Color, 1985, 87 mins. 28 secs.
Directed by Peter Maris
Starring Deborah Rennard, Garrick Dowhen, Daniel Radell, Frank Garret, Richard Allen
Scorpion Releasing (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
A late addition to the post-nuke craze that was already on a downturn with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome the same year, the dusty, leather-filled Land of Doom is the kind of oddity that was designed to be stumbled upon by unusually intrepid VHS junkies or late night cable viewers. An American production shot in Turkey, this feels for all the world like an Italian or Filipino entry with its flamboyant villains, fluffy-haired heroes, and plentiful tricked-out vehicles and explosions that seemed to dominate video shelves throughout the decade. Oh, and it also has a funky theme song and Jawa imitators.
After the "Final War" that left only a scrappy handful of survivors in the contaminated ruins of Earth, predatory biker gangs called Raiders make life a living hell for the more virtuous people trying to make it day to day. After a nocturnal skirmish, tough as nails Harmony (Dallas and Lionheart's Rennard) holes up for the night in a cave with the wounded mercenary Anderson (Appointment with Fear's Dowhen), who proves his worth by shooting a snake down from the wall. They decide to take on the Raiders and make their way south away from all the pestilence and misery, but in the process they incur the wrath of masked, metal-armed psychopathic leader Slater (Radell), who has a grudge against Anderson for personal reasons. Cannibalistic mutants, explosions, and loud synthesizer music all come into play before the big, fiery climax.
Complete with dialogue like "Harmony, you can't change the world by killing everybody," Land of Doom never had a shot in theaters back in the day but makes for highly enjoyable junk food viewing now if you're in the right frame of mind. The cannibal hillbilly mutants alone would make it worth a look, but the plentiful, frequently clunky action scenes and Radell's astonishing blow-dried, peroxided hairdo are the icing on the cake. It's also one of the arguable highlights in the career of mostly direct-to-video director Peter Maris, who started off with the wacko 1979 horror film Delirium and kept cruising for decades with titles like Diplomatic Immunity and Warpath.
Initially released on VHS by Lightning Video, Land of Doom wandered into the domain of MGM several years ago and became an odd staple on its MGM HD channel for a while with a transfer that looks way better than anyone who stumbled on it back in the '80s could have ever expected. It still looks like a cheap, dusty post-nuke film, of course, but the colors and detail levels are satisfying throughout. That transfer was the source for an MOD DVD release in 2015, but you're far better off going with the 2019 Blu-ray from Scorpion Releasing, sold via Ronin Flix and Diabolik. Anyone who saw this on MGM HD will note that the channel's tendency to scrub out grain and some detail is nowhere to be found here with natural film grain and a few organic little flecks popping up here and there. The DTS-HD MA English mono audio is also satisfying, and optional English SDH subtitles are provided. A new interview with Rennard (12m1s), who must have an aging portrait of herself stuck in an attic somewhere, is a fine overview of her career and an exploration of why she took this film for its strong, independent female lead character. Apparently those motorcycles were just as cumbersome to operate as they look on screen, too, and there was a downside to shooting in caves she didn't realize right away. The theatrical trailer is included along with bonus ones for P.O.W.: The Escape, Iron Warrior, Deep Space, Bucktown, and Opposing Force.
Reviewed on April 12, 2019.