Thursday, July 30, 2015

City Limits (Aaron Lipstadt, 1984)

Even though this is yet another film that is supposedly set in the future, it technically takes place in the past. Um, I think that makes sense. Nevertheless, despite the wonky timeline, City Limits still manages to capture the unwashed disquietude of a world rife with unopened cans of cat food and fingerless gloves as far as the eye can see. How, you might be asking yourself, does it manage to do this? It's simple, really. Costume designer Merril Greene was obviously given free reign when it came time to design the various outre outfits worn by The Clippers and The DA's. And, no, I'm not talking about the NBA franchise, nor am I talking about a group of funkily attired trial lawyers. Believe or not, The Clippers and The DA's are two of L.A.'s toughest bike gangs. Actually, I think they're L.A.'s only bike gangs (they basically run the entire city). Of course, there's not much for them to rule over nowadays... you know, since a mysterious plague wiped out almost the entire population. Needless to say, with no links to the past, the citizens living in this post-apocalyptic paradise have developed their own unorthodox sense of style.


Now, if, say, The Clippers or The DA's were to walk down the street during the pre-apocalypse, they would probably be laughed at (or worse, be accused of being hipsters). However, since the people who would have been doing the majority of the laughing are all dead, it means that Rae Dawn Chong can wear a white fedora with a pink cape covered in black polka dots without having to worry about being judged by the self-appointed fashion police.


If this world sounds too good to be true. Don't worry. The fine folks at Sunya Inc. want to change all that. In a normal movie, Sunya would be the heroes, and bikers the villains. But in a bizarre twist, especially for a movie from the mid-1980's (a period when Charles Bronson/Chuck Norris/Sly Stalone-style vigilantism was all the rage), City Limits implies that the biker way of life is the way of life worth preserving.


Sure, Sunya will tell you that all they want to do is turn the lights on and bring back other essential services to the city. And who in their right mind would be against that? Yeah, but can Rae Dawn Chong still wear flannel shirts with studded collars? (Um, I don't think she wears anything like that in this movie.) Okay, maybe she doesn't wear a flannel shirt with a studded collar. But at least she can if she wants to. When Sunya take over, you can pretty much forget about mixing and matching.


How do I know this? Trust me, if the leader of a powerful, quasi-fascist organization looks like Norbert Weisser, you can pretty much kiss your freedom goodbye.


Oh, crap. It just dawned on me that Mick (Darrell Larson), the leader of The Clippers, sort of looks like Norbert Weisser, who, if I haven't mentioned already, plays Bolo, Sunya's most Germanic honcho. Either way, judging by Norbert's actions, it's clear that Sunya are not to be trusted.

Born in the desert and raised by James Earl Jones (his parents died during the plague), Lee (John Stockwell) has grown tired of living in the country, and yearns to go the city. Hopping on his motorbike, Lee rides to L.A. with the hope of joining The Clippers.


Now, this may come across as a tad dickish, but any review for City Limits that fails to give props to Mitchell Froom's score should be discounted immediately. Seriously, it's that good. Sure, it sounds a lot like Mr. Froom's Café Flesh score. But as almost everyone knows, the Café Flesh score is one of the greatest scores of all-time. In other words, you could view City Limits as the real Café Flesh 2 (no offense to the late great Antonio Passolini - a.k.a. Johnny Jump-Up). Except instead of being about Sex Negatives looking for post-nuke thrills at a club run by Tantala Ray, it's about... Come to think of it, the plots of the two films are eerily similar. Of course, no one expels seminal fluid on anyone in City Limits. Which is a shame, as I was hoping to see James Earl Jones blast his CNN-bank rolled seed all over Pamela Ludwig's alabaster backside.


Don't look at me that way. It's clear to anyone with eyes that James Earl Jones and Pamela Ludwig (Over the Edge) do more than bond over model airplanes in this movie.


Anyway, after being initiated, Lee is accepted into The Clipper fold. Oh, wait. It would seem that Ray (Danny De La Plaza), the leader of The DA's, wants Lee dead. You see, one of The DA's was killed during the chase involving Lee. So, Ray wants restitution.


Instead handing Lee over, Whitey (John Diehl), or maybe it was Sammy (Don Keith Opper)... Whoever it was, trial by combat is put forth as a possible solution. I liked how the idea comes from issue #43 of Insect Man, a comic book that serves as a sort of bible in this film's universe. In a way, it reminded me of how the Earth book "Chicago Mobs of the Twenties" shaped the residents of Sigma Iotia II in the Star Trek episode, "A Piece of the Action."


The cool thing about the trial by combat sequence is that Jennifer Balgobin (Dr. Calgari and Repo Man) is the one The DA's  choose to fight Lee. Any time I can add a Jennifer Balgobin movie to my list of Jennifer Balgobin movies that I've seen is a reason to celebrate. Watch out, Out of Bounds, you're next!


If you look closely, you can spot Jennifer Balgobin busting out some sweet ninja moves during the climatic battle scene as well.


The reason there's a climatic battle scene is because The Clippers refuse to cooperate with Sunya. Managing somehow to convince Ray and The DA's that working with Sunya is in their best interest, the corporation, lead by Robby Benson, seem to be having trouble convincing The Clippers.


When asking nicely gets them nowhere, Sunya resort to acts of violence. It's at around this time that Wickings (Kim Cattrall), an idealist Sunya employee, realizes that the company she works for is super-nefarious. Of course, by the time she figures this out, it's too late.


With the majority of their members either dead or being subjected to Sunya sponsored re-education seminars, The Clippers find themselves with their backs against the wall. Will these freedom-loving, motorcycle-riding, flamboyantly-dressed samurai ass-clowns be able to retake their half of the city from a heavily armed group of jumpsuit-wearing fascists? Probably. I mean, sure, the odds are not exactly in their favour. But I bet they got a few tricks up their puffy sleeve.


The most puzzling question has to be: Why did Mystery Science Theater 3000 feature this movie on their show? I thought they only watched bad movies, and City Limits is not even close to being a bad movie. Weird. At any rate, if you like films like, Café Flesh, Punk Vacation, Roller Blade and Shredder Orpheus, you should give this film a whirl.


6 comments:

  1. MST3k likes goofy movies just as much as truly bad ones (the Russo-Finnish fantasy films they did for example), and this one was fairly damn goofy and made for some fine riffs. Also, of course, it lead to the infamous Kim Cattrall song.

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    1. I haven't clicked on it yet, but I'm adding the Kim Cattrall song to my watch later list.

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  2. I watched this as a teen cause I was under the Thrall of Kim Cattrall back when she was the sexiest actress in B movies.. but I recall it just being a really strange entry in the Post Apoc cannon... might be time for a revisit...

    oh and your comment about the future being the past reminds me... ever see the late 80s surf film Under the Boardwalk.. it has one of those talking about the past from the starting point of 10 or 15 years later.. which of course is now past... anyway..

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    1. I haven't seen Under the Boardwalk, but the trailer was attached to my old beloved Heathers VHS.

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  3. I have been lurking for weeks but now must proclaim you the funniest film reviewer since McCall's Movie Guide For Puzzled Parents ceased publication in 1984, probably because judgy, fun-hating columnist Lynn Minton retired (or died). Spending shamefully numerous hours avoiding work by gobbling your diabolically worded thoughts, I couldn't help but notice a correspondingly shameful number of your review choices are represented in my obscenely massive original film poster collection, which I recently converted to an online movie-art boutique called westgategallery.com in order to free the massive hoard I've been collecting since age 3 in 1971 from their Mylar storage bags and sturdy tubing and put them on walls where they can be enjoyed daily -- also to provide a desperately needed cash infusion to further my previously mentioned work-avoiding lifestyle. If you'd care to peruse my inventory, I'd like to offer you & your readers 20% off any poster for films reviewed here past, present & future. My collection of painted/illustrated posters for XXX films 1970-89 has been called the most obscenely numerous commercially available and contains some of the rarest Pop Art smut-nuggets ever committed to paper. I also have a disturbing amount of original cinema posters from the early career of bosomy fake-ID-enthusiast Traci Lords, which she continues to insist she has no recollection of making. Surely appearing in the Dark Brothers' interracial fellatio/talking-rubber-rat masterpiece BLACK THROAT was less humiliating than the episode of Celebrity Wife Swap she recently guested on.

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    1. What a weird coincidence, I was just thinking about Black Throat. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to gobble up my "diabolically worded thoughts." I'll make sure to peruse your pop art smug nuggets.

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