Thanks to the runaway success of George Miller’s The Road Warrior (or Mad Max 2, if you’re Australian), for a brief, shining moment back in the early ‘80s, every hack with a camera was heading out to some dusty backwater to shoot a post-apocalyptic murder-chase and call it a film. Italy never saw a movie they couldn’t make a terrible version of, and turned in 1983’s Warrior of the Lost World.
Tagline: Only one rider can destroy the Omega Force
More Accurate Tagline: Only one rider can destroy the Omega Force… and this isn’t him.
Guilty Party: While it would be tempting to blame hack director David Worth for this (after all, his biggest movie is Van Damme vehicle Kickboxer), he really is blameless. Supposedly, he was expected to start filming without a script, and only a poster to go by. The producers were like, “Here, make this.” And he shrugged and went out and made cinematic infamy. Instead, I’m blaming the entire country of Italy. Your obsession with schlock went too far, Italy! You made this! You own this!
Synopsis: The movie starts with an opening crawl that jams a book’s worth of worldbuilding into your eyes with all the grace and gentleness of a nearsighted proctologist with crippling vertigo. I’ve seen this movie three times (yes, I’ve wasted my life), and I still don’t know all the ins and outs of the Dark Age of Tyranny, the Radiation Wars, the Outsiders, and the Butt Warriors. I only made one of those up.
The Rider (Robert Ginty, the jowliest hero you’ll ever see onscreen) zooms through a post-apocalyptic California that looks like a lush section of a Mediterranean peninsula, because it’s Italy. Also, these roads are really well maintained, considering the entire world was engulfed in nuclear fire and mutants roam willy-nilly. But anyway. He blasts his way through the Omega Force Highway Patrol (yep, the evil empire’s best use of time is spent on speed traps), and a gang of New Wavers, because this was the early ‘80s and we all hoped that civilization would collapse, but somehow leave a bunch of hairspray, Manic Panic, and checkered clothing.
Wounded, the Rider crashes into the wall of a canyon, where he’s nursed back to health by a bunch of creeps in togas with magic flashlights. Fred “the Hammer” Williamson is also there, in a paramilitary uniform, but he’s never named so I’m assuming he’s playing himself. Frankly, the idea that Fred “the Hammer” Williamson could survive a nuclear holocaust qualifies as the film’s most realistic flourish.
This group wants the Rider to rescue their leader McWayne from Prossor (Donald Pleasance), the leader of Omega Force. The Rider whines a little about getting drafted, but eventually infiltrates the Omega Force compound with McWayne’s daughter, Nastasia (Persis Khambatta). Incidentally, thus far the Rider’s only superpowers appear to be annoyed muttering and crashing his motorcycle into walls. They rescue McWayne, but because the Rider is a useless asshole, he leaves Nastasia behind. Seriously, if he had waited one second longer, she could have gone with them. Anyway.
McWayne has the Rider stop by an impromptu brawl in the middle of a quarry where an eclectic array of gangs have decided to hang out and punch each other. There’s the Amazons, the Hillbillies, the New Wavers, the Kung Fu Fighters, and the Asians. Yeah, that’s as much character as the Asians get. The Rider joins the brawl and after defeating them, he’s their leader. That’s the law of the wasteland.
Then they all join up and attack the Omega Force. After blasting through the road defenses, the Rider and McWayne encounter Prossor, who has brainwashed Nastasia. He orders her to shoot the Rider, which she does, because fuck that guy, but when she’s ordered to kill McWayne, she turns the gun on Prossor. She blows his brains out, and the world is saved.
Except not. Turns out he was a robot clone, and Fred “the Hammer” Williamson was on his side the whole time somehow. The movie is setting up a sequel and hoping we’ve been hit in the head recently so we forget what just happened. Which, since we sat through Warrior of the Lost World, it’s not a bad guess.
Life-Changing Subtext: Need a hero? Find the whiniest guy you can.
Defining Quote: “Be quiet and watch for mutants!” The Rider hisses this at Nastasia when they’re sneaking through the underground entrance into Omega Force and wouldn’t you know it? Mutants instantly attack. It’s like they were waiting for the warning just to make it extra ironic. No idea why Omega Force lets mutants live in its crawlspaces. You’d think they’d clear that out.
Standout Performance: The closest thing the movie has to an iconic character is Einstein, the Rider’s “intelligent” motorcycle. And this thing is iconic the way anything you’d want to burn in effigy is technically an icon. Designed to appeal to a nonexistent kid fanbase, Einstein has a habit of chirping its lines three times, because once doesn’t yet make you want to jam a screwdriver into your eyesocket. Its warnings to the Rider about bad mothers, geeks, dorks, dickheads, veg outs, and of course, very bad mothers, sound like a Speak N’ Spell built for people who habitually eat cleaning products.
What’s Wrong: It’s a ripoff of The Road Warrior, minus all the stuff that made that movie great. Did Max’s interceptor talk to him? No. No, it did not.
Flash of Competence: Donald Pleasance is entirely too good to be in this movie. I’m grateful to whatever gambling addiction that compelled him to be in schlock, but he’s consistently the best thing in any terrible movie he finds himself.
Best Scenes: When the Rider and Nastasia sneak into Omega Force (this is just after the mutants), they happen on what can only be described as a performance art piece by an offbrand version of leather-enthusiasts Kiss. For what’s supposed to be a fascist state with constant propaganda blaring over a PA system, it’s a weird detail. Weirdest part? There’s no audience. These people are just sort of posing in the middle of an otherwise empty warehouse. Maybe this is some kind of bizarre work detail? Like, instead of splitting rocks, you have to cram your ass into a leather Borat bathing suit and strut around for a couple days.
During the final chase sequence, the good guy van rams the bad guy van off the road. The film then switches to a far shot, showing the bad guy van leisurely rolling into a stack of barrels. And they’re not stacked for storage. They’re stacked like a a bunch of cans at a carnival, just hanging out by the side of the road, waiting for something to roll into them. And when the van does, everything explodes. It’s like a scene from Naked Gun, but funnier.
Transcendent Moment: Einstein might be second-most memorable character in this thing. The most is Omega Force’s version of the Death Star. That’s right, it’s the imaginatively named Megaweapon. That’s the kind of name that you have as a placeholder, but when you get the device back from the evil superweapon manufacturer, you’re like, well, shit. Guess we’re stuck with it. What is Megaweapon? It’s a giant dumptruck with a black paint job. That’s… that’s pretty much it. Its only weapon is a flamethrower that shoots about fifteen feet. You could outrun this thing on a segway.
Warrior of the Lost World is terrible, but it’s also short. If you have any affection for Italian ripoffs, give it a shot.