Wheels Of Fire (Philippines 1984)

Rating: **
Alternate Title: Desert Warrior
Review Date: 3/20/17
Director: Cirio Santiago
Cast: Gary Watkins, Joe Mari Avellana (Joseph Anderson), Laura Banks, Lynda Wiesmeier, Linda Grovenor

An enjoyable low budget "Road Warrior" (1981) rip-off starring Gary Watkins as a lone warrior named Trace who aimlessly drives around the desert in a late 1960's Mustang that's equipped with a rocket engine for an extra boost of speed. When his sister Arlie (Lynda Wiesmeier) is kidnapped and enslaved by a ruthless warlord named Scourge (Joe Avellana), Trace enlists the help of a bounty hunter named Stinger (Laura Banks) and a girl with ESP named Spike (Linda Grovenor) to track her down and rescue her. Vehicular mayhem ensues.

I definitely have a soft spot for post-apocalyptic films like this, and seeing Trace's beat-up Mustang race through barren wastelands is pure joy. Unfortunately, many of the chase scenes are undercranked to the point of looking silly, but the cars are still fun to watch. Gary Watkins does an adequate job as the hero, but his character lacks charisma and depth. Laura Banks is fun to watch as a tough chick bounty hunter, while Lynda Wiesmeier spends the entire film being abused and degraded as a sex object. That becomes pretty uncomfortable to watch after a while. She also spends a fair amount of time topless and strapped to the hood of a car. Joe Avellana comes across as a compelling and convincing villain, and has more charm and presence than anyone else in the film.

The action scenes are pretty weak, although it's always fun to watch Trace light up bad guys with a flame thrower. The rousing music score is highly derivative and reminiscent of "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), but it sets the tempo nicely. The locations and ruins look fantastic, and that's what sells the film more than anything. It's also worth noting that the film has one of the most ridiculous love scenes that I've ever witnessed. It comes straight out of nowhere and lasts just long enough for you to laugh out loud in complete bewilderment and say "what the fuck was that all about?!?" It's not a great film, but it's one of director Cirio Santiago's better post-apocalyptic outings, and worth a look if you're a fan of the genre.