Review of "2019: After the Fall of New York (Blu-ray)"

published 14/08/2017 | hogsflesh
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Not as much time as I'd like for ciao at the moment.
Good
Pro Enjoyable film, decent blu-ray
Cons Film is also cheap and silly
exceptional
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Story
Characters / Performances
Special Effects
Soundtrack

"The year after next is looking grim…"

Nothing says 'post-apocalypse' like a load of smoke in the background

Nothing says 'post-apocalypse' like a load of smoke in the background

This 88 Films Blu-ray only costs about £10 at the moment on amazon and at HMV.

Post-apocalypse films were big in the 70s and 80s. The Cold War loomed large, and while 70s films tended to be a bit more bleak and depressing, by the 80s things had lightened up. Plenty of films imagined a surprisingly fun post-nuke world of battling mutants, desert combat, urban gang warfare and mullets.

The key films were John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, and the Australian Mad Max films (especially the second one, which was hugely successful in the States). And where American genre cinema went, Italian exploitation cinema soon followed, the proverbial low-budget seagull following the Hollywood trawler. An incredible variety of popular genres were imitated by the Italians, most famously Westerns and zombie movies. They made loads of post-apocalypse films, and one of the most enjoyable is 2019 After the Fall of New York.

Year: 1983
Director: Sergio Martino
More information at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085125
IMDB user rating: 5.7

The planet has been devastated by nuclear war (20 years before the film, so 1999; I guess Nostradamus was still popular back then). The survivors are infertile, with no new people having been born for 15 years. New York is a rather shambolic urban hellhole full of gangs of variously mutated survivors, who are regularly captured by the evil Euraks for their fertility experiments.

The Confederacy (which seems to be the remnants of the USA) learns that the last fertile woman on earth is somewhere in New York. They send in ludicrous tough guy Parsifal to rescue her, along with a couple of other guys. They get in trouble with various gangs and are caught by the Euraks (sounds painful!) but can’t let anything stand in the way of their quest.

So this is mostly a rip-off of Escape from New York. It also includes a bit of Mad Max too (we first see Parsifal engaged in some desert car fight thing where the cars have big metal spikes welded onto them). There’s even a bit of Blade Runner in there (there are androids in this world who are indistinguishable from humans). And obviously calling your hero ‘Parsifal’ evokes the Holy Grail myth, which I suppose is kind of relevant if the Grail is the fertile woman. Nothing beats a bit of hubristic symbolism in a cheap Italian sci-fi movie.

And boy is it cheap! The shot of a war-ravaged New York we see at the beginning is an incredibly shoddy model. The shot of the Confederacy’s Alaska base is even worse. There’s also a futuristic plane thing that looks terrible and is dangling on clearly visible wires (although I guess the latter might have been invisible before Blu-ray). If bad special effects are a deal breaker, you’ll want to stay away.

The star is Michael Sopkiw, a handsome American action hero who sadly made only four films, all of them in Italy (three of which are available from 88 Films). And he’s actually good – he doesn’t have the absurd bulk of someone like Chuck Norris or Dolph Lundgren, and has a certain amount of charm. Had he stuck with acting, he could have made it as the hero of a novelty cop-with-super-vehicle TV show like Street Hawk.

The cast includes a few Italian exploitation perennials. The always-apathetic Edmund Purdom plays the Confederacy president. Romano Puppo (aka Roman Geer) is Ratchet, an unfeasibly strong ally of the hero – he’s in almost every Italian crime film I’ve seen. And best of all, Luigi Montefiori (aka George Eastman), one of my all-time favourite horror-and-sleaze actors, turns up as a character called ‘Big Ape’. He’s the leader of a gang who have mutated into semi-simian form (I’m no scientist, but I don’t think that would really happen in the wake of a nuclear war) and who, for some reason, all dress as am-dram pirates.

(Actually, while we’re on the subject of science, would one fertile woman really be enough to save the entire human species? Also, the Euraks ride around on horses, which hjave surely all been born since the war – what kind of nuclear holocaust selectively renders humans infertile but not horses or rats?)

Valentine Monnier as the love interest Giara has less to do, as does evil Eurak babe Anna Kanakis (the scene where she runs her hands over the bound Sopkiw’s bare chest must have been nicked from Flash Gordon – if you’re going to steal, steal from the best). There’s also a really well-acted dwarf (called ‘Shorty’), although the actor, Louis Ecclesia, doesn’t seem to have made anything else, if IMDB is to be trusted.

(That said, it’s hard to judge the acting – the film is presented with an English soundtrack, but aside from Sopkiw and Purdom, I doubt many of the cast were native English speakers. As with almost all Italian films of the era, it was shot silent and had the dialogue added in post-production). The soundtrack – by Italian film greats Guido and Maurizio de Angelis, here using the rather fanciful pseudonym Oliver Onions – is pretty good, although it can occasionally be hard to tell what’s meant to be music and what’s meant to be the sound of futuristic machinery.

There is violence – enough, evidently, to earn the film an 18 certificate. Some of it is quite gory, but none of it is terribly convincing. The exception is that there are lot of rats in the film, and there are a couple of shots where it looks like rats might be getting skewered for real – violence against animals is a deeply regrettable element of Italian exploitation. But the British censor tends not to let that stuff through, and there are definite model rats used in several shots, so maybe I’m wrong. Unusually, there’s no nudity in the film (perhaps because several character are covered in unsightly sores, which look pretty grim even if they’re obviously cheap makeup effects).

If cheap Escape from New York knock-offs are your thing, this is a good one. Along with The Bronx Warriors trilogy and Endgame, it probably represents the best of Italian post-apocalypse cinema.

Blu-ray

It looks good, or at least, as good as I suspect it’s ever going to look. The colours are stable, the detail is strong, there’s not much damage to the image. These Italian exploitation films were shot cheaply and are never going to look stellar, and this is more than acceptable. It’s also good to see something at the better end of the spectrum from 88 Films, who had previously got themselves a bit of a reputation for offering up any old crap – several of their recent Italian releases have looked good, so here’s hoping they can continue the trend.

There’s an interview with Sergio Martino, who admits to Escape from New York and Blade Runner as influences. We also hear from the guy who did some of the special effects (personally, I think I’d want to hide my head in shame for the rest of my life if I’d been responsible for them, but hey, it’s nice to hear from him). There’s also a booklet which prints a short but informative interview with Martino about his career.

One area 88 Films do need to improve is the blurbs for the backs of their releases, which always contain at least one hilarious typo. This one has two, along with a complete misunderstanding of how semi-colons work. It also gets key plot details wrong.

But never mind. Italian post-apocalypse films are always good value, and 2019 is a lot of fun. The Blu-ray is cheap, and this is a worthy purchase.


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Comments on this review

  • siberian-queen published 09/09/2017
    great review
  • IzzyS published 20/08/2017
    Well reviewed.
  • Chippytarka published 20/08/2017
    Fab reviewx
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Product Information : 2019: After the Fall of New York (Blu-ray)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

DVD Region: Blu-ray

Actor(s): Michael Sopkiw, Valentine Monnier, George Eastman

Classification: 18 years and over

Production Year: 1983

Director(s): Sergio Martino

EAN: 5060103799237

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