(director/writer: Robert Clouse; cinematographer: Gerald Hirschfeld; editor: Michael Kahn; cast: Yul Brynner (Carson), Max Von Sydow (The Baron), Richard Kelton (Cal), Joanna Miles (Melinda), William Smith (Carrot), Stephen McHattie (Robert), Darrell Zwerling (Silas), Mel Novak (Lippert); Runtime: 94; Warner; 1975)

“This film should have been entertaining, but instead felt tiresome.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A promising near-future, sci-fi adventure film. Its leaden direction, weak acting, and incredibly inadequate set designs, cause the good premise to collapse into an apocalyptic-like failure. This film should have been entertaining, but instead felt tiresome. There was no fun to be had, no noteworthy dramatics, or worthy dialogue. What you get to see is Yul Brynner for most of the film stripped of his shirt and fighting back against the street-people, and either knifing them to death or throwing them down a shaft.

The film opens in New York City in 2012 A.D. after an Atomic holocaust caused a plague, killing off most of the population and all of the food supply. The streets are bare except for gangs who ravage anyone who wanders outside. Max Von Sydow is The Baron. He is head of a commune that is on their last legs, but is able to survive because of a scientist, Cal (Kelton), who is able to cultivate seeds for vegetables. Cal is married to Baron’s daughter Melinda (Miles), who is expecting their child soon.

Yul Brynner is pictured as this giant, standing mute for days in front of the library waiting for someone to make him an offer for his services as a warrior. Baron and some members of his compound venture outside to recruit Yul by offering him vegetables, a woman, and cigars. It will be the cigars that seals the contract, as Yul joins the compound and helps the men get safely back to their compound and past Carrot’s (Smith) street people who attacked them.

When Yul tells Baron about an island off the coast of North Carolina that he is heading for, Baron tells him this compound can’t last too much longer: it is difficult growing food on the roof, the commune members are restless and unreliable, and Carrot’s gang is too strong for them. It is only a matter of time before they will attack the gated compound itself.

Warning: spoiler to follow.

Baron tells Yul to take Cal and Melinda to that island through a secret passage under one of the buildings on 29th street, and with the seeds that Cal cultivated he can start life anew there. But before the plan can be implemented, Carrot’s gang attacks Cal’s tomato garden and throws Cal off the roof. With Cal dead, Baron gets Yul and Melinda to secretly leave immediately with all the seeds. When the compound discovers what happened they crush Von Sydow to death.

The climax has Carrot and his boys going into the dark tunnel with torches after Yul, Melinda, the seeds, and the baby boy Melinda gives birth to while escaping. It is now up to Yul to get them to North Carolina.

Ultimate Warrior, The (1975)