A few years back, I wrote about the really bad science fiction/action film, Firebird 2015 A.D. (1981). That movie, like so many dystopian pictures produced in the 1980s, imagined that the not-so-distant future would be a world filled with destruction and lawlessness. In the early ‘80s, Americans were worried about high crime rates and the very real possibility of a nuclear war—with filmmakers tapping into those fears. These movies were frequently set in a specific year that wasn’t all that far off, which I find amusing, especially as we approach and then pass these dates. The best is when a year is part of the film’s title.
John Carpenter’s 1981 picture, Escape from New York, set in 1997, depicts a Manhattan that has been converted into a maximum-security prison. When the U.S. president ends up trapped on the island, Kurt Russell’s anti-hero character, Snake Plissken, is sent in to rescue him, as the threat of nuclear war looms.
Despite its B-movie status, Escape From New York received largely positive marks from critics, and it did well at the box office, too. Its success led to other films of its type, including a number of pictures that came out of Italy. One of them is called 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982). A cross between Escape and The Warriors, it visualizes a post-apocalyptic Big Apple ruled by street gangs—just eight years in the future! It’s campy good fun.
In late 1984, the Italian-French co-production, 2019: After the Fall of New York, hit theaters stateside. Many understandably assumed it was a sequel to 1990: The Bronx Warriors, but it wasn’t. 2019 takes place after a nuclear holocaust, with the world broken into two factions. A man that is part of the good guys group is given the mission of rescuing earth’s last fertile woman, who’s trapped in New York City, which is controlled by the bad guys. Escape from New York is the obvious inspiration, but there are also elements of other dystopian pictures, including Death Race 2000, the initial Mad Max movies, and the Planet of the Apes series. Star Wars was obviously an influence, as well.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much of 2019: After the Fall of New York, which I watched recently for the first time, but it was engaging, not terrible, and just crazy enough to hold my attention for 90 minutes. Though there are plot holes, obviously dubbed dialogue, on screen goofs, not so special effects, and scenes that are truly bonkers, these “faults” only add to the viewing experience.
If you enjoy action-packed ‘80s B-movies set in a dystopian future—which is now just around the corner!—you will not be disappointed.
Watch 2019: After the Fall of New York below by way of the Internet Archive, where it can be downloaded for free.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Just like ‘Mad Max’ but it sucks: Watch the spectacularly bad 1981 cult film ‘Firebird 2015 A.D.’