(1983, SciFi-Postapocalyptic/Bikers, color)
LEAVE THE BRONX!
In a nutshell:
Heavy metal biker Trash defends the ruined Bronx from violent corporate encroachment.
In the distant future (the year 2000, I think) the Bronx has become a wasteland of broken buildings and trash-strewn streets. As is eventually the case with all civic eyesores, it attracts the interest of a greedy development company, the General Construction Corporation. Heavily mustached GCC President Clark (looking like a cross between Richard Dreyfuss and Martin Mull) orders ex-convict Lloyd Wrangler (looking like Charles Grodin after bobbing for anvils) to “deinfestate” the ruined New York neighborhood—i.e. lure away the scruffy but trendy Italian hobo inhabitants with the promise of new homes in New Mexico. They’re actually leading the deceived populace away to be killed, while flamethrower-wielding corporate soldiers wrapped in aluminium foil toast the last few holdouts.
Two such holdouts are the parents of a hard-rocking, heavily armed young man named Trash (looking like a somewhat effeminate version of Guns n’ Roses guitarist Slash). Trash rides the wasted Bronx stairwells on his Japanese motorcycle, running guns and ammunition for the underground Italian glam-rock brigade, headed by the lusty Dablone (a cross between Richard Montalban’s Khan and Henry Winkler’s The Fonz). Upon finding his extra-crispy parents, Trash slaughters a bunch of random looters and leads a group of hairy ne’er-do-wells to exact revenge on their shiny antagonists. More senseless slaughter ensues, captured on film by go-getting reporter Moon Grey (looking like a cross between Valeria Golino and a narrow-faced rodent). She flees underground when foil-wrapped villains toast her photographer.
Trash, Moon, and Dablone put their heads together and somehow determine that the best way to stop the deinfestation would be to kidnap GCC President Clark. To this end, Trash and Moon head deep underground to the lair of expert thief Strike (looking like a more masculine version of Steve Guttenberg) and his pint-sized Asian munitions expert son. Together they mine the entire New York sewer system, popping up near one of Clark’s public appearances. Moon gets herself killed creating a distraction while Trash grabs the GCC President and forces him underground. They navigate a maze of booby traps while explosions throw beleaguered cops and shiny henchman through the air behind them.
They end up back in the Bronx where, to their dismay, they discover the GCC Vice President has taken over the company and ordered Wrangler to kill all the insurgents, regardless of Clark’s safety. They pump poison gas into the tunnels, forcing Dablone and his band of music video refugees above ground for a final battle. Guns blaze, flamethrowers throw, and vans explode as foil-wrapped soldiers and trendy hobos fall by the dozen. Clark escapes, only to be gunned down by the traitorous Wrangler. Wrangler rides through the Bronx, killing heroic glam-rockers left and right until Trash blows up his van. Apparently this ends the conflict, as Trash, Strike, and his Asian munitions-expert child are left alone in a Bronx littered with garbage and corpses. The kid invites Trash to come live underground with them. Trash refuses, and the end credits roll.
Crow begins his annual auction to raise money for Sad Kids With Hurt Puppies and the Hungry Rainforests. No one bids on the first two items, a penny and a nickel, but he sells a dollar to Tom for seventy-five cents. Calculating the proceeds of the auction combined with the cost of the items and his tuxedo’s rental bill, Crow determines he’s lost somewhere over three hundred dollars. He urges us to tune in next year, when “we’ll lose even more!”
Host Segment One:
Crow ignores Mike’s remonstrance about his irresponsible auction to concentrate on frying an ant with a magnifying glass. Of course it just happens to be crawling over his collection of oily rags. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester has had to put his mother in a home. The “home” in question is one of those plastic toy houses built to fit toddlers. She peeks out of the tiny window to demand that he release her. Up in the Satellite, Crow succeeds in setting the oily rags on fire. Soon the entire Satellite of Love is ablaze. They rush into the theater while Gypsy activates the emergency sprinklers.
Host Segment Two:
Mike hooks Crow up to a biofeedback machine to help resolve some of Crow’s tension. Tom casts aspersions on the process’ effectiveness while the machine simultaneously relaxes Crow and sets the entire Satellite of Love ablaze again.
Host Segment Three:
It’s men’s night on the Satellite of Love. Mike and Tom smoke huge cigars and talk in manly jargon. Mike runs out of beer and asks Crow for another in a series of inscrutable masculine expressions. Crow doesn’t understand any of them, offering condolences for Mike’s “dead soldier” and filling his throat with snot when Mike asks him to “snag him one.”
Host Segment Four:
Dr. Forrester’s ratings have plummeted. He decides to rectify this by adding an adorable child to the cast. Enter Timmy Bobby Rusty (Paul Chaplin with a teddy bear), a giggly youngster who doesn’t actually do anything. Ratings do not rise, and Dr. Forrester discards him.
Host Segment Five:
Tom arrives by helicopter, just in time for Mike to read a letter. He’s airlifted out again when Mike finishes. Down in Deep 13, Pearl is still complaining about being locked in a tiny house, and also about the odd barking laughter from next door. Dr. Forrester bangs on the wall and shouts for whoever it is to keep it down, only to be confronted by his loud Italian neighbor, Dablone. Dablone tells a lot of bad jokes, frees Pearl, and whisks her away.
Dablone spits and laughs.
No one does awful Fantasy and SciFi quite like the Italians. Not even the Japanese can match their filmmaking gusto. Take Dablone, for instance. Here’s a man who not only leads a ragtag group of subterranean punks against hopeless odds, but does so with bravura, inspiring his warriors with a top-volume laugh that resembles the bray of an insane donkey in heat. So what if it sounds forced? So does the rest of the movie.
Escape 2000 has the kind of arty, unresolved ending that’s supposed to “make you think.” When the end credits began to scroll across the screen, I felt the movie urging me reflect on the characters, the meanings of their relationships, and how the lessons learned could be applied to our lives. Does Dablone’s unwillingness to face Wrangler directly symbolize a fear of commitment? Does Strike’s inattention of his Asian kid to make out with Moon demonstrate how each relationship supplants the next? What does it mean when Trash discovers his mom crisped but her sweater unburned? What does it mean for our souls?
Actually, all I could do at the end was wonder about the body count. The movie is ninety percent killing, after all. Do they even have that many cops in New York? Maybe the Bronx is safe at the end because there’s no one left to bother them. Certainly, the only survivors we know about for sure are Trash, Strike, and the Asian kid. Even the mighty Dablone’s fate remains ambiguous.
My favorite moment in the host segments is seeing Pearl Forrester peek out of that tiny window to yell at her son. Dr. Forrester’s attempts to justify his actions, citing the many “crazy” things his mom had started to do, are pretty funny as well. The auction and the men’s night sketches work well. The whole “setting the SOL on fire” thing is okay. I found myself wishing they’d taken the running gag all the way and set fire to Satellite in every host segment. Timmy Bobby Rusty and Tom’s helicopter ride are funny ideas, but don’t actually go anywhere. Mike Nelson is great as Dablone. He’s got that barking laugh down pat.
The film segments are hilarious. The satellite crew echoes the foil-suited deinfestors’ cries to LEAVE THE BRONX loudly and often. When one of them flames a helpless hobo, Mike says, “Here’s a little taste of the weather in New Mexico.” As they broadcast their evacuation message over the loudspeakers, Tom announces, “The Bronx has hit an iceberg, and is sinking.” When we meet Moon for the first time, Crow says, “she looks like Shelly Duvall after a drinking binge.” During the lengthy chase through the sewers, everyone moans about how much they miss Dablone. I missed him too, but that didn’t stop me from liking the episode as a whole. I’d watch it again.
(1983, SciFi-Postapocalyptic/Bikers, color)