The Film: World Gone Wild (1988)
The Principals: Lee Katzin (Director), Michael Paré, Catherine Mary Stewart, Adam Ant, Bruce Dern, Julius J. Carry III
The Premise: In a world (ha) in which a global apocalypse has reduced the Earth to a husk, the small community of Lost Wells survives with wise old wiseacre Bruce Dern playing at hippie Ben Kenobi and the Goddess Catherine Mary Stewart playing schoolmarm in a school bus. Their strange little town thrives amidst the rubble because, for reasons unknown to all, water still flows there.
The commune is visited by a placid group of blissed-out fennel wreath/paper pants wearing New Agers led by Derek Abernathy (Ant), who preaches love, but orders his men to machine gun the entire encampment.
Derek warns Dern’s Ethan that he will return to wipe out the rest of the townsfolk and steal their resources, and before you can say “Toshirô Mifune,” Ethan and Stewart’s Angie brave cannibals and gangs on their way to the scary, decadent city to find a bigger badass than Prince Charming.
And find him they do, in the form of the dangerously named George (Paré). George accidentally enlists the aid of a band of asshole outlaws (among them the legendary Julius J. Carry III, the Shogun of Harlem himself) to save the inhabitants of Lost Wells from the evil cult…and perhaps redeem their personal honor along the way?
Yeah – you’ve seen this all before, but it still manages to be super-fun thanks to a winking performance from Dern, a winsome turn from the always-breathtaking Stewart, and a smart-assed jaw-clenched Paré, who’s playing George as if the character seems to be self aware enough to know that he’s playing pretend badass. And hey – Bruce Dern kills a guy with a hub cap. This is a can’t miss.
I know people have hate in their hearts for what they see as perfunctory, post-modern pastiche, but I love this sort of comfort food cinema. You score a lot of points with me when you choose to hit the beats and toy with tropes with a smile on your face that says, “Yeah, we know – but you’d do it too if you could ‘cause how much fun is this?” I’ve talked to so many people over the years who tell me that they became filmmakers because they wanted to make Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s all archetypes and hokey mythmaking and running through the desert shooting guns and crashing cars and kissing girls; it’s what I’d do, and it’s what I love. World Gone Wild is one of the most sweet-natured films you’ll ever see featuring bloodletting and rape (Albert Pyun’s The Sword and the Sorcerer is another) – and I dream of the day the Shout Factory kids announce this flick on Blu Ray.
Is It Good: When I do a CHUD Movie of the Day, I should just eliminate this heading altogether. I’m never going to give you a shit recommendation. Every movie I write up is one I believe does its job. World Gone Wild is no exception. It’s a film firmly planted in a genre I adore, with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek, and a cast I would hug – and in one case, I actually have (catherinemarystewartIloveyouuntilyouaredeepbelowthesea).
Is It Worth a Look: It’s worth tracking down a VHS copy, digging through your attic or basement for the old VCR, and watching the crap out of it with your friends.
It also pops up on MGM’s dedicated networks, so check your local listings.
Random Anecdotes: Director Lee Katzin was a television vet with few theatrical credits – but among them was a film so batshit crazy that it makes this genial post-apocalypto fluff look like the fucking Road Warrior (and Skidoo look like Network). The Phynx is a truly ludicrous spy parody in which a fabricated pop group (that looks like a lot like the Partridge Family with added black guy) learns “soul” from Richard Pryor, “cool” from Dick Clark, and military tactics from Clint Walker, so that they can become popular enough to be asked to play a nebulous Communist country whose leaders have been kidnapping Old Hollywood “legends” in an attempt to undermine American morale. The Phynx perform original Leiber/Stoller songs (?!) and make it behind enemy lines to rescue Maureen O’Sullivan, Johnny Weissmuller, Pat O’Brien, Edgar Bergin, Leo Gorcey, Dorothy Lamour, Busby Berkeley, Trini Lopez, Rudy Vallée, Guy Lombardo, and Colonel Fucking Sanders (I assume he was abducted because he puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes you crave it fortnightly, smartass) among others, all the way doing dopey shtick that will make you embarrassed for humanity.
You might think this sounds so demented that I should have written up Phynx instead of World Gone Wild – but like I mentioned earlier, I’m writing up good movies. That said – if you’re suicidal and need that extra push, The Phynx is available via the Warner Archive.
With regard to WGW, there is but one crazy little factoid I’ve discovered on my travels: Adam Ant’s comically charismatic cult leader controls his flock by reading from a book supposedly written by Charles Manson. It’s a goofy conceit in a really goofy movie, so it sorta’ feels at home – but when you consider the Ray Bradbury-esque fashion in which the world of the film is constructed (wherein people use remnants of our culture in fairly confused ways), it’s a gag that could have been so much better if Ant was reading from some real book that his character was just shrewd enough to misuse for his own nefarious ends.
Turns out that was the original plan. Ant’s Abernathy actually read from a real book during the production, but the owners of the work – a notoriously litigious organization – threatened to sue the production company if any reference to the tome remained in the final film.
So now Derek’s murder cult learns its life lessons from Charlie Manson instead of Dianetics.
Oh – and Michael Paré and Adam Ant would actually reunite for the thriller Sunset Heat, which also features Dennis Hopper and so much Michael Paré ass.
Cinematic Soulmates: Dead End Drive In, Night of the Comet, Six String Samurai, Streets of Fire