Thursday, August 28, 2014

In short: Dune Warriors (1991)

Welcome to drought plagued post-apocalyptia. A scouting party of decidedly evil warlord William (Luke Askew) takes the small, peaceful village of Chinley (who knows how it is spelled?) that is a water-y paradise in the desert, waiting for William to come and complete the invasion. Val (Jillian McWhirter), the daughter of one of the village elders, knows it’ll be over with any idea of democracy or non-slavery once William takes over, so she sneaks out into the desert to find warriors to get rid of the scouts and fight William.

She’s in luck, too, for fleeing one of those Filipino post-apocalypse movie mainstay groups of angry little persons, she is saved by Michael (David Carradine), who just happens to be William’s arch enemy, even though he isn’t telling that yet. Michael helps Val find the usual bunch of fighters – there’s her new love interest Dorian (Blake Boyd), his friend, the self-declared “scoundrel” John (Rick Hill), who were running a scam in the fine sport of motorcycle jousting, John’s friend, martial artist Ricardo (Dante Varona), and shotgun toting Miranda (Maria Isabel Lopez). Not the magnificent seven, but they’ll have to do.

So soon enough, things will explode, people will be shot, knifed and sworded (technical term), David Carradine’s legs and Maria Isabel Lopez’s breasts will be shown off, and peasants will be trained as warriors. To mix the Seven Samurai formula up somewhat, this village does have its very own traitors.

I often grump about the films directed by Filipino exploitation film king Cirio H. Santiago because I find most of them even more boring than they are shoddy – the capital sin in low budget cinema – but from time to time, I find one I actually enjoy watching.

Dune Warriors does have it rather easy to conquer me (I suspect William would be jealous if I were a village), for if there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s Seven Samurai style films. Not that anyone would confuse Santiago’s approach to the material with Kurosawa or Sturges or Sayles, but it’s a perfectly fine scaffold to hang one’s action scenes on, and a straightforward structure for a plot. Quite unexpectedly for Santiago the director (I generally respect his work as a producer quite a bit more), he doesn’t mess up the traditional structure, but keeps so close to it this is actually a Santiago film I’d call tight. At the very least, the film moves from one fight to the next with pleasant pace, not getting bogged down in bad comedy, or distracted scenes full of nothing.

Santiago still doesn’t like to move his camera much, it seems, yet this time around, the film isn’t killed by the nailed-down camera set-up of doom, and the action sequences are actually edited together from of so many different shots, I suspect you could make three other Santiago films from them. It’s not pretty but it’s dynamic enough to make the action scenes actually entertaining, with many a stunt double throwing himself backwards, random explosions, David Carradine posing with his sword while wearing boots and no trousers, copious blood squibs whenever somebody thought about using them, and a rusty assortment of cars, motorcycles and – of course - dune buggies. It’s not deep, either, but Dune Warriors sure as heck is fun to watch.

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