Saturday, 8 December 2018



One of the problems with putting old trash movies onto the streaming services is that on many occasions the print quality is absolutely terrible. They're frequently sourced from VHS tapes (and not even first generation by the look of some of them, which might make for a warm nostalgic feeling for the days of bootlegged copies of copies) and more often than not are cropped to four by three. Sometimes they're windowboxed into the middle of the screen. Happily, sometimes you get a nice widescreen film print to look at, with the added bonus of all the footage the BBFC snipped out in their more scissor-happy days.

Two slices of prime 80s macho trash from Cirio H Santiago have turned up on Prime recently, dating from the Mad Max era when anyone with access to a desert, some pimped-up stock cars and a wardrobe full of leather bondage gear could royally rip it off. Both take place in a barren post-holocaust wasteland where armies of disposable thugs roam around in dune buggies, picking off travellers and abducting the womenfolk for the usual sordid reasons. (As you'd expect, there's little indication where they get an apparently inexhaustible supply of gasoline.) Wheels Of Fire has a man tracking down his sister, kidnapped by a gang leader and holed up in a fortress for the big final reel showdown. The Sisterhood is far less petrol-driven, with an all-female community (all of whom have superpowers such as healing or telekinesis) at risk from the usual biker/buggy gangs.

Despite the desert setting and the curious plot contrivance of a female character having the ability to communicate with birds, the two films aren't connected in any way. Of the two, Wheels Of Fire is easily the better film, if only for the fact that it's blessed with an early score by Christopher Young, later to emerge as an A-list horror composer (Hellraiser, The Fly II) although in this instance he seems to been told to emulate the sound of Brian May's scores to the first two Mad Max films. By contrast, The Sisterhood is saddled with an unlistenable Fisher-Price plonky keyboard score that makes a two-octave Bontempi sound like the London Symphony Orchestra by comparison. (It does, however, include Lynn-Holly Johnson, the barely legal ice-skating nymphomaniac from For Your Eyes Only.)

Neither of the films are masterpieces: the car action obviously lacks the insane verve of the Mad Max movies, the acting is pretty basic and the plots sometimes veer off in weird diversions such as underground communities and hidden bunkers full of weapons. The fixation on rape is an uncomfortable callback to a less enlightened mindset, which is hopefully something that even trashy exploitation movies have grown out of now. It's nice to see they're still available, and as a special treat Wheels Of Fire probably includes the two minutes plus that the BBFC removed for its VHS release a third of a century ago, but unless you've a soft spot for this kind of junk (I kind of enjoyed 2019: After The Fall Of New York, and I do want to rewatch the likes of Bronx Warriors and The New Barbarians at some point) they're neither of them essentials.


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