18 March 2010

Exterminators of the Year 3000

Italy – 1983
Director – Giuliano Carnimeo
Thorn EMI Video, 198?, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour, 41 minutes

Many years ago, before I had fully grasped the breadth of Italian exploitation cinema, every visit to the video store was an exciting suspenseful event. The moments of jubilation have thinned out a bit over the years, coming less and less often the more movies I see, but they’re still there. Often, when digging through the archive, I can re-live some of those moments with my old Italian friends.
Much attention has been recently and deservedly shined upon Enzo Castellari’s awesome 1982 film New Barbarians here and here, or Warriors of the Wasteland as it is sometimes called. The unexpected grab-bag of plot elements in that film are pretty stunning when you first see them. On subsequent viewings one can only wonder if such odd and shocking choices were intentional or incidental. It really is quite an experience, but for me it came several years after seeing another movie that really blew my mind. As a result I can only compare New Barbarians, and frankly any other Italian post-apocalypse film somewhat unfavorably with Giuliano Carnimeo’s 1983 cheap epic Exterminators of the Year 3000 (Gli sterminatori dell’anno 3000, or ExY3K)

Before my exposure to this film I’d had no idea that the Italians had ripped off anything other than horror movies and westerns. By “ripped off” I mean of course, “made much more entertaining”, but ExY3K was a revelation that opened the door to a whole new realm of dizzy anticipation. Exterminators runs with the random, ad-hoc style that typifies Italian narrative, and sets it to classic low-quality Italian synthesizer (from Detto Mariano.) When one character plays the theme on his harmonica, no attempt is made to simulate a harmonica sound on the audio track. It is as crudely dubbed and instantly recognizable as the English voices from any number of Italian movies and makes me feel like I’ve known these people through the thick and thin of their lives. From the zombie onslaughts to the bank robberies, to the desperate hand to hand combat in the nuclear wasteland.

"Once more into the breach you mothergrabbers!" Crazy Bull and his lieutenant oversee some extermination.

The antagonist of Exterminators is Crazy Bull who speaks in Shakespearean English, including one-liners literally lifted straight from the Bard’s plays. He constantly refers to his henchmen as “mothergrabbers,” though they should in fact be properly addressed as “The Exterminators.” Their namesake is Crazy Bull’s oddly titled car, The Exterminator which, mass and velocity aside, carries no offensive capabilities. This car, clearly at the center of the films whole naming scheme, is pure enigma and serves only to keep the covetous Crazy Bull and his gang circling the protagonists like a pack of wolves.

Those protagonists are largely unsympathetic and underdeveloped save two, Tommy the little kid and Papillon the elderly ex-astronaut. Tommy and Papillon bond over the former's completely unexplained “biomechanical” arm and Papillon’s stash of vintage pull-tab Miller High-Life and Tecate beers. While he claims he can no longer even remember how to get to the moon, Papillon has no trouble repairing, and even adding custom modifications to Tommy’s robo-limb. Tommy eagerly swills Papillon’s beer as an anesthetic, while the old guy works his magic and reminisces about the good old days. This relationship is the intoxicating golden nugget around which the rest of the film lazily swirls, giving us a brief glimpse of the world as it was, is, and can be. The other two protagonists are aptly named to describe their place in this circular story arc; Alien and Trash. They are solitary opportunists, but the characters with whom the viewer ultimately identifies, for they are the ones who have the coolest costumes and the transformative experience, ably guided by the optimism and promise of Tommy and Papillon.

Biomechanical arm plus Tecate equals awesome!

Most post-apocalypse story arcs adhere to some sort of heavy handed morality. The Italians however prefer to pile on the fun stuff like they were punk kids making a movie from a box of “cool parts.” What’s good about ExY3K is it manages to play that ridiculous combination with absolute sincerity, even ending it with an ironic twist that makes the entire narrative basically pointless. It is a surprise worthy of any Bruno Mattei film. It is an artifact of an era when exploitation cinema was white-hot and the Italians were ready at the video forge. If I could construct a post-apocalypse world all my own, these things would be happening in what remained of southern Italy at the same time that Max was roaming Oz.

This nice Roadshow Home Video sleeve is from Rolfens DVD of Denmark.

This Medusa Home Video sleeve comes from Post-Apocalypse.co.uk

Here's the Exterminators of The Year 3000 trailer courtesy of AussieRoadshow

Some low-rez alternate sleeves from the US and Greece respectively


Pauline M said...

For me this is the best of the entire italian post nuke wave, by far. It is a film that recognises its limitations (budget and technical) and works within what is available.

The Goodkind said...

I couldn't have said it better myself in as few words. (see above) The thing about New Barbarians is that it has a dumb plot with a big budget, it's pretty but not really that original. ExY3K isn't terribly pretty, but it does have some cool ideas.

Unknown said...

Sweet! I just added this to my collection, but have yet to watch it. Now I'm all revved up to check it out.

Nigel M said...

The one who gets this all wrong is Lucio Fulci- trying to make a dystopian rome out of tinfoil and cardboard! Martino's genre entry is a bit of a crowd pleaser but even there is doesnt entirely work- if you try big effects with tiny budget the results look cheap. But I dont think this one was anything more than a load of custom trucks on a road and I thought it rocked- so was cheap but effective.