would consist of copious amounts of people stumbling through the desert while a synthesizer gently bleeps.

One would expect wrongly. Exterminators is one of the handful of films of its genre which know what to do when no cars are exploding, which is to say, it starts to throw silly pieces of whimsy at the viewer, not with the gesture of someone doing world building, but with the gentle, laconic enthusiasm of someone really getting into that pulp SF thing. The film isn't getting especially insane, instead, Carnimeo opts for charm and consciously used humor to present the ideas that are wildly stuffed into the script. Surprisingly enough, it works, and my inner twelve year old was having the time of his life with bionic arms, ex-astronauts and mutant guys in robes.

Technically, the film is mostly alright. Nobody would call Carnimeo a stylish director (I hope), but his no frills way of filming does fit the film's dry tone (oh my god, I did it again) rather nicely. The acting is mostly neutral, with dear old Pigozzi and Fernando Bilbao doing some fine overacting and everyone else mostly making shifty eyes and/or screaming nonsense (the script was co-written by Dardano Sacchetti, after all).

One last thing besides being a whole lot of fun that  Exterminators does right is the production design. Everything is either dusty and scavenged looking or delightfully retro-futuristic, most probably because most of the props and costumes were in fact scavenged from the sets of other films.

All in all, that's more than enough to make me happy.



Todd said...

See, I thought this movie was going to be about a bunch of people competing for the title "Exterminator of the Year". But in a post-apocalyptic future, of course.

houseinrlyeh said...

I don't think giant radioactive cockroaches were in the budget.