United States - 1987
Director - John G. Thomas
Vidmark Entertainment, 1987, VHS
Run Time - 1 hour, 26 minutesThe wonderful thing about the American Southwest is that it is largely empty of human made infrastructure save one thing; highways. Over vast distances of desolate and unforgiving terrain there is literally nothing but a strip of asphalt stretching to the horizon. This makes the Southwest, an area I personally know well, a great for location shooting both post-apocalyptic sci-fi and road racing movies on the cheap. Some of this has changed over the years of course, development has encroached on the desert and the various state’s chambers of commerce have learned to take advantage of these things. In the latter half of the 20th Century though, the southwest was still a veritable blank slate. Take for example 1987’s Banzai Runner, shot on location in California City, California. Boasting at present a population somewhere near 16 thousand, it was at the time of filming an as-yet undetonated boom-town with a mere four thousand souls living at the center a vast network of hot, empty pavement.
I’ve previously railed about comparing little unknown films to larger well-known titles. It’s generally unfair I think and neither requires nor expects much intellectual capacity from audience or writer. I am inclined however to point out the similarities, other than titular, between another recent LVA acquisition, Nomad Riders, and Banzai Runner. Though you mightn’t initially guess it, both films share an affinity for the open road, and in particular, the dusty barren open road of the southwest. They also share a thematic similarity that goes beyond the title screen to a plot about a guy driven to exact revenge on the nefarious highway-rogues who murdered his family.
|I might be displeased, but I'll let it slide this time!|
All fluffy feel-good stuff to be sure, but not very convincing. In Nomad Riders, the protagonist was an vigilante too, and an unlikable one at that, but he knew what he was up against. He was not encumbered by any delusions of an external morality to whom all must answer. Steve Thrust, that unpleasant bastard, knew that he had to make justice, to take it himself if there was to be any at all. Plus, he did it to a better soundtrack.
|This picture is about as clear as my feelings about Banzai Runner are going to get.|