The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

Rating: **
Review Date: 2/21/15
Director: Robert Clouse
Cast: Yul Brynner, Max Von Sydow, William Smith

A dreary, post-apocalyptic nightmare that could easily be considered a precursor to George Miller's "The Road Warrior" (1981). The year is 2012, and mankind is on the brink of annihilation. After the gasoline disappeared in the 1980's, nuclear war, famine, and plague left civilization in ruins. Max Von Sydow is the benevolent leader of a peaceful commune of people in the ruins of New York City, and one of his men has succeeded in creating some disease resistant crops. A rival gang of hostile men lead by a tough and intimidating William Smith eyes the compound, waiting for a moment of weakness. As the situation slowly deteriorates and a violent conflict becomes increasingly imminent, a lone fighter named Carson (Yul Brynner) shows up and sides with Sydow in exchange for food and cigars. Sydow has been looking for a strong fighter to help him flee the city and spread his precious seeds, which results in a desperate dash through an underground subway tunnel with Smith's soldiers in hot pursuit.

While the production values aren't all that great, the film does a wonderful job of creating an oppressive mood and a desolate atmosphere. It's a raw and brutal film, filled with desperation, hopelessness, and death. Max Von Sydow and Yul Brynner are excellent actors and they do a fantastic job of setting the stage and selling the material. Brynner's action scenes are hard hitting and he gives a physically intense performance. William Smith makes an excellent adversary, who is strong, fierce, and cunning. All too often, characters of this type are overplayed caricatures of evil, but Smith manages to bring depth, intelligence, and charisma to his role. While some of the action comes across as cheesy, the film never loses its sense of doom and gloom. Good stuff for fans of cautionary science fiction.