Monday, July 23, 2018

AMERICA 3000 (1986), SHE (1982)

PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*
FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTIONS: *cosmological, sociological*

Post-apocalyptic stories are often more concerned with creating new weird worlds than with expressing regret about losing the old familiar world. Every once in a while, though, I've encountered a post-apoc story in which the creators seem almost desperate to bring back the old world, even to the extent of duplicating the same mistakes that created the catastrophe.

Not since 1956's WORLD WITHOUT END have I seen an after-disaster flick so cavalier about the  mistakes of the past. True, writer-director David Engelbach didn't try to create any radical new cultures. AMERICA 3000 focuses on a tribe of Amazons who have revolted against male authority, implicitly because of some nuclear disaster. The Amazons tyrannize men, using them either as slaves or as brood-stallions, and yet for some reason the women maintain some reverence for the lost leader of earlier ages, the "Prezzi-dent."

"Prezzi-dent" is one of Engelbach's more bearable verbal concoctions, while the most of the rest are pretty stupd. "Neggy" means "negative," "the regs" mean "regulations," and so on. One young Amazon Vena is scheduled to lay with a stud named Korvis, but he breaks away from the Amazon camp and heads for the hills with a comic-relief friend. They stumble upon an old military bunker and figure out how to use ancient weapons to re-establish the standing of men in a female-dominated world. The story is vacuous but the action is fairly well staged, and the lead females-- Laurene Landon, Victoria Barrett, and Camilla Sparv-- sport incredible bouffant hairdos and buff bods.

Contrary to the credits of 1984's SHE, nothing in it resembles anything about Rider Haggard's 1886 book SHE. If anything, it riffs on a legend of Cleopatra, in which she supposedly slept with lovers whom she had slain the next morning. (Oddly, Haggard did do a CLEOPATRA novel, though I doubt that writer-director Avi Nesher read a single word by Haggard.)

Nesher focuses initially on a hunky guy named Tom and his comic-relief friend Dick. They come to the city ruled by the Amazon "She" (Sandahl Bergman), supposedly looking for the tribe that kidnapped Tom's sister, though they don't seem that much in a hurry about it. A slaver drugs both guys, keeps Dick and sells Tom, who gets tortured by She in a weird gauntlet-ritual. Tom survives and liberates Dick from the slaver. In the course of doing so, Tom finds out that only She can guide him and Dick to the tribe that stole his sister. Naturally, Tom and Dick kidnap She and force her to be their guide.

Nesher's continuity, even for the opening scenes, is all over the place, and it never gets better. The two guys and their girl-guide are almost killed by a tribe of mutants (She led the guys into their hands, but didn't realize that the mutants hate her too). She's female guards come to the trio's rescue and rout the mutants. At this point, you might expect the Amazon queen to take some severe vengeance, given how she treated Tom when he hadn't even done anything to her. But instead, she not only lets the two guys loose, she and her gal-pal Shanda follow them to help them out as they continually encounter one stupid menace after another. All of the menaces are resounding unoriginal, with the slight exception of a big bearded guy dressed in a pink taffeta dress.

Sandahl Bergman is the only thing worth watching here, but she's a long way from the glories of CONAN THE BARBARIAN. In fact, even though AMERICA 3000 is pretty stupid, that movie at least devotes some time to depicting the process by which the male and female leads fall in love-- whereas in SHE, the mutual attractions just happens, and no one does anything about it. Quite a comedown for a film ostensibly based on one of European literature's most celebrated romance-stories.

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