Daniel DiManna
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Sad Max: Reviewing “Warrior of the Lost World”

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Warrior of the Lost World
It’s Mad Max on a motorcycle… a talking motorcycle
Photo: Pixabay via CC

Wherever success and uniqueness exist, you’re sure to find imitators. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to the film industry. The cinematic rip-off has been a mainstay for as long as big-budget, uber-popular movies have existed, each desperately trying to ride on the coattails of the original work. The late 70s and early 80s were stuffed with Star Wars cash-in flicks. The early 90s saw a suspiciously timed dinosaur-movie boom. And in the mid-80s, a certain post-apocalyptic franchise about fast cars and high-speed road wars saw its fair share of cheaply made clones. This is the story of the ultimate Mad Max rip-off: a little 1983 cheese-fest called Warrior of the Lost World.


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Behind “Warrior of the Lost World”

The brainchild of director/writer David Worth, Warrior of the Lost World was an American/Italian co-production shot on the open roads of Italy. Produced on an estimated half-a-million-dollar budget, the film has some ambitious ideas and even a few original concepts. However, none of that keeps it from being a blatant rip-off of the highly successful Mad Max franchise, specifically 1981’s Road Warrior. But while the Mad Max films had interesting plots, skilled filmmaking, a charismatic cast, and overall competency, WOTLW is pretty much the exact opposite.

Briefly, it’s the story of a vaguely Mel Gibsonesque badass who cruises the post-apocalyptic highways of America. His goal: unclear. His face: decidedly unshaven. The mysterious rider’s vehicle of choice is an artificially intelligent, talking super-motorcycle named Einstein. His travels bring him into contact with a group of freedom fighters who are attempting to overthrow a totalitarian regime. Inevitably, the whole affair culminates in an epic, vehicle-based confrontation between the good and bad guys.

A closer look

Despite its status as a cheesy rip-off flick, WOTLW does have some redeeming, or at least interesting, aspects. The cast is a curious hodgepodge of familiar faces, each trying to do their best with the ridiculous script. Robert Ginty of The Paper Chase “fame” plays our lead hero, complete with a suspiciously familiar leather jacket and stubble. While he may look like Max Rockatansky, any semblance of charisma and likability is completely lost. Persis Khambatta, well known to sci-fi fans for her role in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, plays the heroine, and the always-awesome Fred Williamson makes a brief appearance as a double agent. The standout actor in the film is the late, great Donald Pleasance as the leader of the evil despots. He doesn’t have a lot to do, but as always, he gives the role his all.

As you might expect from a “Maxploitation” film from the era, the real stars are the cars. The movie is packed with a veritable army of customized vehicles. Like with Road Warrior, watching these crazy cars fight each other, zoom down roads, and explode is always fun. While most of the vehicles in the film lack extensive personality, there is one vehicle that stands out for being particularly — if ironically — awesome, and its name is…

Megaweapon

As the road war nears its conclusion, the bad guys decide that enough is enough. They decide to block our hero’s path with an intimidating obstacle: a massive, spike-covered truck called “Megaweapon.” The truck slowly crawls forward and, despite not really doing anything all that scary, seems to fill the good guys’ hearts with fear.

But in the end, good triumphs. In one of the single greatest action movie scenes of all time, our bike-riding hero charges Megaweapon, intentionally crashes his bike, and slides under the evil truck. As his beloved motorcycle is callously crushed under Megaweapon’s tires, our hero does… something to the truck’s underside. A few moments later, poor Megaweapon begins to slowly veer off the road, smoke billowing out from its underside. As our hero makes his getaway, the truck explodes in a gigantic ball of fire.

In short: Megaweapon is the awesome and hysterical highlight of the movie. Despite the film’s insistence that what you’re seeing is at the very least intimidating, Megaweapon is all show, and no tell. It’s a hilarious, textbook example of terror by implication; in the end, all we’re left with is a big black truck that explodes.

But hey, that’s the fun part.


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If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, George Miller and the talented creators behind Mad Max should probably feel a bit insulted. But if you’re in the mood for an enjoyable, so-bad-it’s-good “trash-terpiece,” you could do a lot worse than Warrior of the Lost World.

Come for the cheese, stay for Megaweapon.