Beyond the Thunderdome: A Maxploitation Catch-up

Here at the B-Roll I’ve probably, on more than one occasion, expressed my fondness for the “Maxploitation” genre. Films like 1990: The Bronx Warriors, After the Fall of New York and Endgame — those cheesy, largely Italian rip-offs and imitators that rode on the success of George Miller’s 1979 dystopian classic Mad Max. In eager anticipation of his return to the world with the forthcoming, gloriously insane-looking Mad Max: Fury Road, I binged out on a marathon of five Maxsploiters I previously missed…


I used to see this one gathering cobwebs on the shelves of Video Ezy but never bothered to pick it up for whatever reason. It’s actually pretty good. Directed by journeyman Giuliano Carnimeo, Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983) fulfills all the requirements of a respectable Mad Max clone: there are sloppily modified vehicles with junky armour and missile launchers, the costumes, to quote Fury Road star Tom Hardy, look like “Cirque du Soleil meets fucking Slipknot”, and the entire chase scene from The Road Warrior is shamelessly replicated (Carnimeo is no Miller, but good try!).

Instead of an oil-deprived future, water is lacking, and the only hope for mankind is a drifter who calls himself Alien and his harmonica-playing bionic-armed sidekick-kid Tommy. Propulsive synth score, cool slow-mo car stunts that don’t cut away and laughable dubbing make this beer-worthy post-nuke fun.



Horror maestro Lucio Fulci couldn’t resist dabbling in dystopia either, as seen in this atypical, somewhat underrated film. The death-as-televised-entertainment premise, in which a band of dangerous criminals are forced into combat at Rome’s Colosseum by a Fascist ratings-hungry global TV network, predates The Running Man and The Hunger Games, and riffs closer to the likes of Rollerball and Logan’s Run than Mad Max.

But Fulci was definitely hoping to Maxploit his way to the bank with The New Gladiators (1984), which features plenty of strobing lights and lens flares, chintzy Blade Runner-on-a-budget models, bikes kitted out with butterfly wing-shaped shields and a sweet New Wave score by Riz Ortolani. Not as gory as Fulci’s other work, but it wouldn’t be Fulci without a bit of eye violence and a couple of decapitations.



Set in a polluted, acid-rain-plagued future, this 1986 actioner combines The Terminator and Over The Top in a heart-warming story about Paco Queruak (Daniel Greene, hilariously wooden), a beefcake cyborg who goes on the run from his evil boss John Saxon after fumbling a job to assassinate a blind eco-leader. Janet Agren plays Linda, a motel/diner/brothel owner who gives him a place to hide, and naturally falls for him amongst all the mayhem.

Highlights include Paco arm-wrestling greasy macho truck drivers, karate-chopping a rattlesnake’s head off and fighting a lethal female cyborg. Fast-paced direction by giallo master Sergio Martino (All the Colours of the Dark), who crams the last third with so much ridiculous action you won’t care how dumb it all is.



Here’s a curious American stab at Maxploitation, which funnily enough, shares the virtually same plot and western feel of Exterminators of the Year 3000. It’s 2087, and there’s been no rain for 50 years. The remaining source of water is in Lost Wells, a peaceful little junkyard-turned-village run by hallucinogen-abusing hippie Ethan (Bruce Dern). When cult leader Derek Abernathy (an over-the-top performance by Adam Ant) discovers this water haven, Ethan enlists the help of his former partner-in-crime George (Michael Paré) and a few other motley types to protect their community.

World Gone Wild (1987) is more tongue-in-cheek than others of its type — the sort of film where you’ll find hubcaps used like ninja stars and Julius Carry (The Last Dragon) prancing around in a purple lycra suit screaming “motherf-cker” while shooting a machine gun in each hand. Wacky, completely nutty and the theme song is a hair metal number that sounds as bad/awesome as you think it is.



Bless those Turks. They have a notorious history of ripping off Hollywood blockbusters in their own inimitably primitive way that makes the least capable Italian shlock-meisters look like David Lean. Turkish Exorcist, Turkish Superman, Turkish First Blood — you name it, they’ve done it. Turkish Mad Max (1983) is a little different though, in that it doesn’t resemble anything like its namesake. There’s nothing dystopian or post-apocalyptic about it. The only real connection is star Cüneyt Arkin’s wardrobe, which cribs Max’s iconic leather jacket-and-sawn-off-shotgun combo. Titled Ölüme son adim in Turkish (“Last Step to Death”), the movie has a threadbare plot involving a trio of mercenaries hired by pharmaceuticals magnate to rescue a kidnapped professor.

If you’ve seen any of director Çetin Inanç’s works like The Biggest Fist and the infamous Turkish Star Wars, this one is pretty much on par: a barrage of amateurish fight scenes, bad foley work and slipshod editing delivered in an ADD-afflicted style that won’t allow five minutes to go by without an explosion or someone getting punched in the face. Sleazy, wildly entertaining, zapped-in-from-another-dimension stuff, but nothing remotely Mad Max-y.


Here’s the latest trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road, opening May 14: