"The Most Dangerous GameBoy" or...
Escape 2000 (1981)
(a.k.a. Turkey Shoot)
THE DUSKY night rides down the sky,
The other day, I was contemplating some old urban legends. Take the one about kids staring at the sun.
They say that some kids took several doses of LSD or smoked several cigarettes of marijuana or inhaled several grams of what-have-you. Afterwards, they were so drugged out that they stared at the sun for hours. Result: They were blinded. Moral: Don't do drugs.
Problem: You can't verify this story. Maybe it could've happened to one kid. Less likely it should happen to a group. More likely said group would get heat stroke due to being too stupid to come into some shade. Most likely this was a story cooked up by well meaning people to keep young people from experimenting with drugs. Net effect: Kids take the drugs when they think those warnings were lies. Cf. Reefer Madness. Come to think of it, several of those anti-drug presentations made joining the drug crowd look like a lot of fun. For one thing, getting laid seemed to be some kind of certainty. What young man could see this as bad?
By analogy, consider this article's feature attraction. Several stories warn about the horrors of living in a totalitarian society. Only problem is, some of these stories are so poorly done, they make the totalitarian bad guys and their world of pure order look good.
We open with white credits on black, split screened with footage of riots. (Could be a World Cup match.) The footage includes several scenes of riot troopers getting up-close and excessively violent with the helpless rioters. (At least we know this isn't the recent G8 summit.) End of opening credits.
Go to a black UPS truck, armed at the top with an M-60A1 light machinegun and "RE-ED" written on the side in Westminster letters. (Westminster? That's that kind that's associated with computers. Was futuristic, once upon a past. By the way, the time setting for this movie is a matter of contention. See notes at the end.)
Three people are riding in the back. Chris (Olivia Hussey) has a flashback to when she was arrested for interfering in an arrest by asking if the police had to be so brutal. Paul (Steve Railsback) flashes back to when he was running an underground radio station calling for revolution. (We assume it's a radio station, but given the nature of the set, he could just be talking to himself in a stable.) While he was in the middle of criticizing the government for picking on so-called deviants, the cops show up and bust him. And Rita (Lynda Stoner) remembers when her agent told her about this movie, and she reluctantly agreed to do it. Nah, just kidding about the third one.
They discuss their destination: a re-education camp. (We doubt this is remedial training, but given what we've seen so far, it wouldn't have hurt.) At the camp, the warden Thatcher (Michael Craig) watches the truck arrive. Prisoners in yellow jump suits scatter out of the way. One sneaks under the truck.
A guard called Re-ed, er, Red (Gus Mercurio) politely coaxes the passengers out of the truck. (Funny, we thought this was made in Australia. Thus far, no one has that accent.) Off to the side, a skinny redheaded prisoner called Dodge (John Ley) points at the new arrivals and says to his lanky friend (Bill Young), "'ey Griff! Fresh meayt!" (Heh. Never mind about wondering about what country this was made in. Perhaps as with Mad Max (1979), some of the characters have been dubbed into English.)
The guard that had politely greeted the newbies cracks a whip and explains that they will be required to show some respect and attention to detail. (Actually, it's several veiled threats with no coherent structure, but that would be the translation. Subtitle's might've been helpful.) The truck leaves. The prisoner that had sneaked under it has found a comfortable place up under the suspension. (Watch out for those rumble strips, mayte.)
Elsewhere, Thatcher and his guest Mallory (Noel Ferrier, and he's doing some kind of a Peter Ustinov impression) watch the new arrivals via a monitor. They're playing chess.
(Now, that last sentence should have some expansion. The chess pieces are individually about the size of basketballs. The board is correspondingly huge. When a chess set has pieces this big, if you're making a move, you darn sure better want that move. We're surprised these guys don't collapse from exhaustion while playing.)
They're playing chess. Mallory notes that the newbies are another set for the game. (We don't suppose he means chess. Isn't forcing inmates to substitute as chess pieces against most standards for the ethical treatment of prisoners?) Thatcher addresses his guest as Mister Secretary and says that if he likes any of them, just say so. Mallory expresses an interest in Chris, saying she looks vulnerable.
But back on the grounds, Red has decided that Chris would look better with some leather on, so he wraps his whip around her neck. He forces her down to her knees and unzips his coveralls. Paul laughs. He tells Rita that the guards have been castrated. Red turns around and tells Paul to assume the position (and we don't mean for push-ups -- not really). Paul doesn't budge, but someone from behind helps him to his knees by applying a truncheon to the back of his neck. This would be a bald, mustached mountainoid called Ritter (Roger Ward), the chief guard. He invites Paul to make a move.
However, this standoff is interrupted by an alarm. A voice over the PA system calls for all deviants to assemble in the central area. They line up in parade formation. The three newbies are in front. (We note that this prison camp, which has a lot of vegetation, either has some high-grade, futuristic fumigation system or there are no parasites in this future. Each of the prisoners has a full head of hair, and nobody is scratching his head.)
Thatcher comes outside. His uniform is made of some kind of matte silver fabric that shines in the sunlight. (It matches his hair. The man should sign up whenever daytime talk shows have fashion makeovers for prison officials.) The warden greets the new prisoners (and fills the air with ubiquitous exposition) by telling each what he knows about them. Chris, exposits the warden, has a reputation being a troublemaker. (We'd think so. They sent her to summer camp for asking a question? Either she has a long, solid history of harassing authority figures, or she had the world's worst lawyer at her trial.) Paul has been to several prisons, escaping from each of them. Two guards take him away. Rita is blonde with big hooters. No, Thatcher doesn't say that out loud; he just says, "You'll do well here." Once again, subtitles might've clarified.
Thatcher tells the remaining two newbies that they are in a place where they can work toward a speedy re-education. Then he has Ritter take over. The chief guard goes to a line of prisoners, eyeballs Dodge, then grabs a tiny woman to his left and tells her to sing out. She recites something you'd associate with a pledge. While she recites, Ritter distracts her with several intentionally fake punches. It breaks her concentration; she loses her place.
When she gives up on her recitation, Ritter slaps her until she falls, then starts kicking her. While the big guy remodels the girl's skeletal structure, Thatcher recites the camp motto: "Freedom is obedience. Obedience is work. Work is life." (OK, so freedom is just another word for nothing left to choose.) This continues until the girl is a gory mess on the ground. (We assume they haven't wasted too much time and money on her rehabilitation already.)
Thatcher dismisses the company. Dodge obsequiously volunteers to bury the girl, which is a bit problematic, as she's not quite dead yet. (No, she doesn't start singing, "I feel happy!")
Elsewhere, the staff has put Paul into a cage with a concrete ceiling. Only two things are holding up this ceiling: Paul, who is pushing it up with extended arms, plus a set of counter-balancing weights at the other end of a pulley system. A helpful guard stops at the cage and removes one of those counter-balancing weights. Paul grunts under added strain at his end.
Later, the two new girls plus Dodge, Griff, and some others are sitting at a table gutting some fish. We get a tight close up of this. (We assume this was selected to gross us out. Apparently, there were no fishermen making this movie.) Griff gets up and pushes Dodge into the face of the supervisor. One of the prisoners takes advantage of the confusion to grab a knife and hide it. (Because of the way the scene is presented, it looks like Dodge grabbed the knife.)
Thatcher visits Paul, who is still ceiling his own fate. Before starting the conversation, the warden puts some weights onto the counter-balance, taking some strain off Paul. The two engage in an obligatory and pointless authority figure versus individual diatribe. The conversation ends with the warden taking off several weights from the counter balance, putting more pressure on Paul than before. (We take it it hasn't occurred to Paul to just let this thing settle on his shoulders, where he probably can bear it better. Or maybe this has occurred to him, but he's too pig headed to let others win.)
Cut to a large communal co-ed shower. All the people seem to be in great shape, particularly the women. (Oh brave new world with such people in it....) Thatcher, via the omnipresent PA system, tells the prisoners that sex is permitted, but no pregnancy, STD's, nor homosexuality will be allowed. (Well, gee. For most young men, this place is starting to look better and better. By the way, this set of rules is contrary to Red threatening Paul earlier.) Outside the shower, Dodge tells Chris that she's going to have to start playing the game or she won't get out. After he leaves, Rita tells her pretty much the same thing. (Thanks movie. Explaining things twice important when you think the audience is a bunch of idiots.) Chris isn't taking a shower because she's shy.
Elsewhere, two of Thatcher's guests are chit-chatting (for the sake of the audience). Upper class lady Jennifer (Carmen Duncan) assembles a bolt-action target pistol while blindfolded. (The blindfold is essential; to see this crime against small arms design is to laugh.) Tito (Michael Petrovitch) times her. Afterwards, Jennifer explains that she designed this pistol. (Ah, that explains it; she designed it while blindfolded.) She asks Tito if he's bringing anything excessive to the game. He says yes, because excess is essential for people like them. (Or, in this case, excessive dialogue is essential for introducing them at this point in the movie.)
Back in prisoner land, a guard delivers an exhausted Paul to the inmate barracks and leaves. Chris asks what they did to him. He says that was just Thatcher trying to break him, and explains it was for helping her out earlier with Red. (Well, gee. Who's trying to buy whom here?)
Thatcher and Mallory talk about an upcoming hunt. The secretary
tells the warden that this had better go well for the guests.
Outside, Griff is working in the garden. He digs a small hole and buries
the knife he stole earlier.
(Must be trying to grow a sword plant.) Thatcher, Mallory, Tito, and
Jennifer watch him on a monitor. Mallory doesn't like him; he likes
Chris more. Tito is more interested in Dodge. Jennifer thinks
a man might make a interesting change.
Cut to another assembly. Thatcher explains that someone was captured while trying to get away before his re-education was completed. The warden defines his disappointment with such behavior and turns the festivities over to Ritter. The chief guard leads out the prisoner who was hiding under the truck earlier. (Uh, we didn't see his capture, did we?) The prisoner has two lines tied to him. At the other ends of the lines are two large globular plastic containers.
The containers hold gasoline. Ritter hands the prisoner one of the containers and shouts, "Play ball!" When the prisoner drops one, the chief guard kicks it over to one of the other guards. The other guards kick around the containers. Chris tries to look away from this, but Paul forces her to watch. (Yif! First he tries to buy her with sympathy, and then he forces her to watch some sadism. What a sociopath.) The prisoner and the ground are soaked with gasoline. (Or, rather, there are wet patches on the ground; we can't really see anything spilling out of the containers.)
Satisfied with how this has gone, Ritter shouts "Touchdown!" and lights the fuel. The soaked ground and prisoner in the middle are out of this movie in a flash. (Damn! Australian rules football is tough!) The rest of the prisoners panic and scatter. (Maybe they'd also like to get out of this movie so quickly.)
Thatcher and his guests have been watching this on a monitor. During the ensuing panic on the field, Tito takes a sip from a snifter and says, "Beats the hell out of network television." (No argument here.)
Nighttime at prisoner barracks. Paul and Chris are up. He stands watch while she goes into the shower. She gets under the running water with her coveralls on. Outside, Red the guard and a few other guards arrive. The other guards grab Paul and jam a truncheon into his mouth to gag him. Red goes into the shower.
Chris sees him and freaks. Red unzips his coveralls and starts making the moves on her. Although she struggles at fist, she begins to reciprocate, putting her hand inside his coveralls and in the direction of his crotch. Then she zips up Red's coveralls real fast and runs while the guard screams in pain. (The Farrelly brothers so ripped off this movie for There's Something About Mary (1998).)
She sprints out of the shower but runs into Ritter. The chief guard castigates (heh, almost the right word) Red for messing with Chris because someone else may want her unspoiled. Ritter shoots Paul and angry glance, and then calls all the guards out of the barracks. (On the whole, Ritter is turning out to be a fairly decent guy. The worst thing we've seen him do thus far is beat up a tiny woman, but for all we know, she might've been a serial child murderer.)
Next day. Thatcher and Mallory sit on a veranda while watching some prisoners march by. Mallory loads a dart into the previously seen bolt- action pistol, then asks Thatcher for his permission. After getting a go ahead, Mallory shoots one of the prisoners in the leg. (The gun makes a little "fimp" noise. Not often you see a bolt-action Daisy air pistol.) The targeted inmate hops around on one foot. Cut back to Thatcher and Mallory on the veranda. (And the prisoner is suddenly on the ground. Thank you, continuity. By the way, Thatcher doesn't seem concerned about what this may do to productivity.)
Later, Jennifer arrives at the veranda. Tito greets her and introduces her to his friend: a large beast man (Steve Rackman) with cat eyes and a top hat. (My God! This place is The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)! We're all friggin' doomed now!)
In Thatcher's office, the warden speaks to Paul, Chris, Griff, Dodge, and Rita. Each of them will be allowed to leave the camp; all they have to do is lead some of his guests on a chase for one day. Paul (being deeply prejudiced with a persecution complex) figures it out quickly; they're going to be hunted by armed hunters. The five prisoners leave. Thatcher's three guests watch them go, and the prisoners realize that these are the people who will be hunting them.
That night in the barracks, Dodge brags to the other prisoners about how he'll be getting out soon. Then he shows him the ace up his sleeve - a knife. Griff sees it and freaks. That's his stolen property. Griff charges Dodge. Immediately, several guards, led by Thatcher, enter with automatic weapons and break up the fight. (Jeez, how did they get here so fast? Maybe they read the script ahead of time and planned accordingly.)
Daybreak. The five contestants, er, prisoners arrive at a gate. Thatcher says it's time to go. Dodge starts to run, but Thatcher tells him no. They'll be leaving one at a time at half hour intervals. Chris will go first. (Physically capable woman with no mental defects gets at least a two hour head start. If she gets caught, she's got it coming.) Ritter fires a starting gun for her. Sort of. More like he pops a few rounds from his assault rifle into the ground as motivation for her to move.
Half an hour later (so we assume), Dodge goes next, but they take his glasses. Jennifer asks Thatcher who gets to hunt the tall one. Thatcher explains that Griffen is not for hunting; he's for execution. (So much for Thatcher's character trait of breaking a prisoner before killing him.) The warden retires to his quarters and loads a hunting rifle. (It was a mistake to show us a close-up of this action; we can clearly see he's loading a blank instead of a live round. Thanks, weapons master.)
And a little bit later, Griff is out the starting gate. Red whips him to get him going a little faster, but Griff grabs the whip. He gives it back and leaves. (Idiot. Never surrender a free weapon to your adversary.) Tito and his beast man friend get into an ATV. Said vehicle is a small car with an open top and an oversized set of roll bars, a bulldozer blade in front, and a machinegun mounted at the top of the roll bars, putting it about four feet over the head of the driver. (In other words, a B movie crew in hurry, as opposed to anyone who'd have to use such a poorly conceived vehicle, probably designed it.)
And Rita is out the gate. Cut to a long shot of her running. (Actually, they cut to a shot of Dodge running. Thank you, editor.) And then it's Paul on his way. (That was half an hour after Rita, who seems to have transmorphed into Dodge?)
The hunters leave for the field.
Dodge runs along at a good clip. Then he sees something freaks him out. It's that bulldozer ATV. (Yeah, well, most people would freak out, but with laughter.) He falls to the ground. Tito's pet beastie boy gets out and subdues Dodge, who not only fails to live up to his name -- he also fails to stick the hairy dude with his prized knife. Tito is not happy with how quickly this has gone. He tells his pet monster to remove one of Dodge's toes. The beastie boy peels Dodge's shoe like a banana and obliges. Tito grants Dodge another head start. (Hey, Dodge, here's a hint. Don't get caught again.)
Paul follows a ledge on a rocky face over looking a river. Thatcher has him in his telescopic sights, but decides against shooting because it's too easy. (Don't know about that. Blank rounds at long ranges are not known for their effective kill potential.) Thatcher readjusts and fires. Paul isn't hit (blanks are so effective), but he looks up. The warden pops a few more rounds, intentionally missing Paul. The prisoner curses Thatcher. (Not sure why. Is it for missing or using blanks?) Paul dives into the river.
Thatcher gets into his car and calls Red on the radio. The guard, armed with an assault rifle, has been following Griff's trail in the woods. Thatcher tells him to find him and flush him out into the open. Red complies. Or, rather, he would've complied if Griff didn't just happen to be up the very same tree that Red was standing next to. Griff drops on him.
On the road, Thatcher drives by a rocky hill. Paul pushes down on a levering branch. It starts a rockslide. Several boulders come crashing down in Thatcher's path. (Now just a Sam Peckenpah minute here. How did Paul get from the river to the top of the hill fast enough to determine which way Thatcher was driving, and then set up an effective avalanche trap in his path? We figure either Paul can teleport while jumping back in time, or there are two of him.)
Rita comes out into a clearing. She sees Griff, who is playing with his new assault rifle. Rita wants to stay with him until the evening so they can win the game. Griff tells her that she's a fool to believe it because Thatcher will have them all killed anyway. She asks him what he plans to do. He says he's going to take as many of them with him as he can. She wants to help, but he tells her to go away, because if she stays with him, she'll be killed. (Uh, wait. He said she was dead anyway. What's the dif?)
Dodge is running from the ATV, and for a handicapped runner, he's moving pretty good. He skirts along the edge of some woods while the bulldozer blade takes out some of the undergrowth. (Why yes. Idiot boy isn't running into the woods to get away from the silly car.) The runner stumbles. Beastor is out of the car again. He picks up Dodge and roughs him up for a while. Tito gets tired of this and tells his pet monster to finish it. The fuzzy dude breaks Dodge's back, and then looks up at Tito for approval. (Seriously, we'd have to say that the beast man has been the best written and played character. He's also been the most likeable.)
Meanwhile, Griff has taken a position near the road. He sees Thatcher driving along. (OK, so what was the deal with the rockslide earlier?) When Thatcher gets close enough, he lets rip with the assault rifle at full auto. No damage, but Jennifer, who has been riding on horseback with a crossbow, hears the shooting. She arrives behind Griff, loads her bow, and lets fly. A small explosion goes off to the side of Griff. He takes cover and returns fire at full auto. Thatcher gets out of his car and shoots. Griff returns fire at full auto. Jennifer shoots again. Griff returns fire at full auto. (Why, yes. Griff is going through a damn lot of ammo without pausing to reload. Why do you ask?) The area around Griff is thick with the smoke from the explosions. (No. He doesn't get to use the instant smoke screen.)
Jennifer dismounts and approaches Griff through the tall grass. Griff can't see her and starts crawling in her direction. She gets off a shot with normal quarrel and hits him in the arm. He returns fire and misses. She reloads and tags him again. He shoots and misses. (The man has an infinite number of bullets coming out of an assault rifle and he can't hit someone within crossbow range? He probably deserves to lose.) Thatcher drives up in his car. He runs over Griff.
Chris is still running through the woods. She hides in a six foot deep ditch. Enter Mallory and Ritter. They pause here ('natch) to talk about how finding the girl would be very good for Ritter's career. Chris looks around in the ditch. There are two old corpses. ('Natch!) One of the corpses is very skeletal. While the Secretary and the chief guard talk some more, a snake (no more 'natches, please!) crawls out of an eye socket of the more skeletal corpse. (Who was this, Alice Cooper?) Chris freaks and runs. Mallory and Ritter hear her. They follow.
They lose the girl, but find Red, who is bound, gagged, and hanging upside down. Ritter steps up to free him, but as soon as he pulls the man's feet loose, a deadfall trap swings down. It's made of logs sharpened to points. Ritter gets out of the way, but Red isn't so lucky. He's impaled. (We assume Griff set this trap. We'd like to know where in the hell he got an ax to sharpen those logs to points.)
Paul is walking along, minding his own business, when Beastor jumps him. (We've learned that this critter's name is Alph. But since it isn't ALF, will be sticking with Beastor; it's more fun to say.) Tito drives up in that goofy ATV of his and tells his pet monster to hold Paul up against a tree. When the furry guy does so, Tito approaches, bulldozer blade first.
However, before Tito can bisect Paul with the front blade, the prisoner pulls a short branch off the tree and stabs Beastor in the eye. (Beastor must've gone to one of those self-defense schools where you can learn to defend yourself against an assailant armed with a hidden knife, but not pointed sticks.) Tito misses Paul but manages to accidentally cut off Beastor at the legs. (Farewell, Beastor. We wish the movie had been about you.)
Paul runs for it. Tito is really hacked off at this point, so he
whips out a LAW rocket launcher (which is already prepped) and wastes a
lame shot. He manages to kill a lot of foliage near Paul.
Rita finds a stream and decides to cool off by dipping up to her neck in the water. (Oh, sure. Within the context of a movie like this, it's very likely that the woman with the biggest breasts would pause to saturate her outfit.) Jennifer spots her and shoots a few exploding quarrels at her. She's playing with her. It turns into a long chase. Eventually, the cat and mouse game wears out Rita. Jennifer catches up with her and turns on the charm. She sensually tells the frightened girl she'd been looking for her for a long time....
Chris crawls into what looks like a cane field. The plants are well over six foot high. Mallory and Ritter arrive at the edge of it. The chief guard tells the Secretary that she's in there. (We're not sure how this works. "Just a minute, Mr. Secretary. According to the script here, she's over there in those weeds.") Ritter tells Mallory to wait here because she'll be coming out real soon.
Ritter goes to the other side of the cane field. He sets it on fire. Chris runs away from the flames and right into the waiting arms of Mallory. (Strange. It's a wall of weeds at least fifty feet across, and she comes out at ground zero. Figure the odds.) Just then, Paul suddenly arrives. (More odds to figure. Be sure to factor in the ten thousand other places Paul could've been at just now.) He disarms Mallory and puts a dart into the hunter's groin. Paul and Chris run. While Mallory writhes around on the ground, the burning vegetation catches up with him.
Paul and Chris head back into the woods and crawl into a river. They use a log for flotation to head downstream. Soon, they come to the end. Paul looks out of the woods in disbelief. Surprised, he shouts, "We're on an island!" (Well, duh! This was made in Australia!) They stand at the water's edge, planning their next move.
Ritter catches up with them. Paul challenges him to a fight. (Ok, Paul's built like a pipe cleaner compared to Ritter, and Ritter is about half a foot taller than Paul, and Ritter no doubt has a ton more experience than Paul at beating up people. Obviously, Paul has a clever plan.) Ritter puts down his machete and approaches him. They scuffle. (This was the plan? Go hand-to-hand with the mountainoid from hell? Jeez, what a maroon!)
They wrestle in the water for a while. Ritter gains the advantage and pushes Paul under the water. He drowns. The end. No, just kidding. Paul reaches up and slaps Ritter silly. Ritter is stunned by this awesome blow and lets Paul go for a moment. Paul runs for it. (Seriously folks, which sounds more credible at this point? Ritter uses his hundred pound advantage and half-foot extra leverage to drown Paul, or Paul slaps Ritter like a girl and gets away?)
Paul runs for it. Ritter comes out the water and draws his revolver. He gets off a couple of two-handed aimed shots at Paul at about forty yards and misses both times. (All kidding aside here, folks. Based on the marksmanship we've seen thus far in this movie, there's no reason why the whole cast shouldn't be given some dark glasses and white canes.) Chris grabs Ritter's machete and runs at him from behind. She uses the blade take away his handgun -- at both wrists.
Ritter approaches Chris with murder in his eye, extending his bloody stumps at her. (What's he going to do? Bleed on her?) He collapses. (Farewell, Ritter. You'd be our second choice for whom this movie should've been about.) Not to be outdone, Chris collapses, too. Paul runs to her and tells her not to give up now, because if they die now, everything they believe in dies with them. (So, if they die, no one else in the world will believe in liberty and fairness. This means they are the only two people who believe in it. This would also mean Paul's fight against totalitarianism is wasted because the people find it acceptable. We digress....)
Paul takes the machete. (Psst, buddy. You want the pistol? No? OK, just checking.) He and Chris head back inland. They run into Tito and his toy ATV. The driver shoots at them with a submachine gun. They run into a stand of trees to get away. While Chris stays down low, Paul drops back and flanks their attacker. Tito drives up to the tree line, stops the car, and levels some vegetation with the light machinegun mounted on top of the roll bar. (He has to stand up on top of his seat to use it. Like we said, it's a silly design.) While Tito is distracted, Paul catches him from behind with the machete and poses him with the old left brain/right brain problem.
Thatcher and some men stack a body into the back of his car. Jennifer arrives. Thatcher tells her that this body is Mallory. Jennifer looks at him with a certain amount of "Uhmmm, you're in trou-ble!" She tells the warden she's going to do what he should've been doing already. (We aren't told what she did with Rita.) Thatcher calls the rest of his men on his radio and tells them the game is over; shoot on sight.
Paul reloads the light machinegun mounted on the toy ATV. He shows Chris how to shoot it. They drive to camp. Some guards with submachine guns see them coming, range about fifty yards. They take cover and start shooting. A few seconds later, Chris stands up to fire the light machinegun. (Estimated range closure in that amount of time, about twenty-five yards -- well within range of four submachine guns, especially when their target is completely unprotected person standing still on top of a relatively slowly moving vehicle.) Chris returns fire and kills them all. (Maybe they shouldn't have taken cover. Cover seems to be a bad thing.) Then Paul and Chris drive into the camp and start shooting it up. None of the twenty some guards have a chance. Paul pulls out a LAW rocket launcher (again, already prepped) and blows up a guard tower.
Elsewhere, some aircraft roll out onto a runway. (These are some of those variable aircraft, which you often see in a B movie. They polymorph from Tornado strike aircraft to Hawk trainers to Avro Vulcan bombers. They're marked with RAF roundels. Thank you, stock footage man.) We are treated to the radio traffic. The pilots are ordered to see if the camp is still under control. If it isn't, wipe it out. (Sure. Wipe it out with a flight of dubious bombers and conventional weapons. Sure....) They take off.
Back at the ranch, several prisoners are now armed and shooting up the camp. Paul tells Chris to find the communications room and destroy it. (Paul sends in the weakest link to pull off a task like that?) He tells the other to hurry because Thatcher is coming. (OK, so now Paul is the one who's been reading the script in advance.)
Chris runs into a room where some radio comms are running. A voice on the radio asks for Thatcher to call off the bombing or they will have to wipe out the camp. Chris shoots up some of the equipment with a submachine gun, but decides to hammer it with the weapon instead. She drops it when Jennifer, who is holding one of her barbed tipped exploding quarrels like a miniature pike, interrupts her. The classy bad girl says she was the one who called for the wipe out. (We have absolutely no clue why. If her character was fleshed out any more, it'd still weigh less than a shadow.) Then the crazy lady tells the mere slip of a girl that she'll be going with her. However, frightened mere slip takes on experienced bully and jabs the quarrel into her neck. (It's about as credible as the outcome of the Paul vs. Ritter match. Perhaps Don King has been managing these fights.) Jennifer blows up real good.
Outside, Chris gets back into the toy ATV and Paul drives away. He's leading several prisoners who've just been released and armed against the experienced guards. Paul pauses to get off yet another shot with yet another previously prepped LAW rocket. (Cripes, how many of these things are in this dune buggy?) They head outside of the camp now. The experienced guards form a counter attack. They fall pretty fast. They also do ill-advised stuff like charge en masse at prisoners who have set up a machinegun. (We've given this a lot of thought. Our best explanation is that the prisoners had lots of military training as part of their re-education, and the guards are temps who arrived that afternoon.)
Thatcher arrives with still more guards. (What was the guard-to-prisoner ratio here? Five to one?) Paul shoots the warden with the machinegun. Thatcher explodes. (The effect is as realistic as the exploding head in Scanners. You know. The one with no skull.) And then, while everyone is out of the camp, the bombers make the scene and blow up the camp. End of the camp. All the guards are dead. All the good guys have big goofy smiles. (They're in the wilderness and their food stores were in the camp, which is now allegedly wiped out. We give it about a week before they resort to cannibalistic tyranny with Paul in charge.) A title card, superimposed over this deeply spiritual scene, says, "Revolution begins with the misfits... ...H. G. Wells." (Let's all take a moment and fondly remember those popular misfits who'd run afoul of the law, like Hitler and Himmler and Lenin and Stalin and Manson and Dahmer and Gacy and McVeigh and such.) The end. Roll end credits.
Perhaps the best thing is the eventual pace of the action. It's not credible, and it takes a while to get going, but once it does get going, it keeps moving. After the prisoners hit the field and the hunt begins, the story has the luxury of jumping around on five different plotlines. When one gets boring, it's time to jump to the next one. Therefore, if you don't like the story, wait a minute.
To justify the hero in this story, the movie builds a totalitarian world around him and makes him the righteous one. There are plenty of similar stories. Most of them are one-sided, and so is this one. Paul's rants about freedom and liberty follow the motions but have no heart. There's not enough here to make us believe that he believes in justifiable revolution.
Worse, this is one of those movies where the bad guys are considerably more fun and interesting than the good guys. Net result in the message as perceived: Totalitarianism (the bad guy side) is cool.
The chief bad guy is called Thatcher. We suspect the filmmakers
chose this name for Margaret Thatcher, PM of GB and whipping girl for many
creative types due to her strong conservative policies. Another bad guy is
called Tito. Perhaps the writers were going for a whole set of
perceived tyrants, but we can't find any info on any dictators called
Mallory, so unless the writers had something against famous mountain
climbers, we should just drop guessing what kind of name game the writers
were playing. In other words, they might not have been thinking of
Tito of Yugoslavia, but Tito of the Jacksons. The chief guard is
called Ritter. OK, there you go. All the bad guys were named
after musicians. Like Tex Ritter. And Eddie Mallory. And
George Thatcher. Yeah, that's it. That's the ticket....
Too many scenes in the story don't add up. Characters vanish in once scene and appear all the way across the map a couple of short scenes later. And they just happen to be in the right place at the right time too often. And they are well nigh invincible in a fight, despite being out gunned, out muscled, and out experienced.
Furthermore, characters put together some astoundingly elaborate death traps in just a few moments without any tools. This is acceptable in a Warner Bros. cartoon. It isn't here.
The struggles are so one sided in favor of the designated heroes, we ask: Why did they even bother showing us a struggle? For example, the scene where Paul challenges Ritter to a fight could've been substituted by Ritter suddenly being hit by an anvil falling from the sky. It would've seemed more credible, too.
And then the realization hits. Cartoon characters are more
credible than these guys. Bugs Bunny can magically produce lit
sticks of dynamite, and nobody in the audience complains. Paul pulls
out fully prepped LAW rocket launchers from nowhere, and it somehow seems
less acceptable. You figure it out.
Finally, what poorly produced science fiction movie would be complete without silly props and such? The bolt-action handgun, the chess set from hell, the bulldozer dune buggy, the exploding crossbow quarrels, the beast man -- they all contribute to this movie's unintentional sense of goofiness. It's not as bad a collection as seen in other movies, like The Apple or Starship Invasions, but these things still make you laugh, so God bless them.
Brian Trenchard-Smith (director) also directed BMX Bandits (1983) which shares a lot of similarity with Escape 2000; both films are non-stop action with nary a brain cell to trouble. Also note that he directed another "nice people in a future prison" flick called Dead End Drive-In (1986), which has some cult appeal. He didn't pick up much prestige in his later career. No, not with Out of the Body (1989), Leprechaun 3 (1995) and Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996), he didn't.
Jon George and Neill D. Hicks (writers) also wrote the story and screenplay for The Final Terror (1983), which was another movie about homicidal fun and games in the woods. George Schenk (story) had previously made the notorious Superbeast (1972), and also wrote derivative made-for-TV creature features like The Phantom of Hollywood (1974) and the Hawaiian werewolf (?!) story Deathmoon (1978).
Steve Railsback (Paul Anders) is most likely to be remembered for his tightly wrapped portrayal of Charles Manson in Helter Skelter (1977). He can also be found in the nominally bizarre The Stunt Man (1980), for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category "New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture - Male." Since then, he's unfortunately been in mostly dubious projects, like Lifeforce (1985), Blue Monkey (1987) and Nukie (1993).
And speaking of promising newcomers: Olivia Hussey (Chris Walters) hit it big in 1968 when she appeared as a very young Juliet in Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968), for which she won the Golden Globe for "Most Promising Newcomer - Female." Naturally (and equally unfortunately) it was downhill from there. Although a highlight in her later career was her casting as the Virgin Mary in Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth (1977), she also went on to the musical remake of Lost Horizon (1973), and, most recently, notorious projects like Quest of the Delta Knights (1993) and Ice Cream Man (1995). She also can be found as a voice talent in various projects.
Michael Craig (Charles Thatcher) had also seen better days. After starting out as an extra in the 1950's, the Rank Organization started grooming him for leading man status. He picked up an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay for The Angry Silence (1960). Fans of weirder tales might remember him as Captain Harding in Mysterious Island (1961). His career was a mixed bag throughout.
Character actor Roger Ward (Ritter) has had bit parts in various Australian productions. People are most likely to have seen him as MacAffee in Mad Max (1979).
We note for the sake of morbid curiosity, we note that character actor Gus Mercurio (Red) was the only actor to be in both (!) The Blue Lagoon (1980) and Return to the Blue Lagoon (1991). You can also see him in The Man from Snowy River (1982) and the series All the Rivers Run (1984).
John Ley (Dodge) was also in Trenchard-Smith's BMX Bandits and Out of the Body.
David Hemmings (executive producer) is better known as an actor. He first became famous playing Mordred in the infamous Camelot (1967). Recently, he can be seen as Cassius in Gladiator (2000). But during the very early 1980's he joined his agent John Daly in the Hemdale company. The two of them, along with Antony I. Ginnane and William Fayman, produced a burst of Australian/New Zealand movies in 1981 that included Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981) and Strange Behavior (1981, a.k.a. Dead Kids).
We note that Hemmings worked as a producer on several other features, and in many of these he acted and directed; we'll assume he could get himself cheap. Cult TV fans will know him better as the dreaded Dr. Moffet in Airwolf (1984). His association with Airwolf producer Donald P. Bellisario continued; Hemmings directed the pilot for Quantum Leap (1989-1993).
Most of the crew have worked on a wide variety of productions, both before and after this one. Particularly note Brian May (music, but not the kind from Queen) who scored Mad Max (1979) and its sequel. Although his work in other features was rather grand, his electronic stylings in this movie sound suspiciously like things you'd hear on the album Popcorn by Hot Butter. (Hot Butter? Look it up in the easy listening section of an old vinyl store sometime.) Also note John Stears (special effects), who had Oscars previously from Thunderball (1965) and Star Wars (1977). We're not sure what he was doing here.
Escape 2000 is very much a version of Richard Connell's short story "The Most Dangerous Game." The basic premise can be found in various other stories. Please note that the following list of said stories is intentionally incomplete for the sake of brevity.
The Most Dangerous Game (1932) - As far as movie versions go, this one is the original article. Although a female co-runner is not in Connell's original story, this story has one played by Fay Wray. Jungle sets were also used by King Kong (1933).
A Game of Death (1945) - Not only credits the Connell story, is pretty much a remake of the 1932 movie. And a surprisingly poor remake it is, directed by Robert Wise.
"The Seventh Victim" by Robert Sheckley (1953) - In the future, it becomes legal to hunt your fellow man for sport. Note that he may return the favor. Made into movies La Decima Vittima (1965, a.k.a. The Tenth Victim) and Le Prix du Danger (1982, a.k.a. The Prize of Peril). Followed by Sheckley's "Victim" trilogy of novels plus the dubious Steve Jackson game Killer. Cf. Death Race 2000 (1975), wherein drivers get points for good kills while hunting pedestrians.
Run for the Sun (1956) - Credits the Connell story, but doesn't use the original characters. This time around, a planeload of people crash lands in the Mexican desert and encounters an enclave of Nazi war criminals. (See the roots & shoots in the review on The Frozen Dead for more fun with Nazis.)
Bloodlust (1961) - Below average B version, this time with teenagers and including a pre-Brady Bunch Robert Reed. Has a bad reputation due to selection for MST3K. Does it deserve it? Try it without the Greek chorus sometime and decide for yourself.
Gilligan's Island (1964-1967) - We'd tell you about the episode where a great white hunter shows up and offers to take the castaways home - if they allow him to hunt Gilligan. But then we'd have to admit to knowing the series well enough to recall that episode. Therefore, we won't tell you about it. (Cf. the hunter hunted fantasy in the pilot for Fantasy Island (1978-1984), but we don't know about that either. Honest!)
The Woman Hunt (1972) - Here's an exploitation version directed by Eddie Romero. Captured women are hunted. Includes a leather clad woman as one of the captors; cf. the similar character in Escape 2000.
The Running Man by Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman (1982) - It's "The Most Dangerous Game Show" when a needy man in a futuristic dystopia volunteers to be hunted on national TV. (Futuristic dystopia with the elite hunting the common. Gee, King so ripped off Escape 2000.) Made into a movie in 1987.
Deadly Prey (1987) - Credits the Connell story. The story merges with Rambo wannabes when mercenaries kidnap live targets and catch the wrong guy.
Slave Girls from Beyond Infinity (1987) - OK, now we're so far off the mark, we wonder why they bother crediting Connell. Two women crash land on a planet where they are hunted by a local. See a review on this one at Badmovies.org.
Lethal Woman (1989) - This would be the point where Connell spins hard in his grave, 'cause someone just spit on it. Rape victims clandestinely invite their previous attackers to an island. No surprises follow.
Deadly Game (1991) - Fortunately, they don't credit Connell here. As a hybrid with Ten Little Indians, some people are invited to an island and then told, after their arrival, that each of them is guilty of offending their host in the past. Let the games begin....
Hard Target (1993) - Cajun Claude Van Damme discovers a group of hunters who have been playing the "dangerous game" game with the homeless around New Orleans. (Connell? Connell who?) See a review at Stomp Tokyo. Come to think of it, they've even got a review of the director's cut.
Death Ring (1993) - McQueen! Norris! Swayze! Uh, make that Chad McQueen, Mike Norris, and Don Swayze. Other that that, we're back to Deadly Prey (see above) for the premise type. This thing went to directly to video. We can't comment on it, but we understand they have Connell in the credits -- as a batting instructor.
Surviving the Game (1994) - OK, now it's Iced Tea, er, Ice-T vs. a bunch of evil rich white guy hunters. At this point, the material has become so derivative, to do it is to remake something made last year.
Danger Island (Coming Soon!) - As of this writing, we
can't really tell if it's a hoax or is it as surreal as "reality television" gets? Ex cons are chased
on an island by hunters. Rather than being
killed off, they are voted out. (Gee, how original.) See
details at the show's
website. Cf. ABC's The
There is some confusion about when this story takes place. A blurbs on the VHS box says 1995. Credible? We should also note, though, that the box says this movie was made in 1983 (vice 1981). On the front of the box, the tagline says, "Experience the year 2000 and hope to hell you can escape."
But there is no exposition in the version of the movie we have that tells us what year this is supposed to be. This movie was originally called Turkey Shoot. We suspect that the 1983 on the back of the box refers to when this thing was cut from Turkey Shoot to Escape 2000, and 1995 was established in its original cut.
Or maybe when Embassy Home Entertainment repackaged this movie, they were so quick to rip-off Death Race 2000 and Escape From New York that they lost track of what their movie was supposed to be about.
In a dystopian future, the warden of a re-education camp chooses some of his prisoners to be hunted for sport. Somewhat gory, clumsy attempt at merging "The Most Dangerous Game" with a pale copy of Orwellian concerns. Moves at a good clip once it gets started, but too many scenes are unapologetically incredible because they openly violate fundamental story telling elements like continuity and such. Goofy props. Not recommended, but if you must watch it, try it with the sound off. And don't do drugs.
This article is only a small part of a B-Master's roundtable of movies that take place in the future - of the year they were made. The years cited for events in these stories have come and gone, but each world presented was not the world we saw in any of those years. Or was it?
Originally published on 14 August 2001