wastelands blog

Battletruck (also known as Warlords of the 21st Century and Destructors in Italy) is a 1982 New Zealand post-apocalyptic science fiction action film co-written and directed by Harley Cokliss (Glitterball) and starring Michael Beck (mega force, Xanadu, The Warriors), Annie McEnroe (Beetlejuice), James Wainwright (Killdozer), John Ratzenberger(Warlords of Atlantis, Superman, Empire Strikes Back, Cliff from 'Cheers'), and Bruno Lawrence(The Delinquents, Spotswood) John Bach (the "Lord of the Rings" franchise).

Set in the aftermath of a devastating thermonuclear war, the plot is a futuristic tale of collapsed governments and bankrupt countries heralding a new lawless age. A co-production between New Zealand and the United Kingdom, it was filmed on location in New Zealand and starring a number of local actors, and was part of a wave of similarly-themed films made in the wake of the success of the Mad Max series.

In the near future, Earth has been devastated by a thermonuclear war over the depleting petroleum reserves. What little petrol remains has become a precious commodity fought over by vicious warlords and mercenaries. A war party led by Straker (James Wainwright) find a vast supply of diesel fuel in a compound once thought to be radioactive.

"Battletruck", is fun stuff, if overly reminiscent of the more famous "Mad Max" series. It's competently directed (by Harley Cokeliss), nicely shot (by Oscar winning Chris Menges), and has enough action and futuristic stylings to make it enjoyable viewing. The characters are never fleshed out all that much, but at least in this simplistic script (co- written by Cokeliss), you're never in doubt as to who the good guys and the bad guys are. The acting is solid from most everybody involved. And there are a substantial amount of truly impressive explosions and one hell of an awesome vehicle - the "Battletruck" -to capture ones' attention.

Michael Beck of "The Warriors" stars as Hunter (an ex-soldier armed with a high-tech motorbike), in a post-apocalypse tale in which oil is a rare and valuable commodity. He comes to the aid of the forlorn Corlie (Annie McEnroe), who's run away from domineering villain Straker (an effectively one-note James Wainwright), when she refuses to execute the previous owners of the diesel fuel compound, she runs away from her father's base camp.. He brings Corlie to a peaceful community known as Clearwater Unfortunately for the citizens of Clearwater, Straker fully intends to get Corlie back, and so he proceeds to terrorize these people with his Battle truck, shooting up the village and ploughing into everything in sight.
The supporting cast features a likable John Ratzenberger as Clearwater resident Rusty and a very amusing pair of performances from New Zealand native Bruno Lawrence and Welshman John Bach as Willie and Bone, Strakers' primary two henchmen. Randy Powell is good as Judd, the kind of guy you "love to hate". Beck is an under-stated hero; McEnroe isn't bad but her character is kind of whiny.

Kevin Peek does the rousing music in this engaging escapist fare, which builds to a pretty good action finale on board the Battletruck. This was filmed in New Zealand and there's lots of amazing scenery along the way.

So, BATTLETRUCK has a tight, not too complicated plot and decent character-drawings. The action is there. The violence is there. The drama is there. The performances are good even when the dialogue is hilariously bad good. The blood and injuries look realish. And all the characters that die, you even get to know (on some level) first. And the climax is also satisfying. I've never seen all those elements dosed in such a well-balanced manner in any post-apocalyptic movie. And to be able to make this statement, I have seen many many many post-apocalyptic crap-fests over the years.

In the end, BATTLETRUCK rightfully remains a favourite of mine, and if you like this sub-genre and can appreciate a more serious entry in it, then I can recommend tracking this baby down. Most fans of the post-nuke genre will likely have a good time with this.