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I have named a few pets, but I have never christened a child. It seems like a lot of pressure. Whatever you dub your spawn, they are going to be stuck with for the rest of their lives, or at least until they are old enough to apply for a change. I have always been happy with my name; it's served me well. Despite the fact it may have come from a late 80s one-hit wonder, I have always felt like I lucked out because so many others I met as a kid in school weren't happy with theirs. From observation, it looks like a bad start in life if, during your earliest social interactions, you have to carry an identifying last initial because your parents were a part of some Ryan (Jacob, Michael, etc...) zeitgeist, even if they thought they were clever with the spelling. Maybe worse was being dubbed "Jr" because your family passed "Mike" down through its males like alcoholism. No offense if this describes you. I'm just basing this off what I gleaned from the little Ryan C. and Junior’s complaints I observed in grade school. For all I know, each has grown to accept their lot in life. Maybe time has corrected this injustice, and circumstances allowed them to drop the C or Jr.  Plus, it could be worse--you could be Swan, Mantis, or a post-apocalyptic monk named Panasonic.
Sometime after the fall of society, a monk named Panasonic (Kiro Wehara) telepathically converses with his dying master General Electric. While he slips away, Mr. Electric tells the loyal follower that it is up to him to protect the last fertile chunk of unirradiated land known as the Interzone, and with it, the coveted treasure it hides. Panasonic then leaves his side to embark on his crusade. This quest doesn't start well, as right away, he is bitten by a snake. Luckily, drifter Swan (Bruce Abbott) comes along to help, immediately after winning a betting game involving drinking poison with ruffians. The two then run into a muscle-bound dominatrix Mantis and her gang of dirt-pirates who happen to be after the bounty the Interzone contains. Mantis (Teagan Clive) and her right-hand man Balzakan (John Armstead) are fairly hostile, so the pair ends up having to escape via high-speed chase, but not before adding a third to their party--the beautiful Tera (Beatrice Ring). Action, romance, and an angry hole-dwelling mutant follow as the newly formed crew must battle it out with Mantis and her goons to protect the fabled, untouched bounty of the Interzone. 
Interzone is a somewhat zany adventure through a shoestring wasteland that brings along Deathstalker goofball fantasy vibes with the tongue in cheek Mad Max rips. The plot is minimal, reminding me of what would be left of Treasure Island, The Land Before Time (1988), and a Dungeons & Dragons game if they were forced to duke it out in a post-apocalyptic society. Remnants and artifacts from the luxuries of the past make random appearances, primarily as gags. Panasonic and his dying master General Electric are the only references with any underlying point to them. The setting is explained by a general nuclear event that has left the earth mostly unfertile, but not much else is given as far as world-building goes. What's left of humanity has formed a cliche makeshift society built upon manic city-states, roving BDSM gangs, and at least one new dangerous drinking game. The movie only gives you enough facts to have fun with the action. It has a lot of what you would expect from the genre but in smaller, less detailed doses. While you could pick up some insight from its take on man's downfall if you tried, a critique on society is far from the point in this case.
The pacing is a little back and forth, but goes by relatively fast and without overselling a thin story. To its benefit, Interzone doesn't take itself very seriously, setting some achievable goals at enjoyable characters and escapism. The writing puts plenty of stock in humor, from the lead’s one-liners and quips to the details of its antagonists, which keeps it from a close call with monotony. The plot comes off as a cornball sword and sorcery story only with guns instead of swords and very little sorcery. With a quick change of decoration, its treasure hunt could be just as fitting for a pseudo-medieval, low budget epic. It rounds parody at times, but the classic archetypes, pre-chewed flavor, and self-aware delivery come together as an entertaining, easy to watch chunk of post-apocalyptic cheese.
The low budget is apparent from the get-go and the project doesn't have any of the artful garnish of other Italian takes on the subject matter. This may be, in part, why it doesn't get the same love as some other Mad Max clones. It is extremely basic when it comes to sets, wardrobe, and weaponry. The style choices for the new world's citizens are comparatively muted, landing somewhere between the least creative Road Warrior characters, gothic American gladiators, and homeless people. Similarly, the vehicles aren't as elaborate as some of its dystopic cinema counterparts, which I dug in this instance. I'm sure it was an economic thing, but when the shit hits the fan, I could see my neighbors making trash-carts before anyone put together super-powered doom-mobiles. The camera work is functional, and probably one of the more technical standouts. Angles work around the more robust features, and there are one or two creative choices spliced in. To accommodate a lot of the writing, it goes full cartoon, often with some intentionally goofball moments and occasionally pulling tricks straight out of an 80s comedy. The editing is another story, as it often undermines any quality in the camerawork. Some of the shots get the wind knocked out of them by hanging on too long, and the cuts often feel broken. It doesn't hurt a viewing too much because if you make it past the first fifteen minutes, you're probably okay with some b-movie style craftsmanship in this area. As for the audio dubbing, it gets pretty bad at points, even for an Italian produced Mad Max rip-off, at least on my copy.  I think the music accommodates the humor more than anything, as sometimes it sounds like it was rejected from a late 80s John Candy movie soundtrack. That starts to work as the movie moves along or at least when I stopped expecting the synth to get dramatic.
The Italian project was filmed in Rome and directed by American filmmaker Deran Sarafian. In a few years, he would give us Terminal Velocity (1994), with Charlie Sheen, which I think bombed initially because of its release proximity to Drop Zone (1994). Both films are fun, however, Terminal Velocity is, in my opinion, the superior watch and makes an excellent pairing with Point Break (1991). Sarafian co-wrote the screenplay with Claudio Fragasso, the director of Troll 2 (1990), Beyond Darkness (1990), and a slew of other classic exploitation films. Another one of the legendary masters of sleaze, cheese, and mayhem Joe D'Amato served as producer. Outside of being a blatant budgeted play for some popular trends, the film doesn't have much of his DNA immediately present with its severe lack of nudity and his ordinary collaborators (although Laura Gemser makes a quick uncredited cameo). Despite the tame nature of the content, the movie still saw about ten minutes of cuts for release in the UK market, bringing it down to eighty-eight minutes from the ninety-seven the rest of us saw.
A great deal of the film's value comes from the cast, most significantly Bruce Abbott. He manages to pull off the lovable scoundrel character entirely and looks like he is having fun with the role, while not caring too much. He puts forth a "Swan" less as a brooding Mad Max and more along the lines of Bruce Campbell, which sets a manageable tone for the entire film. The character is relatively removed from Abbott's iconic two-film run as Dr. Dan Cain in the Re-Animator series, and although I would choose those films any day over this one, it makes me wish he had more starring junk-food action-flick roles under his belt. Tera is played by Beatrice Ring, who appears in several Italian exploitation films, including Zombie 3 (1988, also written by Claudio Fragasso). She doesn't get a whole lot to do here, but like everyone else, makes the best of it. Kiro Wehara, in one of only three career performances, is Panasonic, the other two being Le Miniere Del Kilimangiaro (1986) and The Blade Master (1982), aka Ator 2 (directed by Joe D'Amato). I dug his portrayal here, as it had a certain warmth to it. Plus, a lot of his dialogue is dubbed over as telepathic conversation, and to his credit, he often makes the perfect goofy face. Bodybuilder Teagan Clive is the leader of the bad guys. I know her as The Alienator, but outside of b-movies, she has appeared in several magazines as a fitness model and writer. Clive does more here than Alienator (1990), which is to say she does more than just her best Terminator impression. She kind of has a horny-Amazonian-in-a-wrestling-outfit thing going on, which I can get behind. 
Interzone is a slim, comedic, and damn near charming trot through the recycled waste of post-apocalyptic cinema. It's probably not going to bump off any of your favorites in its niche. However, between its lack of giving a shit and likable leads, it's too much fun for me to disregard. There is an easy, seemingly quick watch to be had if a viewer can stand some well-used tropes and frugal ingredients. Without spoiling anything, I can say the name Panasonic did end up making some sense in this case, although I'm still a little confused about the Swan and Mantis. 
 1h 37min | 1989
Director: Deran Sarafian
Writers: Claudio Fragasso, Deran Sarafian

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