I always kinda took Escape from New York’s popularity for granted. I knew it was popular even as a kid because every time I tried to rent it from the now long-gone Phil’s TV, that sumbitch was always out. Because of it’s popularity on video (especially at Phil’s TV), the flick eventually spawned a vastly underrated sequel, Escape from LA fifteen years later. Well, the flick must’ve been EXTREMELY popular in Italy because them Italians made a shit ton of Escape from New York rip-offs. Among them were 1990: The Bronx Warriors, it’s sequel Escape from the Bronx, and this flick; After the Fall of New York.
Basically there was a big nuclear war in 1999 that left New York in ruins (this movie predicts the future about as accurately as Criswell). Consequently, most of the population has become mutants and no babies have been born since the blast. The government sends agents (who dress like a cross between knights from the Crusades and samurais) to find non-mutant humans and bring the back for experimentation. The “Pan-American Confederacy” hires Parsifal (Michael Sopkiw from Devil Fish) a demolition derby driver from Nevada to break into New York and rescue the only fertile woman left on the planet. Along the way he is joined by a dwarf (Louis Ecclesia), a cyborg (Romano Puppo), a monkey man named “Big Ape” (George Eastman of The Grim Reaper fame), and a hot chick (Valentine Monnier, also from Devil Fish) who help him in his quest.
The burnt out models of New York City we see during the opening credits are fairly well done but then when they show the Statue of Liberty, it’s game over. This thing looks a knickknack bought at the gift shop and placed in the middle of a mud puddle. That is to say it made me laugh pretty hard. We also get some funny spaceship effects that look like they were left over from a Godzilla movie (or maybe a Thunderbirds show). And like most Italian Escape from New York rip-offs from the time, there are also little touches of Mad Max thrown in there for good measure.
If you can’t already tell, After the Fall of New York features a fair amount of random silliness (Parsifal has a sidekick with a metal claw for a hand), although not quite enough to really make the flick a classic. The gore is pretty good though. We get eye gouging, rats chewing off people’s faces, head crushing, eyeball transplants, bullets through the brains, gut spilling, monkey man microwaving, and a three-for-the-price-of-one beheading.
I think the big problem is that the flick indulges the Sci-Fi trappings of the plot too much. Whereas Escape from New York took place in a somewhat believable future, the future in ATFONY has everything from ray guns to spaceships to third-rate Planet of the Apes extras that dress like back-up singers for the Bee Gees. It all fit together incongruously to say the least.
Even though the flick is pretty much a mess, I have to say I admired the Let’s-throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks aesthetic. I’ve got to admit that by the time the flick got around to blatantly ripping off the end of Escape from New York, that I was sorta having fun. Wait until you see this scene. It boggles the mind. Parsifal and his team are barreling down the Lincoln Tunnel in an armor plated car. The tunnel is completely dark, then all of a sudden, some brightly lit fluorescent spikes pop up and Parsifal has to narrowly avoid them. You can say what you will about the bad guys in this movie but you’ve got to hand it to them; they’re definitely courteous. How many villains do you know would have the decency to make sure that the spikes in the pitch black tunnel were brightly lit so it’s easier for the hero to avoid in the dark? Not many, I’ll tell you that much right now.
Sopkiw doesn’t do a bad job in the lead. He keeps your attention for the most part and easily gives the best performance of the entire cast. On the back of the video box there’s a blurb from Applause Magazine that states, “Michael Sopkiw is the best action hero since Clint Eastwood!” I’ve never heard of Applause Magazine but something tells me that Sopkiw’s parents are probably the publishers.
Speaking of video boxes, this flick was released on video by Vestron. Man, just seeing the Vestron logo again swept me with a wave of nostalgia. It brought back memories of renting movies like An American Werewolf of London, Ghoulies, and Troll as a kid. Vestron also knew how to market this movie. They took that Applause Magazine hype seriously and were confident enough just to show Sopkiw on the cover holding a gun. No fancy artwork or expensive collages here. Just the Next Clint Eastwood and a gun.
Eastman gets the best line of the movie when he says, “Make me immortal! Carry my seed!””
AKA: 2019: After the Fall of New York. AKA: The Fall of New York.
The next It Came from the Thrift Store flick is yet another post apocalyptic movie. It’s called Cybercity and it stars the late great David Carradine. This’ll actually start off a string of Carradine films that (if I continue updating the column on a weekly basis) should take us into the New Year.