2019: After the Fall of New York (1983) Blu Ray (88 Films)
In the year 2019 one of the world’s two main factions - the Euraks (the Euro-Afro-Asian Unity) has virtually decimated the PanAm Confederacy by waging nuclear war against it. The resultant radiation has caused many of the remaining pockets of humanity to undergo various mutations as well as rendering the female population infertile.
Michael Sopkiw plays Parsifal, a mercenary who ekes out a living by taking part in a series of murderous Death Race 2000-style car races. When he emerges as victor to one of the competitions he wins three “licenses to kill” and a sex slave named Flower. Riding across Monument Valley on his three-wheeled bike, he stops by the roadside to attend to three unfortunates dying of radiation poisoning - by using his “licenses to kill” to put them out of their misery. He then frees Flower and allows her to take their things. Soon afterwards however he is shot with a stun gun by some PanAm soldiers and taken to the President (Edmund Purdom) who runs what’s left of the Confederacy.
The President coerces Parsifal into conducting a mission that involves breaking into the Eurak-controlled remnants of New York City and investigating rumours that the Earth’s last fertile woman is located there. If he agrees to do so and succeeds in his dangerous mission he will get a seat on a spaceship to be taken to a colony on another world, as part of an operation to help to start humanity anew. He is accompanied by the bola-wielding Ratchet (Romano Puppo) and the metal-clawed Bronx (Paolo Maria Scalondro), the latter of whom knows his way around the decimated city. When they sneak in they encounter attacks from the various factions of mutated survivors along with battalions of the Euraks themselves.
Watch a trailer:
2019: After the Fall of New York is one of a number of dystopian sci-fi action flicks made by Italians during the 1980s and aimed at a predominantly North American grindhouse and video market. It’s rather heavily influenced by Escape from New York, right down to featuring an antihero-type protagonist uncannily similar to Snake Plissken, a rescue mission involving breaking into a fortified New York City, and even the same style of finale featuring a car rushing through the city’s sole, mine-laden escape route. As well as this the film draws influences from such films as Mad Max, Death Race 2000, Star Wars, Blade Runner and Planet of the Apes. On the other hand, the “last fertile woman on Earth” plot device was an original idea that was reused in the acclaimed Alfonso Cuaron film Children of Men in 2006.
It’s the kind of film that’s easy to dismiss as exploitative trash (which in many ways it is). The film’s magpie-like cribbing of influences has left the futuristic setting feeling hokey and inconsistent; society has been destroyed and yet the remaining members of the ruling factions still manage to muster such technology as laser weapons, cyborgs and space ships, There’s no obvious explanation as to why the radiation has caused some to develop various mutations and skin lesions while others maintain a perfectly normal human appearance. The miniature work (in particular during the opening credits) is pretty awful. As usual with this sort of early 80s Italian film the dubbing is ill-matched to lip movements and there’s a rather overdone emphasis on violence and gore.
However, while it definitely falls into B movie territory, 2019: After the Fall of New York is a lot of fun on its own terms, sometimes unintentionally, but sometimes surprisingly intentionally. While Escape from New York is undeniably the better film it has one significant shortcoming: for a supposed action movie it’s somewhat light on the action front. Not so in the case of this one; it opens with a violent “disinfection” as Eurak soldiers hunt down and kill various hapless irradiated humans, and in the second scene features a hectic to-the-death rally race in the Arizona desert. There’s never more than a few minutes between the bursts of action, and director Sergio Martino manages to make each one feel suitably dynamic with a lot of mobile camerawork, tight edits, well-executed stunts and splattering gore inserts.
Even the film’s quieter moments are often surprisingly effective as they feature some chilling vignettes and touching character moments: a trumpeter with a lesion-covered face who points to what’s left of the Manhattan skyline and quips “they baked the Big Apple”, a Eurak villain who has a reproduction of Picasso’s Guernica on the back wall of his office, an ape-man hybrid known as “Big Ape” (played by George Eastman) who is clearly tragically lovestruck for the fertile woman. It’s moments like this that make it easier to invest in the film and enable it to rise at least slightly above the expected “six pack and a pizza” territory.
The film’s production values (bad miniature work notwithstanding) are fairly decent. Sergio Martino’s brother Luciano co-produced, and as was the case with many of his other films he splashed the cash a little more freely than many of his Italian schlock-mogul contemporaries tended to. It’s often a surprisingly extravagant-looking film with some location filming amid the red rock landscapes of Arizona’s Monument Valley, along with some elaborate futuristic sets built at R.P.A. Studios in Rome. The electronic soundtrack by Guido and Maurizio de Angelis has a suitably desolate chill to it.
There’s plenty wrong with 2019: After the Fall of New York, but it’s entertaining if approached in the right spirit. After all, how many other films feature a triple decapitation via a scimitar hurled through the air boomerang-style? It would make an ideal double bill with Martino’s later Hands of Steel (1986).
Runtime: 96 mins
Dir: Sergio Martino
Script: Ernesto Gastaldi, Sergio Martino, Gabriel Rossini
Starring: Michael Sopkiw, Valentine Monnier, Anna Kannakis, Romano Puppo, Paolo Maria Scalondro, Louis Ecclesia, Edmund Purdom, Serge Feuillard, George Eastman
Things didn’t start too well as everything looked terribly hazy and indistinct in a thick blue-grey fog. I suspect that part of the problem was that the filmmakers turned the smoke machine on full blast in an attempt to obscure the horrendous miniature work of a destroyed New York. Things improve from then on, but the colours still tend to look a little “off” and noticeably bleed into each other. Mind you, detail is reasonably clear in scenes that don’t involve too much smoke.
Not good at all I’m afraid. Sound effects are rather echoey and tinny, while the music has a noticeable crackle to it in many places. Crackly audio is a recurring issue on 88 Films releases and I hope they eventually improve on this.
There’s an enclosed leaflet featuring “All the Colours of Martino”, a Calum Waddell interview with director Sergio Martino. He talks about some of his better-known films as well as his frustrations at getting sufficient funding for them.
On the disc itself are the following:
After the Fall: An Interview with Sergio Martino
This 33-minute interview with the director covers his memories of making 2019: After the Fall of New York and a few of his other films. He’s an engrossing interviewee due in no small part to his frank digressions; he talks about how the New York 9/11 attacks made him think back to the image of the skeletal remains of the Twin Towers in 2019, about the deteriorating state of the modern world and what it was like living in Italy during the 1970s, when Red Brigade terrorism was prevalent. He also tells us about the various actors involved in 2019, including Michael Sopkiw. He was an American model who was working in Milan at the time Martino decided to put him into his film.
The Art of the Fall: The Magic of Antonello Gelleng
A 10-minute interview with the film’s art director. He takes a look at various production stills involving the New York miniature he constructed, firstly in 2019: After the Fall of New York and then in a later film called Queen of the Fishmen which recycled various props from the former. Well worth a look for those with an interest in practical effects.
It’s an enjoyably cheesy sci-fi adventure. The audiovisual reproduction quality finds wanting but the extras are nice.