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PCR #366  (Vol. 8, No. 13) This edition is for the week of March 26--April 1, 2007.

"Blades of Glory"  by Mike Smith
VHS Grindhouse Lite - "Stryker"  by Andy Lalino
Solving The Night Stalker Mystery....Trivial Pursuit....Movie Notes....Whatever Happened To...? Chapter 13: Trey Wilson  by Mike Smith
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Oddservations by Andy Lalino

VHS Grindhouse Lite - "Stryker"

I apologize for the absence of the VHS Grindhouse over the past few months (Nolan, I'm sure you've been crushed); at times real life, extracurricular pursuits, and genre events eclipse the simple task of viewing and reviewing great, old grindhouse flicks of better days. So, without further ado...away we go!

Stryker (1983)
"Stryker" posterAh, there's nothing quite as romantic to a cult junkie than a Filipino rip-off of "The Road Warrior" (with a western cast). Were it not for distributors like New World, Avco/Embassy and Cannon back in the early '80s, I ask: where would we be? A wonderful element of cult cinema is the exploitation of successful blockbusters. In almost every case, the imitators never even came close to living up to the original, and over time, one cannot build an empire on imitation. That's possibly why those said studios didn't last.

But onward to the videocassette. It's worth mentioning that I had the privilege of seeing "Stryker" at the movies during its initial release in 1983. As I constantly remind everyone, back then it was not uncommon to be able to go to your local theaters and enjoy non-Hollywood exploitation/cult/grindhouse cinema. I knew what I was getting into: a sucker's bet for cheap thrills and chills, but loved it anyway. What lulled me in back in '83 was the newspaper ad and the movie trailers. I realized it was a blatant rip-off, but back then post-apocalyptic was a huge sub-genre. Those were times before pixellized penguin pratfalls and Lindsey Lohan cinema.

Nearly every element of "The Road Warrior" is exploited: instead of petrol, the precious juice here is...water. The gruff Stryker himself is a poor stand-in for Mel Gibson. The wasteland setting. We learn Stryker's a nomadic loner due to the traumatic loss of his wife(?) at the hands (well, one is a hook hand) of the villain. There's a micro-budget attack on a water-hauling truck, right out of The Road Warrior's climax. The vehicles and costumes are unabashed dopplegangers. There are even clans of survivors who protect their precious water resource (an underground spring) with a fortress-like fervor.

As not to be a total mirror image, some aspects differ from the Gibson/Miller classic: Kardis, the head baddie, is not masked, as Humongous was in RW. He's goateed and bald, and as aforementioned, wields a hook hand. Stryker has a love interest, unlike Max, who kept his distance from Virginia Hey. In this film, Kardis keeps his followers in a fortified compound, and venture out in their neo-vehicles only when on the attack or transporting H20. As a sumptuous visual delight, Kardis uses tanks as part of his vehicular hit squad.

Basically, planet earth has been turned into a gravelpit wasteland by nuclear war. The remaining survivors must forage and kill for the precious resource of water, being that rainfall is extinct. Kardis' men stumble across Delha (Andrea Savio) a beautiful young woman who has a supply of water, and threaten to kill her unless she tells them where the liquid stash is. She's tough and reluctant, and makes an escape from her captors at every opportunity. Luckily coincidental, she's aided by the presence of Stryker (Steve Sandor) and Bandit (William Ostrander, who played thug Buddy Repperton in "John Carpenter's Christine", the same year Stryker was released) who give the bad guys a good bruisin'.

Kardis' men are relentless however, and eventually kidnap Delha, then bring her back to their cavernous compound, where they proceed to rape her in a cinematically gratuitous fashion. It's now up to Styker and Bandit to rescue her from Kardis's clutches. They hijack a rig hauling water, and use it as a diversion tactic. They crash it into the compound, causing the dirty peasants to grovel for the spilling water. While distracted, Stryker and Bandit sneak in and rescue Delha.

Upon their return back to the wasteland, Delha reveals that it was her intention to leave her father and tell other denizens about the water source, as not to monopolize it for their own selfish purposes. But Kardis's men manage to follow them to the source and proceed to wage war over the priceless resource. What commences is an apocalyptic battle between the tank toting baddies and the renegade good guys over the subterranean stash.

"Stryker" is solid exploitation. Fast-paced and "western" enough for American/European audiences, with plenty of eye candy in terms of bodacious post-apocalyptic babes, fast cars, stunts, and a wannabe matinee-idol hero. One of the cars looks like the one Kurt Russell drives in "Death Proof", one of the Grindhouse double-feature movies. Savio and Ostrander do well as their respective characters, but Sandor doesn't quite fit the shoes in the role of Stryker. He's got the brawny muscles, but IMO looks too much like Lee Horsley to be a memorable hero.

The best scene is where an old man is buried to his neck in gravel. He begs for water, and then one of the bad guys obliges by pissing on his head! I recall rolling around the theater in uncontrollable laughter at seeing that - a great movie memory. Stryker, I love you, man.

"Oddservations" is ©2007 by Andy Lalino.  The Oddservations banner is a creation of Andy Lalino. All other graphics, except where otherwise noted, are creations of Nolan B. Canova.  All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2007 by Nolan B. Canova.