Color, 1983, 96 mins. 46 secs.
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Al Cliver, George Eastman, Laura Gemser, Hal Yamanouchi, Dino Conti, Mario Pedone, Gordon Mitchell, Gabriele Tinti, Bobby Rhodes
Severin Films (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9), CMV Laservision (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL)
After dipping his toes in the sword and sorcery craze of the early '80s with films like Ator the Fighting Eagle and The Blade Master, it was inevitable that Italian jack of all genres Joe D'Amato would get around to that other trend emerging around the same time, the postnuke film. In 1983 he actually did it twice, contributing some directorial duties to 2020 Texas Gladiators (now the one big Blu-ray holdout of the subgenre as of this writing) and entirely directing Endgame, one of the earlier films from his Filmirage company with frequent collaborator George Eastman (a.k.a. Luigi Montefiori) working both in front of and behind the camera. A VHS mainstay back in the '80s thanks to its U.S. release from Media in 1985 and a budget reissue from Video Treasures, it's a film that hasn't been around much since then but should win plenty of new fans now with its wild blending of sci-fi and horror elements.
In 2025 (watch out everybody!), the nuclear apocalypse has turned major cities into wastelands and also produced a number of psychic humans, as well as a totalitarian government that's been producing a brutal (and very makeup-heavy) reality dueling show, Endgame, since 2012. The mutant psychics are target number one for the current regime, with leader Lilith (Gemser) trying to find a safe way out of what remains of New York City. Popular seven-time Endgame winner Ron Shannon (Lucio Fulci regular Cliver) seems like their best shot, so the refugees promise him a big payday if he escorts them to safety after rounding up a ragtag band of fighters. Unfortunately Ron's biggest competitor and former best buddy, Karnak (Eastman), proves to be a formidable foe, but that's nothing compared to what else is involved including a pre-Stranger Things kid with massive telekinetic powers, cannibalism, martial arts, and lots more.
By this point it was very rare to see Cliver (once a staple of softcore films including 1976's Black Emmanuelle, White Emmanuelle opposite Gemser) taking leading man duties, but it's always a treat to see his uniquely perplexed persona as a hero who doesn't get a bloody early exit like his most of his famous horror roles. Neither he nor Gemser (under her short-lived "Moira Chen" screen name) are the most expressive actors here, but that's more than compensated for by Eastman doing his trademark wild-eyed bad guy routine here with great gusto. As with the more readily available Enzo G. Castellari films from the time like 1990: The Bronx Warriors, Escape from the Bronx, and The New Barbarians, this one pilfers shamelessly from recent-ish imported hits like The Road Warrior, The Warriors, and Escape from New York, here dressed up with the dustiest locations imaginable and a script that piles in enough weird grace notes along the way to qualify as its own beast. Extra points for not quite going where you expect it to at the end, setting up multiple conflicts along the way that pay off with a nice open-ended flourish that will leave you grinning.
As mentioned above, this one's been off the radar of most cult movie fans for ages due to its lack of availability unless you were determined enough to hunt down the mediocre German DVD. Luckily Endgame has finally come roaring back on Blu-ray from Severin in 2021 as part of a postnuke frenzy along with Raiders of Atlantis and Warriors of the Year 2072. Featuring a fresh 2K scan from the original negative, it's a substantial upgrade given the intentionally drab nature of the film itself (which uses some filters and dark lighting in many wide shots but looks pin-sharp in close ups and daylight outdoor bits). In keeping with common Filmirage practice at the time, this was shot in English with the heavily-accented actors dubbed later to sound far more Americanized. That familiar English track here sounds fine with the DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono option included, with optional English SDH subtitles; the far more disembodied and less atmospheric Italian track is here as well -- without translated English subs, though not much of a loss in this case. In "After the Bomb" (14m58s), Eastman offers another of his candid interviews (complete with a sleepy canine named Billy in his lap); in this case he talks about the post-Mel Gibson postnuke craze, the origins of the story, the influence of a certain hit Paul Newman-Robert Redford film on the last scene, the "mundane" fighting scenes, and the location scouting. The theatrical trailer is also included (which accurately sells this as "everything blows up"), plus a 22-track soundtrack CD that marks the first appearance ever of the score by regular D'Amato composer Carlo Maria Cordio. The release is also available as part of The Marauders Bundle and The Nuclear Meltodwn Bundle.
Reviewed on June 24, 2021