Penetrating the pink mist with a homoerotic panache, humanities last hope for survival in a world controlled by robots is about to saunter down a flight of stairs. While he's taking his time doing that–I've heard sauntering down stairs isn't as easy as it sounds (it takes careful planning and a passing knowledge of proper foot placement)–is it okay if I show two men wrestling with one another in their post-apocalyptic underwear for an inordinate amount of time? Hey, Tim Kincaid. How's it going? Oh, and to answer your question: It's your movie. In other words, you can show as much man-on-man action as you want. You mean to tell me I can have a male character spend the entire film in nothing but a furry loincloth, and not have to worry about feeling the wrath of the straight mafia? What are you nuts? Guys who are purported to be sexually attracted to women love to watch musclebound fellas roll around on the floor together in a veiled attempt to achieve physical dominance over one another. Walk into any room that sports a man, or a group of men, sitting on a couch in front of a television set, and I guarantee the program they're watching on it will feature two scantily clad men breathing in the fetid air swirling around their unshaven taints. Unshackled by the flavourless constraints of heterosexual mediocrity, writer-director Tim Kincaid (Riot on 42nd Street) has finally been allowed to embrace his three loves: 1) Unbridled masculinity; 2) Sycophantic villainesses; and 3) Man-hating warrior women. You could put wise-cracking robots and parasitic sewer worms on that list as well, but let's just focus on those three for now, as they're the things drive Robot Holocaust, an epic sci-fi adventure film that takes genre filmmaking to a whole new level of epicness. Of course, not before pushing it to the ground and then proceeding to kick the living shit out of it, but I digress. Probing the farthest reaches of his cornhole-adorned imagination, Tim Kincaid pulls out all the stops to bring us his bold vision of the future. Sparing almost every expense you could possibly imagine, the film uses the latest in non-state-of-the-art technology to recreate the robot takeover that is surely to come. And if that means driving around New York City looking for rundown locations that pass the calamity smell test, than so be it.
Now, to some, the words, "written and directed by Tim Kincaid," will strike fear in the hearts of the sheepishly lame and the totally not gay. But not me, I'm one of the few people on earth, or in the entire galaxy, for that matter, who "gets" the Tim Kincaid aesthetic. And while Robot Holocaust isn't his best film, it is certainly his most ambitious. Like his European cousins, Bruno Mattei, Jess Franco, and Joe D'Amato, Tim Kincaid doesn't let the fact that he's got a miniscule budget to work with dampen his creative output. If anything, the lack of money only seems to motivate him to try harder as an artist. You really get the sense that a lot of extra effort was put into this project, as every frame seems to have been painstakingly rendered for optimum enjoyment.
The ambition I just alluded to is obvious right from the start when we quickly discover that Robot Holocaust has a narrator. Yeah, you heard right. This isn't your average cinematic anomaly. No way, man. This puppy is straight-up legit in terms of authenticity. Welcoming us to the last remaining city on New Terra, the narrator informs the audience that the robot rebellion of 33, the year a billion robots rose up against their human masters, is the reason the planet looks like a radioactive wasteland.
How's humanity doing now, you ask? Well, the robot rebellion hit them pretty hard, but a small group are eking out an existence as airslaves. I don't know, that doesn't sound like much of a life to me. I mean, for starters, the word airslave contains the word "slave." You're right, there's no positive way to spin this, but there are several reasons to remain hopeful. As two airslaves fight to death in a robot sanctioned death match, Neo (Norris Culf) approaches the makeshift arena (a smattering collection of fuel sacks) and blends in with the crowd that has assembled around the two combatants. Under the watchful eye of Torque (Rick Gianasi), a menacing-looking robot, the airslaves continue to pummel one another. However, he doesn't seem to notice that a robot named Klyton (J. Buzz Von Ornsteiner) is picking the pockets of various audience members, which is mostly made up of airslaves. Of course, when he tries to pick Neo's pocket, he is quickly thwarted. And not only that, Neo somehow manages to control Klyton; he is even able to communicate with him telepathically.
It's obvious from the get-go that Neo isn't an airslave; a point that becomes even clearer when the Dark One, the ruler of the Power Station, turns off the atmosphere and it seems to have zero effect on him. You see, the Dark One, a powerful super-computer who sees all, controls the air the airslaves breath. And whenever the Dark One is displeased with them, he simply switches it off. Yeah, but why doesn't it effect Neo? What makes him so special? He breathes air, doesn't he? The question you really should be asking is why aren't Jorn (Michael Downend) and his daughter Deeja (Nadine Hartstein) falling to ground and gasping for air?
Someone who really wants to get to bottom of this atmosphere issue is Valaria (Angelika Jager), the Dark One's shapely, charismatic, fashion forward henchwoman. Trotting onscreen with a thunderous aplomb, Valaria enters the pink mist of the Power Station, and stops to ponder. "Something is wrong, I can sense it," she says to herself. And, for once, she's absolutely right. There is something wrong, and it's transpiring as we speak over at the airslave mines. Chanting "no winner" over and over again, the airslaves are upset that Torque has been instructed by the Dark One to rig the fight between the two airslaves by giving one of them a weapon. In order to prevent an insurrection, the Dark One turns off the atmosphere. Realizing that it would cause suspicion, Jorn tells Deeja to feign air sickness. Yet the fact Jorn seems to have acclimated himself to the poisonous air (he stands unaffected in defiance as the others choke around him) angers the Dark One, who is determined to get to bottom of this.
As Torque takes Jorn to the Power Station to be questioned in the aptly named "Room of Questions," Neo quickly organizes the others. Utilizing his calm, deliberate way of speaking, Neo convinces Deeja, and two warriors named Bray (George Grey) and Haim (Nicholas Reiner) to join him on his mission to destroy the Dark One. While four humans and one kleptomaniac robot doesn't exactly constitute a rebel force, I'm sure they will make do. Actually, they're gonna have to, as the film's budget probably won't allow them to bring along any extra muscle.
While traveling through the harsh wilderness that lies between the airslave farm and the Power Station, the rebels spot many mutants lurking in the undergrowth. Horrible as that may sound (there's nothing quite as terrifying as mutants who lurk behind bushes), they're the least of their worries, as the rebels are about to enter the She Zone. The She what? The She Zone: A leafy realm where no man is to be trusted. Stumbling upon a race of female warriors who wear animal print bikinis, the rebels are confronted by their leader Nyla (Jennifer Delora), who demands that Deeja, the lone woman in the rebel alliance, explain why she is consorting with "male scum."
On top of not trusting them, Nyla dislikes men because they "chatter so." Which is explains why they removed the tongue that used to flap around inside the mouth of the musclebound Kai (Andrew Howarth), the warrior women's primary provider of sperm (to prevent him from running away, they keep him tied to a tree). Anyway, in order to avert an all out war, Haim and Nyla decide to settle their differences the old fashion way. And so, as our pesky narrator informs us, "the battle of the warriors begins." Placing a knife in the ground, the two fight to death. Just when Haim is about to get the best of Nyla, Neo steps in to stop him. While Nyla would prefer death, she accepts Neo's terms; which are: to free Kai and for her to join them in their quest to destroy the Dark One.
The addition of the He-Man-esque Kai and the headstrong Nyla to the team now means that Neo and his merry band of sword-wielding mouthbreathers are a force to be reckon with. Should the Dark One be quaking in his non-existent boots? Maybe. But you have got to remember, they haven't even reached the Power Station yet. Meaning, they have got to get past the mutants, as you know they're tired of lurking and itching to attack (a cool battle scene between the rebels and the mutants takes place, one where even Deeja gets her stab on); a subterranean corridor filled with hungry sewage worms (a sequence where Neo saves Nyla from being eaten by a sewage worm is quickly turned on its head when Nyla saves Neo from a similar fate seconds later - Nyla is not one to dilly-dally when it comes to paying her debts); the beast of the web, as Klyton calls him, is no picnic, either; dozens of booby traps (in a thrilling scene, Neo helps talk through Kai in disarming a bomb); surveillance drones; guard-bots; and an electrified fence.
The sound of her black and white heels hitting the cold concrete, her black mesh shawl of villainy gently caressing her ankles as she moves, Valaria wanders the murky halls of the Power Station with a weird mix of confidence and trepidation. She relishes the fact that the Dark One depends on her to carry out his orders, but she also knows that she's expendable. Pushing her luck on an almost daily basis, we run into Valaria just as she's about to push it yet again. Entering the Pleasure Machine, a large orgasm machine bathed in pink mist and supervised by a couple of rejects from La La La Human Steps circa 1987, Valaria disobeys the Dark One with this act of corporeal self-indulgence. Scolded for her insolence (the Pleasure Machine is not a toy, it's meant to reward those who excel at toadying), Valaria responds in the only way she knows how: subservience glazed with a coat of no-nonsense nonchalance.
Imbuing her character with the temperament that reminded me of a bored French prostitute who has just passed yet another in a long line of AIDS tests, Angelika Jager is indifference personified as Valaria, the coolest henchwoman the holocaust, robot or otherwise, has ever seen. Employing a style of acting that can best be described as detached malevolence, the reason Angelika was probably selected to do the majority of the heavy lifting when it came to delivering the film's adjective and noun-laden dialogue is because she's the only one who could it recite it without conviction. Think about it, most actors, if given the chance to utter lines with a piece of furniture, which is what the Dark One essentially is, would ham it up, Raul Julia in Street Fighter-style. But not Angelika Jager, she approaches the dialogue from a more measured, analytical point-of-view.
"Yes, Dark One," is Valaria's passive aggressive mantra, and Angelika never fails to deliver it with a saucy aloofness. In fact, it's the only thing she seems to say during the film's early going, as the Dark One is always hounding Valaria to do shit. It's no wonder that she begins to roll her eyes at certain point. You would to if you had this overbearing robot on your shapely ass 24/7; an ass, by the way, that was always ensnared in a pair of lace pantyhose.
When Valaria experiences an unexpected makeover during the film's final third, was anyone else reminded of that War Amps PSA from the '80s? You know the one: "I'm Astar, a robot. I can put my arm back on. You can't. Play safe." It's all I could think about as chaos reigned throughout the Power Station. In addition to her appearance, Valaria's voice also changes near the end as well. Yet, funny enough, the modulation change didn't affect the pitch of her performance one bit.
Appealing in almost every way imaginable, in that, it's got chiseled hunks for the gays, thoughtful heroes with sharp cheekbones for the ladies, Jennifer Delora (Bad Girls Dormitory) in furry white boots for the fellas, brash warrior women for the lesbians, clumsy robots for the kids, and deadpan henchwomen who sound like Julie Delpy, if she was a manic depressive, for weirdos like me, Robot Holocaust proves once and for all that all you really need in order to create a fully lived-in universe filled with mutants, sewage worms, and moments of shirtless suspense are some fireworks, about a half dozen sock puppets, and bunch of friends who are willing to run around Central Park swinging swords for very little to no money.
Call me someone who has spent way too much being tortured by Valaria and her robot goons in The Room of Questions, or someone who isn't afraid to admit that they were strangely turned by Jennifer Delora's extreme form of misandry, but this film had a soothing effect on me. Chalk it up to Angelika Jager's affected way of speaking, the fact that two of the airslaves had Brooklyn accents, or the knowledge that Rick Gianasi, Matt Riker from Mutant Hunt himself, was actually inside that bulky robot costume, but I felt at home in New Terra. In fact, if I could choose to live in any post-apocalyptic universe from popular fiction, it would be Blade Runner (flying cars, replicants that look like Sean Young). But my second choice would definitely be Logan's Run (rapid transit, half-naked Jenny Agutter's delivered straight to your door). What I think I'm trying to say is that I would, after much hand wringing, eventually get around to choosing the Robot Holocaust universe as the place to raise my ungrateful spawn; after all, it's where Valaria lives. I know. Yes, Dark One, indeed.
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