Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ripoffs of the Wasteland: EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 (1983)

(Italy/Spain - 1983; US release 1985)

Directed by Jules Harrison (Giuliano Carnimeo). Written by Elisa Briganti, Dardano Sacchetti and Jose Truchado Reyes. Cast: Robert Jannucci (Robert Iannucci), Alicia Moro, Alan Collins (Luciano Pigozzi), Eduardo Fajardo, Fred Harris (Fernando Bilbao), Beryl Cunningham, Luca Venantini, Venantino Venantini, Anna Orso, Sergio Mioni, Jose Chinchilla, Goffredo Unger. (R, 90 mins)

One of the more stunt-crazed entries in the Italian post-nuke onslaught that followed the success of THE ROAD WARRIOR in 1982, EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 kicks off what appears to be a post-apocalypse revival of sorts on Blu-ray, apparently to coincide with George Miller's upcoming reboot MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. Shout! Factory recently released EXTERMINATORS on Blu-ray (they're also handling the original MAD MAX, and Blue Underground will be releasing 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS, ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX, and THE NEW BARBARIANS this summer) in an anamorphic widescreen transfer that's a significant upgrade to the decent-looking but cropped 1.33:1 edition released on DVD by Code Red in 2010. EXTERMINATORS is surprisingly good for its type, with director Giuliano Carnimeo--using the pseudonym "Jules Harrison"--indulging in some ridiculous stunts and car wrecks as well as keeping a distinct western motif to the proceedings--even shooting in and outside of Almeria, Spain, where most of the classic spaghettis were filmed--that echoes the numerous spaghetti westerns he made in the late '60s and early '70s under his usual "Anthony Ascott" nom de plume. Carnimeo dabbled in various genres, as Italian journeymen were wont to do, but he was best known for his several SARTANA westerns with titles like SARTANA THE GRAVEDIGGER (1968), and the 1970 ellipses trio of SARTANA'S COMING...GET YOUR COFFINS READY, HAVE A GOOD FUNERAL, MY FRIEND...SARTANA WILL PAY, and LIGHT THE FUSE...SARTANA IS COMING.

Presumably set in the year 3000, where cars from the late 1970s are still surprisingly functional after 1020 or so years, EXTERMINATORS centers on nomadic, lone-wolf road warrior Alien (Robert Iannucci, billed as "Robert Jannucci"), who reluctantly finds himself helping young Tommy (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD's Luca Venantini). Tommy and his family are part of a ragtag community overseen by a Bible-thumper calling himself The Senator (Eduardo Fajardo), and he stowed away on a recon mission in search of both water and Tommy's father, who's been missing and presumed dead weeks after being sent on the same hunt for water. The recon mission, led by Tommy's father's best friend (Venantino Venantini), is promptly ambushed by a band of marauding lunatics led by Crazy Bull (Fernando Bilbao, billed as "Fred Harris") and Shadow (Beryl Cunningham) in a truly memorable sequence filled with amazing stunt driving and exploding cars and craniums. Tommy, who has a biomechanical right arm (this is never really explained--he just has it) teams up with Alien, who's already pissed off Crazy Bull by stealing his beloved car "The Exterminator," and they make their way to grizzled old astronaut-turned-mechanic Papillon (Luciano Pigozzi, under his usual "Alan Collins" pseudonym). Papillon tweaks Tommy's bionic arm to make it super-powerful, capable of throwing something to split someone's skull at 200 yards. Into this impromptu group of Humanity's Only Hope comes Trash (Alicia Moro), Alien's car-stealing ex, and the four team up to gather water from a nearby mutant stronghold while constantly fighting off attacks by Crazy Bull and his "Mothergrabbers," as he calls them. It's mostly typical Italian post-nuke silliness, but EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 has an undeniable energy to it with some of the best action sequences in the entire subgenre. Before the script--co-written by Italian horror stalwarts Elisa Briganti and Dardano Sacchetti--falls apart and stupidity takes over (Alien and Trash find the scarce, precious water and of course, start playfully splashing one another with it), there's actually some legitimate attempts at character development. Alien, Trash, Tommy, and Papillon form a classic spaghetti western "unholy alliance" that puts the film firmly into Carnimeo's wheelhouse.

Carnimeo got out of spaghetti westerns as the genre started slowing down in the early '70s. He dabbled in gialli (THE CASE OF THE BLOODY IRIS) and erotic dramas (the Edwige Fenech vehicle SECRETS OF A CALL GIRL) before directing several "Butch and Toby" buddy comedy actioners starring Paul Smith and "Michael Coby" (actually Italian actor Antonio Cantafora), who had a brief run in Italy as the second-string Bud Spencer and Terence Hill. 1975's CONVOY BUDDIES was released in the US in 1978 by Film Ventures, and Smith filed a lawsuit against the company when he and Cantafora were billed in the advertising as "Bob Spencer" and "Terrence Hall" in an effort to fool hopefully inattentive moviegoers into thinking it was the latest film from the popular TRINITY duo. Carnimeo made a few obscure sex comedies before directing EXTERMINATORS, but the now 82-year-old director has been inactive since 1988's RATMAN, which has attained minor cult status thanks to the presence of Nelson de la Rosa as a half-monkey/half-rat mutant running loose on a Caribbean island. De la Rosa would go on to play Marlon Brando's "Mini-Me"-inspiring sidekick in 1996's ill-fated THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU and those connections generated some belated interest in RATMAN years after it was made, and his involvement was enough to get it released on DVD in the UK with the tagline "He's the critter from the shitter." RATMAN sounds a lot more fun than it really is, and it seems to be the final chapter in Carnimeo's career.

EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 was a one-and-done venture into acting for Ohio-born Calvin Klein model Iannucci, unless you count a bit part in the 1982 comedy YOUNG DOCTORS IN LOVE. He looks the part, though he's dubbed by veteran voice artist Larry Dolgin. The towering Bilbao, also known to Eurotrash fans for his appearances as the Frankenstein monster in Jess Franco's 1972 double-shot of DRACULA, PRISONER OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE EROTIC RITES OF FRANKENSTEIN, makes an imposing villain with his very Wez-like look, though dubber Robert Sommer carries a lot of the weight, bellowing Ron Burgundy-isms like "By the beard of the prophet!" EXTERMINATORS was picked up by New Line Cinema and released in the US in January 1985, after which the Thorn/EMI VHS could be found in any video store in America.

Unfortunately, Shout! Factory's otherwise fine edition of EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000 features the 2010 Code Red commentary track with Iannucci and temperamental Code Red head Bill Olsen. True to form as the worst commentary figure in the biz, Olsen torpedoes it almost immediately by grumbling "I'm only putting this out to prove that it doesn't sell" before indulging in his usual unfunny schtick of intentionally mispronouncing names ("Anna Onion!" he says when he sees the name "Anna Onori") or taking shots at things like Detto Mariano's score and Cunningham's "big ass," and spending almost the entire track complaining about how much he dislikes the movie and how "boring" it is (less than five minutes in, Olsen gripes "No offense, Bob, but this needs more action"). At first, Iannucci seems eager to talk about EXTERMINATORS and has a good memory for the details of the shoot, but his sincerity quickly succumbs to Olsen's cynicism and he joins him in the mockery and the bitching ("Any last words?" Olsen asks at the end, to which Iannucci replies "Thank God it's over"). If you've ever experienced a Bill Olsen commentary track or witnessed his behavior online and on social media, where he claims nothing he releases sells and he frequently berates his customers, it's hard to tell if it's some kind of Andy Kaufman performance art or if he's genuinely mentally unstable. Olsen has released some fine product through Code Red and for that he should be commended, but reputable companies like Shout! and Scorpion (the latter run by Olsen's more even-tempered and socially adept brother Walter) continuing to showcase his tiresome antics on commentary tracks, ruining potentially serious discussions and good-natured reminiscing with his inane questions, pathetic jokes, and shitty attitude, is a practice that needs to stop.


  1. Ugh why didn't Shout! just contact Iannucci and get their own interview instead of recycling this commentary? Had no one there ever listened to it??

  2. And between this and Dolph Chiarino's antics on Shriek Show's first pressing of the 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK commentary (which they withdrew and reissued, sans commentary), you have to wonder why it's so difficult to do one of these things over an Italian post-nuke without turning into a total unfunny dick. I've never done a commentary, and I have no doubt it's harder work than it looks to do a really good one, but in addition to myself, I can name ten other Facebook friends off the top of my head who could've moderated an informative and entertaining chat with Iannucci over EXTERMINATORS (which is a goofy movie, but I legitimately like it) that Shout! could've used. And none of us would've exclaimed "Anna Onion!" at any point.