Let's Do Our Best to Survive in the North American Wasteland : Roadwar 2000

Put your Let's Plays in here.
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Roadwar 2000 is a 1986 SSI combat game where you build up a road gang in an attempt to stay alive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. North America has been devastated by a pandemic and nuclear attack, and only the strong will survive. As society collapses, the cities have turned into self-contained fiefdoms where violence is the only language that many understand. Looting and killing for necessary resources is just a part of daily life for most. Gangs that grow in strength sometimes provide a limited amount of safety for a town, but there remains the constant threat of the disease for which a vaccine is rare, and rumors of more dangerous invaders making war on the continent. What hope is there for the future? Who knows, you just want to keep your cars gassed up and your soldiers ready to fight.

Roadwar 2000 is one of the more unusual 'RPG-light' games in that while you play as a gang leader, you do not build up that character. Instead you're attempting to acquire better quality vehicles and soldiers, along with occasionally a few 'cronies' (such as a doctor) that provide specialized skills. The soldiers themselves are essentially abstract, just a certain number of people rated by their quality in combat. The best analogue I can think of in modern games would be the Mount & Blade series.

The game consists of wandering around the map in search of loot and people to make your gang stronger. Sometimes you encounter rivals on foot, and fight them in an abstract head-to-head fights. Other times you are in your vehicles and have to fight it out on a tactical map, which is really where the heart of the game is. There is something of an overarching plot, but seeing as this originally ran on the C64 and Apple II, so don't expect anything too complex.

That does lead to something of a downside of the game, in that the combat encounters do not vary much. It can become rather tedious, since the plot takes a while to advance. This is a screenshot LP, so you won't have to see every single encounter, but I'm also going to keep it entertaining with something extra: an ongoing set of movies.

Each week, I'll announce a new post-apocalyptic movie for the week, which I'll watch and post a brief commentary on. Everyone's encouraged to watch and post their own thoughts on the films. [I'd love to stream them but lack the hardware and bandwidth to do so]. I'll be of course examining movies that relate closely to the world of the game, usually with vehicular combat and gang warfare in a world gone mad. I'm also sticking to films that were made around the time of the game or before; essentially the latter part of the Cold War. That means they'll generally be from the period 1970-1990.

The specific version of Roadwar 2000 I'm playing is the Amiga port, which helpfully includes details on your gang on-screen, and probably the best color version available. Sound and animation is minimal, so the screenshot format will not miss out on much of it.


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Update 0 : Who are we?

The game manual gives an account of the events leading up to the start of the game as a series of journal entries. Instead of dumping them all at once, I'll be posting a few at a time as we get through the early stages of the game. Here is how it starts:


In a dimly-lit corner of a government archive, you can find a dust-covered volume chronicling the most horrifying years in human history. It is the journal of the Director of the top secret Government Underground Biolab, and it reveals the Institute's heroic struggle against the invasion of 1999. The journal has been retained, but one hopes that the world never again will need its lessons.

Director's Journal wrote:
March 29, 1999

Washington is a zoo. St. Andrew’s received 187 new cases of the strange “bug” yesterday. The city is panicking. Unfortunately, ours is not an isolated case. Twenty-two other cities have had similar outbreaks of disease. So far, HEW is investigating the routine methods of contamination: poisoned food. bad batches of medicine, etc. We have been alerted, but no quarantines have been set up yet. The symptoms are extreme: the incoherent patient usually experiences debilitating nausea, chills, and high fever. Tomorrow, we'll receive blood and tissue samples for analysis. I'll assign Pintero to the work.

May 7, 1999

We now have a national epidemic. Pintero found the cause of the disease... a bacterium in three different forms. At first, the bacterium exists in a pupal stage, much like a caterpillar. The bacterium in this form causes great damage to the entire human neurological system. In the next stage, a cocoon, the bacterium becomes dormant, causing very little or no damage. But later, about two months after the adult bacterium breaks out of the cocoon, the patient dies. Pintero’s experiments on rats convinced me that we don't have much time: the disease runs its course in about a year. We've got to produce a vaccine that prevents maturation. Once we've done that. we'll have to find a cure. I'm creating a special medical task force. In the meantime, we'll work with HEW to find out how this thing spreads. They suspect foul play.
You might want to check on where Pintero earned his science degree, there. HEW, by the way, is the former name of the US Department of Health and Human Services (Health, Education, and Welfare), but it was split apart half a decade before this game was written. I guess they just decided to merge the departments back together in the far-off future of the 1990s.

Now, the game:

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The title actually scrolls up and some theme music plays. You can see it here (not my video):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuVZE6e0UsY

And then, we get dropped into a random location and date, and prompted to name our gang.

So...what do we name ourselves?

Since I can restart and try for a start in a particular location, you can also suggest a starting region from this list:

Canada
Northwest
West Central
Northeast
California
Border States
South

(Mexico is excluded, and California starts will be restricted to certain parts of the state, for reasons)


Suggest a gang name and optionally a starting region.
Last edited by Wakkerdis on Wed Oct 14, 2020 4:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Gang name: BeachBums
Starting Region: Canada.

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Gang Name: Millenials
Starting Region: North-East

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We are the Gator Goons. Florida Man ended up a little far from home, as when the apocalypse hit he found himself somewhere in the Northeast, close to the Canadian border.

Updates will probably be mid-week for the game, Sunday or Monday for the movie posts.

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The Year 2000

When the sickness hit, Florida Man had a plan. He knew exactly what the country needed to do. But he couldn't just sit around and talk about it with his friends at home in Tampa. He was determined to tell it to the president himself. And for once, he decided to act. He loaded up the Gatormobile (a lime-colored 1976 Pontiac Formula 400), convinced a couple friends to tag along, and drove straight to New York City.

It took two weeks to get there (they ran out of gas three times), and when he arrived, he discovered a city in chaos. No one seemed seemed willing or able to help him locate the president. Most seemed confused. Some wondered openly if the president was even still alive, and more than a few expressed their own wishes as to what to do to him. Others got agitated and eyed the Gatormobile a bit too suspiciously for Florida Man's liking. Riots and violence broke out as more people succumbed to the deadly outbreak. One of his Floridian buddies had disappeared; maybe he got sick. Travel down the highway seemed too dangerous now, and gas was getting hard to come by. Before long, he found himself sleeping in the car to make sure it was kept safe, and often not even sleeping at all.

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After a few months, he had decided to flee the big city. He'd been warned to stay off the highways -- a single vehicle might be easy pickings for some of the more powerful gangs that patrolled them. So he headed a ways north on the backroads instead. He eventually reached a town, somewhere called Albania. He was pretty sure he'd heard of Albania, but he though it sounded like a state, not a city. He came to a big road junction and hollered at a man standing nearby to tell him where they led. He was told one road would lead to Chez Neckdaddy, and the other way to Troy. Troy sounded good, a solid name. He'd known a guy named Troy back in high school. With a hope for finding a safer place to hang out until he could get back home, Florida Man drove off in that direction.

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When he reached Troy, he found it to be mostly calm, at least relative to New York City. He still needed to keep a close watch on the Gatormobile, but he was able to make a few friends in the town he felt he could trust. They all seemed to be fans of the Gator Mobile, and he felt they'd be willing to help him protect it. Soon they started hanging out together all the time, and joining up for raids of the local markets and farms. This gave Florida Man a new idea. If those big gangs could take over the highway and even some cities, he figured maybe he could do the same. All they needed was a name. He took one long at his gleaming green vehicle, and inspiration struck: The Gator Goons.

This is the main game window. We are shown at the center of the map (it's always a boxy truck, no matter our make-up). Key details of the gang are shown on the right. At the start, we do not have much. One gun, one car, and not a lot of space for supplies. Also, our gang is just 8 people at the moment, because that's all that can fit in the car, even with four of them riding on the outside.

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With the birth of the Gator Goons (and the three cans of beer he'd downed that morning) giving him courage, Florida Man decided to try and expand the gang. After wandering for a bit around Troy, he encountered a group of people. Maybe they were a rival gang, or maybe there were some folks willing to join up. He waited expectantly to see what they would do.

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The other people suddenly fired off a handful of guns and bows, and even threw some smoke bombs before running off without saying a word. Thankfully nobody in the Gator Goons was injured.

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A few hours later, they spotted a car speeding towards them up the street. Maybe it was part of the same group, or maybe somebody else. Florida Man urged everyone to hurry into the Gatormobile as he fired it up and they prepared to fight.

Road combat has three levels of detail: Abstract, Tactical, and Tactical (Quick). We'll eventually see all three. At this point, with only a single vehicle, abstract is the way to go, since it's roughly a roll of the dice to win. Normally you're probably going to use full Tactical, since that is the main draw of the game.

I did forget that while most actions in the game allow you to see the results, abstract (and melee) combat goes by as fast as possible. So I didn't capture the actual part where we smashed into the other car and destroyed it.


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The two cars rushed towards each other down the street, each daring the other to swerve. A few seconds later, the other car swerved left and struck hard off the front right end of Florida Man's car, and then slammed into the wall of a building. Everyone inside died. The Gatormobile sustained minor damage. The other car was not salvageable. However, there were a few supplies in the trunk that weren't ruined, and even a couple of intact guns on board. At the moment, though, there was no space in their own car to keep it, so the gang stashed them in an abandoned boxing gym they'd occasionally used as a sleeping space.

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With the thrill of their first victory, the gang strode once more down the streets of Troy. They came upon another group of men standing around nervously. This time, Florida Man grabbed a friend and wandered over to talk to them. They turned out to be just a bunch of folks who were out looting in a loosely-organized band. A few were willing to come along with him. But they took a look at the Gatormobile and one of them asked how it'd be possible to travel with them all in the car.

"I figure if some of these guys die, you could fill their spots," said Florida Man, which earned him stares from both the new recruits and his own paltry band of men. "Or, eh, maybe later," he chuckled.

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Nobody from that group decided to hang around for much longer, though.

One of the gang members made the suggestion that if they really wanted more people, maybe they needed to have more space for them to ride. Another vehicle, perhaps. Florida Man reluctantly agreed, because he knew they couldn't all just load up in the Gatormobile forever. More space for supplies would be good, too.

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Initially his efforts to obtain a vehicle were frustrated (though he insisted afterward that he did not say he wanted to get rid of 'gay people' but the 'foreigners trying to kill us'). After a few more hours of searching, though, there was a fantastic discovery: a full-size van just sitting in the parking lot of a bowling alley. Most of the seats were ripped up, and the side door was nearly rusted through, but with a little tinkering, they found the engine to be in decent condition.

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The next day they found a taxi cab garage, and were able to fix up the dents the Gatormobile'd received in the last fight. There were also some fuel cans that they could load up in the back of the van, and they got the seats into working condition as well.

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Things were going well, and the outlook for the gang was even better once they raided a supermarket for a huge amount of food. They stored what they couldn't keep in the cars back at the gym.

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Another attempt at garnering more members of the gang went poorly. Even when Florida Man insisted that he knew Satan personally, it didn't seem to impress this gang.

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Finally, after another day spent wandering the back streets of Troy, the Gator Goons convinced some of the men in a disorganized rabble to sign up with them.

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These new troops have little combat experience, but they would be handy in a bigger fight. All that was needed now was some more guns.

Gang members are ranked by quality, and have zero other attributes, even names. The starting letter indicates the troop quality, with A(rmsmaster) being the highest and E(scort) the lowest.

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The gang retreated to their storage gym and decided to redistribute the supplies. There still weren't enough guns, though.

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Those concerns would have to come later, as the lookout cried out, "Vehicle coming!". It turned out another group had followed them back to their cache! This time, it would be a full-on fight. The group rushed out to their cars and prepared for the showdown in the streets.

We'll now be doing tactical combat, which is the heart of this game. For starters, we can set up our vehicles precisely how we want them, although the auto-deploy is usually good enough (and we can tweak it after, so you always want to auto-deploy).

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Florida Man and several of the founding members loaded up in the Gatormobile.

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The rest filled up in the van. There weren't enough guns yet to really be useful in combat, so the makeshift crossbows would have to do for now.


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Top-quality 1980s user interface: To proceed from setup and start combat, you have to select 'quit' and confirm it. This process happens during some parts of the combat as well. Next, if you want the full combat experience, you have to select 'Cancel' here.

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The last option, at least, is just to pick which map we want. We'll start with the standard map for now. The map used depends on the terrain type on the main map (which is 'metropolitan' for this battle). I'll give a few more notes on combat in future posts, but this one is short enough that it doesn't need much detail.

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The Gator Goons' two cars rolled into the street. Their opposition turned out to be just a motorcycle with a sidecar. "Easy pickins!" yelled one of the men on the roof as the Gatormobile's engine revved up.

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They weren't close enough yet to fire their crossbows when gunfire erupted from the sidecar of the motorcycle. Two men on the van went flying off as the bullets ripped through them.

"Those are Furies," said one of the new recruits. "We're lucky there's just one of them."

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Florida Man kept his foot on the accelerator as he tried to get the Gatormobile around to the rear of the motorcycle. Meanwhile, it was speeding toward the van, as if on a suicide collision course.

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The slower-moving van swerved into a narrow side street as the motorcycle pulled up right behind it. An exchange of shots killed one on board the cycle, and one man inside the van. Worried that the sidecar's occupants could be trying to hop inside and take out their inexperienced driver, one of the Bodyguards on the roof dropped down through the window and took the wheel.

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One of the escorts in the van tried a pre-emptive boarding maneuver and leaped toward the motorcycle. He made it on, but the driver kicked him in the face a second later, and rolled the bike over him with a sickening crunch.

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The van turned to the right out of the side street while the motorcycle veered left. They were now, more wisely, keeping their distance with the guns.

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As the motorcycle skidded and made a tight circle through a parking lot, the Gatormobile came around the corner and drew close for a fight.

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Knowing that they were outnumbered, the Furies' motorcycle driver made a last-ditch attempt at revenge. She would try to damage the Gatormobile enough that they couldn't escape before the rest of her gang would arrive. The cycle smashed into the rear of the car in a collision that killed both of those on board.

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With the battle over, the Gator Goons spent the night guarding their cache, and sorted out their weapons and food. They'd managed to loot quite a lot of food so far.

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Florida Man wanted to get a better idea of who really had control of Albania. Was it the Furies? Those Satanists? The mysterious Neckdaddy? He sent out a handful of men to gather intelligence.

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The answer shocked him. This was real bad news. Everyone said these Invaders were some foreign army, maybe Russians or something. That would have been dangerous enough. But Florida Man knew the truth. Those Invaders, he knew they were aliens. Aliens, man. The Gator Goons had to leave town, and fast.


This week's film: Starting off with an obvious choice, Mad Max

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Mad Max (1979)

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"Any longer out there on that road, and I'm one of them, you know? A terminal crazy!"

Synopsis
After a title telling us that this is set "a few years from now", the film starts with a somewhat undisciplined police force (MFP, or Main Force Patrol) chasing after a couple in a stolen police vehicle. After multiple failures by other MFP members, it falls to the man of the title, Max Rockatansky, to catch the car being driven by "The Nightrider". Max's car races to intercept the Nightrider with ease, and he causes the criminal to lose his nerve and then crash into an uncleared wreck on the highway.

The Nightrider turns out to have been part of a biker gang led by the imposing "Toecutter". When the gang shows up to claim the Nightrider's body, more violence and lawlessness ensues. The victims are too terrified to press any charges even after brutal rapes have occurred. This leads to Max's friend on the force, Jim Goose, to attack "Johnny the Boy", a gang member being held in custody. But Johnny is nevertheless released, and the Toecutter's gang first sabotages Goose's motorcycle and then trap him in a burning vehicle. Goose is left horribly disfigured and barely alive, driving Max to despair when he sees him in the hospital.

Max decides he's been surrounded in violence and craziness for too long, and quits the MFP. He heads to the coast with his wife Jessie and their infant son (known only as 'Sprog'). Eventually, however, the Toecutter (seeking revenge for the Nightrider and also on Jessie personally) finds them. He kills the child and leaves Jessie with serious brain damage and internal injuries.

This pushes Max over the edge. He returns to the MFP garage and takes the latest souped-up vehicle from it. He finds the Toecutter's gang and runs most of them off the road. The Toecutter himself is killed when he slams into a trailer truck coming over a hill. Max then hunts down Johnny the Boy and inflicts a torturous death on him, completing his own descent into madness.

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Just from a short plot description, Mad Max might sound like a movie about revenge, and one could imagine a modern movie might have spent more time on that aspect of the story. But given that the drive for vengeance comes rather late in the runtime, and the deaths themselves give Max no satisfaction, it's clear that a much stronger theme is the loss of humanity -- both of one man, and of the society he is living in. George Miller, making his directorial debut, had been a doctor working in a hospital. After seeing so many victims of car crashes, he initially intended to tell the story of a man becoming horrified at how callously modern society accepted these casualties. But the story got pushed into a near-future world, and mixed with producer/co-writer Byron Kennedy's vision for incorporating vehicular action into the heightened story, managed to produce something groundbreaking.

Through deftly-edited establishing shots and bits of background dialogue, the film does quite a good job organically conveying the somewhat outlandish tone of a world that is descending toward chaos, even without necessarily indicating a cause for the decline. From the opening shot we see signs that the buildings and highways aren't being maintained, and that the MFP, and probably whatever higher government exists, is struggling to hold some order in an uncaring world. We get hints that life in the cities is perhaps somewhat more normal, since hospitals, nightclubs, and lawyers still exist. But we also see just how quickly the characters acknowledge that out on the highway or in the more remote locales, violence rules. It's also telling that the people who die are more frequently victims of 'accidents' than of deliberate killing blows. A world where nobody is in control is also a world where it is far easier to lose one's life.

One other crucial theme of the film is how it depicts the effect of this degradation on the people exposed to it. Max, of course, is seen to fear turning out to be more violent than the criminals and eventually he does become so. But there is also, somewhat passively portrayed, the effect on other groups. A gaggle of children observe the interactions of the police and the gang members, and they are learning how control is maintained in the world they're growing up in. Women, as well, are becoming victimized more frequently as crime increases. The Nightrider's girl (unnamed in the film but possibly called "Lobotomy Eyes" in the script) isn't even of interest to the Toecutter after she dies. To people like him, women are likely occasionally used for sexual fulfillment but not otherwise valued. When he first encounters Jessie, it is in a sexually agressive way as he looms over her and licks the ice cream cone in her hand. This causes her to respond with an initial smile, but only so she can get close enough for a kick to the groin. She knows she has to defend herself, as does May, the woman who owns the seaside house where the family is trying to relax. May is at first able to show up with a gun and save Jessie and her child from the Toecutter when Max is off hunting after the rest of the gang. That success is ultimately frustrated, but she at least knows what to do in this world; these women are not simply hoping for any men to rescue them.

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Mad Max might not be the first film in this genre, but it was massively influential and cast a long shadow on post-apocalyptic films that came after. A number of them would feature a black-clad lone antihero, or make some attempt to focus on modified cars engaging each other in road duels, or even include some over-the-top crazy gang members. Few would combine all the elements as well as Mad Max did, with its off-kilter, decaying world and intense and visceral road action. The film was made on an insanely low budget, and while sometimes that meant incredibly unsafe conditions for the stunts crew, it also allowed for some real creative unpredictability as the actors, especially the gang members, were frequently improvising their parts.

If you've never seen it, and maybe have only known either the imitators or the sequels that lean more heavily into the action and a more chaotic world, you should give the first film a shot. It's probably one of the more thoughtful post-apocalyptic films that doesn't come off ponderous or pretentious. Indeed, there's a vibrance and propulsive energy to it that make for a genuinely enjoyable thrill ride, but in a setting that would truly drive anyone eventually to madness.

(One note: be sure to use the original Australian audio, not the inferior English-to-English dub that was used for the American/international release.)

Connections to Roadwar 2000

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Certainly anyone playing the game would have been familiar with Mad Max or its imitators, and at least in part would be seeking to replicate the feel of it. There can be no doubt that the game designers were influenced by it. The world of the first movie is maybe slightly less degraded than the Roadwar one, as some federal authority exists in it. It is not far off from the game world, however, with the cities mostly able to function about as well as they can, and the indications that outside of them and in the smaller towns, the world is truly dangerous and lawless.

Another element that quite possibly affects the game is just how violent and short the vehicular combat can be. In Mad Max, the cars may race down the roads at high speed, but before long they will typically smash into either another car or a stationary obstacle. In Roadwar, ramming vehicles is considered to be a normal part of combat (which I try to avoid since it's a sure way to lose your smaller vehicles). I'm not sure if that is really a matter of influence or just a gameplay balance to keep battles shorter. It's probably also a necessary aspect of the primitive AI, which likely couldn't be counted on to do anything very fancy on the tactical side.

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Florida Man Takes Bulldozer on Joyride Through Canada
GUB Director's journal wrote: May 27, 1999

It's worse than any of us thought. They used fake passports to get here. Anderson located one of them in Philadelphia. and I flew out for the interrogation in her guarded hospital room. Even truth serum didn't make her talk or dull the hatred in her eyes. As she succumbed to the disease, she spoke deliriously of her home and her cause. We know only that she hates anything associated with the US. Her blood samples indicate the bacterium has matured. She has only a month to live, but I can't feel sorry for this suicidal lunatic.

June 8, 1999

This one talked. It's grim. The plan originated with a fanatic sect. Some of their scientists genetically engineered the bacteria. They injected one hundred volunteers, then sent them to the US to spread the disease. They have been very effective; 82% of our county is infected to some degree. But the sect itself developed a cure. Many of the sect’s members have received the vaccine. When I asked this member about the vaccine, he just laughed and turned his head to the wall. Our task force must succeed.
He knew he had to get out of town. Between the Invaders and the other gangs like the Furies, the Gator Goons would get wiped out too easily if they made any more trouble in town. They loaded up the Gatormobile and the van and took off the next morning.

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He'd heard that those Invaders seemed to come from the shore. Probably so they could hide their alien ships in the ocean. The gang had an okay amount of fuel, but it needed to be spent wisely. He could have headed west, but that would have led him straight through Neckdaddy's territory, and at this point he didn't even want to find out which side he was on. Someone in the gang suggested they take the "north way", and that sounded good to him. So they headed off northward into the hills, maybe going to Vermont. Florida Man was curious to see what Vermont looked like.

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Throughout the day they stopped in a few small towns to see if there was anything worth looting, but all they found were emptied-out shops and burned-down gas stations. There were no people to be seen, and no signs of life. They discovered a large lake actually separated them from Vermont, and it didn't seem worth it to actually try to cross it. Heading further into the mountains on their west would have meant eventual starvation, and it didn't even seem as if the Chevy van would manage off the highway. Still, the landscape appealed to Florida Man. There were some of the nicest mountains he'd ever seen, and if he had the chance he'd might want to come back here in more peaceful times. That night they found a pleasant camping spot near the lake, and the men were even able to relax and go swimming for a bit.

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The next day, the gang blew past the barricade that had been set up at the border crossing to Canada. A band of men with guns shot at them, but the Gator Goons managed to evade them. Florida Man felt a thrill as he entered this new country. An few hours later, they came into sight of Montreal. He hoped the border guards had at least been able to keep the aliens out, but he wanted to be sure, so he sent a few people ahead to scout the city.

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The consensus from the group was that the main controlling group was some local gang. Maybe it was a branch of the Furies, but nobody knew if their influence had spread this far north. Either way, at least it wasn't the Invaders. Possibly he could deal with these gangsters if it came to it, although the Gator Goons would need to get a bit bigger before that happened. In the rush to leave Troy, they hadn't managed to bring enough people with them to even fill up the van.

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As luck would have it, the gang snuck into a bus depot and was able to use the repair bay to keep the cars in decent shape. They also found enough gas to make up for what they'd used on the trip.


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The next day, they found a few local mercenaries that were dissatisfied with the way the gangs in Montreal were running the city. Some of them didn't speak much English, but as long as they could fight, Florida Man was happy. He gathered from their leader, a broad-shouldered fellow named Jack, that the gangs in charge of the city had eyes everywhere. They also maintained a strong grip on the city's central island, and wouldn't let any outside vehicles to cross the bridges. Jack urged Florida Man to either keep his head down or leave the city before long, because rivals in the outskirts were never allowed to get very big before coming under attack.

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Florida Man didn't want to leave the city when he'd just arrived, and knew that to keep expanding the gang, they'd again need to find more vehicles. So they went out looking for more cars. When they discovered a Cat D5 bulldozer with a missing front blade, the rest of the Gator Goons thought it a bit peculiar that he wanted to keep it. There wasn't enough space to load more than a few people on it, it was really slow, and it burned a ton of gasoline. But something about it appealed to Florida Man. He'd never had a job in construction, but always thought he could do it. With nobody stopping him now, he hopped on board the bulldozer and started tooling jerkily around the dirt lot. "We have to take it!" he shouted.

Unfortunately the construction vehicle doesn't give you any special abilities in combat. It is slow and poorly armored, but it does have extremely high 'structure', meaning it can survive a ton of ramming hits. It is also tracked, meaning it can't have its tires shot off, either.

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Jack had the idea of attaching a metal frame to the front of the bulldozer to use it for storing supplies. A few hours later it was completed, and after cleaning out a supermarket, they found there was still a lot of space to throw on guns, tires, or anything else they needed on the road.

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The next day, about mid-morning, a man in a white coat approached the house where the gang was hiding out. He introduced himself as Dr. Balthazar, and said he wanted to help keep them safe. At first Florida Man was worried that this was some trick of the gangs, or maybe the alien Invaders, to infiltrate the Gator Goons. One of the mercenaries came forward and said she had actually told the doctor to come, since she'd seen they didn't have anyone to patch up the wounded. Florida Man asked if the doctor was willing to ride along with them, and the man agreed, as long as he was given complete access to their supplies of medicine.

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This is the first of our 'cronies', who don't add to our combat numbers but show up on this info screen instead. Having a doctor can reduce casualties in fights, and they are also important if gang members end up getting sick. There's no real way to know how good they are except by guessing at their performance, and if you decide to get a new one you can't get the old one back.

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A search for more vehicles and people turned violent, as one group of locals fired back when they saw the Gator Goons approaching.

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It seems the gang was starting to get a reputation in Montreal. The next morning, some defectors from the local gangs showed up and asked if there was room for them. Thanks to the losses from the previous day's exchange of fire, they could. It did not make Jack comfortable, though. He still said that they weren't nearly strong enough to take on the main gang, and there was a good chance that at least some of these new recruits were spies. Florida Man said they needed more people to crew the vehicles, and he'd make sure the new guys didn't get first choice of guns.

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Something that really was troubling the gang leader was that they just didn't seem to be finding much loot in the town. Food was reasonably easy to come by, but sources of guns, ammo, and fuel -- especially fuel, were few and far between. Was this just the way things had played out in Montreal? Or was the ruling gang watching their moves, making sure they would stick around just long enough to have the trap sprung on them?

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His suspicions heightened all the more that afternoon. When the were inspecting the north side of the town for better loot, they were surprised from behind by a screaming man on a cherry-red motorcycle. It was the Furies, yet again. The motorcycle sped by them without firing and rushed down the avenue before taking a sharp left turn. It didn't return immediately but they could hear the bike running up and down the street in the distance, as if daring the Gator Goons to come at them. Florida Man grabbed what guns they had and hopped into the Gatormobile. The Chevy followed after.

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The Furies still seemed to be sending just one lone cycle at a time. Since the Gatormobile was the only car that could match them in maneuverability and fire range, the van roamed a bit off to the side this time, ensuring that it could not escape to the central part of Montreal. The bulldozer stayed back, well away from the action.

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The sports car and the motorcycle approached each other at highway speeds, with the Gatormobile reaching the cross street first. A small amount of gunfire was exchanged between the two vehicles but no casualties were inflicted.

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The motorcycle seemed to be attempting the previous tactic of slamming into the car, leaving it damaged enough to be easy prey for a larger group to come later. But Florida Man knew his car well, and wasn't going to let the Gatormobile get a scratch this time. He made the curve around the block at 80 mph and kept well ahead of his adversary.

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Another turn and they made a figure-eight pattern on the small city blocks. With the Gatormobile heading south now, the van was chugging north up the main street. Florida Man signaled the men on top to hold their fire until right at the moment they could get close, and when they did, one of the enemy gangsters was shot out of the sidecar.

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As the Gatormobile swerved in another circle around the block, the big van approached. They were able to close to crossbow range, but all of their shots missed.

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Moments later, the battle was over. The Furies went for the only target they could, but even a head-on collision did minor damage to the Chevy van. Another battle was over. And they knew now that they were, indeed, still somewhere the Furies could consider their territory. Fortunately for the gang, they raided a sporting goods store that night with a large selection of rifles in it. Jack picked out a Montana Varminter for himself to use, and Florida Man grabbed an Auto-5 shotgun.

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Another morning spent in fruitless searching ended in a sudden tragedy: as the gang was walking along Rue St Paul, bursts of gunfire opened up from the buildings above. It was an ambush! The Gator Goons fled for safety, but losses were heavy.

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Jack suspected they'd been betrayed by an infiltrator. The next time they recruited members, both he and Florida Man went over to check on the new members before letting them in the gang. They ended up with some below-average goons, but these at least seemed reliable. With the death of so many men, Florida Man finally agreed that it was about time to head on and try their luck in another town. But they couldn't get anywhere without gas for the D5. Jack, and many of the people in the gang, said just to leave it in the city. With the van alone they could have carried a week's worth of food. But Florida Man was determined not to let his prize toy go.

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A taxi lot on the outskirts of the town gave them the stroke of luck they needed: just enough fuel to get to another city. Jack and Dr. Balthazar were in favor of heading northeast, to Quebec, but most of the people in the gang, especially the Americans, thought that would put them too close to the edge of what civilization remained. Florida Man didn't want to head toward the coast, in case there were Invaders there.

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They headed out on the westward highway in the middle of the night, in an attempt to avoid the notice of the gangs. By the time the sun rose, they were well on their way.

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Later that morning as they headed down into a broad valley, lookouts on the van spied movement among the many wrecked and abandoned cars strewn along the roadway. It was another group of Furies, but this time, two motorcycles screaming up the road.

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The Furies began converging on the van, so Jack swung it sideways to allow a broadside of fire from the inside to rake the two cycles. Two people were killed outright.

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In a dangerous move, Florida Man sped at high speed straight across the median strip separating the two directions of the freeway from each other. In the van, Jack gripped the wheel tightly and kept his cool. The Gatormobile stayed in control after hitting the grass, and turned to take its own shots at the motorcycles.

Moving to different terrain actually does have an effect on speed, and can cause unexpected turns, depending on the vehicle's handling ability. The speed and current stats (which are affected by speed) are shown in the lower right.

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Unfortunately the Gatormobile's shots all missed as it made the turn back on the highway and threaded its way between two burned-out cars. It was able to draw the cycles into a chase after it, though.

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The bulldozer realized that it was now a bit too close to the combat. A few accurate shots from those Furies could have put it out of commission.

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As Florida Man slammed down on the accelerator to speed away from the sidecar cycle turning to follow him, the second cycle made a turn to go after the bulldozer.

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But it misjudged the turn and skidded straight into the front right end of the bulldozer. A few of the food crates were smashed, but there was no real damage at all to the sturdy D5.

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Right as they started to gain separation from the motorcycle, a merc on the roof fired a shot that took out the engine. It continued straight into the side of a wrecked pickup truck and the remaining occupants were dead before they hit the ground.

You don't actually do structural damage by shooting a vehicle; it only crashes like that when you everyone in the interior dies. So I'm taking poetic license, because most of this combat doesn't change up too much.

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The vehicles were running on fumes as they pulled into the outskirts of Ottawa. If this city turned out to be more threatening than Montreal, they were going to be in some real trouble soon enough.

I'm leaving out any death screens, but at this point in the game, it can be very easy to lose. There is a lot of randomness and little means to mitigate it when you're weak. One attack can wipe out the gang, so constantly saving the game is a necessity. I think we were killed at least three times in Montreal, and on the escape route one nighttime assault left us with too few people to continue. Actually the most surprising thing is that we had such a lucky start, especially in a town controlled by Invaders, since we didn't die at all there.

This week's film: The Aftermath (1982)
Last edited by Wakkerdis on Fri Oct 23, 2020 6:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

I've always enjoyed seeing these early ambitious titles. My experience with games up until a Genesis in the mid-90's was only an old Atari 2600 so before that I never saw anything beyond terrible platformers and missile command-esque shooters.

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The Aftermath (1982)

"No, Mathews. Not revenge. Justice."

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Synopsis
The film starts with a near-future spaceship on its way home after a year spent in space. They are trying to figure out why they are getting no response on their radio from the Earth's tracking stations, even though their equipment seems to be fine.

As they wonder what might be going on, we switch to the situation on the ground — groups of people are being rounded up by a gang of armed men. The captured men are executed (rather graphically). The women and children are forced to watch before being hauled off to the gang's camp.

The spaceship, captained by a man known as 'Newman', decides to re-enter the atmosphere near Los Angeles, but something goes wrong and the ship crash lands offshore. Newman survives the landing and is eventually rejoined by the navigator/pilot, Mathews. Together they discover that Los Angeles has been devastated, and the only people they encounter are mutated subhumanoids who attack them on sight. All signs indicate that a nuclear war has destroyed civilization.

The two astronauts find a large house up in the hills to live in, but Mathews has injured his leg, and cannot travel around easily. Newman makes scouting trips alone, and at one point takes shelter from a radioactive rainstorm by going into a museum. Inside he encounters a (normal-looking) small child and the museum's curator. The curator muses a bit on mankind's self-destructive nature, reveals he has a terminal illness, and then walks off to die, leaving Newman to take care of Christopher, the young boy.

Throughout these scenes are cut several sequences of what has been happening to the people who'd been captured. It mostly involves sexual assault of the women, and shooting people who resist the gang. At one point, the gang's leader, named 'Cutter', is preparing to rape a woman. She manages to slash him with a piece of broken glass, and escapes.

While out scouting with Chris, Newman finds himself suddenly being shot at. It turns out to be Sarah, the woman who escaped from Cutter. After Newman explains he's not part of the gang, more 'mutants' attack, and the three eventually return safely to the house. After a few weeks (during which Newman teaches Christopher to use a gun and Sarah and he become lovers), they plot a daring raid on Cutter's camp. The goal is to rescue a woman and her young daughter who had been captured with Sarah. It is successful, although Mathews re-injures his leg.

Cutter's gang finds the house and they kill Sarah, the mother, and her child. Newman, intent on revenge, tells Chris and Mathews that for the sake of justice, he has to go after the gang, and he'll go alone if need be. What follows is a lengthy combat sequence in which Newman single-handedly takes down almost all of the gang. Mathews does show up to save Newman at a critical point in the fight, but is shot and killed nearly as soon as he arrives. Cutter escapes unpunished.

Newman drives away to take Christopher somewhere 'safe' (although it weirdly appears he's either going to abandon him or kill him out in the desert). Somehow, though, Cutter has followed them; he walks out of the desert and shoots Newman. Cutter taunts the dying Newman for a bit, but then Chris appears and shoots him in the back. Newman does die and then Christopher walks down the highway alone, with his voice-over telling us that he will always remember the principles the man taught him.

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The plot here is actually pretty decent, if straightforward. The main theme of the film seems to be the question of when violence is necessary, or at least the necessity of demanding justice by deadly force. That does seem a bit at odds with the fact that it's set in a world that destroyed itself in war, and the movie also includes a lot of scenes that are simply violent on their own. It never really grapples with the complexity of this idea, at least not in a way that comes through very well.

This film is driven by producer/director/writer Steve Barkett (who plays Newman), and stars Barkett's own son as Christopher. It seems very much as if he wanted to tell this story of a 'good man' example as a way to pass on his own values, and possibly establish himself in Hollywood. The latter part didn't really work, as he made only one other feature (1990's Empire of the Dark). And while the film itself is for the most part competently made, the end product is mostly mediocre. It jumps from scene to scene a bit too quickly without establishing context, and often rushes through what's happening with very clunky exposition that too often is simply voice-over by Newman instead of shown on-screen.

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Another, rather unseemly, aspect is just how much it also wants to be an exploitation film. From the initial 'capture' sequence onward, the scenes of victims - both the men who are executed, and the women who are killed or assaulted — are disquieting and lurid. They stop just short of being too explicit, but what's shown is a bit more than necessary for the purpose of demonstrating how reprehensible the gang is. The combat sequences are, in contrast, a lot cleaner with their violence, and I found the latter part of the film more watchable. The victimization scenes are so obviously different that their presence does slightly undercut whatever the rest of the film is conveying.

It's also apparent that, aside from Sarah, who has a bit of a character, the women are really only there to provide the motivation for the men to bring 'justice' to the criminals. I found it fairly upsetting that the woman's young daughter (probably played by Barkett's own daughter) doesn't even get to speak, and just gets spattered with blood in order to allow Newman's rage to increase. Whatever other memories he carries from his surrogate father, Christopher learns next to nothing about women.

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In contrast to Mad Max, this film looks every bit of its low budget. When the 'mutants' (who aren't referred to as such in the movie, but it's a common enough trope) first showed up, I was not entirely sure they weren't just gang members who liked to wear strange masks. The scenes in the museum and some shots in the spaceship take on a dream-like quality since they are shot with nearly no on-set background, just a black void around them. The curator's scenes come off comically rushed, probably because he's played by author (and actual movie memorabilia curator) Forrest J Ackerman, who was probably only available for a day or less of shooting. Newman's constant voice-overs provide convenient exposition without the need to shoot more scenes, but as often as not he's also saying things that could be accomplished by actual dialogue between the characters.


Connections to Roadwar 2000

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While this is one film that's arguably not influenced very much by Mad Max (though the gang leader's name is suspect), it still puts on display a number of post-apocalyptic tropes that the game also includes. Most notable is that in the face of a collapsing civilization, there will be bands of people who seem to exist solely to torment, exploit, and attack others. Combat is not just inevitable, but is considered the only possibly way to interact with them. In-game, extermination of many groups is necessary, at least to the extent that it makes your own gang powerful. Of course combat is actually the primary focus gameplay-wise, so it is understandable. I suppose in some way that corresponds to these films' need to show some violence and action sequences.

The presence of a 'third-party' threat in the form of the subhumans is also something that relates, although we haven't yet seen that revealed in the game (how and why it happens is part of Director Herrell's journal, so we'll eventually know even if it doesn't occur in the course of play). This aspect of 'mutation' or 'devolution' as a result of nuclear war is a common one, and is one we'll have a chance to return to in future films.
Last edited by Wakkerdis on Thu Nov 05, 2020 10:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Florida Man Ascends to Power in Ottawa
GUB Director's Journal wrote: June 13, 1999

The country is dissolving into anarchy. The President, most of the Congress, the military, and the police forces lie in hospitals — if they're lucky. Those that aren't lie in the streets. Barely able to move, they can't find sufficient food and water. I remain isolated here with other GUB members. I pray for my family each minute, each second... But there is hope, since we know a vaccine can be produced. The sect that infiltrated has one. Surely, we can produce a vaccine, too. The task force has a few leads; I'm sure we are closer to our goal.

July 7, 1999

The Secretary called me today. “Herrell, it's getting beyond our control. We're calling the National Guard to stem some of the looting."

“What can I do, Sir?”

"I think you'd better get that special task force of yours into the field to see the bacterium at work, to get a sample of the vaccine and analyze it."

“They're close, sir. Close to a real breakthrough."

“They'd damn well better be. Have them report to me tomorrow. I'll arrange new locations. Everything top secret, of course.” I think about the members of the task force. They are eager to go into the field. But I know... out there, it could mean their deaths.
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Ottawa seemed to be a smaller, calmer town than Montreal had been. The scouts reported that there was no real central authority there, just a small band of people who had been well-prepared for the collapse of society and were doing their best to control access to the city's resources.

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It seemed as if there were more guns in the town for the taking than even the survivalist gang had required. At this point the Gator Goons needed to stock up on ammo, and could stash most of the weapons in key locations around the city.

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This town seemed to have depopulated fairly quickly, and there were a few more abandoned vehicles to search through. The Goons located a 1986 Hyundai Stellar with a running engine.

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The roof had a large hole in it and all the windows were smashed out, but it could move well enough once they put new tires on it. It'd be a good companion to the Chevy for bringing a bit more firepower on those smaller targets, and it could turn itself out of a jam a little better, even if it couldn't really escape quickly.

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The next morning, on a recruitment push, they encountered a gathering of ragged-looking men, women, and children. From Jack's questioning of them, Florida Man gathered that they'd been excluded from the food markets by the survivalists and their guns, and with little hope of any food coming in from the farms in the countryside, they were growing weaker and desperate. He had the Gator Goons distribute some food and allowed any who were willing to sign up with the gang. It was a poor strategic choice, but he couldn't turn away these down-on-their-luck folks.

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As luck would have it, they also discovered a high school that had in recent months been converted to an emergency shelter. The food stocks were completely filled, and one of the new members, who had been a student there, knew how to break into the auto shop classroom.

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On the way out of the school, they also spotted a three-seat scooter left outside the gymnasium. Florida Man said he "didn't want to start being mistaken for the Furies", which confused a number of the newer members, but it wasn't as if any of them wanted to be riding in the tiny deathtrap anyway.

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There was a lot more excitement the next morning when an early patrol spotted something much more appealing. One of the patrollers spotted a truck tractor sitting on a side street, and said she was positive it hadn't been there two days earlier. So it must have been moved, and who would move something that big if they weren't driving it?

The patrol didn't want to chance a confrontation with the driver, so they left a couple of the young recruits to keep an eye on the truck and returned with their report. Florida Man's eyes grew large when they mentioned that it seemed to have parked their recently, and he swore he'd find a way to convince the driver to join them. There was no lack of semi-trailer cargo units to be found, damaged or no, but a working tractor unit would mean a huge boost in the gang's capacity for soldiers and cargo.

As the rest of the gang wandered over to where it'd been found, the scouts reported that there'd been no activity inside the vehicle. Still, it was barely dawn, so that didn't seem terribly surprising. Florida Man ordered several people to come with him and proceeded to bang his fist loudly on the passenger side of the cab. After raising a furious racket and shouting that he'd start firing his shotgun through the window if the door didn't open, one of the gangsters finally decided to just pull on the door. It opened up and out fell the dangling arm of the deceased driver.

Immediately one of the bodyguards shouted, "Get away! He's diseased! He's diseased!" and nobody bothered to check twice before fleeing from the truck. Jack went to retrieve Dr. Balthazar. The doctor cautiously came to examine the slumped-over body of the man and moments later climbed up into the cab. He closed the door and shouted to the rest, "I'll check out the inside!" and could be seen examining all of the interior compartments. Florida Man figured he was thoroughly making sure there were no diseased animals inside. Eventually Balthazar stepped down and came over.

"He's clean. Died of a drug overdose, probably within the last day." Then he added, "Didn't seem to have any drugs on him, though, so, uh, maybe he was poisoned."

Florida Man didn't care anymore, though. He had two Goons pull the body out of the cab and called over for someone who knew how to drive one of the things. An older grey-haired man who had recently signed up said he used to drive trucks for a living. He got up in the driver's seat and the thing started up like a charm. It was a mid-90's Freightliner sleeper cab, a powerful diesel. It did not take long before they found a semi-trailer to hitch up to it, and the Gator Goons now meant serious business.

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With a near-limitless capacity for storage and enough space for almost the whole gang to sleep inside, the Gator Goons rapidly began to expand. No one was sure yet if they were going to really give much control to the town, but at least they weren't trying to actively keep others out of the city's best supply areas.

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By the next day, their numbers were swelling to nearly a hundred members. Most of them were raw and hadn't the slightest clue about how to handle a firearm, let alone a car in the middle of a battle, but their quantity just couldn't be argued with, and as long as the food held out, there was little to keep them from complaining.

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Of course, food wasn't much of a problem, since the basket on the Cat D5 was already pretty full, and there were still a few places to be found with small caches of food. Fuel, on the other hand, was definitely going to be an issue once again. They only had enough to make short trips around the city; they could not leave, and as big as they were now, those Survivalists had to be preparing for a showdown.

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And then, when it came, it was over almost before it started. It seemed about half of the town's controlling group had simply grabbed up some guns and skipped town, apparently heading off into the Canadian wilderness. Those that remained were hardly a match for the Gator Goons. On a warm afternoon they all came rushing, focusing fire on the trailer, but there just weren't enough of them. In the end, twelve gang members had died, but now, there was no one left in Ottawa to oppose the gang.

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"Well hell, looks like you own this town, now," remarked Jack as they looked out over the river. "I guess you can set up a government, and run the whole country!" he joked. Florida Man was a bit confused. He didn't think having control of one town would make much of a difference. Canada's a big country, he thought.

"I wanna take that castle. That'll be ours," he almost demanded of Jack as he pointed out a squat, strong-looking structure near a park.

"Don't want the Parliament? Probably pretty nice inside," responded his friend, gesturing behind them. "Besides, this is where the government, uh, used to be."

Florida Man gave him a squinty look as he stared over at the new American Embassy building. "I'm pretty sure I can see where the government was. That's the government flag, there, see? Right by the castle. But that building's all shiny glass. Doesn't seem too safe."

Jack pointed out that his government's flag was the one flying on most of the other buildings in the city. Florida Man told him with a laugh that he guessed it was okay if Jack had his own flag for his mercenaries, but he wanted to keep the Gator Goons together so he shouldn't try to wear it too proudly. But it did give him the idea that maybe they did need a flag of their own. They were big time, now. They had a city. Florida Man wasn't sure if he really wanted to be thought of as an emperor, that seemed a bit too crazy, but it sure would be nice if the gang could just have some peace and quiet. Gain control of a town, and you could raid it in peace.

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Food was in fact a lot easier to come by, now. The Gator Goons stashed several weeks' worth in the truck and the bulldozer, and left the rest for the locals to divide up. Then they starting scrounging for more fuel. One of the New Yorkers who'd stuck with the gang for a while came forward and said he'd heard a rumor -- out in the west end of New York, or maybe Pennsylvania, he wasn't sure, there was supposed to be some oil wells still operating. People had set up their own refining operation there, so they said. If it was true, it could spell an end to their fuel troubles, at least for a while.

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Even to check on that rumor, however, they'd need at least enough to get to the next city, so they had to keep searching around Ottawa. One patrol discovered an empty hideouts left behind by the survivalists that had formerly ruled the town. There were enough guns there to nearly double their supply, so Florida Man cached the bulk of them in his 'castle'.

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Before heading out on the trip back to the US, the gang asked for more volunteers to join up. It was clear that sometimes the folks that joined up were just looking for a safe group to travel with before jumping ship in another town. Losses were to be expected, but heading out with too small a group meant they'd be a lot more vulnerable on the return trip.

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One of the people in the group, a round-faced friendly looking fellow, introduced himself as Harper Stevens. He used to be involved in the government, he said, but he got fed up with the system and got out, even before things started to collapse. "We must stand together," he told the gang, and offered his services to them. He figured they could use someone who could talk to people, maybe get them to understand how the gang could improve their life, so there would be less chance of conflict.

Politicians are cronies that can improve success when recruiting new members. They also can help out in a specific situation we'll see later (and which actually allows for a concrete measure of their ability).

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The Gator Goons finally found a bus depot that had a little more fuel. Florida Man had the cars fixed up and told the gang to get ready to move out. Jack was still troubled, saying that there wasn't enough to make it any farther than Montreal, and he didn't want to be stuck out of gas there, or go another way and get lost in some little nowhere town. Florida Man said he had a plan: He was going to go straight south. He knew the south had to be the way to go, and the highways were patrolled by the bigger gangs, so why not skip the major roads?

Jack asked him if he even knew whether there was a bridge over the river on that route. Florida Man figured it couldn't be that hard to find one, or just somehow drive through it. Jack was nearly ready to split when Stevens showed up to defuse the situation. He said the gang could only survive if they stayed together, and it was indeed possible to make it over. It was after all, the most direct route. "We're all headed south," he insisted.

Florida Man allowed Stevens to install some of his friends as managers of the town while the Gator Goons were away. He stressed that no one should mess with the 'castle' until he came back.

You do not actually have to assign people to hold the cities you control; and you don't really have to worry about them turning against you, either.

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It was hardly a few hours after they left Ottawa that they arrived at the border crossing. They were relieved to discover an intact bridge that easily supported the trailer truck. Stevens mentioned that the little town reminded him of Halifax. Despite the roads being a bit in need of repair, the rest of the trip was without incident, and even though it took them a full day to make the drive, they ended up in Syracuse the next morning.

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Unfortunately, their scouts revealed that this town, too, was under the influence of the Invaders. Florida Man was getting nervous about the aliens. He asked Jack if he thought they had control over all of Albania, but Jack just looked at him oddly. Then Jack asked what they were going to do about fuel in this hostile town, since the 'brilliant plan' to head out had gotten them stuck there with less then a day's worth of fuel to go. Florida Man scratched his cheek and said he was sure he'd think of something.

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As luck would have it, they found a gas station with a solid amount of fuel in storage. Someone must have filled it recently. It gave them hope that there really was a source of oil to the west. Florida Man flashed Jack a smile and the Goons headed west on the highway.

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They arrived that evening near Rochester, and the Goons sent out another group of scouts. The report came back an hour later. The good news was that the scouts heard tell of an 'oil city' off to the southwest, so their hopes of a solid fuel source seemed to be coming to fruition. The bad news was that this town, too, was controlled by Invaders. Dr. Balthazar asked if the whole American country had been overrun. Florida Man was sure they couldn't have got to Florida, though, could they?

He realized that before long, they might be powerful enough to fight their way back down home, and was filled with a renewed sense of purpose. He led the gang straight into Rochester, grabbed some extra supplies, and then ordered them to head out. They were going to get that gas or die trying.

This week's movie: Solarbabies

To break narrative for a moment, does doing stuff in a town require fuel or is that only for the road trips? I take it stuff like food just kind of ticks down day over day.

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Fuel is consumed only when you move squares, so my narrative hints that they needed fuel for 'getting around town' were just fluff. That way you can run out of fuel and still search for it, although if that happens when you're out in open territory, it's extremely unlikely that you'll find any. Vehicles also carry twice their consumption in their 'tank' which counts as a sort of bonus storage space.

Food is indeed consumed once per day (not sure when, I think at night). I believe running out of food usually means people desert instead of starve, but effectively it makes no difference, as they leave the group either way. As we can see, food is not much of a problem once you get some high-capacity vehicles, since it's pretty plentiful when looting.

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Solarbabies (1986)

"Where's Bodhi? He's gone. --He's left us. --No. Look. --He's all around us!"

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Synopsis

A voiceover at the start establishes that the world has changed drastically; fresh water no longer flows freely, but legend tells of some savior that may come from the sky to fix it. We then see a young boy turn on the power for what looks like a skate park. A bunch of teens on roller skates show up and play a roller hockey-like game (it's maybe called 'skateball' in their world), until a police force arrives and they scatter. The boy, Daniel, heads into a cave, where he discovers a glowing ball named Bodhi* that seemingly communicates with him psychically. He also finds that he can now hear without his 'electronic ears'.

The orphanage turns out to be part of a police state known as the 'E-Protectorate', which controls all access to water for at least a 100-mile radius. It is overseen by the ruthless Strictor Grock. He chastises the warden (the man who gave us the voiceover set-up earlier) for being too tolerant in allowing his charges get outside the walls. He also tears into his junior lackey for losing to the ragtag team, who are known as the Solarbabies.

Daniel reveals Bodhi to the group and they experience a brief thunderstorm inside their dormitory, which is doubly unusual as none of them have ever even seen rain before. The group decides that Bodhi's power must be kept a secret, though they later go out to play skateball with it. Another boy (named Darstar), who has spied on their surreptitious sporting events, steals Bodhi and flees into the desert. Daniel goes missing as well; the rest of them figure he has gone after Bodhi, and they leave to search for him, knowing that they cannot come back this time.

Darstar, meanwhile, has managed to find one of the tribes living out in the desert. They call themselves the 'Tchigani'[?] and live at an abandoned carnival. When they discover Darstar has a pendant on his neck that came from them, and also has an affinity for birds, they declare he is one of their own. Darstar reveals Bodhi and is taken to a shaman of sorts. From him they learn that Bodhi would be of immense value to the E-Protectorate, and that they would stop at nothing to get it.

The E-Police show up, wreck the Tchigani village, and interrogate the leader with psychic hallucinatory torture. He reveals that Darstar has Bodhi, which Grock refers to as 'the sphere of Longinus'. Grock sends some bounty hunters to look for the Solarbabies.

The Solarbabies, having escaped from the orphanage, find Daniel in the smoking ruins of the Tchigani village. They then end up at Tire Town, a somewhat bustling village where tires are recycled. Daniel leads them to a locked storage container that he is sure holds Bodhi. A sadder but wiser Darstar shows up and tells them the combination. As they are about to recover Bodhi, the E-Police show up again, so they have to escape by rolling away in tires, but one member of the group, Terra, is left behind.

Strictor Grock takes the sphere to the 'aqua bunker' and shows it to his superior, Shandray. She commences an attempt to destroy Bodhi by shooting lasers at it for a while. Once Bodhi's outer surface is weakened, Shandray brings out a robot named Terminack that is supposed to finish the job.

The bounty hunters catch the kids, but on the way back to the orphanage they are rescued by Terra and a group of white-clad desert soldiers known as 'Eco-Warriors'. She turns out to be the daughter of their leader. Daniel wants to rescue Bodhi from the aqua bunker. Terra initially thinks they have no chance to break in, but later gives them a map and heads with them to the aqua bunker (which is of course a dam).

The gang breaks into the aqua bunker and find the lab where Bodhi is. Terminack has apparently failed to penetrate the surface. The Solarbabies use their skateball skills to damage Terminack, and it crashes into a control panel. That triggers some sort of emergency situation that will destroy the entire aqua bunker, and an evacuation alarm sounds. Daniel retrieves Bodhi and they escape as the dam bursts.

As the water from the dam flows out and a thunderstorm starts, Bodhi glows brightly and disappears. Then Daniel and the group realize that Bodhi will always be with them. The film ends. Over the credits the kids go swimming and manage to not drown.

*Daniel insists that it's pronounced 'bo-DAI', but another character uses 'BO-dee' (like the name Bodie) and he half-seriously says that it talks to each person in its own way. I guess they were trying to avoid lawsuits from the Sanskrit language and its millenia-old trademark on the concept of enlightenment, since nobody attempts to pronounce it any other way. They also say 'Longinus' with a short 'i', but that alternate name is a stab at a clever pun that just comes off sounding silly no matter what.

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If you found any part of the above confusing, rest assured the film is more perplexing by far, because much of the time there is no context given to the events of a scene until well into it, or later on in the film. The characters' actions frequently make no sense based on what is happening at the time, and their motivation is either not given or only becomes known well after the fact. This is compounded by the fact that at any given time, the explanation for something might be 'this was caused by Bodhi's psychic influence' or just 'future society works this way'. The end result is that it is extremely difficult for the audience to get invested in what is happening, because we must wait for the film to tell us why it is happening.

About the only saving grace is that it does give some sense of wonder in learning more about the world. In broad strokes, the plot is pretty easy to follow because it's a standard children's movie set-up, where the heroes leave their limited world to go on a noble quest and discover more about the wider world. We don't really need to know why Grock destroys a village -- he's the bad guy, he's trying to get the powerful thing the kids have, and they have to stop him at some point. We can root for the kids, we can see that the E-Protectorate's tight control of the water supply is nefarious even on this ruined planet, and the kids skill at roller skating is of course going to be critical at various points. There is actually some subtlety and complexity going on but it requires a lot of work to get at it. The film is a near-perfect failure of movie storytelling.

To illustrate, here's one example: Daniel's hearing. At the start of the film, Daniel is alone, so there's no need for him to interact by speaking or listening. He is wearing headphones that just look like quasi-futuristic headphones any kid might wear. When he first turns on the power, he has to pull his hands back to avoid the sparking switch, and there is a loud whining noise from the generator. He pulls off his headphones. The sound gets quiet, and we see him smile, but there really is no way to know that the generator hasn't just gone quiet on its own since all we see is Daniel's reaction, and in fact we still hear some sound, it's just different. Moreover, since the headphones are metallic-looking, he might have just been pulling them off because he was almost just burned by sparking electricity. That's the only indication we have of how he hears, since while watching the match he is able to hear and even speak fine, even when his 'electronic ears' are not on (that can charitably be a continuity error, but it does not help). Just before he discovers Bodhi, the headset gets crushed by a rolling mine cart. It's a devastating blow, but again we might think that's merely because he's an orphan in a future where technology like simple headphones is precious. Then when he first picks up Bodhi, he starts staring at the cave ceiling, and we hear the water dripping. For him, this is the first time he's heard it on his own, but until the point that he actually says, "I can hear", we really cannot tell what has him so fascinated, because he is also seeing this part of the cave for the first time (It was revealed when the mine cart breaks the wall, which is how he gets to where Bodhi is).

I will say that sometimes the minimal explanation after the fact works well. When both Darstar and Terra are found by their respective tribes, we gain a better understanding of how the E-Protectorate's "orphanage" actually operates, without anyone having to really explain it. (There is a suggestive exchange between Grock and the warden about it, so it is decently foreshadowed.) We also get occasional glimpses of how the E-Protectorate's propaganda is influencing the kids, even when it's mostly only shown in the background or as a set-up to another scene.

There is clearly effort behind the film, but it is a too-often squandered effort. The acting is mostly good, but unfortunately it's the kids who are the weakest, and we spend more time with them than the other characters. Daniel (played by Lucas Haas) is infectiously bright-eyed and enthusiastic, but the film can't rest on him. Richard Jordan is particularly great as Stricter Grock, though, finding just the right balance between hammy and menacing.

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This film is infamous for being a massive flop that nearly ruined Mel Brooks financially. It made back less than 10% of its budget of $25 million, and although the expense can often be seen on-screen, it seems like it really wasn't worth it. Sometimes there are elaborate sets or visual effects, but they aren't terribly impressive within the film, and can often seem unnecessary. There's a whole sequence of an arm withering away that only shows off Stricter Grock's torture device, and while it's a decent display of how sadistic he is, it never really comes into play any other way. The one big set that does look good is Tire Town, but it is so transparently inspired by Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (right down to the bounty hounters seeming to be characters from that universe) that it again seems hard to really praise it for that.

This film is a failure on many levels, but it is somewhat interesting as a flop. It's too confusing to be enjoyable, and not really worth watching except as a way to learn how not to construct a film. I would not fault anyone for having fond memories of it, though, since it does have some charm and the individual bits are interesting. I'd love to call it an ambitious failure, but I think it didn't fail so much due to too much ambition as in just failing to tell its story properly.

Connections to Roadwar 2000

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This movie is set a fair deal further into the future than some of the others, given the rather drastically different society that water rationing seems to necessitate. I say 'seems to' because of the hints that maybe there are other pockets of civilization still remaining. The warden says it is 'Year 41' and can recall fresh water running, or at least knows legends of it. When we see Tire Town and the Tchigani it's clear the E-Protectorate isn't in control of all of the supply, so it may be just be they control the desert. It's not far from the game world of a collapsing society to one in which specific factions run their fiefdoms in very different ways. As said, though, Tire Town owes maybe a bit too much to Mad Max, so anything along those lines will be similar to the Mad Max influences on the game.

There is the other aspect of the roller-skating 'gang' making use of those skills to fight. We don't really get that in the game, since it's all either vehicular or on-foot combat, but it kind of feels related. Alternate, simpler forms of transportation that don't rely on fuel are of course considered the norm in post-apocalyptic settings. Interestingly, though, there are some 'futuristic' dune buggies and motorcycles that the E-Police use to get around, suggesting they have control not only of water but other energy sources. As we will see in the next update, the more precious resources will be the ones most fiercely guarded once society has broken down.

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Florida Man Reclaims Canadian City from Americans
GUB Director Herrell wrote: July 8, 1999

We stood listening to the Secretary, everyone tense, white-faced. Then, carrying small satchels of supplies, the task force boarded the helicopter. Each member had been given pellets of food and vitamin concentrates that would reduce his food consumption by half. The general population can get pellets only by looting the few shelters that contain them.
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It was early morning when a crewmember spotted the first oil well from the highway. Soon they saw several more, and Florida Man could no longer wait. He gunned the Gatormobile's engine and drove straight off the road into a field of derricks. The rest of the gang hesitated, but had no choice but to follow him away from the pavement.

Florida Man shouted out that the oil was clearly being pumped from there. He knew that meant they could get it somehow.

Jack, driving the van, pulled up alongside the Gatormobile. "What's the plan? You really think we can just take it out of one of those things?"

Dr. Balthazar poked his head out from the rear door of the van. "It's not that simple. You can't use it raw."

"Sure thing," responded Florida Man. Then he continued "But if there's a well there, all we gotta do is wait for somebody to come after it, to pick up the oil."

Just then they saw a flashing yellow light, and a yellow-painted tractor rolling across the field towards them. A loudspeaker blared, "This is Hard Hat territory. You must leave or you will be shot."

"Well I think that's our supplier right there!" hooted Florida Man as he fired up the car's engine. "Let's go! We got a truckful of guns now!"

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The Gator Goons trailer truck had been lagging behind but still was able to catch up. They'd modified it with gun ports all along the trailer, and many of the less-experienced goons were inside, ready to shoot at any enemy in range. Florida Man wheeled the Gatormobile back around and encouraged them to prepare for a gunfight.

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The Hyundai and the van were actually closest to the approaching tractor, and they got ready to take on the challenge.

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It was slow going in the scrub grass, but the Gator Goons tried to close to firing range while maintaining some speed. They didn't want to end up in a collision with the much more solid farm equipment.

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The Gatormobile, as usual, got well ahead of the rest of the cars. One of the backseat gang commandos spotted a second tractor approaching from the eastern direction.

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An impressive spray of gunfire erupted out of the side of the truck, but hardly any of the shots even pinged against the tractor.

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Likewise, neither the Chevy van nor the Stellar landed a hit.

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Florida Man veered right to cut off the escape route of the second tractor. He figured the trailer would eventually knock it out, just by volume of fire.

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The driver of the Hyundai realized too late that he was dangerously close to the enemy. He pushed as hard on the accelerator as he could and just barely whipped past the tractor before it could hit his car.

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This fortunately made for an ideal position to unload a barrage. The van had turned one side toward the front of the tractor as well.

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Flanked by fire from the two vehicles, all the occupants of the tractor that had warned them off were killed.

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As he maneuvered around the bushes past the second tractor, Florida Man fired a shot out the window that picked off the driver. "Got lucky!" he beamed.

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Seeing the other tractor knocked out and their own driver dead, the vehicle made a turn back away from the trailer truck. The goons on the roof of the Gatormobile fired once again.

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With no real way to escape, and no chance to survive, the tractor slowed to a stop and surrendered.

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Mr. Stevens told them they could live, as long as they gave up all their supplies. The Gator Goons then drained the fuel stored on the other vehicle, and looted a large amount of food stored on board it. Then they grabbed a rope and tied up the men to the tractor.

When you do the 'loot' action in an oilfield, you normally end up in combat like this. Afterward, you'll usually get a huge amount of fuel, so it's not worth going here unless you have the cargo capacity. As a side note, you may see in the following screen that our fuel is higher by even more than this amount; I actually fought a second combat and omitted it, as it's basically the same thing again.

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Having taken about as much gas and food as they could store, the Gator Goons triumphantly headed away from the oilfield. Jack suggested that they continue to scout a few more cities to the west, since there had to be some that weren't controlled by the Invaders.

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But Buffalo they found that this side of the border seemed to be all under the thumb of the mysterious Invaders. The Canadians in the group asked if anyone in the gang had ever even seen the 'Invaders', let alone fought them. Florida Man stayed silent, not wanting to let the secret out about the Invaders' true origin.

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A lot of the gang members wanted to see Niagara Falls, and since it was near the border crossing, they pulled over the vehicles and ventured as close as they dared to the rushing water. Although the original plan was just a short trip to avoid attracting any local attention, one of the scouts cried out that the bridges nearby were all collapsed. That led to another hour's delay, which turned into some extra relaxation time for the group. Some of the couples ran off to have their own private time at the famously romantic locale.

It wasn't long before an intact bridge was discovered a few miles to the north. It was guarded by a rough-looking gang of men on the far side, some attired, much to the Gator Goons' surprise, in threadbare American military uniforms. Mr. Stevens was able to convince them that since much of the group was Canadian, they really ought to be allowed free access. The men at the guardpost said they were mainly making sure there were no 'large-scale invasions' and told the group that they'd better not start any trouble.

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Further scouting revealed that the town of Hamilton had been taken over by a group of American soldiers. It appeared they had been part of a National Guard unit headquartered in Buffalo, and had probably fled when the stronger army of the Invaders arrived. They maintained a tenuous but benign command over the city, despite technically being foreign invaders themselves.

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Florida Man told the gang to drive on through Hamilton, to the much larger city of Toronto to the north. Toronto, however, seemed to be in the grip of a gang of ruthless 'business leaders'. Rumor had it they did not exactly rule by outright bloodshed, but would take advantage of anyone who appeared to be acquiring too much loot and just claim it for themselves.

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The city was large enough that the Gator Goons were able to find a convenient parking lot to fix up their vehicles without being disturbed. They hadn't really attended to them after the fight in the oilfield, since they'd driven off in something of a rush. Thankfully none of the cars had suffered any structural damage this time.

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Before the day was out, however, they ran into trouble in the city. A group of men and women dressed in black suits arrived with an entourage of gun-toting thugs. They demanded payment.

Florida Man was about to tell them where they could put their payment, when Mr. Stevens intervened. He said he would rather this be a "day when nobody died". And he guaranteed he would cut those taxes the gang was demanding, if he only had a few minutes to work out a deal.

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In the end, the Gator Goon handed over a good chunk of their food, and more fuel than Florida Man was comfortable giving away. He spat out the window of the Gatormobile and simply said they should head back to Hamilton. He considered finding some other way deal with those bureaucrats .

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The next morning they had an encounter with some people wearing white clothing with red crosses on them, and said they were not part of any gang. They had been mostly nurses and other staff at Wellesley Hospital in Toronto. Initially they were trying to treat people who had the virus but they got fed up with the continual interference from the bureaucrats, and moved operations to Hamilton. They started to make regular visits to people in the neighborhoods, since they knew many were afraid to venture out once the gangs were taking control. They didn't seem to pleased with the Americans coming in, but acknowledged that the Lake Erie Guardsmen had at least kept things quiet.

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Dr. Balthazar told them that while nobody in the group really needed treatment, he would be interested in seeing what sort of medicines they had access to. After a brief discussion, he traded away the gang's current stocks of antibiotics for as much as he could get of the 'antitoxin', a cocktail of drugs that could counteract the effects of the viral contagion.

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The leaders of the gang had a meeting that day are decided that they should probably secure one of these local cities to use as a refuge that was close to the oilfield. Jack advised taking Hamilton, since it wasn't as risky as the unknown strength of the Invaders, and was a little closer to the border and smaller than Toronto, so easier to control. Florida Man agreed, and they started to stockpile guns and prepare some of the less-experienced goons for combat.

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But in that small town, it didn't take long for news to travel that the gang was looking to take over. The Lake Erie Guardsmen came at them the next afternoon. After a tense shouting match in which they claimed that the territory was being held 'for all free people in the name of the United States', the former militiamen opened fire. It was their first time up against a better-trained gang, and a number of the unskilled Gator Goons rushed into the open and got themselves killed.

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Losses were fairly heavy, with over 25 dead on the their side. It turned out that the entirety of the Guardsmen group had been the 20 or so men who'd arrived to do battle, or at least the Gator Goons never heard from them again.

Afterward, they heard a loud whooping coming from one of the nearby houses. Out bounded a lithe brown-haired woman in her late twenties. "Now that was fantastic!" she exclaimed. "Hasn't been this much excitement in this town in forever. I thought it was more American army men coming over the border, but I guess it's just... you guys." She gave the Gatormobile an appreciative look. "Hey, nice car," she said, gingerly tapping its hood. "So, you...looking to take on any new members?"

She told them her name was Cecile, and was only too eager to try her hand at fighting, or driving, or anything as long as they were planning on leaving the city soon. Florida Man said they were probably going to head back to Ottawa, because as he said, "I own it, you know." Jack favored doing a little more scouting of the cities to the west, and Mr. Stevens agreed it'd be a good idea to see what was out in that direction. Dr. Balthazar felt they might be closer to sources of more medicine "of the kind we need" if they went that way. Most of the gang seemed to favor the idea, so Florida Man said they should do it since they had the fuel. Cecile was delighted.

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At dawn the next day, while attempting to pull in a few more recruits before moving on, they encountered a curious group of people who wore white and black facepaint. They said they were headed to "the gathering", and would go westward, but didn't want to travel with the Gator Goons at all.

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After a day, the Gator Goons stored some of their supplies in a large air hangar outside of the town, and made their way off to the west.

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When they reached Windsor, the nearest city on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes, they saw more of the strange people with the black-and-white facepaint. There seemed to be even more of them here. Scouting in the town proved dangerous, and the gang encountered increasingly hostile behavior, with some people on the street attacking them on sight. The whole town seemed to be controlled by this peculiar cult.

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Florida Man told the group to ensure that the cars were ready to travel, because he wanted to head back to Ottawa. The gang agreed that they did not want to stick around to find out when or where the 'gathering' was happening. Even Cecile seemed fairly unnerved by this first trip outside her city.

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Arriving back in Hamilton, the Gator Goons accepted a few more of the people right off the street to be in the gang. Jack wasn't too pleased, and said he thought this rabble was only going to get themselves killed.

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Finally, after the two-week run around Lake Ontario, the group found themselves back in Ottawa. There was a new city in the Gator Goons 'empire', and the gang had swelled to over 100 members, some of whom had battle scars already. Another meeting was held in Florida Man's 'castle', and when they considered what to do next, he made the declaration that now was the time to take Montreal.

This week's film: Battletruck (aka Warlords of the 21st Century)

I for one welcome our new Crocodilian overlords.

Alligators and crocodiles belong to the same biological Order :colbert:

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Battletruck (aka Warlords of the 21st Century) (1982)

"We love to kill, so we kill what we love. Is that it? --No."

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Synopsis

A staticky radio establishes the setting, with news of martial law and limited resources suggesting the aftermath of a war. There is also a vague mention of someone 'terrorizing the countryside'. Then we see the titular Battletruck (an armor-plated semi truck bristling with machine guns) plow right through an abandoned country store.

Next we see two men in a horse-drawn half-automobile. The Battletruck shows up and Straker, the imperious commander of the gang, exits. His men discover the two are traders transporting diesel fuel, and Straker demands to know where they obtained it. He slashes the throat of one of the men, and the other leads him to a hidden fuel depot. Straker decides it's an ideal place to set up camp.

Before doing so, he has the man who led them there gagged, and tied to a tree. Then he calls over a young woman, named Corlie, and tells her she's "old enough" to handle this. He puts a gun in her hand and orders her to shoot the man. As soon as he lets go of her hand, she stuffs the gun in his stomach and fires, but it turns out to be unloaded. Straker hugs Corlie as he fires off a shot at the trader.

That night, Corlie escapes from the camp, seemingly with Straker's tacit consent. The next day, however, the gang's other vehicle (not the Battletruck, but a smaller off-road car) catches up to her and tries to bring her in. She is rescued by a man on a dirt bike, and they escape to his house. His name is Hunter, but he doesn't really want Corlie to stick around. He takes her to Clearwater, a thriving farming settlement set up as a full democracy. Aside from one man who questions if she's more loyal to Hunter than them, the town welcomes her in.

Unfortunately, the Battletruck shows up to Clearwater not long after. Corlie sees it approaching from far off and rides off on a horse before Straker arrives. There is a brief firefight once the Battletruck smashes through the gates of Clearwater, but the town soon surrenders when they see they can't penetrate its armor.

Corlie escapes and finds her way back to Hunter. She spends the night with him but in the morning, Straker's gang shows up and the two have to fight their way out. They do get away on the bike, especially since Straker seems reluctant to fire on Corlie. They return to Clearwater and meet with Rusty, the only man there who knew where Hunter lived. Rusty reveals his charred hand, ruined by torture from Straker's men. Hunter admits he probably wouldn't have held up for long either.

Judd, the man who'd been suspicious of Corlie from the start, comes to reconcile with her. Suddenly he gets violent and then kidnaps Corlie. Hunter goes after Corlie on his bike, but Judd ambushes him with a crossbow. Judd brings Corlie to Straker, and desires to join up with his crew. To prove his loyalty, he goes to show them Hunter's body but they find it isn't there.

Straker and Corlie have a father-daughter talk, but it's clear they will never see eye-to-eye. She nevertheless ends up riding back in the Battletruck, seemingly his voluntary captive once again. (No credit for guessing their relationship; while it's never made explicit, it is obvious by this point).

Hunter limps back to Clearwater, where Rusty has fixed up a vehicle for him (an armored Volkswagen bug). Hunter makes an attack on Straker's fuel depot and blows up the gas pump. Hunter gets the Battletruck to give chase, but it struggles to make it up the mountain road. Having raced ahead of it, Hunter is able to blast a hole in it with an anti-tank weapon.

Straker grows angry, and drives off on another road. Corlie accuses him of running away, but it turns out he is heading to destroy Clearwater. Hunter arrives with the dirt bike and jumps into the Battletruck. In the on-board melee, the driver is killed by an enraged Straker. Straker starts to fight off Hunter, and it is not until Corlie hits Straker from behind that Hunter is able to wound him seriously. The two jump off as Straker is left blindly screaming in an out-of-control Battletruck. Moments later, it goes over a cliff and crashes in a fiery explosion.

As an epilogue, we see Corlie and Hunter back at Clearwater. She wants him to stay, but he just hops on his horse and rides off into the distance.

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This movie could easily have been another forgettable Mad Max (or really, Road Warrior) knock-off. It's got the vehicular combat, the lone hero reluctantly fighting for the side of good, and even sounds a little like it since it was shot in New Zealand. However, this one makes a lot of interesting choices that many similar films do not. It's clearly trying to be a more grounded version of the post-apocalypse and even has some decent character drama. You also have a rarity in a female protagonist, or at least audience surrogate. The Battletruck is a distinctive design as well; it might well have fit into the Mad Max world but doesn't totally seem stolen from it. Straker, too, is a charismatic and cool villain in a way that these warlord types often aren't.

Unfortunately, despite making all these interesting decisions, the film somehow just doesn't come together successfully. There are neat character moments but no real growth. Sometimes scenes last too long, sometimes they feel cut too quickly. The Battletruck never really gets put through its paces in a fight, and indeed its best moment comes when it goes off a cliff. In fact it's such an obvious 'money shot' that the film doesn't even pretend; it goes full slow-motion to make sure we get it as spectacularly as possible. Finally, there is the problem that Corlie presents — is she really the protagonist of this story or not?

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I don't want to knock the film too much when it's in a genre that all too often treats women as exploitable for merely sexual or violent purposes. But it's apparent that Corlie is not driving her own story. I can almost appreciate that being passive is just her nature, and the film does convey that decently. For its era, it is a little bit different just by having a female lead character but in another way seems mired in the past of needing the male lead to be the 'real' hero, and so too often she does not choose the course of action. Again to the film's credit, Hunter is at best a deuteragonist, and isn't on-screen enough to be the main character of the movie. He's just the one that people expect to act when something heroic needs doing, and he usually complies.

Corlie does have some agency. She makes the choice to run away from Straker (and Clearwater). When put into combat, she actually fights even if she doesn't take the initiative. She does stand up for herself when the citizens seem reluctant to let her rejoin them. She is a character with some complexity, and that in itself does make the film a little more special.

It's somewhat odd that this film really seems to be one of the more forgotten entries in the genre. I would imagine those who wanted more action or just a whole movie about Battletruck would have been mildly disappointed by it. It's also lacking in over-the-top crazy characters that might have been more memorable. Additionally, I also think that since it was partially produced by Roger Corman, it gets grouped in with some of his other post-apocalyptic movies, despite being very tonally different from them. Is it an overlooked classic? Not really, but it does offer some distinctively different elements in a flawed but decent movie.


Connections to Roadwar 2000

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This film comes very close to matching the feel of the world in Roadwar 2000. It is maybe a little more degraded (given that horse-drawn cars are more common than gas-powered ones), and depicts rural life instead of any ruined cities. However, the idea of a gang of cars that are engaging in combat, and the conflict between a ravaging warlord and the locals who are trying to preserve an island of civilization, really feels consistent with the game.

It's entirely conceivable that one could encounter a 'Battletruck' and an off-road vehicle in Roadwar, or even a car rigged up with makeshift armor plates like the bug that Rusty makes for Hunter. The combat, too, consists of people shooting guns out of car windows, without any futuristic technology that often gets blended in with this setting. It's also fairly normal for the Battletruck to handle situations by ramming, which is yet another commonality. Although due to the film's budget, you're more often seeing it crash into structures than other cars.

As we've also just seen in the game, a fuel depot would indeed be the sort of place that is closely guarded and fought over by some (though interestingly, Hunter's bike is converted to run on methane derived from biowaste). It's also not unreasonable for a player to feel a bit like Straker; he comes off as having a fairly strategic mind even if he's quite harsh in dealing with any perceived threats. We never quite get in Roadwar the sense of any other groups that might be maintaining society as in Clearwater, which would have been a nice touch to have, but we can imagine that once things progress a few more years in that world, such settlements would arise.

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Florida Man Found Hugging Fuel Tank

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Florida Man had decided to go back to Montreal. Jack felt the gang might be strong enough now. At the very least most of the members had been given a taste of combat already, so they wouldn't just fold in a tough fight. Mr. Stevens objected, saying that they'd already used up most of their fuel getting to Ottawa, and heading eastward was only putting them farther away from the reliable oilfield sources.

Cecile showed up and announced that the mood in the gang was that they were ready to go there. She, too, was eager to get into her first real fight. Florida Man, sensing the people were behind him, went out to tell the Gator Goons to pack up. Come hell or high water, or critical fuel shortage, they were heading to Montreal the next morning.

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It was barely a few hours into the drive when the gang encountered a patrol of the Furies. Cecile let out a whoop as she exclaimed, "Time for some action!"

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This time, Florida Man allowed the trailer truck to take the lead. The motorcycles wouldn't even be able to scratch it if they headed straight at it.

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Nevertheless, that seemed to be their intentions, and the truck swerved away instinctively to avoid a collision.

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That somewhat fortuitously exposed the Furies to a barrage of fire out of the truck's gun ports, and in a flash, one of the cycles went down, skidding sideways under the wreck of a pickup truck.

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The one with the sidecar had turned away from the truck and seemed to be heading for the Gatormobile. Between shots from the van and the Firebird, it too was not long for this world.

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Indeed, as the motorcycle slowed across the median strip, it became an easier target and the fight was soon over.

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Mr. Stevens pointed out that if they made it to Montreal, they wouldn't be able to leave. Jack told him they did not intend to leave this time.

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As they pulled into the outskirts of the city, the gang held up to get themselves organized. Of Jack's original group, less than a dozen remained. A few more people who'd been with the Gator Goons from the start were improving their skills, but the bulk of the group was untrained. They'd be putting their strength in numbers to the test now.

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Next, they found an abandoned auto body shop on the north side of the city and began to plan their attack. Jack figured they should stay on the north, and take control of Laval if possible, since the Île Jésus didn't have its bridges controlled by the gangs. In fact, since all but three of the bridges leading into Montreal proper had been blown, it was actually somewhat better defensive territory for them.

Florida Man said he thought the zoo would be pretty safe, as long as the animals were gone. "'Cept maybe the gators, they're all right," he grinned. "Or if you got crocodiles up here, whatever, it's all good."

Jack was puzzled. "Not a zoo. L'île Jésus. Laval sits on it, Île de Montreal — where they are – is to the south."

"Jesus Island," Cecile interjected. "You know, Jésus – Jesus."

"Oh!" responded Florida Man. "Should have called it, 'Isle of Jesus'." He paused and then smiled again. "I love Jesus!"

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Before the discussion was finished there was a shouting and commotion from outside. They rushed from the room, panicked that the opposition had already got wind of the Gator Goons' arrival. The people rushing up the street at them did not appear to be part of the organized gang, though. Florida Man grabbed his shotgun and started firing.

The attackers were few in number. Apparently a small band of those who'd been driven mad by the collapse of society, and had turned to not just assaulting their fellow humans, but eating them for food as well. Only one person had died in the fight — an unsuspecting scout who'd had their arm ripped off and gnawed on before they could even respond had succumbed to shock. Once the gang started firing, the Cannibals fled quickly.

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The gang did find out the next day that their arrival had not gone unnoticed. Some defectors from the gang showed up almost as soon as they'd crossed into Laval. Florida Man made sure not to give them anything better than crossbows, just to be on the safer side. A lot of them seemed to be sincere, though. Perhaps life in Montreal was worsening after the Goons had stirred up trouble last time.

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They occupied a good portion of Laval that day, at least on the north end, where the direct bridges to Montreal were gone. That night, however, there was another attack. But still not the Montreal gangs. At first they thought it was more Cannibals, but it turned out to be something worse. A group of the infected. They were vicious and relentless. Two dozen more people were lost in the fight, although the Gator Goons killed more than twice that number.

Dr. Balthazar ordered the survivors to make sure to burn the bodies of both their own and the infected who had attacked. He said the antitoxin he had would help if a few people had caught it, but there might not be enough if it spread more widely into the group. He also explained that in addition to increasing aggressive behavior, the disease supposedly causes a sensitivity to sunlight, so that those 'mutated' by it would mostly come at night. After that, Florida Man had to offer extra rations to convince people to take nighttime guard duty.

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The situation grew grim the next day, when the Montreal gangs attacked. Maybe they had once again been betrayed by infiltrators? Florida Man did not know, he just had to fight. The battle was over quickly, much to their surprise. Jack figured that it was just a probe. Maybe there really were no spies in their midst. Or maybe their enemy had weakened.

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With over fifty dead in the last two days, the Gator Goons were in desperate need of more gang members. They had to take whoever they could. Jack again grew worried about the 'untrained cannon fodder', and Florida Man just told him that their only strength was in their numbers. They couldn't really turn them away, they just had to keep the gang going.

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There was some uplifting of spirits later in the day when they were able to break into a shopping center without being bothered. It was a gold mine of supplies, all except for fuel, anyway.

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A trickle of more people came in. This time it turned out to be a few old associates of Jack! The reunion was touching, and it was good to have some slightly better-equipped soldiers in the group.

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But the fight was growing ever more deadly. The Gator Goons made an assault on the smaller Viau bridge, hoping that it would be less well guarded, but as the most downriver of the remaining crossings from Laval, it turned out to be the most fiercely defended. Twenty more lives were lost in that attack, and a counter-attack came at them in mid-afternoon. After less than a week in the city, the Gator Goons had taken over a hundred casualties.

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Another recruitment patrol ended in disappointment, as the gang encountered another group who spat on their offer to join. These didn't seem to have the facepaint like the ones they'd seen in Windsor and Hamilton, but it was no less discouraging to the group.

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Another battle whittled down their numbers again. Some of the men and women were definitely improving their battle skills, but Florida Man began to wonder just how long this could go on.

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Things only grew more desperate, as fewer locals were willing to join up anymore. The gang spent the remainder of the day in fruitless searches.

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It was a bright and warm Sunday morning as Florida Man sat on the hood of the Gatormobile and stared at the clouds. He was contemplating whether maybe he needed to leave the city. The Gator Goons were a real gang now, but had he pushed them too far? Perhaps Jack was right and he was bringing in new people only to lead them to their deaths. This Montreal gang might be more than they could handle right now. Yet he figured even Jack wouldn't be too happy if they decided to abandon the fight to control his city.

Mr. Stevens approached and said he felt that, given all the losses lately, maybe it was time to cede this battle. They had enough fuel to get to Ottawa easily, regroup and reform, and then return. Or go somewhere else if that was the decision. For now, he thought they ought to say goodbye to Montreal. "It's hard to say it...time to say it..." he muttered, and then just looked at Florida Man questioningly.

Cecile wandered over. "Hey, what's got you looking so bothered?" she asked of Florida Man.

Mr. Stevens explained that they were thinking it was time to get out of the city. Temporarily, at least. Cecile said she didn't see the problem - the gang was winning most of their fights.

Florida Man accepted that, but mentioned that they'd been losing so many people, and it was getting harder and harder to bring in new recruits.

Cecile said, "Yeah, but we're all fighting better and better. And I bet we got better guns than them, too." She hoisted the gun she'd been carrying, an M4 Carbine.

Florida Man, a bit stunned, asked, "Where the heck you'd get that from?"

"It's an American army rifle. We got a bunch of them from the guardsmen back in Hamilton. That was a tough fight, and you didn't run away there, did you?"

"Well, dang! That is a pretty sweet piece, I gotta say." She let him handle the gun for a bit and he asked if there was any other special equipment they got from the New York Guardsmen. She said she thought there had been a few grenade launcher attachments, but most people removed them since they weren't able to reload often enough.

His mood brightened, Florida Man walked off to give the orders to keep looking for new recruits. Maybe they'd make a run to the south side of the city, or out off to the northeast again.

Mr. Stevens walked away somewhat dejectedly. Cecile didn't bother to tell him she'd already run out of ammo for the M4. She figured they'd find some more somewhere soon enough anyway. Maybe even more grenades, if they were lucky.

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A late-morning probe into the outskirts brought in a few more goons willing to fight to take the city. They just wanted a guarantee that there'd be free access over the bridges so they could trade in Montreal. Florida Man said he had no problem with that.

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That afternoon, they had to prepare for combat again when they spotted another fiery red motorcycle speeding up and shooting randomly in the air. More Furies, taunting them into a fight. Florida Man didn't mind the action; this was going to be an easy one. He called over Cecile to ride along and show off her gun, but she said she felt she'd be better suited staying on the truck for now.

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The Chevy van was the first to get close to the cycle, but realized that the narrow alley they'd driven down had the side exits blocked by wrecks. If the motorcycle were to come in, it'd be a head-on collision!

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Jack slammed on the brakes and spun the van around. The motorcycle veered away from the alley and across a dirt lot toward the semi truck.

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Meanwhile, in the Gatormobile, Florida Man spotted a second enemy. He swerved to allow more of the car's weapons to get a good firing angle.

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The first bike went down in a matter of moments, leaving just the one remaining. Although only the Gatormobile was close enough to engage it.

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Florida Man smashed the accelerator to get away, but the Furies' bike came too quickly. Even as the guns on the roof opened fire and killed the driver, it smashed straight into the left rear side of the car.

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The Gator Goons had won again, but with the damage to the Gatormobile, they'd be needing to stay at least another day in Montreal. Their fate was now decided. Thankfully the taste of combat had improved a fair number of the new additions.

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An attack came at 8 a.m. the next day. It was vicious, as the first volley hit seven people right off.

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But it was surprisingly short. In fact, the Montreal gangs were on their last legs. The Gator Goons had taken control! The gang spent the remainder of the day securing the city, and grateful locals brought them gifts of food and medicine. While Florida Man went off to celebrate, Jack assisted in appointing leaders of the newly free Montreal. Some of the goons decided they wanted to stay. Florida Man asked Jack if he wanted to remain, but he said he owed it to Florida Man to at least stick with him until he could liberate his own hometown.

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With the major accomplishment of taking on a city the size of Montreal completed, Florida Man said they should start scouting other regions. First, however, they needed to make a run back to 'Oil City' so they could set up more fuel caches. They headed back to Ottawa and fixed up the cars.

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On the way out of Ottawa, there was a surprise: two more Furies cycles. It'd been apparent that they had been allied with the gangs in Montreal, and this was a clear attempt at vengeance.

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The battle was over almost before it started. The Furies were too uncoordinated — and as ever, too weak — to cause an trouble for the Gator Goons.

This is the 'quick' tactical combat. You can still shift people between positions on the vehicles, and at the start you select target priorities as well as ramming ratio. The latter isn't that useful in practice since all the vehicles on the other side are looking to ram you anyway. But when it's two small motorcycles and we have a big truck loaded with guns, it's a (mostly) safe bet that all the vehicles will survive the fight.

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They made the overland run down to Syracuse again. Fuel was still kind of tight, so they had to stick around in the town to scrounge for more gas.

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Which led to something they weren't quite expecting, but maybe should have. An attack from the Invaders! Apparently they had been recognized more quickly now, and were seen as a legitimate threat. It must have only been a small patrol they encountered, however, as casualties were light. Florida Man was surprised to discover that the bodies of the enemies they had killed were found to be human. Either their disguise was very extensive, or they'd managed to employ humans on their side. He wouldn't be surprised at either option.

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In a rush, the Gator Goons fled to Rochester, and ended up there completely out of fuel. Of course, even that city was under control of the hated Invaders, but they had to hope for a lucky break soon. At least they were able to fill out the gang's numbers more. Even if the Invaders hadn't come at them hard, every loss hurt when the goons were so weak.

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The lucky break did come, and it was a big one. Acting on a rumor from one of the new recruits, they found a small ranch outside the city limits which had a giant capacity fuel storage tank. It seemed the proximity to the oil fields allowed the place to keep it filled, but whoever had been there must have fallen victim to the Invaders, or some other group of bandits.

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They stored as much as they could, but still had to leave half of it behind. At first Florida Man said maybe it'd be better to just live there for a while. Jack, however, convinced him that this would only put them in more danger from the Invaders, who would be able to plan a precise attack on them if they stayed. Cecile peeled him away from the tank, and asked where they should go next, since it did not appear that they needed to hit up the oil fields as planned.

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With as much fuel as they now had, he thought it would be a good time to scout the Northeast some more. Without planning on stopping, they hit the road and headed in the direction of Boston.


This week's movie: The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

A couple of close calls, though I guess Montreal actually wasn't too close despite the losses, but luck is always welcome.

Can you lose cities after taking them over?

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The Ultimate Warrior (1975)

"Turning on our own will only destroy us."

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Synopsis

The film opens with a title stating "New York 2012 A.D." followed by shots of abandoned streets and ruined buildings. We see two men trying to catch pigeons. Just as they succeed in grabbing some, a gang of men comes in to murder them and steal their catch.

Some other men on a rooftop observe a man at the New York Public Library, who they say has been standing there motionless (and shirtless) for two days straight. This group's leader, known as 'the Baron' takes some people with him and makes a recruiting pitch to the man, who remains impassive. They leave, and on the way back are ambushed and forced into an alley as one of their men is slaughtered in the street. Suddenly the man from the library appears; he single-handedly defeats about half a dozen of the attackers and the rest flee in terror.

The man gives his name as Carson, and he reveals he only decided to join them due to the Baron's mention of having a stash of cigars. He agrees to come and fight for them, but says he is planning at some point to join some relatives on an island off the coast of North Carolina. The Baron reveals that the commune he runs might be running short of supplies, and that he plans to take his pregnant daughter and her husband (who has managed to cultivate new, viable vegetable plants) off away somewhere. He suggests that such an island might be an ideal destination.

Carson is sent to see what happened to a young couple and their baby who ventured into dangerous territory in search of food. The gang of thieves has caught them and let the baby cry to lure him out. Carson kills a few more of them and again manages to escape before their leader, a red-haired man named 'Carrot', can catch him.

There are clearer signs of trouble brewing in the Baron's commune, as squabbles break out and one man is sent into exile (spelling certain death). The Baron discusses his plans to abandon the commune with Carson. The Baron says his absolute priority is ensuring that his botanist, Cal, is able to share his knowledge of growing new crops.

That night, Carrot's gang sneaks up to the roof in order to steal from the garden. When Cal discovers them, he grows furious and rushes them. Carson runs to the roof as soon as they hear the shouting, but it is too late to save Cal.

The Baron tells Carson that he'll have to take Melinda and the seeds on his own. Melinda is adamantly opposed to leaving, so the Baron slips her a sleeping pill. He leads Carson into an underground passage that leads to the subway tunnels. Before they depart, he tells Carson that if it comes to saving one or the other, he should save the seeds.

The commune, however, has noticed the Baron's actions. Unsatisfied with the Baron's attempt to mollify them, they storm his office and bludgeon him to death. Briefly they turn on each other but stop as soon as they realize what they are doing.

Carrot learns that Carson has left the commune and he orders his men to find him in the tunnels. The two are able to elude them by hiding in a dark passage, but as they continue onward, Melinda starts to have her baby. A few minutes later, the baby is born, and Carrot's gang catches up.

Carson dispatches a couple more of the gang with his knife, and everyone but Carrot runs off. Carrot attacks him with a sort of 'hammer' (the heavy ball on a cable, not the hand tool) and knocks away his knife. Eventually Carrot is knocked into an open pit, but Carson ends up precariously on the edge, with the ball wrapped around his own wrist and Carrot dangling below him. Carson locates an axe, but is unable to hit Carrot or cut the cable. He is forced to chop off his own hand with the axe, and Carrot plummets to his death.

Over the credits we see Carson and Melinda walking along the beach with the baby, suggesting that they have made it to safety, at least for now.

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The Ultimate Warrior comes rather early in the set of post-apocalyptic films, and while it explores the typical themes, it uses a different approach to them. Instead of just assuming a nuclear war, this is set in a world that's been devastated by epidemics first and foremost, and then some sort of environmental degradation. Nevertheless it is concerned with how small conflicts might lead to self-destructive violence. Instead of seeing the nuclear war as inevitable (as many films in the 1980s did), it's possibly trying to signal the need for greater cooperation despite each side's differences. It could probably also be interpreted as having an environmental message as well, since both Carrot's camp and the Baron's side are seen as equally concerned with survival in harsh world, and Cal's seeds offer hope for a better future for both of them.

Of course, the film is very interested in showing off the action and fighting. Carson is played by Yul Brynner, and he displays a sense of implacable energy whenever anyone faces off with him. Those fight scenes are decently done, but kind of go too quickly. It's almost too easy for him to win, even if it is rather impressive. Even in the climactic 'chop off your own hand' scene, which is almost too contrived to take seriously, Brynner has the right amount of anguish to really sell the moment. This isn't quite a martial arts film, but there is certainly some influence there.

What I find odd about it is how much it really avoids indicating anyone's motivation except as it relates to the plot, which is just full of conveniences. Why is Carson standing there motionless? Not explained, it's just a way to get them to come out to him so the attack can happen on the return trip. What does Carrot use the baby as a lure but not properly ambush Carson? What even happens to the remainder of the commune? Presumably they die, but we do not ever see them once the Baron is gone. Carrot never even learns about the Baron's death. He's focused entirely on Carson by that point, since as the film nears its conclusion he's basically the obstacle that can be used. We can infer that he's motivated by revenge, but he never even really says it. On the whole, Carrot is a pretty second-rate villain; Carson doesn't really know him except from what those in the Baron's commune have told him.

The best dynamic is actually between the Baron and Carson. Carson has a stoicism mingled with a certain delight in combat. He is not particularly altruistic; he just does what's asked of him because he's getting paid in food and cigars* for it. The Baron (Max von Sydow) has a stern and callous nature that is equally impressive in a way. He has all the air of a politician who is still capable of managing the people under him but no longer cares about them, if he ever did. Neither of them are particularly selfish or shallow, though. The Baron is pursuing his goal (preserve Cal's knowledge of seeds) above all else, but isn't trying to be mean. He resigns himself to his fate with a simple "it's open" when he hears the mob coming to his office door. Carson has the eventual goal for himself of reaching a safer haven, but he's willing to work with others as long as it's mutually beneficial. Fighting is something he's especially good at, and it's served him well in this collapsed civilization.

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This is a film that from a modern point of view might seem overly cynical, since most of the people depicted end up causing death and misery, even if they aren't actively trying to massacre each other. Melinda is probably the closest to a 'virtuous' character but she barely exists except as a plot device. I still feel it's maybe not just being so down on humanity, though. It's certainly not nihilistic, since there is something of a hopeful ending. Outside of just telling its story of fighting and survival, there's a suggestion that we should hope we don't end up the same way, should the world come to it, but with a realist slant that suggests it might be unavoidable.


*Now that he's gone, Yul Brynner wants to remind you not to smoke.


Connections to Roadwar 2000

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While this is a world in which vehicles and lootable resources have mostly been used up, the set-up of competing communities that take their own approach to survival is one that resonates with the Roadwar game. Even if in-game there isn't too much distinction between the labels, the very fact that there is a variety of gangs makes it feel a bit richer. In the movie, even Carrot's side is shown in their living space, and they actually seem reasonably happy. It's just their approach is based on thievery, while groups like the Baron's are trying to improve the world in their own way.

One of the things that seems to fit is that most of the people are still remaining in the cities. In the game, some people might be drawn to the city-states if they are the only source of order. In the film, it seems more like these are people who just never were able to leave. Carson is from Detroit, and says it was somewhat similar to what he sees in New York, and outside of the island he is heading to, there doesn't seem to be any desire on the part of most people to get out of the cities and establish themselves elsewhere.

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Kibayasu wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 2:04 am
A couple of close calls, though I guess Montreal actually wasn't too close despite the losses, but luck is always welcome.

Can you lose cities after taking them over?
It actually was very close. Once you start to take heavy enough losses, it becomes harder to keep the gang going if you end up in another fight (or a road fight, which thankfully have been easy for us so far).

You don't lose cities once you conquer them, they just become safe for looting. There are still a few risks in hostile groups attacking you, but not in large numbers on a regular basis. There is supposedly the risk of nuclear bombs destroying the whole city based on what the manual hints at, though I don't know if that happens to ones you have control of.

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Florida Man 'Liberates' Truck From Religious Group
GUB Director Herrell wrote: July 20, 1999

Nuclear bombs have struck strategic cities across the US. With the defense system down, we could not protect ourselves or retaliate. The bastards. Radiation will cause horrible sickness. The worst of it is that not all of the bombs exploded. Some of the hardware was defective. So in various cities there are bombs likely to explode at any time. People will flee to cities to escape the existing radiation only to be annihilated by the delayed explosions.

Anderson and Rogers tell me that the cities are divided into small sections, each ruled by a gang with a strong leader. In some cases, where the leader is strong enough, the gang rules the entire city. Funny to think of Boston run by a motorcycle gang.

A gang leader usually gains control when he has a doctor, a drill officer, and a politician supporting him. Rogers, who made it back from the upper north side, said a leader called Mox is in control there.

Mox found his doctor while looting for supplies at a hospital. A doctor, depending on the degree of his skill, may be able to save a diseased soldier. Rogers doesn't know how, but he's seen men live who by rights should have died.

Drill officers at old military bases are usually willing to come with the gang leader. The drill officer is responsible for training and discipline. With training by a drill officer and experience in battle, a gang member has his fighting ability increased.

Incredibly, even in a bio and nuclear war, politicians talk — and people listen. Mox found his politician by allowing needy people to join his band. Bureaucrats controlled Mox's area. but the politician reduced the amount of bribes Mox had to pay to them.

These gang leaders, together with their three cronies. can control cites. They can protect against or permit looting and other activities. But can they last?
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As they left Syracuse behind and for the first time were headed toward Troy, Florida Man directed the crew to make a wide circle around the city. They didn't need to go back there, at least not yet, he figured. Instead they drove straight through and made it to the Connecticut River by noon the next day.

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Once they crossed over into the next town, they noticed something peculiar. Nobody was guarding the bridges, and while there were signs of looting, there was a little less trash in the streets. Most of the people they saw went together in groups, as was normal in any city, but they did not seem to be on their guard, even when the Gator Goons drove by. There didn't seem to be anyone wandering with their weapons brandished. When the gang stopped at one of the open spaces in the middle of the city, they even spotted a group of adults playing baseball.

One of them left the game and came over to the goons. "Welcome to Springfield," he said cheerily. "What a lovely sunny day it is. May the new light bless you."
"What's going on here?" wondered Florida Man. "Who runs this town?"
"No one... and everyone. We are the Reborn Children. All belongs to everyone. Here we maintain a peaceful life, and we manage the Dictionary. Maybe you have some new words you can give us from your home city," he added questioningly.
"The what now?" asked Florida Man, growing more puzzled.
"You may join us if we wish. We have escaped the suffering of the old world and gone through the new birth." He raised one arm and spread it toward the park. "Even if you do not become reborn, you are welcome to anything here."
"Uh... you mean just take it? I don't want to get in trouble with whoever owns it."
"No one is in charge. Speak with Child Romano if you want food. If you need help with your vehicles, maybe Child Gallagher can help. She is probably over at the reservoir now."

Florida Man stepped aside for a moment. He spoke with Harper Stevens, saying it'd be pretty nice if they could just take the town without having to fight for it. Stevens said it was probably for the best long-term, since having this city under the Gator Goons would ensure a solid presence in the Northeast US, before the Invaders had a chance to expand their holdings.

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When they announced to the Gator Goons that they were just planning to take over the town, there was a decidedly mixed reaction. While most were relieved that they did not have to fight, a large number of them grew angry that the Gator Goons would just take advantage of the city's generosity. Some quit the gang on the spot. Over the course of their visit, a number of them simply left as they saw the attractiveness of this new religion. The Gator Goons had gained a town, but lost the respect of many members.

I wanted to show this off once just to demonstrate what happens. Although it turns out somewhat fortuitously that we're in about the only situation where it can be a good idea to take a Reborner town -- our gang is weak enough that fights for cities are tough, and we also need to add to the cities we control, since that's necessary for plot advancement. Also, despite the flavor text, this desertion only happens one time, and only if you take control.

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Despite the fairly friendly nature of the townspeople, the mood in the gang was decidedly sour. The next day Florida Man decided to move on and directed the group to head down to the ocean shore. An afternoon spent relaxing on the beach was a welcome break. For a moment they could all forget about the terrible upheaval of the past year, and could just enjoy the Atlantic breeze.

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They continued on into Rhode Island, only to be reminded that more cities than they thought had been taken over by the Invaders. Florida Man cursed the aliens for coming ashore there and sped on up toward Boston. He hoped that city, at least, would not have fallen victim to their plans.

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After holding up in Quincy to be safe in case of attacks in the big town, the Gator Goons sent out their scouts into the city. They came back with the report that the religious cult had taken hold to an even greater extent here. Jack threatened that he'd be gone with the van in an instant if Florida Man considered seizing control of the town. Florida Man assured him he had no such intentions. He hoped that they could at least spend some time there to rest up before heading back to Ottawa or Montreal, though. After all, even if they knew what he'd done in Springfield, these folks didn't seem like they'd bear any grudges, right? And they were always so willing to share...

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Indeed, it seemed as though they did not care at all about the forced takeover of one of their cities. Perhaps they didn't really consider control of a city to be something they controlled. It admittedly was nice to see people who acted so friendly, almost as if the country hadn't just been turned into a flaming wreck in the course of a year.

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On the other hand, the intense communal atmosphere made for poor looting. It seemed as though the city had worked together to salvage all the resources they could, and that included programs to clear out and manage the stocks of most of the grocery stores, clothing shops, and even gun shops. Still, a few abandoned spots had been overlooked, so they were able to grab a little extra here and there.

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One of the things that was easy to find was an unused vehicle, as the Reborners seemed to care little for them. The streets were littered with usable cars. Most of them were no better than the ones the Gator Goons already had. But there was one that caught Florida Man's eye — a custom-built dune buggy that someone found in the side yard of a West Roxbury three-decker. It had a bulky black pipe frame and chunky rear wheels. It would offer essentially no protection in a firefight, but it did have a sizable platform for holding supplies in the front. There was something about it that just appealed to Florida Man, although he didn't start to drive it himself -- Cecile wanted to give it a spin and she tore up and down the block in it. The roar of the buggy's overpowered engine managed to win over a few of the goons, so it was added to the vehicle roster.

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The next day, Florida Man was down visiting a park the locals called "The Old Common" (one of them said, "everything is the commons now") and noticed that right in the middle of Charles Street, there was an old Mack truck, hooked up to a trailer that was about half-full of food and medical supplies. The back of the trailer was open and it appeared as if the Reborners had set up a staircase attached to the back for easy access.

He walked up to one of the women standing near the staircase. She asked, "Do you need anything? We have food for anyone who needs it."

"I was actually wondering, do you ever move this truck here around?"

"No, well, no, I guess not really. It was loaded up with supplies from around town, and brought here to this distribution point."

"See, I was wondering, if maybe we could have it?"

"You need so much food? We shall let it go. But it has no gas in it now," she said softly and looked at him with sad eyes.

Florida Man chuckled. "Uh, actually, we just need the truck. You can keep the trailer, you know. We got enough food. Kinda need it if we're gonna fight off some of those road gangs. You know, some of these cities, they ain't so nice as you folk."

"Would it not be better to join the movement. Become one of the reborn and greet the new light."

"Well, I'm looking to get back home some day. But we might have to fight the Invaders. You better watch out for them. You know I think they might be al—" he broke off, and then spoke again, "Communists or something."

"Ah...lovely," she said, staring up at the sky over his shoulder, as if an iridescent butterfly had suddenly flown down from the sun.

"So... you all wouldn't mind, would you?"

"What you need, you need. All is ours, all is yours." She smiled and turned to the other people minding the trailer. "He will be taking the truck," she announced.

I somehow got the screen right after getting the truck, but you can see the vehicle count went up, as did the free space. Note the listed fuel supply does go down to fill the 'gas tank'.

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He proudly returned and told the Gator Goons that he'd scored another big tractor. They hitched it up to a trailer they found at a delivery truck dispatch center. Cecile and Jack were shocked to find that Florida Man had just taken the truck from the Reborners, but he pointed out they really weren't using it to get around. Mr. Stevens assured the others that he'd seen the truck out there just parked and unmoving, and promised they'd make sure to offer protection for the city any time they needed it.

Briefly, Florida Man considered some options for an ongoing plan for this region, but he didn't want to try anything too complicated. He was pretty happy to have another truck. They'd be pretty unstoppable on the road with two trucks.

They departed Boston shortly afterward and headed back to Springfield. He gave out the message to those that had left the gang were welcome to stay in any of these towns, but they might enjoy the 'reborn' life more in Boston.

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A short scouting trip south to Hartford confirmed more bad news — the Invaders had taken that town, too. Florida Man was wondering how widespread the invasion in New York had been. Some of the original Gator Goons from Troy said they must have been coming in through New York City first. That was a thought that frightened him a bit, because he had hoped that once the gang got a bit more powerful, he could at least make a visit to the big city again. Now he was afraid they'd need to be a lot stronger to handle that town.

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Eager to put more distance between himself and the Reborners, and wanting to take advantage of the strength of two trucks, Florida Man gave the signal to head straight west. He planned to go back to Oil City and then make a scouting run into Ohio and Michigan. They group once again made full speed and bypassed Troy. At the next stop, Dr. Balthazar and Jack approached Florida Man and pointed out that with the two new additions to the fleet, they were burning through their fuel a lot faster than when they'd gone out there. The truck, of course, required a lot, but that dune buggy was guzzling quite a bit of gas, too. The concern was that they'd be out of fuel well before they made it to Rochester.

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Florida Man was unconcerned. They'd basically done the same already the last time through. And even the group of Invaders hadn't been as bad as they expected, so maybe it would just be all right. They pulled into Syracuse without an ounce of fuel but what remained in the gas tanks of the cars. The Gator Goons spread out to search for just a little spare gas.

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A full day went and the Gator Goons had no luck finding anything; even the typical finds of food or tires or medicine were rare.

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Yet another day passed, and the mood in the gang grew tense. No gas, and no Invader attack either. There'd been a few actual sign-ups to the gang, some locals seemingly growing desperate as the resources in the town were drying up. The Gator Goons at least were able to offer plenty of food and water. Florida Man grew nervous, wondering if the Invaders had abandoned the city after zapping away everything that remained, as a sort of retaliation for having failed to drive out the Goons before.

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They did encounter some of the 'healers' who were willing to trade for the anti-viral drugs, and one of them even offered to be the group's doctor, but Florida Man felt comfortable for now with Balthazar.

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Five days after they arrived in Syracuse, the first attack came. Was it the Invaders mounting a sneak attack, or disgruntled residents tired of the gang's presence? Florida Man never would find out for sure. And still, not a drop of gas to be found.

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Whichever it had been, the sneak attack could not have come at a worse time, as that evening an actual Invader force showed up to battle. The Gator Goons had been weakened, and did their best, taking out as many of the enemy as they lost.

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After the fight, though, there was an unnatural quiet. The Gator Goons cautiously went to inspect the deserted battleground. In one of the houses they'd taken last, they discovered plans showing the lines of attack on the Gator Goons, and the indications that there were to be no reinforcements from either nearby city. The failure of this attack meant that Syracuse was no longer a priority target. The Gator Goons had won!

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The ordeal had come at a terrible price; they'd never planned to stop here, and it was almost by dumb luck that they'd halted the Invaders. Looting parties were able to find more supplies, although the gang was down to just a few dozen loyal members. Florida Man was still shocked that they had really done it. They'd won over an Invader town, even if it was a small one. Maybe they really could take them on back in Troy now.

I discovered from the manual, only after this, that apparently gang combat can deplete the resources of a town. (Normal looting does that as well.) City size plays a role in this, so it would seem a combination of our previous visits contributed to this problem. I can't confirm, but I'm fairly sure it resets if you take control.

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With control of the city secured, the group could relax a bit more. They were able to find a large stash of fuel; not enough to really get far, but it would make it to Rochester, maybe even Oil City if necessary.

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Fortunately, some of the gas they'd set aside from the big tank they'd discovered could still be found in Rochester. They loaded up with just enough to get them out to Oil City.

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Out near the oil wells, the Gator Goons once again found themselves in a battle with the 'Hard Hat' gang that ran this territory. Cecile revved the dune buggy's engine as she waited for the rest of the gang to catch up. The buggy had bounced easily across the dirt field ahead of them, only to spot four bulldozers arrayed against the goons. This was going to be a real battle this time.

Road battle size is actually determined by the number of vehicles, but gang battles depend on the city size. It is possible, just barely, to be a one-vehicle gang once you get something like a trailer truck, but we will not do that.

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The armored enemy bulldozers rumbled in a tight formation across the oilfield. They engaged at long range, but no hits landed for either side.

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Cecile continued to head straight into battle. Florida Man actually looked a bit concerned when he saw all four of the construction vehicles converging on her at low speed.

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The Hyundai was trying to swing around to engage from the side, but found its vision blocked by old oil pumps and large rock piles.

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Cecile swerved her more maneuverable buggy hard to the left. She was managing to lure them straight into range of the trucks.

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The Stellar and the van did attract the attention of one of the bulldozers as a shot went right through one of their hard hats.

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Unfortunately, focused fire from the rest of the enemy gang took out two of Cecile's unprotected companions. She pushed the accelerator down hard to get away from the deadly rain of fire.

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Jack was drawing dangerously close to a collision with one of them, but he was determined to draw their fire away from the dune buggy.

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But there came another shot from the one still trying to head towards Cecile, and suddenly, she was alone at the wheel. She let out a yelp and ducked her head down.

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As she passed right by the Mack, several of the goons on top made a leap to get on her car, if only to ensure that she didn't end up losing control. One commando misjudged the attempt and she paid the price with her life.

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Florida Man had finally been able to bring the Gatormobile around into the fight. He could probably avoid any collisions easily, but he still didn't want to get too close to the hefty bulldozers.

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This group was not only coming with more vehicles, but they had better guns, too. Automatic weapons fire from two of them ripped into the back of the van, leaving several more dead.

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The Freightliner prepared for more broadsides of the Hard Hats. It was in a pretty solid position to make a run past them, although there was still a bit of cover between them.

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The Mack, meanwhile, had pushed heavily on the brakes just to be sure that the bulldozer wouldn't try to ram it.

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A dogged pursuit of the van took out one more of the Gator Goons.

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Florida Man fired off a shot out the passenger side window that finished off the first of the Hard Hat's bulldozer.

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Two more went down quickly from a barrage from the truck and the van.

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Cecile regained her composure, and the crew on her dune buggy was able to start firing off shots again.

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With the Gator Goons circling around it on four sides, the final piece of heavy equipment went down. There was no mercy to be shown this time.

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A very decent amount of fuel could be loaded into the trucks now, although there was some grumbling that maybe someone had nabbed a few too many cases of beans back in Boston.

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The Gator Goons could stand to fill out their ranks a bit more, but Florida Man figured they were ready to make a another run, this time to Lake Erie and beyond.


This week's film: A little break from the normal post-apocalypse, Death Race 2000 (1975)

The theoretical maximum number of people seems like an incredibly optimistic number given these last few updates.

Didn't expect to see a more pacifist faction in this game though I guess that's not completely out of character for post apocalypses. Neat that they can actually kind of influence your own group in that way.

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Death Race 2000 (1975)

"Sure it's violent, but that's the way we love it!"

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Synopsis

The film starts with the commencement of the '20th Annual Transcontinental Road Race' in New York City. There are indications that this is the future, but things also seem a bit wrong, such as the American flag having a big yellow fist in place of the blue canton of stars. The racers come to the starting line; and each of them seem to be custom-themed in some way for the road rally, especially in ways that make the vehicles look more dangerous. The racers start with 'Calamity' Jane, who has a cowgirl theme in a car with bullhorns named 'The Bull'. Next is 'Matilda the Hun', who has a prominent swastika on her helmet and drives a car called 'The Buzzbomb'; her supporters in the crowd wave Nazi flags and aside from scuffles with fans supporting other drivers, nobody seems to bat an eye. Third is 'Nero the Hero', who seems to have an ancient Rome theme and is portrayed as quite vain. Then comes 'Machine Gun' Joe Viterbo, with a 1920s Chicago gangster theme. Finally, the crowd favorite and returning champion arrives; known only as 'Frankenstein', he drives a car with a sort of reptilian theme*. The president appears from his 'summer palace' in China, and delivers an inspirational message to send off the racers.

Frankenstein has apparently survived many crashes and had body parts replaced over the years with mechanical versions. He wears an all-black outfit that also covers most of his heavily scarred face. His navigator, Annie, is new to him, and he is a bit wary of her. He does allow her to look under his mask -- and she finds that his face is completely unblemished; the scars are part of a full face mask.

The racers split up as they leave New York toward Pennsylvania. Machine Gun Joe is shown heading toward a construction crew working in the middle of the street. All but one of the crew rushes for safety, and then instead of swerving around, Joe aims right for the man, killing him brutally with the blade on the car's front. We then learn (in case we've forgotten the film's title) that this race has a twist: the racers earn 'points' by killing pedestrians they encounter along the way.

A few of the other contestants score points with kills. This includes Frankenstein, although he makes an unexpected move when, instead of killing a group of elderly hospital patients for 'Euthanasia Day', he swerves on to the sidewalk and hits the nurses and doctors instead, even though he scores fewer points. Throughout the race, there is analysis from newscasters, covering it like they would a big sporting event similar to the Olympics (including such things as interviews with the widow of the first man Joe killed).

There are some who object to this horrific bloodsport. There is a resistance group led by a woman named Thomasina Paine also watching along, and they have plans to sabotage the race. It is revealed that Frankenstein's new navigator Annie is in fact Thomasina's granddaughter, secretly planted for reasons as yet unknown. One part of their plan is put into action early on: when Nero spots a family picknicking and goes after the baby in a bassinet (worth more points), it turns out to be a bomb that explodes, killing him and his navigator.

The next day, Frankenstein causes a minor ruckus when he circles around and runs down the 'deacon' (who had announced the race). He does end up getting credited with the points, however. Farther along the route he gets ambushed by the resistance. He avoids it, and then curiously sees a man dressed up just like him. He runs the man down, but seems to have lost some time on the race.

Joe Viterbo, it turns out, was misled by Annie into taking a false shortcut. Matilda runs over Jane's navigator while he's working under the car, prompting them to get in a fierce chase up a mountain road. Matilda gets away by splashing mud onto Jane's windshield, but is then led off a cliff by a detour sign and a fake painted 'tunnel' set up by the resistance. The report of Matilda's death is initially suppressed by the news agency.

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Frankenstein has grown suspicious of Annie after the ambush. He realizes she led him into it, since she hasn't planned the rest of their route for the day. She reveals that the plan was to kidnap him and hold him ransom in exchange for the abolition of the race. This causes Frankenstein to break out in laughter.

That night the news reports announce Matilda's death, but instead blames it on France, who the president says is also responsible for the country's economic troubles. Joe finds Annie in the garage and nearly chokes her to death; Frankenstein shows up and beats up Joe in a fistfight. Later, Frankenstein reveals that he was raised in secret by the government and is only the Frankenstein for 'this year', which explains why Frankenstein seems to survive so many crashes - he actually doesn't.

On the third and final day of the race, Jane is killed after being attacked by a resistance motorcycle that leads her toward a land mine. Both Joe and Frankenstein manage to avoid further resistance attacks; Frankenstein survives only because he slips Annie a short-term knockout drug so she can't cooperate with the resistance. When she comes around, he tells her that his own plan when he completes the race is to go and shake the president's hand. He pulls off his gloved left hand to reveal that it actually is a mechanical hand, but with a grenade embedded in it (and yes, he calls it a 'hand grenade').

Joe, meanwhile, is enraged and determined to kill off Frankenstein. Annie is forced to throw the hand grenade into Joe's car, blowing him up. As the car arrives triumphantly at the finish line, Frankenstein exits the car and strides up to the podium to meet the president. Thomasina is in the crowd, though, and shoots him before he can get there. But then they pull off the mask and it's revealed to be Annie instead. The real Frankenstein, who had been hiding in the car, drives straight at the platform the president is on, causing it to collapse and the president to fall to his death.

In the epilogue, Frankenstein has become the new president and married Annie (who seemed mostly unharmed by the shot). Most importantly, he announces that the race has been cancelled forever.

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*I don't think the car is ever named. I actually was not thinking of this movie when coming up with the concept of the 'Gatormobile', though. I don't picture the Gatormobile as being themed this heavily.

In case it's not clear from some of those plot moments, this is largely a goofy and ridiculous film. However, it's also an entertaining satire that (in my opinion) doesn't indulge too deeply in the thing it's trying to satirize. The moments when people are killed are for the most part given just enough of an edge not to feel silly, but don't focus in on the violence (there is almost no gore). And despite the moments that seem taken straight from a cartoon, the film delivers them in a straightforward style instead of dwelling on the humor. David Carradine as Frankenstein goes a long way toward establishing the tone, as he delivers his lines in a delightfully deadpan style. The political satire is fairly broad for its time (when neo-Nazis could be seen as a joke, and the political parties might have believably merged into one 'Bipartisan Party' as the film terms it). Of course the media satire is as valid then as ever, although it comes closest to direct parody of specific figures of the day (Howard Cosell and Barbara Walters).

It's a bit more complex when it comes to sexual politics, where it ends up being a sleazier production. On the one hand, all of the navigators are simply expected to sexually service their drivers, and this does include both the male and female drivers. The two women, Jane and Mathilda, are shown as having a healthy sexual appetite without it coming off as a negative trait, and there are both male and female bodies put on display. But there's a clear imbalance in several of the on-screen images, such as when you have Annie completely undressed and prostrate in front of a Frankenstein who has merely unzipped his jacket. In truth, that part is fairly tastefully shot - this isn't exploitation. But there also isn't much of a motivation for all these scenes to exist, aside from spicing up the film a bit. It seems more like an actual holdover of the free-love era than an attempt to send it up.

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If Mad Max was the film that created the paradigm of the post-apocalyptic film, Death Race 2000 has had nearly as much of an impact on films that came after, just without being copied so directly. It has a clear influence on Mad Max itself; even if this film doesn't focus a lot of attention on them or involve combat directly, some of the vehicles sequences are still excellently shot. The not-quite-serious take on a dystopia became something of a trope in many post-apocalyptic settings (here the impetus for the police state in America was the 'World Crash' in 1979). With all its various sub-plots, the film is maybe a bit too scattershot in its structure, and its influence is thus a bit more spread out as well.

Some critics of the time did find that the film was treating human life too lightly, given that there is a pretty high death count in the end. It's true that it's not going very far to highlight this aspect of movie violence, but in my consideration, it does at least give viewers a chance to consider the question, even if the film moves a bit too breezily to confront the problem head-on. I'm on the side that it's a light satire that doesn't have a lot to say, but is a pretty fun ride. Everyone in it seems to be having fun making it, and that gives it an extra boost of enjoyability.


Connections to Roadwar 2000

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Although in Death Race 2000 there isn't direct vehicle-to-vehicle combat per se (any collisions are incidental in the vein of typical racing events), there can be no doubt that with the casual treatment of human lives, and the intended use of the vehicles as weapons, this story has a big influence on games such as Roadwar. Of course, there is a much more infamous video game that is associated with the film (Exidy's arcade 'Death Race' game), and that set a precedent for just how violence can be represented and interpreted by players of the game, or at least how the media might react to it. In this game we're going to see cumulatively hundreds of casualties and many vehicles destroyed, which is mostly numbers going up or down. The world of Death Race isn't as degraded or difficult to survive in as the one in the game, and we don't score any sort of 'points', so there is some difference in how we're expected to interpret these figures, but in both cases, it's not meant to be taken too seriously. This is not a particularly grim future setting.

And of course, there is the name. The '2000' moniker was applied in the waning decades of the millennium to anything that wanted to seem forward-looking, from computers to bath soap. Giving the game this name, though, seems to be a fairly direct nod to the movie, especially when there isn't a particular reason to use the year for a future 'road war', except to imply a sort of dystopia in which killing people in a car might be a form of entertainment.

Death Race is just delightfully silly though I think I would describe the sex as exploitation (in the film sense) just a lower key version of it. Hard to think that those Purge movies got their ideas from anywhere else.

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Yeah, it's definitely pushing or on the line, especially taking the film as a whole. I was mostly thinking that the scene in question at least serves some purpose in showing that Annie's probably going to be on-board with Frankenstein's plan; without it, her acceptance of his plan when he reveals it would be a bit too swift. And there's clearly an attempt to do this without just showing her naked.

I think the Purge is clearly taking inspiration from this; it's intriguing that this could easily have been skewed to being more of a horror/comedy film.

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Florida Man Discovers Mexican Food Conspiracy
GUB Director Herrell wrote: August 2, 1999

Now we must fight against a land invasion. Their forces, already inoculated. are everywhere. Heavily armed with conventional weapons, the invaders struck along the coasts and came through Mexico. Our own resistance has had mixed results. Few people are equipped — or even physically able — to fight the invaders. The gang leaders seem to have the best chances.

No phones, no mail. I hear little from the outside world and the agents have increasing difficulty returning. But a message did get through from one of the eight. They are very, very close to a breakthrough.

August 21, 1999
The radiation from the nuclear bombs caused a strange mutation in the bacterium. The new strain affects the aggression-controlling area of the brain, causing extremely violent behavior. People carrying the new strain are called mutants.

Ironically, the invaders’ vaccine is not effective against the mutated bacterium. The invaders now are experiencing the agonies others have felt. They die from the mutated disease; we die from the original disease. Each side needs the other side’s vaccine. The doctors (now called healers) who have the new vaccine cure people, but at a huge price. All men must be cured at the same time or they become reinfected.

I feel disoriented and defeated.

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The band of Goons rested for the afternoon at the oil field, and planned out their route. They'd head southwest, into Ohio first. The plan was to drive at night in order to avoid any gang patrols, as they didn't know who controlled this territory yet, and recent casualties had left them in a poorer position to fight.

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As the sun set and they prepared to get into their vehicles, however, there was a sudden movement all around them. Shadowy figures approached. They were the the infected, coming in a much larger wave than the Gator Goons had seen so far. A lengthy fight ensued, with many people having to engage in melee combat as the deranged humans rushed at them to rip them apart.

By dawn, it was clear that some of the warriors from the night before had been infected with the mutant strain of the virus. Balthazar ordered them to stop for an hour so he could administer the 'antitoxin' drugs. He told them if they didn't handle it now, they'd be quickly in a situation where they'd end up "exhausting their stash".

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They made it to the outskirts of Youngstown after midday. Scouts discovered that the town was likely to be controlled by the Invaders. It was a worrying prospect, since this was farther inland they'd expected to find this enemy. Doubly worrying since the gang was in no shape to deal with a big fight after the losses to the disease.

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Rather than push on into Ohio, the Gang made the decision to head a bit southeast, toward Pittsburgh. As they crossed the Allegheny, they spotted at the end of the bridge a checkpoint staffed by men and women in military uniforms. It turned out to be Army and Air National Guard members. While initially formal and brusque, they relaxed a bit when informed that the Gator Goons had scored a victory against the Invaders in Syracuse. The group said that they could remain in the city if they wished, but would face harsh penalties if caught looting.

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The soldiers then directed them to "talk to Victor". A man in his fifties with a salt-and-pepper beard came out and told them he'd be happy to help fix up their cars. He hopped on board and directed them across the bridge. They stopped at an old steel foundry. Victor explained that the industry had already been on the decline lately, and when the "world shut down" as he put it, that left a lot of work piled up. There were many spare steel plates that could be used to reinforce all of the Gator Goons' vehicles.

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They traveled on to a few more auto shops, where modifications were made to improve the performance of all the vehicles. Victor said they'd do it not just to balance out the extra weight of the armor plating, but they'd make it better.

He went on to explain that the problems in Pittsburgh had started earlier on than for most. There had been some shootings last year, and the National Guard had been called up to maintain order. As the country descended into anarchy from the pandemic and then the nuclear attacks, the already-in-place troops had assumed control of the city. Those that didn't like it had left. It was a harsh rule in the main part of the city, but Victor said it made him feel safe. "Yinz'd better stay out of trouble," he added. "And don't go into downtown after sundown. They'll shoot you on sight for sure."

Florida Man assured them that the gang would stay clean, and they had no intention of heading out of Pittsburgh to Daunton that night. They were hoping to find a few women and men to build up the gang, and then they expected to leave for Ohio. Victor told them to be careful in Ohio, he thought there were some pretty strange people there.

This is really the only way cities are characterized in-game. These special events only happen the first time you enter the city, and are always the same for a given location on the map. Sometimes, like this one, they give you some really good benefits.

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Needing to build up the numbers, the Gator Goons signed up some more members. Most of the city's residents seemed content to stay in the safety of their own town, but there were enough to be found ready to seek adventure.

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They drove off straight past Youngstown and Warren, and instead stopped in the larger city of Cleveland. It was controlled by a local Ohio gang.

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That evening, the first attack came. The Gator Goons fought off the small band of forces. Florida Man knew there would be more to come soon, however.

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Harper Stevens wanted to leave, saying "these city walls ain't got no love", but Jack encouraged him to stay and build up. The core of the gang was pretty seasoned now, so even with fewer numbers they could live through a prolonged fight.

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Further recruitment, however, did not produce good results. There was another encounter with one of the strange face-painted group. A couple of them asked if the Gator Goons were heading to Detroit, but in the end none of them signed up.

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Cecile was curious to know why all these people were heading to Detroit, and suggested they should go find out. Florida Man figured they weren't seeing much luck in Cleveland, so they took off up the highway again. Stevens was relieved, saying he thought the next town would give them better luck.

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In Toledo, they encountered another city where a loose hold on law and order was being held by the Ohio National Guard.

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Stevens was pleased that they were able to operate in a safer environment for asking for more members. The Gator Goons were starting to look more like a formidable force again.

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Even if they couldn't loot supplies there, Toledo would be a secure place to store them. Florida Man thought they didn't really need to conquer any more cities if they didn't have to; they just needed to be able to get around without being attacked all the time.

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To Cecile's disappointment, they headed straight southwest. Florida Man promised her they'd be circling back through Detroit, and by then expected to be in better shape for whatever fights they might have to get into. He didn't trust those weird-looking folk.

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Both Dayton and Cincinnati were found to be Reborner cities. Stevens thought it might be wise just to take one of them to secure a base in the region, but Florida Man overruled the idea, wanting to let them do what they wanted. He was feeling happy that the Invaders had not seemed to penetrate far into this region.

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Jack had gone out early in the morning alone, and arrived back with a group of men who he said all wanted to see some action. According to them, the Cincinnati area had been quiet for weeks, with hardly even any road gang activity.

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The Gator Goons spent another day around the two towns, staying more time in the quieter town of Dayton. There wasn't really much to be found there. The Reborners were busied with negotiating with the local farmers to keep the city supplied and the farms running that summer. They said the gang was welcome to take anything they had, but the gang found there wasn't all that much worth taking from them.

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Not all was peaceful, it turned out, as more of the mutants arrived at the night and attacked the Gator Goons. One of the Reborner leaders suggested that the gang must have invited the attack, since the town had not had any problem with mutants before. "You live a life of violence, and they are drawn to your violence," he insisted.

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Among the Reborners there was a group of doctors able to provide more medicine to counteract the virus. Dr. Balthazar nearly tried to convince them they should just give it away if the mutants never attacked them, but Jack convinced him it was only fair to compensate them with some of the gang's other medical supplies.

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Not wishing to trouble the Reborners any further, the Gator Goons prepared to depart for Indiana that afternoon. Florida Man had pulled over the Gatormobile to relieve himself in an alleyway in Cleveland before heading out. As he was zipping up his pants, he heard a voice from the shadows mentioning something about the 'GUB' and a secret password. He wasn't sure if this was some Invader trick or a government spy or just some lost and crazed Reborner. Unsure of what to do and a little wondering if someone was going to be trailing him, he held up the gang for a little while before proceeding.

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He wasn't sure of who he could trust. He told Jack he thought the gang's numbers were a bit low, and even if this state seemed comparatively peaceful, they shouldn't expect that to last. He'd feel safer with more people around to fight. He did not mention what had happened in the alley to anyone.

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The next day brought a clear and warm summer day, and they made good time to Indianapolis, the next major city. As usual, scouts had been sent out around the city to figure out who had control of it. Florida Man had parked the rest of the gang at an abandoned golf course near the city limits. He was out for a walk on the greens when Cecile approached him.

She told him she had some concerns about the dune buggy. "It's fun to drive, you know, and I know in Pittsburgh they tried to fix it up better, but it's still a little... weak."
"Sure does look fun to drive. Hey, why not take it for a spin on the course here?" he asked.
"Yeah, but if we meet some more road gangs, I'm not sure how good it'll be. On or off the road."
"Like the Furies? We ain't had a problem with them. Those construction guys sure were tough, though."
"I just think it might not be the vehicle to fight from, you know."

Suddenly their talk was interrupted by a noise from the nearby trees. A curiously overdressed man in a rumpled heavy coat and hat was crouching in the bushes.
"Psst. You Gator Man? You know the G.U.B., Government Underground Biolab?"
"Uh, is that where they're hiding the aliens?"
The man gave a dark look. "Aliens? No..."
"Wait!" cried Florida Man. "That's what the crazy guy was talking about. Back in the last town."
"You know these people?" whispered Cecile.
"You met someone? An agent?" questioned the man in the trees. "So what's the password?"
"Ummm..." mumbled Florida Man.
Cecile nudged him. "Did they give you a password? They had to have. You met a secret agent?" she hissed excitedly.
Half out loud he said, "It was pan-sea?"
"Pansy?" she asked. "Or, oh wait, did they say panacea?"
"Yeah!" he cried, relieved. "Panacea" he almost shouted to the man.
"Shhh!" responded the agent. "Don't let everyone know!"

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The man spoke again, quickly and quietly. "The G.U.B., it's in Tacoma. Head to Tacoma. The G.U.B. wants you."
Before they could answer the man ducked down again and darted off deeper into the trees. Cecile ran to where he'd been, but no trace of him could be found.
"Taco Mac? He say Taco Mac? I think that's up in Atlanta. Never been myself, but I got a friend who loved it," said Florida Man.
"No, he said Tacoma. I think it's a city. Somewhere in the US?"
"Oh, uh okay." Then his face got more serious. "Look, this top secret stuff? Don't tell anyone else. I don't know what's going on. Maybe these people are crazy. Maybe they know something. I think they're trying to trick us. But either way, let's keep it quiet, okay? Don't go blabbing to the others about it."
"Sure," she said. "It'd be pretty cool if these are real spies, though," she added, smiling brightly.


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It was late evening by the time the scouts returned, and by then the Gator Goons had set up camp for the night. But once again, a wave of the hyper-aggressive 'mutants' appeared as the sun went down. Fortunately, they were not armed with weapons, and the goons dispatched them with only a few people lost in the initial attack. It was nonetheless getting to be annoying.

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That day was spent stashing some supplies in the city and checking for reports on the roads and cities to the west. They heard vague reports to 'stay out of Illinois' but couldn't tell if that was anything real or just regional rivalry. On the positive side, several of the local gang members said they wanted to ride with the Gator Goons, especially when they heard that they were likely moving on to the northeast.

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The second night in Indianapolis, another wave of mutants came. This time, over a dozen people were lost, and more became infected. Dr. Balthazar administered more rounds of the 'antitoxin' treatment, but complained that they really ought to get away before they used up all their best supplies.

Florida Man considered it might be wise to move on now. Maybe this was the secret horror of this part of the country? No Invaders, no big gangs, but mutants every night. Florida Man thought these twisted humans had been chasing them from out of the mountains of New York, but maybe they'd been actually moving toward more of them, not away. They were still decently strong, and had an okay amount of fuel, so he ordered the group to move out on the highway to the north.

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They'd only just started their way out of the city when they spotted a group of cars on the highway approaching them at high speed. These weren't just the small cycles of the Furies, or the trundling bulldozers of the Hard Hats. These were some fast-looking and high-quality sports cars. It looked like the Gator Goons were in for a fight.

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The Gatormobile was a little ways back from the rest of the cars, but quickly accelerated to join the pack. As the opposing gang grew nearer, Florida Man heard music playing. It sounded like some loud rock. He thought he could even make out the song. He heard the singer saying "...if you squeeze my lizard..." but that sounded too strange to him to be right.

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The rival gang's cars were in sight now. One of them was a shiny red 1968 Shelby Mustang Convertible. It looked to be perfectly preserved and not a scratch on it. There was also another convertible, a black Chevy Camaro from the 1980s. It, too, was waxed and polished to a bright shine. This was the one that seemed to be playing the music. Further back, there was another black car, a hard-top this time. It was a sleek early 90s Trans Am. All of the cars were beautifully detailed, and all seemed to be coming at them as fast as possible.

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Florida Man figured they'd be tougher than the Furies, maybe, but pretty easy to pick off. With the Gator Goons having a two-to-one advantage in vehicles - and a far greater advantage in guns - they'd make short work of these guys. Their behavior was a bit strange, though. Even with the few guns they had, they didn't look like they were trying hard to deal damage. They seem to mostly just rocking out to the music and firing off shots towards the Goons at random.

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It was too late that he realized just what was happening. Avoiding the truck, the Camaro had skidded across the road in order to make a direct line toward the dune buggy and the Gatormobile. The music was blaring ever louder. Florida Man could hear the chorus now, "...killed by death...killed by death..." and the men on board the convertible were shouting along at full volume, their eyes wild with enthusiasm and bloodlust. As the Gatormobile slowed and twirled away, the dune buggy tried the same. But in order to get turned, it had to slam hard on the brakes and slow down, and had little room to maneuver with the truck still on one side, and wrecked cars on the shoulder on the other.

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The other enemy cars, meanwhile, had decided to team up on the Freightliner. The Mustang swung out directly in front of it while the Trans Am shot around some wrecks toward its rear. Gunfire from the van took out two passengers in the Mustang, and shot nasty holes into its pristine side, but did nothing to deter the driver.

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Seconds later, there was the sound of crunching glass and twisting steel as the Camaro plowed into the dune buggy. Both cars mashed together and twirled around in a solid wreck as parts - and blood - went flying in all directions. The music died and the battle seemed almost silent for a moment. None on board either vehicle had survived.

Cecile, who'd decided to give up on the dune buggy and had instead taken a position at the rear of the Mack, stared at the carnage, and then looked knowingly at Florida Man.

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A half-second later, more sounds of violent destruction were coming from the other side of the highway. Over there, the Mustang had crashed into the Freightliner's tractor as it attempted to turn. The truck could still move, but it was a much more significant hit than one from a little motorcycle had been.

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All the vehicles tried desperately to take out the driver of the last remaining car, but it was to no avail. It made an easy turn around and slammed into the rear trailer.

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The Gator Goons had survived the battle, but it had come at a heavy price. They salvaged what fuel and medicine they could from the wrecks. After examining some of the destroyed enemy cars, they discovered the drivers had black leather with "Motorheads" written on them. Apparently that was the gang they had to worry about around here. They seemed a more credible threat than the Furies had been.

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Out on the highway, they had little chance of finding a decent repair shop, or at least one with acceptable tools to use. Their only choice was to camp for the night, fix up whatever wheels they could, and then drive the limping truck all the way up to the next city.

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They reached Flint, over a hundred miles away, late the next morning. The scouts reported back simply that this town was controlled by "The Mob". This time it was Jack who was confused. "A mob? Like an armed mob?"
"No, they mean like 'the mob'," said Florida Man. "Right?" he asked the two scouts. "You mean, the big mob."
They nodded in response. It seemed they'd been a little shaken up, since two of their friends had been nabbed when they had started poking around what seemed to be the organization's headquarters.

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Jack had to get the full explanation from Harper Stevens, although neither of them could figure out just how an organized crime network could operate on a national level in these circumstances. Whoever it was, they both agreed that this little town wasn't worth fighting over. Florida Man, meanwhile, wasn't above trying to get new members any way he could, even if it meant moving in on the mafia's territory. Most of the new members weren't actually affiliated with the Flint gangsters; they were just locals trying to get attention from one of the bigger gangs. Some of them just wanted to get out of Flint.

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It didn't take much nudging from Stevens to get Florida Man to head out of Flint as well. They needed fuel anyway, and there were rumors of an oil supply nearby, or maybe even an oilfield. The gang drove out to the countryside, and weren't too surprised to find someone ready to defend whatever oil reserves were available there.

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What did come as a surprise, however, was just who was there waiting for them. The hard rocking music was blaring yet again. This time the riffs were strong and dirty as opposed to the squealing guitar of the last one they'd heard played. The cars were still fancy hot rods and just as well-maintained as any of the ones they'd seen before. One of them was a convertible Gran Torino with a shining chrome supercharger sticking through the hood. There was another convertible, an electric blue 1982 Corvette, and finally an AMC Javelin. They were a little out of their element in this grassy field, but they were revving their engines for a fight nonetheless.

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Florida Man didn't want to lose any more vehicles if this was another group of suicidal speed demons. He ordered the gang to spread out, and keep their distance from both friendly and enemy cars, just to avoid any danger.

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He was especially worried about the Freightliner. They hadn't found a place to repair it in Flint, and it could definitely not take another hit and be usable. It was staying well back from the battle.

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The opposing cars stayed in a fairly tight formation to begin with. The music, coming from the Corvette, could be heard a little more clearly, with the car's occupants shouting along: "Way too fast, way too fast!"

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Jack drove the Chevy van just within shooting range and then turned away. It ensured that he wouldn't be rammed in the slow-moving van, but the goons on board failed to knock out any targets.

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Once the enemy gang spotted the Mack, however, they made for it with as much speed as they could muster on the unpaved dirt.

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Gunfire from the truck and the van took out several passengers, but the cars continued to drive on. The driver on board the Corvette shouted along maniacally with the song, "I'm a speedfreak!"

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In the Mack truck, Cecile and the others on board fired off all their guns and took out the Gran Torino just before it was about to hit. The truck driver barely managed to get the vehicle away without getting a scrape.

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The full force of the truck's guns assaulted the Corvette not long after. The engine seized up and the car slowed to a stop with the driver slumped over the wheel. The music of the radio remained as the song headed into the guitar solo.

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The Javelin was in hot pursuit of the Chevy van. Accurate gun fire out the rear eliminated the final threat. The Gator Goons had defeated the Motorheads before the speedsters had been able to touch them. It was a big relief to all.

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A search of the enemy cars, however, didn't yield any big stores of gas; just what they'd needed for the fight. The field they were in had no storage tanks, and the oil pumps were all rusted and dry. Had the Motorheads just decided to come out for a joyride to death?

The Gator Goons had enough fuel to make it to Toledo, where they'd be safe, and they could even get to Detroit. But they were sure there was gas somewhere in this oilfield, or had it all been used up already?


This week's film: Radioactive Dreams (1985)

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Radioactive Dreams

"You wanna know the saddest thing, Rusty? Me and Marlowe used to be a couple of swell, decent Joes."

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Synopsis

The opening sequence of this film starts in 1986 (there are two title cards with a lot of text that add next to nothing and also apparently are not in every version, so I'm ignoring them) as we see two men and two little boys witness a nuclear explosion and then run into a bunker. We jump forward to 2001. The two boys, Marlowe and Phillip, are now adults and have spent their whole lives in the bunker. The men who took them there are gone, and so the two decide to leave the bunker for the first time.

Although they appear to have some awareness of what has happened in the outside world, they've decided to dress like the hard-boiled detectives they've read about so much, and they mimic the speaking style constantly as well. Phillip also breaks in at times to give us voiceover monologues, just as Philip Marlowe in a movie might. Shortly after leaving the bunker, they encounter the first "real live woman" they've ever seen, being pursued by the first "real live mutants" they've ever seen. They rescue her (although she knocks out Phillip with one punch when she sees him) and she rides along in their car for a bit. She gives her name as Miles Archer.

They find a phone booth at the side of the desert road. Miles kisses Marlowe (and feels him up), steals his gun, and then runs off. However, she has dropped something very important in the car: two keys. Before anything further can happen, the duo are attacked by a post-apocalyptic biker gang of pink-wigged bandits. This part is set to a song, almost as if it were a music video. In the fight the trailer with most of their supplies is lost, but they survive.

Examining the case that held the keys, Phillip notices the name 'Dash Hammer' on the front. Marlowe gets excited, because this is one of the men who put them in the bunker. Marlowe considers him to be 'Pops' but Phillip, the more cynical of the two, insists that if those people had been their fathers, they would not have abandoned them.

Driving along a little farther, they encounter two foul-mouthed kids dressed in disco outfits, who are apparently 'Disco Mutants', and so possibly not actual children. Phillip and Marlowe turn the tables on the Disco Mutants, but their gas tank is shot so they have to leave the car behind. They rescue a kind of hippie-looking woman that the Disco Mutants had tied up. Her name is Rusty Mars, and she says she knows who Miles Archer is — a 'New Wave Punk' who they should stay away from.

They walk with Rusty into the next town, Edge City. Upon entry, they encounter a Greaser (yet another gang member, of course dressed like a 1950s greaser). He gives them a bit of trouble but Rusty handles the situation. Another song starts up as the pair wander goggle-eyed through the sights and sounds of Edge City. They follow Rusty to a club; she eventually takes Phillip to a back room, where she starts to seduce him. He is of course nervous and awkward. Once things progress a bit and she has him lying on a table, she shackles his arms and suddenly the rest of her companions come out. They speak about Phillip as a "pig" and "meat" they intend to sell or possibly eat themselves.

The cannibals are upset to find that Phillip does not have the keys on him. He does a bit of prestidigitation to reveal the hidden keys, and then fights his way out. The Greaser helps them get away and tells them everyone is after them for the keys. He tells them he only helped them because Miles has paid him to, but then tries to take the keys from them at gunpoint. The cannibals arrive and kill the Greaser, but Rusty holds her fire when they run off. The two continue to flee, and encounter more Disco Mutants, who are eaten by a sewer monster. Two oddly dressed lizard-looking people show up demanding the keys, but as they fight the sewer monster Phillip and Marlowe escape.

They later overhear that if Miles gets the keys, she'll "launch the missile". Miles shows up with a small cart and they drive off together. Another song starts up as they drive, and it's about as close to a straight-up music video as the film gets. At Miles's place, Phillip discovers that the keys are indeed for an 'MX Warhead'. Miles tries to get the keys from them and they have to run away while the song continues to play.

Meanwhile, the Disco Mutants have chased down Rusty and threaten to kill her for the keys. Phillip and Marlowe rescue her, which leads into another musical number. Rusty attempts to apologize but Phillip wants nothing to do with her.

They two then make an obvious appearance at a night club, intending to stir up attention and draw the rival gangs into a nearby warehouse. Phillip says the plan is to get the gangs to kill each other. They get the jump on Miles, but then the two masked creatures show up. When Miles mentions the men's names, the masked creatures pull of their disguises to reveal that they're actually Hammer and Chandler, the two men who put them in the bunker. Marlowe expects a joyous reunion, but they demand the keys anyway. Phillip gives them up.

Just then, the Disco Mutants and a bunch of other gangs do show up and a lengthy firefight ensues (set to music, naturally). In the end, Hammer and Chandler are shot, and Miles grabs the keys for herself. She's about to leave after simply saying, "Thanks" but turns to shoot at the last moment. Marlowe and Phillip are quicker on the draw, and Miles dies. They ask the dying man what happened in the bunker, but are just told, "the past is the past...get on with your life, kid." Phillip does say, "Thanks, Pop" in the end.

As they leave the warehouse, Phillip reflects that maybe he should just lighten up and enjoy life, adopting the more upbeat attitude of Marlowe. The two head out dancing as the crowd from the club looks on. In a final voiceover, Phillip says that they decided to hold on to the keys, just in case they ever had need for a nuclear missile in "a tight jam".

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For a good portion of this movie, it's a fairly silly, kind of goofy comedy with a bit of a post-apocalyptic edge. The sense of humor is rather puerile (it cannot stop milking the 'private dick' jokes), but it's relatively inoffensive and the characters are all fairly likable. Somewhere past the first hour, though, it's apparent that it wants to be taken a lot more seriously, as it briefly become just a noir thriller in an unusual setting. Unfortunately, that tonal shift doesn't really work, especially since what it was doing in the first part is a good deal more entertaining, and the plot is jumpy enough that it doesn't really flow well as a serious film. It manages to recover somewhat with the ridiculous ending (which is also the best song) but it's hard to get around the weirdness of it all.

To some extent, it's possible to see what the goal of this shift might have been. It seems to want to show that what started out as an optimistic venture into an unknown world resulted in these people nearly having their dreams crushed and their souls corrupted by violence and betrayal. That would make it a full-fledged noir, but it really doesn't want to go that route entirely. Nor should it, really. The very concept of having these characters show up in this sort of world is too easily a comedic set-up. The two are doing a decent job pulling it off as well, since it does not dwell too much on the 'fish-out-of-water' jokes that it could easily have overused. It's actually pretty nice that there's no need to explain the concept of nuclear missiles to the kids, or how basic things in the world work -- they might not know right away, but can figure them out. They are naive, but not excessively stupid. (I may be giving the film a bit too much credit here, since sometimes it seems like sloppiness in the story structure, but i find it acceptably convenient.)

I cannot fail to mention the rather notable use of music throughout the film. If you've seen enough films from the 1980s, it does not feel particularly out of place to be suddenly having the soundtrack so prominent in the film. There are several moments, again increasing somewhat as the film goes on, where it starts to take over for longer than you'd expect, and in a way it verges on becoming a musical fantasy where the actual plot becomes unimportant. I don't think it quite falls apart, but only because of the already somewhat farcical nature of the story already.

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Although, speaking of the 1980s, this is one of the most 1980s films ever, at least in how it looks and feels. I'm choosing films from this brief period, and most of them of course reflect the film-making style of the time. This one, though, is just steeped in the culture, to the point that you'd probably consider it to be laying it on too thick if it were released as a retro-style film today. The costuming, the lighting, and almost everything on screen just screams out the style, particularly in Edge City. The music selections are extremely fitting for the time as well. I'm not sure I'd recommend the soundtrack, since it's featuring artists that never made it big, and most of them feel like style-parody songs of much better artists from the period.

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This film never got a decent home video release beyond VHS, and is likely to never get a high-definition version. It was directed by Albert Pyun. He's had a lengthy but mostly independent career (his biggest film is probably Cyborg), so none of his movies have ever been marketed very widely. It is a bit of shame because it does look really good, at least in terms of being an excellent record of the 1980s, so a better version would be nice to see. I feel if were just a bit more coherently crafted it could be an absolute cult classic. It's a film I really wish were better, but I just have to accept that it isn't quite there.

Connections to Roadwar 2000

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This film is one I almost didn't choose since although it is post-apocalyptic, it isn't quite in the vein of most of the movies I've chosen, in that they kind of relate to the atmosphere of this game. However, the one vehicle fight scene near the beginning does work rather well visually, even if it's borrowing from The Road Warrior somewhat. If I'd seen this earlier I absolutely would have stolen the gang concept for the Furies, because they fit my idea of the motorcycle gang almost perfectly.

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The various types of themed 'gangs' sort of fit the game as well, at least in the road gang. The film also does the cannibals as a gang fairly well, in that you could believably see human meat being a commodity in the world it presents. That said, it's one part of the film that maybe goes a bit too dark instead of being darkly comic; again if the tone had managed to be consistent throughout, it would be more successful on multiple levels.
Last edited by Wakkerdis on Fri Dec 04, 2020 5:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

Suicide drivers is a neat gimmick though you have to wonder how they keep up membership.

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Yeah, I think if I had to make it a more realistic gang, I'd probably do something like 'one chosen car' gets to do the crash, with the others playing the soundtrack to their deaths. Or maybe it's just the tail end of the gang; they're running out of fuel, know they can't keep the cars in perfect shape forever, and are just all going out with a bang at once.

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Florida Man Ensures Faygo Plant Will Stay Open

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The Gator Goons continued to search through the purported oilfield in the wooded area south of Flint. The battle with the Motorheads had given them no leads.

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As they ventured farther south, they failed to find any oil supplies, but did run into a new enemy. A pair of vehicles being driven by a wild gang of Cannibals. One of them was a stretch limousine that had once been white.

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With the Freightliner still in need of repair, the trucks held back a bit from the action.

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The Cannibals didn't seem to have a particular plan, other than maybe picking on the smaller Gatormobile first.

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Florida Man took advantage of their greed to lure them toward the guns of the other cars.

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Unfortunately it didn't seem as if the enemy cared whether their meat was shot up with bullets, and one passenger went down inside the Gatormobile.

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As the two trailer trucks circled around to the side of the big limo, it turned away, realizing the trap.

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Cecile, who had shifted to the Freightliner, directed the guns to fire at the easier targets on top, before they could duck into the safer interior.

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The limo was now engaging with the Mack as Jack turned the van in a wide circle to cut off their escape. To prevent any collisions, the truck shot off the front tires of the limo, forcing it to slow down.

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Meanwhile, the Hyundai and the Gatormobile were making short work of the other car, a small blue Toyota Corolla.

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Some of the Cannibals made a brazen attempt to board the Mack, but were quickly knocked off the top.

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As the Mack zoomed off away from the limo, the Freightliner made a low-speed turn to get away before it attracted too much attention.

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With the Toyota handled, the other cars made to rejoin the battle.

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Jack's van skidded across a slippery muddy patch of ground, and the limo hit his rear end, causing minor damage and halting both vehicles.

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Since only a handful of cannibals remained on board the other car, Jack ordered his topside crew to board.

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Some failed to make the leap safely, but a good number of high-level warriors made it.

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As they dropped down through the sunroof, they dispatched the last few occupants with ease. Since the car was still running, and in decent shape, Florida Man decided to keep it. All they'd need to do is fix those tires.

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It was clear that the Cannibals hadn't been on the lookout for fuel in the oilfields; they probably only waited around to ambush the people who came searching.

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Early the next morning, one of the scouts discovered a nearly-full fuel storage tank at an abandoned vehicle testing track on the outskirts of Detroit.

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With as many fuel cans as they could load filled up, the Gator Goons headed back into Toledo to get the cars repaired. Florida Man didn't want to take any more chances with the Motorheads.

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That night, Florida Man discovered a paper travel map of the USA. He looked around for a long time before spotting Tacoma, out in the northwest corner. It looked a long ways away; it was practically at the opposite end of the map from Tampa! He wondered who or what was lurking out there that could have heard of him.

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The vehicles were fixed up and the tour of these states was complete. The gang now headed into Detroit, anxious of what they might discover there.

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To their surprise, the people of the city were incredibly friendly. There were also quite a number of people willing to fix up or work on any car they brought to them. For merely a small amount of food or medicine in exchange, they were offering tune-ups and performance enhancements.

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The work included fixes and improvements to every aspect of the vehicle. It even went beyond the useful improvements they'd gotten in Pittsburgh; most of the vehicles would be a lot safer in a fight now, not just from bullets but from being rammed.

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Florida Man noticed that among some of the auto shop workers, there were a few dressed up in the weird black-and-white facepaint he had seen in Windsor and at other places around the region. He asked the head of the shop who they were.

"Oh, those are the Juggalos! They had a real big concert or something a couple days back. Like Woodstock or something."
"Uh... Juggalos?"
"Yeah, they're fans of this band here. They like to dress up like them, do crazy stunts or whatever. You should head to where the gathering was, maybe someone there can help you."

Florida Man thanked the man and told the gang that they were going to get to the bottom of what was going on with the strange encounters they had.

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He reached the site that the shop's owner had directed him to. He found a bunch of the odd-looking 'Juggalos' still hanging around listening to some music and dancing around in the park. About an hour was spent searching fruitlessly for someone who might be in charge of the place. Most of the Juggalos didn't even want to talk to him, but eventually he was able to get in touch with one of the people who'd been involved with the concert, a Mr. Van Winkle. He was a slender, square-jawed man sporting a braided goatee and a wisp of a soul patch.

Van Winkle told him he'd just missed "the gathering" by a few days, and seemed disappointed.

Florida Man wanted to know if he, or the Juggalos, or someone else ran the town.

Van Winkle said, "No, man, we're just all here to have some fun. Me, I'll probably try to get back to Miami pretty soon."

Florida Man was pleased to have found a fellow Floridian. He asked if van Winkle wouldn't mind sticking around to keep the city safe, but the offer was turned down.

After discussing the matter with Mr. Stevens, he decided that Detroit would come under Gator Goon control, with the Juggalos allowed to hold their gathering whenever they wanted, as long as they didn't mess with any of the other citizens. Mr. Van Winkle said he'd pass on the message to the 'ICP' that they could keep the town in its semi-anarchic condition.

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Florida Man wasn't sure what he was going to do with another city under the Goons' control, given how stable this part of the country seemed to be. Still, he never knew when things could change. Maybe the local National Guards would get power-hungry like the ones in New York, or the Reborners would turn not just hostile but violent. The Gator Goons stashed a large amount of supplies in one of the unused office buildings in downtown Detroit, and prepared to head back to Ottawa to decide where to go next. Florida Man's discussion with Mr. Van Winkle had made him feel a little homesick, and he figured the Gator Goons just might be powerful enough to fight their way down the Atlantic coast by now.

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Before, leaving, they hoped to gain a few new members from the region. Scouts asked around among the Juggalos, but there were none willing to sign up.

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Things went better with some of the tinier gangs in Detroit. A few had been dreaming of trying to seize control in the city, but lacked the will to do so. Many among them were ready to join up once they saw how powerful the Gator Goons had become.

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The drive back to Hamilton was uneventful. Once there, they made sure to secure a cache of supplies in the city. Cecile went around trying to convince some of her old friends to come along with the gang, but it seemed she alone was ready to leave that town.

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The Gator Goons were getting to be pretty noticeable whenever they traveled. They tried to sneak through Toronto in the early morning hours to avoid the 'tariff' imposed by the bureaucrats who ran the town. The gang made it through the city without incident, but someone was waiting for them right as they got outside the city.

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The Lake Erie Guardsmen, having been driven out of Hamilton, were now patrolling the highways in the area. The group that came for the Gator Goons seemed as if they'd been setting up the ambush for a while. There was a beat-up open-top M151 jeep, a black stretch limousine, and a Crown Victoria station wagon, which were all decent-sized vehicles, and might have presented something of a challenge on their own. But the big issue was that they also had their own trailer truck. It looked to be their primary command center, at least on this stretch of the road. The Gator Goons were in for their toughest fight yet, against an opponent who wanted nothing more than revenge.

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Florida Man threw caution to the wind and drove hard, right down the center of the highway.

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At high speed, he turned his car, hoping to distract the enemy while the rest of the Gator Goons got into firing positions.

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But the trained soldiers knew better than to throw their lives and vehicles away in a ramming maneuver. Instead, they aimed for the tires of the Goons' cars. The Gatormobile went skidding off to the side of the road and nearly crashed into the barricade on the shoulder.

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They employed the same strategy on the Mack truck. It did not affect its performance quite as much, but did force the driver to be a little more cautious at higher speed.

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The Gator Goons decided that turnabout was fair play. Not only did they unleash a burst of fire on the men inside the jeep, but they fired on its tires too, causing the vehicle to hop and skid as it bumped along over the median. It had to brake suddenly to avoid colliding with the Guardsmen's truck, and the truck stalled as it hit an old wreck at low speed.

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Jack directed the van to fire off on the limo's wheels, and it spun into a crash once the tires came off.

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With the Gatormobile's tires damaged, Florida Man was stuck far ahead in a one-on-one battle with the Crown Vic. He could only hope that the Gator Goons could trust in the new armor plates they'd gotten in Detroit.

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But although the armor plating was useful for keeping the occupants safe, it wasn't doing much to cover the tires. Two more hits, and the Gatormobile was barely able to stay on the road.

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Back in the middle of the fight, the jeep was knocked out by fire shortly afterward. The command truck was still having trouble extricating itself from the pile of wrecked autos.

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Jack noticed the trouble Florida Man was in and called on Cecile to fire off from the Freightliner at long distance. It took out most of the passengers, but the driver was still inside and looking to finish off the last tire on the Firebird.

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Jack's van had already taken a hit to the tires as well, and he knew that with a flat he wouldn't be able to catch up to the station wagon. He took careful aim out the window with his rifle, and with one shot, finished off the driver. The Gatormobile might need some new wheels, but would live through this.

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The Lake Erie Guardsmen had been reduced to just their command truck as the Goons' cars polished off the limo. But that truck wasn't going to go down very easily.

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Keeping their distance, the Goons made wide circles with all the vehicles that could fight, ensuring that the enemy truck was exposed to fire on all sides.

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But the command truck was well-armored, and the could only rarely get a lucky shot off.

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The Gator Goons limo ventured just a bit too close, and several of the Guardsmen's soldiers jumped on board.

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Little by little, the Guardsmen were being worn down.

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On top of the limousine, the weaker members of the rival gang were quickly dispatched. That left one soldier against six, although he appeared to be well-trained. He pulled out a large combat knife and steadied himself on the roof.

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Florida Man was leery about getting too close to the truck, since a single hit would knock out his car. He did try to at least get into firing range. As he grew closer to the Goons, he shouted out, "Hey, shoot at the guys on top! They're easier to see!"

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Cecile took his advice and immediately the strategy paid off. With more of the enemy forces knocked off the roof, that'd be fewer guns firing back (and less risk of being boarded if it came to that).

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On top of the limo, nobody seemed willing to take on the man with the knife. He knocked his first victim over the side with a cut to the arm and a surprise sweeping kick.

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The top of the command truck continued to be raked with fire. There were fewer than a dozen soldiers up there now.

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They almost seemed to be getting easier to eliminate.

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On the limousine, though, the enemy soldier was still holding his own. He'd stabbed another Goon and thrown the limp body at another warrior, knocking her off the side of the car too. Inside the limo, the occupants grew nervous and afraid to go up through the sunroof.

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The command truck had finally been cleared off on top. Only whoever remained inside was left.

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With the last few of the Guardsmen inside worn down, and aware the end was coming soon, they finally surrendered. On board the limo, the veteran gave up willingly as well. The Gator Goons could not but help admire the bravery he'd displayed. Jack offered him a spot in the gang, but the enemy soldier declined.

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The gang looted as much fuel as they could from the command truck, then shot up the interior and the engine. They left the remnants of the Lake Erie Guardsmen tied up in the trailer.

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They couldn't afford to go back to the cities to get the cars fixed up, so they just got new tires on where they could and rolled on.

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But they'd barely made it ten miles before they were drawn into another fight. It seemed the Lake Erie Guardsmen had called for reinforcements. Florida Man told the gang to get ready, and hold back before they got their wheels shot off.

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As the opposing cars raced towards them, it looked as if they weren't quite aware that the Gator Goons had won the recent fight. They were coming in as fast as they could, without opening fire immediately.

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Two of their limousines ended up colliding as the Gator Goons stole a trick and shot off a tire on one of them. The one in the rear fishtailed and slammed into a wrecked car; the limo caught on fire seconds later as the soldiers fled from it.

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This time, there was no command truck to concern them, so the heavy barrages from the Goons' own trucks could target the smaller vehicles first.

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Jack spotted the limo and a station wagon moving close to each other, and ordered another attack on the wheels.

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Both cars were able to avoid a fatal crash, but as more bullets came in, the station wagon was rendered an immobile wreck. The limo was now trapped!

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Sensing the tide had shifted, Florida Man gunned the Gatormobile past the tractor. It tried to make a turn to the side to smash his car, but he was going much too fast for it.

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He left the tractor in the dust as the rest of the Goons caught up to finish off the handful of soldiers on top of it.

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In a limo-to-limo firefight, the Gator Goons model was the winner, thanks to the helpful workers back in Detroit providing an extra level of protection.

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The renegade national guard's 'reinforcements' had only contributed to the supply of the Gator Goons.

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After another night on the road, the Goons headed for the safety of Ottawa. Hopefully this would be the last they'd ever hear of the Lake Erie Guardsmen.


This week's film: Fist of the North Star (1986)

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Fist of the North Star (Hokuto no Ken)

"Will they be able to survive without you to protect them?"

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Synopsis

The opening narration tells us that there are opposing forces of the universe need to remain in balance. In particular, there are the martial arts of Hokuto Shinken (North/Big Dipper style) and Nanto Seiken (South Dipper style*), and they should not come into conflict. We also learn that in 199x, the world as we know it was destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. The remnants of humanity struggle over the few remaining resources, and there is little hope for the future.

We then see the protagonist of the story, Kenshiro (aka Ken), and his girlfriend Yuria ('Julia' in the dub) wandering through the wasteland. They encounter a former friend of Ken's named Shin who challenges him to a fight, although Yuria warns them not to, since Ken is in the Hokuto tradition and Shin is of the Nanto. Shin wins by performing an attack that seems to nearly slice off Ken's limbs. He starts to torture Ken to death by poking his finger straight into his chest, leaving large round scars each time. Yuria agrees to go with Shin to save Ken's life.

Ken's older brothers Raoh and Jagi have witnessed his defeat. Both of them are jealous that Ken was the one chosen to be 'Fist of the North Star' (i.e. the champion of the Hokuto school). Jagi sees Ken's broken body and tosses him into a canyon. Raoh, the elder of the two, goes to their father and tells him that by rights he should carry on the Hokuto tradition, since the man's faith in Ken was misplaced. Their father is mistrustful of Raoh's selfishness, and kicks him out of the dojo. Raoh responds by murdering the man and declaring that he will be the true Hokuto master.

We then see two kids in a dune buggy being chased by members of the gang of a man named Zeed. As the gang is about to crush one of them (a girl named Lin) to death, she makes a sort of psychic cry that rings out across the landscape. Kenshiro, now sporting a beard and looking more serious, arrives in response.

Ken battles with the gang members; he is able to kill them seemingly just by touching them and causing their heads or other body parts to explode after a few seconds. Zeed turns out to be a giant of a man, nearly three times as tell as Ken. Ken is able to knock him down, but Zeed gets back up and taunts Ken to continue the fight to the death. Ken simply replies, "You are already dead." Moments later, Zeed's body twists and explodes from the inside. It turns out that this is in fact the power of the Hokuto school - to attack the 'pressure points' of the body, resulting in internal disruption that leads to death. The power can also heal, though, which Ken reveals when he heals Lin's muteness.

In a nearby village, a gang is intimidating the locals into worshipping a statue of a man with seven scars. It appears to indicate Ken's scars from his fight with Shin, although the statue's face is covered by an iron mask. There is another man, named Rei, who arrives and confronts them, since he is searching for the man with those scars. Rei appears to follow the Nanto school. Ken shows up, and sees the statue and destroys it. He explains to Rei that this is in fact Jagi, his older brother. Jagi had betrayed the honor of their art because he is willing to use any tactic that gives him an advantage (in particular he tried to pull a gun on Ken). Ken used his power to leave Jagi deformed but not dead. Rei is mistrustful, but explains that he is looking to save his sister Airi who was kidnapped and enslaved by a man with seven scars.

Ken leads Rei to Jagi's hideout. The two brothers confront each other and duel on the top of an abandoned skyscraper. Jagi again tries to use dishonorable tactics, and Ken finishes off the hit to Jagi's head which results in his body completely exploding. Before dying, Jagi reveals that Yuria is being held at the city of 'Southern Cross' by Shin.

The two children who Ken rescued earlier (Lin and Bat) show up, and Lin is excited to show Ken that the seeds he gave her have sprouted. Ken then heals Rei's sister's blindness, but she is still mentally damaged from the years of slavery.

Meanwhile, we find that Raoh has taken to calling himself 'Ken-oh' ('King Fist'), and seeks to consolidate power by conquering the world. He is also using the Hokuto arts in combat.

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Shin makes up his mind to go fight Raoh. When Yuria learns that Jagi was killed by Kenshiro, she runs off immediately to look for Ken, whom she had thought to be dead. She is unable to escape, however, when she runs directly into Raoh and he takes her as a prisoner. Raoh and Shin fight.

Ken shows up to find Shin's palace burning, and Shin waiting for him. Shin is unprepared for Ken's increased power since their last fight, and also seems devastated that Yuria never really loved him. He allows Ken to defeat him, and reveals that Raoh has taken Yuria to the dungeon of Cassandra, where Raoh has built his fortress.

Rei and the two kids have found their way to Yuria, possibly with Lin's help. They buoy her hope by giving her the flower that grew from her seeds. Raoh discovers the flower and makes a public demand for the person who grew it to give themself up. Rei steps forward and claims that he was the one who grew it, and he challenges Raoh to combat.

As they fight, Kenshiro approaches, but he does not arrive in time to stop Raoh from killing Rei. With his dying breath, Rei pleads for Ken to avoid the fight that might destroy all hope for the future. Ken decides that he must face his destiny and fight Raoh.

An epic battle ensues that leaves the two spouting blood and nearly destroys half the city. Raoh gets the upper hand only for Ken to keep coming back. They continue to trade blows to the point that both of them fall senseless to the ground together. Raoh, however, gets up first** and is about to kill Ken, when Lin simply pleads for them to stop. Raoh has a moment of mercy, and leaves them, but indicates that their paths will cross again some day.

In an epilogue, Lin and Bat are walking through the wasteland and discover that flowers are now sprouting on their own in the wilderness. Kenshiro wanders a windswept desert, searching for Yuria; as the credits roll he seems to be chasing her ghost in a hidden valley of evergreen trees.

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*The South Dipper corresponds more or less to Sagittarius in the Western system of constellations.

** In the Japanese home video release, both of them get up together.

While this film is not without some amount of depth in the characters or plot, it's really all about the fights. Each of the primary story arcs build up to a confrontation, and then you get a fairly satisfying fight scene. The connecting sequences are just enough to give the motivation for why these characters keep on fighting, and fill in some background on the post-apocalyptic world. The setting isn't quite as fleshed out as it could be, since it seems to be mainly there to heighten the usefulness of martial arts. There is an almost mythic quality to the story and characters, too, so it seems okay they are somewhat broadly portrayed. Each of the main ones has a distinctive look, and not only are they using quasi-magical powers, they are often fighting against enemies that feel supernatural (such as the giant Zeed, or another man who is able to turn his skin to iron). You could almost imagine that these are the legends that future generations might tell of those who saved them when the world seemed to be in its darkest place.

As said, it does all comes back to the fighting sequences. This film was made in 1986, two years before Akira really transformed film animation (I probably won't do Akira, since I consider it only peripherally post-apocalyptic). The animation in general is fairly basic, and is possibly drawing too much on the printed version, as there are images that look very good but still feel static. There are also occasionally interesting editing choices, but the movement just isn't done very well. That is very noticeable in the fights, outside of perhaps the final one with Raoh. The Hokuto style has a neat narrative convenience in that characters can have a dialog without having to be engaged in combat, but it also means that the damage of the hit is not shown as it happens.

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There's still an aspect of the combat that actually does work well, and that's in the deaths. The film is not excessively violent or gory (bear in mind that it's a lot of fighting nonetheless), but it is quite gruesome in the ways that people's bodies twist into horrifying forms before dying. There is some monster-movie level body horror at times, as for whatever reason it's often the brain or head that starts to expand first. Even the sequences of people dying in the nuclear war are quite striking, and it's those that make it on balance a decent-looking film, as long as you don't mind that too much.

In some ways it could be said that by showing how repulsive this fighting is, and by having a somewhat anti-climactic ending, the film is possibly giving a bit of commentary on the need for violence. It never really explores this in the characters much, however. Kenshiro doesn't end up saying much at all; he really does just seem to be a strong, silent character who mostly fights for good but has no qualms about killing any of his opponents. Shin has the most to say about the necessity of violence, but it seems to be more an aspect of his character than something the film is trying to see. Even he lashes out in destructive anger, and just seems to be more an emotional and sensitive person than Ken. Even the ending seems to be less about trying to end the violence and more about leaving the story open, given that the full series was not shown in the movie.

From what I've heard, the anime series or manga form is probably the better presentation of this story. I might agree, although I'm not familiar with either. This film does feel like a condensed version of a larger story that isn't fully told. But on its own, it still functions fine. The animation definitely feels dated, but it surely has its moments, assuming you can find them enjoyable. As for the dub vs. the sub, I've watched both. The dub does a bit more to be a self-contained story than to rely on external backstory, but the voice acting also has its weak spots along with the odd name change or two. However, if you are going to watch it, it is probably going to be for the fighting, and those moments are watchable no matter which presentation you choose.


Connections to Roadwar 2000

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The film is definitely post-apocalyptic in setting, as there are the ruins of big cities and it's set about a generation after civilization has fallen. It is clearly inspired more by kung fu films of the 1970s (Bruce Lee movies in particular) but it does provide a viewpoint on how people might behave once the environment and society has been completely destroyed. There are enough hints that most ordinary people are just trying to get by, mostly with the continuing thread with Lin and Bat who demonstrate the hope for the future.

The film naturally lends itself readily to a different sort of game (there are over a dozen fighting games based on the series) since it's a series of big fights, so it is in a way comparable in just the amount of fighting that occurs when the world falls apart. There is actually a tiny bit of vehicular battles when Lin and Bat appear, since they show up in a dune buggy, but it's all about the one-on-one hand fighting. It would be fun, but of course a very different game, to see what would happen if your Roadwar crew could suddenly get away with violently punching their opponents instead of having to usually shoot them (on-vehicle combat, such as taking over another car, does seem to be melee, since it doesn't depend on the missile weapons carried).

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Florida Man Ends New York Gang War


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The Gator Goons took a brief rest at Florida Man's castle in Ottawa. With such a large haul of fuel from the Lake Erie Guardsmen, they were able to fill up a tank in the town that would give them an emergency reserve if they ever needed it.

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They did not spend long in the city, though. They took off for Montreal the next day, and a night's rest was spent there as well.

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The next morning, the gang was having a post-breakfast walk through the city center when Jack approached Florida Man with a question.

"So, what are the next steps for the Gator Goons? Montreal is safer than ever. We can probably capture any other place we wanted now."

Florida Man folded his arms and rubbed his chin. "I was thinking, it might be time to head back to my home."

"Down to Florida? We can make it there sure. And if it needs liberating, I'll be there with you."

Mr. Stevens mused, "Been far away for far too long?"

Cecile said, "But what about the—" and stopped herself short, then continued, " the rest of the country? Out west would be great to see!" Giving Florida Man a knowing look, she added somewhat quietly, "I always wanted to see, you know, Vancouver."

Dr. Balthazar chimed in, "The western side of the country is very far away, though. We'd barely have enough gas to make it. Florida, man, maybe we could get there. And it is his home."

Florida Man, his mind made up, declared, "I'm going home. But on the way, you know what? Jack, I think you're right. I bet we'd be able to take New York City. Just walk right in and take it, no matter if the Invaders got it or no. Gator Goons, let's head out!"

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They'd barely made it over the US-Canadian border when they spotted some old enemies. The Furies had come, with a few more motorcycles this time.

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But with all the improvements that the their own vehicles had received, what would have likely been an easy win became an absolute cake walk. Only a single casualty was suffered by the Gator Goons as they wiped the Furies off the road with ease.

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Before heading down to New York City, the gang made one more pass through Troy. They spent one night there. The next morning, Florida Man stopped to visit the parking lot where it'd all began. After taking a look around, he just decided to get out of the city. Less than half a dozen members remained of those that had joined back then, and the gang had grown in ways he could not have imagined. He briefly considered paying a visit to Neckdaddy's side of town. Then he realized that no longer concerned him. They were bound for New York City, and didn't need to spend a minute more in this little town.

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They arrived in New York before noon. Florida Man discovered the city was noticeably more quiet than when he'd left barely half a year ago. It seemed most of the population had either died in the pandemic or fled to the countryside. Or perhaps, they were killed by the Invaders. The gang grew nervous as they wandered past all the abandoned buildings.

They headed on to Manhattan, and began searching for signs of life among the towering skyscrapers. When they reached the UN Headquarters near the East River, they spotted a woman coming toward them from the complex. Her slightly rumpled business suit attire should have seemed ludicrously behind the current state of the world, but she somehow carried herself with an air of respectability that commanded attention.

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Florida Man brought the gang to halt and stepped forward.

"This is your gang, I suppose. Elpida Stojanova," she said curtly, holding out her hand.

Florida Man shook it enthusiastically. "Say, you look like you're involved in things here. Like the government?"

She tensed a bit, but nodded her head.

"Have I been looking for someone like you! So, do you know if the president is still around?"

"The President? Of the US? No, no. No one has heard from him in some time. This is the UN building, the United Nations." She sighed lightly. "It is perhaps no longer relevant."

She gave the whole gang a glance and then stared back at Florida Man. "This city, too. It is, I think, dying." She folded her arms in front of her and started pacing. "I am one of the few of the delegates that remain. I came from Macedonia," she said, her voice rising a bit, "and almost everyone from the other countries left. Or they have died of the pandemic.

"The American government seems to have fallen. Here, New York, too. There were gangs here. Sometimes I could negotiate a peace. A truce. But the fighting would come back. People would leave. Only now, it has become quiet. I think maybe I should go too."

Florida Man gestured awkwardly toward the gang. "Well, we kind of have Harper Stevens managing things now, but I guess..."

"If you think you are better off with Harper Stevens, choose him." She sighed again and took a few steps toward the towering building behind her.

Cecile gave a nervous wave and asked, "Excuse me, do you know anything about... a biolab? Maybe working on a cure or something?"

Elpida's face flashed darkly. "What rumors have you heard? I'm sure everyone thinks someone someone is working on a cure, but you should not believe all they say."

Florida Man whined, "Cecile! It's a secret! They said not to tell anyone!"

Elpida whipped toward him. "Who is 'they'? Did you actually meet with someone from the G.U.B.?"

Florida Man winced as he recognized the name. "Yeah. This guy... he was telling us to go there."

Elpida had come closer to Florida Man and lowered her voice. "Go there? You know where it is?" She turned to Cecile. "Did they tell you where it is?"

Cecile responded with a half smile. "Well, we weren't really heading there now... it's kind of far..." and she gestured somewhat helplessly at Florida Man.

Elpida pointed a finger at Florida Man and spoke again. "Come. Let us meet inside. Bring your Harper Stevens if you want. We must discuss this."

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They spent the next two hours arguing over what direction the gang should go next. Elpida argued they needed to go to the G.U.B, or soon the Invaders would have complete command of the country. She also wisely pointed out that if they were to head to Florida now, they might get there right in the middle of a hurricane, in a time when hardly any news service would be around to warn them. Florida Man said he wasn't too worried about that, since he had a plan if that happened, although he did say he "was a little unsure about what to do with the trucks". In the end, he finally agreed that he'd at least get Elpida out there, and maybe she'd be able to get him in to talk with 'the president' if he was there.

The rest of the gang was mostly willing to go along. Jack hadn't really expected to make a journey that far, but he was up for it. Dr. Balthazar was hesitant, and said he might make up his mind later, depending on what it was like out there. Cecile, of course, was raring to make the journey. Mr. Stevens refused, however, saying he was not prepared to leave behind the cities in their 'empire' so soon.

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The one other thing they'd learned from Elpida, and later confirmed by scouts, was that whoever might have been in power previously had truly abandoned the city. It actually was theirs for the taking.

Since Harper Stevens had decided not to come with them to Tacoma, they offered him the chance to be mayor of New York. But he didn't want the job. He said he'd be perfectly comfortable managing the Gator Goons up on Ottawa, and maybe ensure the rest of Canada was safe from the Invaders as well. Stevens looked admiringly at Elpida, and said "You remind me of who I really am ... a leader of men!" He smiled.

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In preparation for the long journey westward, the Gator Goons made sure all their vehicles were in prime shape. With the run of the city, there wasn't much need to worry about rushing the job, and they were able to relax for at least a day.

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As word got around that there was a new ruling gang in the town, many more New Yorkers volunteered to join up. Most were installed in city government positions, but a number wanted to get in the gang to fight, and were given a spot in the trucks.

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The summer wasn't going to last forever, though, and so the gang started off once everything was in order. They crossed the bridge into New Jersey, and found most of the region to be still under the anarchic control of the local gangs, some of whom had been driven out of New York. They moved on.

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In Philadelphia, they discovered that the Invaders had taken over that city. Given its size, Jack suggested they had probably set up a large base of operations here, and the Gator Goons would need to watch their step or get out quickly.

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Florida Man opted for the latter. As they made their way up into the hills of eastern Pennsylvania, however, they encountered a familiar foe: It was the Hard Hats, the gang of construction workers who'd been guarding the oil fields in the region.

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The Goons lined up on the highway to approach their enemy. It was just three bulldozers, so all they needed to do was focus their fire on the drivers, and avoid any vehicle-to-vehicle hits.

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Even the Mack had no trouble deftly maneuvering around the scores of abandoned cars littering the highways. Avoiding the Hard Hats would present little difficulty.

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Despite the enemy gang's skill at handling their own bulldozers, there were still only a few people on each of the vehicles. Only a few hits were needed to take one out.

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The Gator Goons could spin circles around them, confusing the opposing gang into spreading out their fire at different targets.

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The Hyundai had a close shave as it blew past the blade of one of the dozers. It was practically moving like a sports car at this point, though, so it was able to speed away in time.

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The bulldozer missed the car and nearly smashed into the fence on the shoulder. From behind, the guns of the Freightliner finished off the crew.

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There was just one more enemy vehicle remaining. Jack's van fired off a barrage that delivered the death blow.

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As with the other group of Hard Hats, this one was likely hauling fuel for delivery to some other outpost. It was a huge boon, as now the Gator Goons could make all the way to the West Coast without needing to search for more on the way. The gang was cheering and shouting as they transferred the gas cans to their own trucks.

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The celebration was short-lived. Another group of Hard Hats had already marked them. The Gator Goons rushed back into combat mode.

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This group was a bit more disciplined; they stayed in a tighter formation and took more careful aim with their guns.

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The Hyundai and the ungainly limousine nearly collided as they crossed paths in front of one of the enemy tractors.

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It was a move that put the limo in danger of being hit, as the tractor swerved and came at them as fast as it could. Rapid fire from the guns of the two vehicles was unable to knock out the tractor's driver.

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As the Stellar sped off in one direction, the limo slammed its brakes and spun in a screeching circle back up the highway.

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It was a close call, but it had made it. Florida Man was forced to swerve the Gatormobile around to allow the limo and the Freightliner room to move past each other.

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The Freightliner gave a broadside that knocked out a tractor, leaving just the vehicles on the north side of the road remaining.

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It did not take long for the Gator Goons to polish them off.

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Exhausted from the combat, the gang made camp for the night and started out for Pittsburgh the next morning.

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Their troubles with the Hard Hats were not over, though. Another, smaller group of tractors came to harass them.

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The fight was over swiftly, with minor damage to the Gator Goons' cars.

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Those tractors had been carrying a full load of supplies, too, but it was more than the gang could carry at this point. The extra fighting ended up delaying them a full day, though.

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They reached a shopping mall in Monroeville the next morning shortly after dawn. Inside were a group of people who'd barricaded themselves in, expecting the worst. They were quite relieved when the Gator Goons told them that Pittsburgh was actually one of the safer cities they'd seen, and was being effectively controlled by the National Guard.

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Florida Man knew they'd need to do a lot more fighting to make it all the way out west. Elpida made a succinct plea to the citizens of the city who found themselves still in rough circumstances despite the National Guard's efforts, and the gang's ranks swelled again.

A good politician means you often don't have to risk envoys to get people to join up. This rarely happened with Stevens, but it'll be a lot more frequent with Elpida, although it's not obvious in the screenshots.

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They'd lost a bit of time on the road through Pennsylvania, so the Gator Goons rode on without stopping until they made it to Cincinnati. Florida Man hoped the Ohio Reborners wouldn't still be holding the gang's violent lifestyle against them, and would allow them free access through the city.


This week's film: City Limits (1984)

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City Limits

"I'm inevitable. --No."

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Synopsis

The story starts with a young man showing up at a farmhouse with some of his wounded friends in tow. The farmhouse owner, a gruff man named Albert, is a bit surprised to see him, but welcomes them in nevertheless. Then we hear Albert in a voiceover telling us that this is Leland, one of the many orphans from a plague that killed off most adults and destroyed civilization as we know it. Albert tells us that he and Leland had lived in peace for a long time, but trouble was growing closer to them. Leland wanted to head into the city to join a gang called 'The Cutters', and Albert let him go.

Leland, riding a motorcycle and wearing a sheep skull as a helmet, passes a sign indicating the City Limits and sees the city (not named but clearly Los Angeles). He rides through the empty streets until finally spotting some vehicles; they head toward a gated enclosure and Leland follows them in. Albert tells us they are 'outsiders'. Inside the compound, a man named Bolo asks what he's doing and tell him to get away from his vehicle; he rides off instead.

Leland (who goes by 'Lee') spots some people on motorcycles and he asks if they're Clippers, but they wheel around and attack him. He manages to evade them, and one of the bikes crashes. He flees and encounters another group of people on bikes, who are actual Clippers. He tells them he wants to join, but their leader, Mick, tells him to go back to the farm. One of them, a girl named Yogi, is sent to escort him out of town. On the way, they encounter some people telling them that Lee killed 'Bob'. Yogi brings Lee back to the Clippers, explaining that Bob was a 'DA', a member of a rival gang that the Clippers have a truce with.

The Clippers are preparing to hand Lee over to the DAs to prevent a gang war, and they meet with Ray, the officious leader of the DAs. They are uncertain of what to do with Lee initially, but take inspiration from a comic book in which a similar event happened that led to the character having to endure a trial by combat on an alien planet. The two gangs arrange for the trial to happen the next day. We then see that Ray is secretly reporting to the 'outsiders' at the compound, and he lets them know the Clippers will be in their territory.

At the contest the next day, Ray shows up with two people from the compound. They say they're with the Sunya Corporation, which has been authorized by the federal government to restore 'central services' to the city. Their representative, Dr. Wickings, tells them they plan to restore light to the city, but Mick turns her down, saying the city lights were before his time.

Lee wins the combat and as a result is made a Clipper. Albert fills us in on a few more events, such as that Sunya is bringing in guns for some reason. Whitey, a Clipper, drunkenly enters DA territory and overhears a meeting in which Bolo is offering the guns to Ray. Whitey is discovered and Bolo shoots him unceremoniously to show to Ray that they are being serious now. Wickings is concerned by these developments, but is told by her superior (a man named Carver) that this is 'progress'. She finds out that the corporation's new orders state 'secure workforce by any means necessary'.

At Whitey's funeral, Ray shows up with the DAs and tries to warn him about Sunya. Bolo shows up with the guns and starts massacring the Clippers. Wickings, now disillusioned with Sunya, has escaped but arrives only in time to attend to Mick's gunshot wound. With the Clippers in chaos, Mick meets with Ray but discovers that Ray just wants him to accept that Sunya rules the city now. Bolo shows up and tries to torture Mick. The rest of the gang, along with Wickings, comes to rescue Mick and they all flee the city.

They show up at Albert's farmhouse, at which point it's apparent that the everything up to this point was supposed to be a flashback. The Clippers spend some time recuperating at the farmhouse. Mick says he plans to leave on his own, because he thinks the Clippers are done. Lee reacts by telling Mick he's wrong. Lee then inspires the others to go back and fight; they fix up their bikes with armor and even get Albert's old Cadillac working again.

The gang then goes to a Sunya 'training class' (for the former DAs, possibly) which Lee interrupts. When an armed guard in the class fires his gun on Lee, the class revolts and rushes him, and they grab guns of their own and run outside. All of them head to the main Sunya compound, along with Ray. Wickings was able to sneak in to cut the power so they can crash the gate.

Fighting breaks out in the compound. The Sunya side is much better armed, and when Bolo discovers Wickings, it appears all is lost. But then Albert sends in radio-controlled airplanes armed with explosives. These cause much death and destruction, including eventually Bolo.

Once inside, they gang arrives at Carver's office. He tells them that if they take him out, he'll just be replaced by someone else. Ray, however, rides his motorcycle straight at Carver's desk, pinning him against the wall and killing him.

A final voiceover from Albert lets us know that the Clippers and DAs united together and were able to run the city themselves.

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This is a movie that could have been a moderately interesting take on the 'partial-collapse' post-apocalypse, where the world hasn't changed drastically. The various factions are not just straight good and evil; indeed they all seem to have their own distinct motivation, and it sort of feels realistic. Lee's ignorance about life in the 'big city' should also make for an okay story hook. Even the attempts to 'restore' the city that end up in a cynical abandonment of ideals in favor of the quick and dirty solution would make the corporation's plotline ring somewhat true. Unfortunately it just is not very well put together, and the end product is fairly bland and even boring.

While it's hard to say that only one particular aspect really sinks it, the poor editing of both the story (and the film) really does stick out. A bit too much is left unexplained, such as why Sunya is so interested in the gangs - is it because they hold power, or their members can be exploited, or are these actually the only available people for them to use? We know the adults died off, but it's not clear if the gangs are the only ones that remain (although it is, like so much, vaguely implied that this could be the case). The 'flashback' transition is so poorly done that it really comes almost as a surprise that they are ending up back at the farmhouse scene, and I don't think it's intentional. There is another 'flashback' of one character to her childhood, which is even worse, as it shows her looking out the window and apparently seeing herself as a child. With a stronger editor, some of this could be a lot better, although I still don't know if that would elevate it to a good film. There are mild weaknesses in a lot of ways; it would probably just be a mediocre one in the end.

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Structurally, there is also the problem that so much time is spent on with a decently-paced build-up to Sunya's use of guns that the retreat to the farm lasts far too long. It makes for an awkwardly-late second act. While the final battle makes for a decent climax, the aftermath is also rushed, since it's really unclear again why Sunya is reacting they way they did - maybe Wickings covered up the deaths of 90% of the staff, or maybe the corporation just doesn't care either way. The film almost does work, or might have worked with a bit more revisions, which only makes it frustrating that it isn't quite there.

I think would I would have liked more is if there were some more definite choices connecting people's actions to the plot. The characters are mostly consistently written and the acting is generally competent if uninspired. There just aren't enough clear indications that what they do has an effect (aside from accidents like Lee 'killing' Bob, or Whitey stumbling on to the conspiracy). The city itself is vaguely defined in terms of who is still alive. The gangs may or may not have goals; they could just be kids hanging out together, but then it's unclear what they actually control.

This movie is probably best known, if it's known at all, as an episode from Mystery Science Theater 3000. It's one that has some pretty decent jokes, but one of them is entirely that the film is utterly unmemorable. I don't know that it really is bad, it just ends up being bland. It almost feels like a shame, because it does have some bits and pieces of a better movie in there.


Connections to Roadwar 2000

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In many ways this film actually comes very close to the type of city life that Roadwar is depicting. Or it might be; it's hard to know if the city is actually abandoned a generation after the plague, or if that is just the low-budget nature of the film. That there are farms still out there is consistent with the Roadwar world. These are civilizations at their low point, but it's conceivable that the promise of restoring some of what was lost is possible.

Another commonality is the gangs who are vying for control of the city, of course. They even battle a little bit on their bikes, but the vehicles are mostly a means of quick transport. Although as in the game, fighting from gang-to-gang is largely done on foot in the city, often with firearms.

Then you also have a government that is trying to help, but is mostly powerless. Indeed, as we'll see in the game, the government is having to rely on the gangs to help solve their problem, although it's not as though the player's gang is expected to actually be responsible for the city's infrastructure (if you want that, I suppose try Shadow Empire).

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Florida Man Fights Off Badgers
GUB Director Herrell wrote: October 6, 1999

Travel is becoming extremely difficult for our agents. They must obtain food and gas, and if they are ill, the vaccine. Transportation is a problem. There is snow and no one to plow the northern roads. Snow tires will cover twice as much ground as conventional tires, but they can be found in tire stores only. I loathe being forced to encourage looting.
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The Reborners in the Cincinnati area didn't seem to be pushing the Gator Goons out. They had made no comment when the gang was attacked by mutants again at night. But they weren't as willing to lend a helping hand with the food needed for the long trip westward. They said they were 'preparing for the winter'. The Goons ended up grabbing whatever canned goods they could scrounge at a burned-out IGA.

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One of the healers among the group expressed a desire to join up and head west with the group. They turned him down. He and a few others simply told them to 'keep an eye on those mutants; and you'd better stay out of Illinois'.

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Florida Man ignored such warnings, because from the map it seemed that the most direct route to Tacoma would be along the northern roads. The gang headed on quickly past Indianapolis. On the way they were once again assaulted by roving bands of the infected.

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By the time they reached the Indiana-Illinois border, it was clear that something was wrong. Few supplies were available in Gary, and the frightened residents that remained were desperate to join up, only for half of them to end up the new victims in another wave of attacks. All of them warned the gang not to go near Chicago. One woman asked, "Is the whole country any better off? Is it safer anywhere else?"

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Despite winning each fight, the gang was slowly being whittled away. Their numbers were down to little more than half what they'd been at the start of the week. An attack from a road gang might well present a problem just in crewing the guns. Florida Man could not wait any longer. They headed into Chicago.

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The thing was, Chicago wasn't really there anymore. A blasted wasteland surrounded the city, with barely any signs of life inside the death zone. The skeletons of the downtown skyscrapers could still be seen on the skyline, but most of them were blackened or crumbling. Another winter would likely do them in.

Elpida spoke up in a solemn tone. "We had heard... rumors. Someone said there were cities hit by nuclear bombs. They were detonated in them. I did not know this place would be one."

The gang passed in silence around Chicago's perimeter, and as they drew close to the lake, discovered the highway leading northward out of the vast rubble of the dead city.

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But just as they were working on clearing a path for the trucks amidst all the wrecked cars and streets choked with piles of concrete buildings, they were set upon by a half-dead, ravenous group of infected. The radiation had given them the worst form of the disease. They could not have been long for this world, but they attacked with a savagery that no longer seemed human.

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All along the road to Milwaukee they gang had to keep up their guard. Even once they arrived, they could sense the city was on edge, constantly bracing itself for attacks from the south. That night, more infected came at their camp. Hardly any lives were lost on the Goons' side, but morale was rapidly slipping.

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A pitiful group of men and women had tried banding together on their own just to improve their chances against the onslaught of the Chicago ravagers. They eagerly agreed to come with the Gator Goons on a trip westward.

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Although still uncertain about the prospects of the long road ahead with few major cities or resources likely to be available, the Gator Goons had to move onward. The infected came out every night, with no signs of growing any weaker.

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They were about halfway out of Wisconsin, with a good distance now between themselves and Chicago, when they spotted movement on the quiet roads.

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It was three vehicles, all painted black, emblazoned with large "BADGER ARMY" logos on them. Most of the people on board were dressed in military fatigues or hunting camouflage, and they all sported standard-issue US Army guns.

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Almost relieved to be dealing with a more sane-looking opponent, the Gator Goons set up their own combat formation.

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They had these militia members outnumbered, but for once Florida Man held back on making any rash moves. They couldn't expect to retreat to any nearby city if this Badger Army turned out to be a bigger threat.

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The cars closed in on each other and gunfire was exchanged. It seemed both sides were staying protected by their armor, and losses were initially light.

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Although the experience in Chicago had seemed to sober him before, the thrill of the fight fired up Florida Man, and he once again sped the Gator Mobile past the enemy vehicles in a daring turn that just missed their front bumper.

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Even Jack did a bit of showing off as he wheeled the Chevy in a tight high-speed turn right in the face of the Badger Army's cars.

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As he passed, the warriors on his car fired out the back of the van and took out one of the cars.

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Florida Man's stunt had forced the Freightliner to veer on to the shoulder, and it now had to worry about the largest enemy car, a full-size Ford van.

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As much as it tried to speed past with its upgraded engine, the truck still ended up taking a pretty serious hit as the van slammed into its back end. This group of the 'Badger Army' was gone, but there could be some serious trouble if there were more of them to be dealt with up the road.

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When they made it safely to Minneapolis, they found the inhabitants to be quite friendly. There was even a welcoming committee ready to tell them all about what was going on there. They told them all about the Mayo clinic When the disease had come, some of the best doctors in the country had worked on figuring out possible treatments. Even though they did not have a cure yet, their advances in 'anti-toxin' were notable, and the compassion and drive they displayed were remarkable. Over time, the city had become a safe haven and an island of healing in the plague-ridden world.

After the tour, Dr. Balthazar came to the gang's leaders with a serene but serious look on his face. "I think I want, no I think I need, to stay here. You know, I was never too excited to go on such a long trip. Here, I think would be perfect. And I could be useful to them."

They were all saddened to see him go, but it was clear there was no convincing him to stay. Florida Man promised that if he ever wanted to travel with them, even if just to go back east, he'd be welcome to come.

Dr. Balthazar didn't want to leave the Gator Goons with nobody to take care of them, so he asked around at the Mayo Clinic. There was a man there, a Dr. Kassabian, who was willing to head out into the open country and travel with them. He was a short man with dark brown hair and rosy red cheeks who came out smiling. As soon as he showed up, he said, "Well? Everybody healthy? Then when do we leave?"

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He was only mildly disappointed when the gang stayed around for a bit longer. The Twin Cities seemed relatively safe, especially after the trip through Illinois and Wisconsin. Elpida made a plea for more volunteers to join up, promising that they would truly be helping to 'heal the country'.

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The Gator Goons had to keep moving westward. They insepected the vehicle fleet and when they were ready, drove out onto the empty highway.

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As they made their way to Fargo, on the border of Minnesota, a friendly group of nurses appeared, offering some of their supplies of the disease-fighting drugs. They encouraged the Gator Goons to stay safe on the road once they heard of their plan to continue all the way to Washington.

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Florida Man was ready to keep on driving right away, but then Jack showed him the map.

"We're going to go through here, North Dakota. It looks straight, and flat."

Florida man nodded in approval.

"After that, we head into the Rocky Mountains. We have to hope the passes are open."

"True, but I'm sure we'll found a way. We made it all around in New York and Pennsylvania. These'll just be a bit taller."

"No, what I am worried of is that there are no cities along the route. No place to resupply, and if we are attacked, there'll be no replacements."

"Let's stick around, then, get whatever supplies we can — and maybe whoever we can get to join up. There's gotta be some people here willing to leave."

"I hope it goes well. Every one of them will have to be willing to go that thousand miles."

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The Gator Goons attempts to gather more supplies did not go unnoticed, however. A group of the Minnesota National Guard arrived. They all came out in formation, their uniforms clean and neatly pressed. One of them stepped forward.

"Captain Hagelund, 34th Infantry. We'd like to know your business in this town. We've heard reports of looting."
Florida Man shuffled his feet. "Just passing through, you know. Heading on soon enough."
"We're not going to tolerate any nonsense in this town."
"Look, I've got important stuff to do! I'm heading out west... it's an important mission."
"Shut up! You're not going to loot us and get away with it. Where the heck're you from, anyway?"
Instead of answering, Florida Man let out a mighty yell, threw his hands in the air, and made a sudden gymnastic turn befrore running off. Once he spotted Jack and Cecile, he shouted, "Quick, get the cars running##! We're leaving town now!"
As they raced past the still-shocked militia, there were shouts and insults but nobody raised their weapons. One of the soldiers could be heard to say, "Ha##! You won't last long once those mothertruckers out there find you!"

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The gang found it almost amusing that the guardsman was censoring his language with such an expression. That changed early the next morning. They'd manage to put almost 200 miles between themselves and Fargo when they realized the man had not misspoken. Four large flatbed trucks, probably once used on a farm to carry livestock, now carried people armed with rifles, bows, knives and chains - just about anything that could be used as a weapon. Most of them were wearing brightly-colored warpaint on their faces, and the men had stripped to the waist and painted more odd designs on their bodies. The drivers of the trucks, oddly enough, were all elderly women, only some of whom had opted to decorate their own faces in the same fashion as the gang members riding on board. Right on the front grill, and scrawled on the side of each cab, could be seen the name in red paint: "Muthuh Truckers".

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The trucks had split into pairs. The Gatormobile, the limo, and the Freightliner faced off against one side, with the van, the Stellar, and the Mack going against the other.

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The raucous occupants of the trucks were unprotected, and relatively easy pickings even at long range.

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Their own shots fired back hit the wheels on the limo, causing it to spin sideways. The Freightliner was unable to get out of the way in time, and there was an awful crunch as it slammed into the front end. Luckily no one was injured.

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On the other side of the road, the Gator Goons were doing much better at wearing down the opposition.

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The limo had survived the collision, but was still in danger as the enemy trucks barrelled down the road at them.

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As the two trucks passed by, the Freightliner blasted away, knocking down half a dozen people.

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The inferior weapons of the Muthuh Truckers proved to be deadly in the right circumstances.

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With the gunfire flying around them, the women at the wheel hit the brakes, causing the two trucks to have a mishap of their own.

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Meanwhile, both the Gatormobile and the other trailer truck had made their way past the two on the other side.

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It was a duel of numbers; the Freightliner was taking losses, but they did have the advantage in better weapons and better protection.

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The limo had managed to get away for now, thanks to the inept handling of the big flatbed farm truck. There were fewer people in the back of the enemy trucks, and their fire was growing less effective.

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One of the trucks went down, and another was run off the road into a fence.

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A second flatbed crashed when even the bulldozer got into the action.

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The two Muthuh Truckers were separated now, and would not last much longer.

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Even with the opposition fading, the Hyundai put itself in a dangerous position of trying to thread the needle between the two of them.

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But it turned out to be all right; first one, and then the other truck rolled to a stop as the drivers slumped over dead.

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It was a rough introduction to the gang that ruled the wide-open spaces of the Dakotas and westward.

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These trucks were probably the only sort of vehicles that could carry the necessary supplies to make it through this deserted region of the country; the spoils from the battle seemed for the moment to be worth the fight.

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It hadn't been a terrible hit, but the Freightliner was certainly not in top form, and the gang was miles away from any repair garage.


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The limousine was in worse shape, naturally, but it could still drive. Florida Man said to keep pushing onward.

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Fortunately, the next few days passed uneventfully as the Gator Goons cruised through the vast expanse of the northern plains.

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A little ways into Montana, just over the Yellowstone River, they ran into trouble. More Muthuh Truckers -- in big rigs this time.


This week's film: Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior)

Now that you mention it the people number really does change a lot over even a single update doesn't it? Belying the narrative I guess it makes sense that people are just another resource to use and find in the genre.

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Kibayasu wrote:
Sat Dec 19, 2020 7:37 pm
Now that you mention it the people number really does change a lot over even a single update doesn't it? Belying the narrative I guess it makes sense that people are just another resource to use and find in the genre.
Yeah, I think it's one of the aspects that in some ways make it an interesting 'RPG' since you're really role-playing the gang, and the people don't matter. You're always hoping to gain experience, though. We're about two updates away from finding a way to improve the exp gain. Good point that it is fitting for the genre as well. There is the other aspect that when you take losses in firefights, who gets hit appears to be random, but in melee (on-board) combat, the better soldiers last longer.

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Mad Max 2 [aka The Road Warrior] (1981)

"If it's all the same to you... I'll drive that tanker."

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The film opens with a voiceover from the point of view of one of the inhabitants of the post-apocalyptic future, who explains how the world was destroyed by nuclear war, and he is telling the story of the "the Road Warrior...the man we called Max". We then see Max Rockatansky, still in his black car from the first film, dealing with an attack from a motley road gang. He's able to survive it, with a fair amount of destruction left in his wake.

Max appears to be roaming through the post-war wasteland, and has to scavenge fuel wherever he can. He also has a canine companion -- a scruffy-looking Blue Heeler (not named in the film). He took some gas from the gang he battled earlier, but continues to search. He seems to be in luck when he comes across an apparently abandoned autogyro, but it turns out to be an ambush from the gyro's owner, who was hidden in the dirt nearby.

Max ends up getting the upper hand on the pilot (a slightly comical character known only as the 'Gyro Captain'), who tells him of a nearby oil well/refinery where he can gather as much fuel as he needs. They go together, with Max and his dog keep a watchful eye on the captain the whole time. When they arrive, Max discovers that the refinery is under siege from a road gang led by a man known as 'The Humungus'; he also recognizes among them a man who'd attacked him earlier, a savage mohawked biker named 'Wez'.

Wary of both the encampment and the besieging gang, Max continues to observe them from far off. There is an attempt to break out from the refinery by a few vehicles; they are all intercepted and brutally dealt with. Max finds one wounded survivor, and makes a deal with him to be given fuel if he takes the man back to the refinery. Max arrives and is let inside the camp with the man, who unfortunately is too far gone and dies of his wounds.

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The refinery is led by Pappagallo, a strict but benevolent leader trying his best to keep the group alive. Max informs him of the deal, but Pappagallo says the deal died with the man. Just then, Humungus returns and demands that the settlers just walk away and leave the fuel, or else he will wipe them out. Wez becomes enraged when a small child (the 'Feral Kid') kills his boyfriend using a sharpened metal boomerang, but Humungus reins him in and promises he'll let the settlers live if they abandon the refinery.

Pappagallo actually is trying to leave the refinery, although not on Humungus's terms. The problem he faces is that they have a large tanker of refined fuel, but no way to transport it safely. Max tells him that he knows of an abandoned trailer truck that could haul the fuel, and cuts a deal: he will get them the tractor in exchange for as much gas as he can carry in his own car.

Max sets off for the truck and runs into the Gyro Captain again. The two briefly team up, with the Gyro Captain helping fly Max to the tractor and scouting for him on the way back. Max is able to fight back in with some slight damage to the truck, requiring a day of repairs. The settlers inside want Max to drive the truck on the way out, but he only wants to finish the deal and take his fuel.

As Max drives off in his car, the road gang (in particular Wez) pursues him and then force his car off the road into a canyon. Max is thrown from the car and is seriously injured. When the gang members come down to check the scene, a booby trap attached to Max's car explodes, killing some of them. The rest of the gang fails to see Max and assume he died inside the car, so they leave.

The Gyro Captain finds Max and saves his life by returning him to the refinery compound. Max, despite his wounded leg, says that he is now willing to drive the truck. Pappagallo at first refuses, but eventually relents. He expects that the tanker will be the biggest target, so the remaining settlers are encouraged to leave in their own vehicles in any direction that seems safe. The Feral Kid gets on board with Max, as he seems to have taken a liking to the man (and Max earlier showed him a bit of kindness by giving him a music-box toy).

Finally, the group departs and the chase is on. There is an intense, minutes-long road combat sequence in which everyone who'd been helping Max (including Pappagallo) is eliminated, although not without casualties among the attacking gang. In the end, Max and the Feral Kid remain alone, and Humungus makes a last-ditch effort to stop the tanker by ramming his own vehicle head-on into it. This kills Humungus (and Wez, who climbed up onto the grill moments before the collision) and also causes the tanker to run off the road and turn on its side. At this point, the hatches on the tank come loose, revealing that the entire time it was filled with sand.

A final voiceover epilogue reveals that the 'juice', the gasoline, was hidden in all the other smaller vehicles which eventually did make it to a better settlement. We also learn that this narration has been coming from the Feral Kid, now a grown man, who says that he himself eventually became the leader of the tribe, and Max faded into legend.

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With the character of Max already established in the first film, the sequel heads straight into the action, and doesn't really let up. The bigger budget allowed for more impressive scenes, more variety in shooting them, and just a bigger scale overall. It really wants the road combat to shine, so the plot is simple but still sensible. It is at almost all times focused on getting to the next thing that's happening, and is one of the most propulsive films ever made.

The road fights, especially the final escape sequence, are really the best parts of the movie. All of the vehicles are constantly moving but the action is easily followed. In similar fashion to the first film, the camera will get low to the action, but with the autogyro included, aerial shots are also used and make sense with how the characters are viewing the scene. The stunts are again impressive, although again there is the slight sense that any of these could have put the crew in a fair bit of danger (probably less so than in the first film, as the bigger budget likely meant more time to work).

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More so than the first film, this one relies heavily on visual characterization. There isn't much dialogue and names are rarely given, yet each person is quite memorable. Lord Humungus, rippling with muscles in leather fetish gear and covering his face with a hockey mask, exudes a mysteriously charismatic brutality that seems appropriate for the world of this series. Max only gets a minor amount of development, but it's sufficient to propel the plot. I think the vehicles seem to be slightly less highlighted than in the first. There are a wider variety of them to make up for that a bit, and every scene really has a wealth of detail to indicate what has become of the world.

The violence is again visceral but not all that graphic. For instance, when Max's car is wrecked, the dog is shot, but you don't actually see it — just a yelp and the reaction from the people witnessing it. In its time, it was probably considered a bit much (some cuts were made before release to tone it down), but by today's standards it is still fairly compelling.

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Although Mad Max laid the groundwork for this character and the hyperbolic post-apocalyptic world of deadly road fights, it is really this film that almost all imitators were drawing on. The vehicle and character designs, with their grab-bag of discarded equipment into whatever might seem intimidating or provide protection, really set the standard in their own odd way. Max's strong, nearly-silent, but reluctant hero type was the model for so many of its followers as well. For sure many of these aspects come out of the Western genre, but in post-apocalyptic films they were filtered through this film first. It's somewhat disappointing that often they did not include the backstory of the first film that lends his character a bit of tragic weight as he struggles with his own humanity, but this film doesn't really need or rely on that either. It is a bigger, more aggressive, and even more exciting sequel, and it keeps its focus on improving those elements remarkably well.


Connections to Roadwar 2000

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Almost every aspect of the road combats in Roadwar can be traced directly back to what's portrayed in this film. Fighting involves both shooting missile weapons and deliberate ramming. People jump onto other vehicles while in motion and engage in on-board fighting. The weapons include both crossbows and firearms (although guns are more plentiful in Roadwar, and Mad Max 2 has a handful of fancier weapons like flamethrowers and 'bombs' from the autogyro). Even targetting the tires is a tactic used in the movie in an attempt to slow down Max. There is inspiration from other sources, to be sure, but just as this film is the undeniable king of post-apocalyptic car-combat, it is almost certainly the primary influence on the design of the game. Even the name Roadwar is somewhat evocative of the American title (The Road Warrior, chosen because the first film was still relatively unknown when it was released). I'd venture to say that the experience of the movie is precisely what the game is trying to deliver, and if you can inject enough imagination into the tactical outcomes, it often succeeds at it.

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Florida Man Goes Underground

These are the last two entries in the journal.
GUB Director Herrell wrote: November 20, 1999

Our supplies are dwindling. We've always kept a two-year cache of food and water, but we've gone through nearly half of that. Will we, too, become common looters and gang members when we've eaten it all?

It must be time to bring the agents back to GUB... all eight of them. Dade, Macallister, Washington, Pintero, Smidlapp, Trotier, Mills, and Sinh.

I need a leader. I hear that there are individual gang leaders who control several cities at once. When a gang leader controls enough cities, I'll send an agent out to relay instructions. If the gang leader is loyal to our cause, he'll help the scientists to get back here. By the time he brings six or seven of them, I'll feel I can trust him and let use the last Radio Direction Finder to locate the remaining one or two.

December 25, 1999

I wait. Each tick of the clock signifies one moment gone, one fewer remaining. My men collapse, physically and mentally. I, myself, am not well, the images of pain, terror, and death in my dreams. It is Christmas Eve, 1999. The snow falls, mercifully covering the ugly scars. The old Christmas carols come to mind... O Holy Night...

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With the Muthuh Truckers coming at them with no less than three full-size trailer trucks, plus one more flatbed, the Gator Goons stayed in a close formation. They needed to concentrate their own firepower and prevent the smaller vehicles from getting isolated and picked off.

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The Muthuh Truckers maintained a similar discipline, though in their case it was keeping the trailer trucks together. It appeared the flatbed might have been a straggler from another raiding party, as it was separated from the others. Or perhaps they had intended it as bait.

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The speedier cars of the Gator Goons tried to split the fire of the enemy while leading them into a pile of wrecked cars that would make it harder for the less nimble trucks to turn on them.

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Florida Man was thankful that for however ferocious this gang appeared to be in vehicle size, they did not have quite the firepower to back it up.

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The plan to trap the Muthuh Truckers worked to get two of them mired in the piles of rusting steel on the roadway, but one truck remained well back. At least they were more isolated now.

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The stalled trucks made for an easier target, and the warriors in the limo took advantage.

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For the Gatormobile, things had not gone well. Almost everyone inside the car had been killed, and Florida Man was forced to drive hard to get out of range of the deadly crossbows.

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Every car was taking casualties; it might well have been worse with firearms, but that was little comfort at the moment.

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The first victory was had, however. With the two lead trailer trucks temporarily halted, the Gator Goons had been able to work on the flatbed truck, and it was now finished off.

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The lead trailer truck had also been taken car of by gunfire from the Mack, but that left them in the position of having to make a u-turn at low speed. The other lead Muthuh Trucker was now bearing down on them.

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The truck that had stayed back was now facing down the bulk of the Gator Goons. The Freightliner made the foolhardy decision to play chicken, trusting that its superior road handling would prevent a devastating head-on crash.

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It was a gamble that paid off; the Freightliner swung around and away, leaving the enemy truck subject to fire from two sides.

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Meanwhile, the Mack was being pursued by the other truck, its driver intent on taking revenge for the two lost trucks by any possible means. The action had brought them within range of the D5, which usually stayed well away from combat.

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The smaller vehicles were staying away from the fight; it was turning into a battle between the big rigs.

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Their guns were assisting however, if only as a distraction. The truck chasing the Mack was finally brought down.

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Not long afterward, the other truck was eliminated.

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The Muthuh Truckers were defeated.

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This had been one of the Gator Goons toughest challenges yet. Twenty-five people lost their lives in the fight. The gang was too far into the trip to turn back now, though, and they would have to push to get through the Rockies.

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The gang that terrorized the plains seemed to have been beaten, and no further attacks occurred. Two days later, the Gator Goons were well into the highlands. They would now be passing through the steepest, highest stretch of road they'd yet encountered, at Homestake Pass.

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They made it through the pass and witnessed the now mostly-abandoned former mining towns and small cities of Montana. It seemed that the sickness had hit especially hard here. It seemed as if most of the population had retreated into the mountains rather than succumb to any new strains of the illness.

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There was practically a celebratory mood in the gang as they finally emerged from the Rocky Mountains into the broad steppe at the city of Spokane. Here, there might be hope to fix up for the final push to the G.U.B.

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The mood quickly turned to a somber one as the scouts reported that the invading enemy armies controlled this city. It seemed they must have also landed on the west coast. Florida Man figured this might be a good region of the country where they could have simply landed in their spaceships.

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The gang spent a day desperately but cautiously seeking auto repair shops and any locals willing to join up, but they had no luck. This town seemed too isolated to have a lot of resources, and most people remained suspicious of any outsiders.

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Eventually, an old repair garage near the railway line gave them hope to continue. With the cars and trucks in proper fighting condition, they could likely handle one more fight.

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Elpida worked her magic and after a day of practically going door-to-door to bring in supporters, she came back with a good number of people willing to support the cause.

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The gang had been anticipating that the Invaders would come after them at some point, and their defenses were prepared. They weren't about to let these soldiers stop them before they saw the Pacific.

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In a stroke of luck, Spokane turned out to be merely a minor outpost for the invasion. The one big street fight was sufficient. Florida Man wasn't sure if the gang really needed to expand here, but Elpida said it was vital that they take control of this, as a safe haven for "returning to the G.U.B.".

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The aftermath of the battle brought forward a large number of people who'd been living in fear and poverty. They had nowhere else to go, and so they joined up with the Gator Goons.

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The gang spent one more day in the town, and then set out on the last leg of the trip to the G.U.B.

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They'd only made it about 50 miles, and were still in the sun-baked terrain of the Rocky Mountain foothills when they spotted another flatbed truck roaring up the highway. The scouts called it out, "More of those Muthuh Truckers!"

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With the opposing vehicles coming at them so quickly, the Gator Goons had little time to arrange themselves.

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The driver of the trailer truck grinned evilly as she fired off her own gun, killing one passenger in the Hyundai.

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The Gator Goons made some deft turns that allowed them to surround their enemy on all sides.

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Cecile directed salvoes of gunshots from the Freightliner at the flatbed first, as it'd be the easier target to knock out.

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The fighters on the Mack took the cue and rained deadly fire at the truck's unprotected cargo space as well.

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It did not take long before the flatbed did indeed take so much damage that it went out of control and skidded sideways to a stop.

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The battle seemed to nearly be won, as there were seven vehicles to one lone truck. But the half-crazed Muthuh Truckers gave a loud shout and all rushed to leap over the front of their own truck and onto the Freightliner.

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Some of them missed the jump and were crushed under their own vehicle's tires.

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So many did survive however, that the battle on board was nearly a massacre. Cecile ran from back of the trailer to the front as the enemy gang on top fired off handguns, threw darts and knives, and even heaved heavy rocks and chunks of metal on those inside. Only the driver and Cecile remained. She braced her gun at her side and prepared for the worst.

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As the trucks separated, the rest of the Gator Goons closed in on the truck. All of them fired, but no hits seemed to connect with any targets inside. Florida Man suddenly realized something -- the truck was empty! Only the driver remained. He drew his shotgun and took aim at the driver; with one shot she disappeared below the dashboard, and no one else took the wheel. The empty truck fishtailed and then tipped on its side with a resounding thud.

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Back on the Freightliner, the rest of the enemy gang was stunned at this turn of events. It seems in their rush to board another truck, none of them had given a thought to keeping their own vehicle safe. The demoralized gang quickly surrendered.

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The spoils of the fight included enough fuel to keep the gang moving for the trip back across the USA. It had come at quite a high price, as almost half of the casualties on the truck had only joined in Spokane.

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By the next day, they headed up over the Cascades — the last pass on the way to the West Coast.

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They descended from the mountains and, upon finding the bridge across the lake to be gone, they made their way around and approached the city from the north. Scouts spread out around the city and reported back that the Invaders controlled it. One of them reported that the locals apparently had known Florida Man was approaching the city, a fact which only made him more nervous.

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The Gator Goons found an abandoned aircraft hangar where they could fix up their cars, and then they promptly left the city. Florida Man was pretty sure the Invaders would be a lot stronger here than in Spokane. He thought they must have made a landing in Puget Sound, or perhaps further west, on the Pacific coast.

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They took the short trip down the highway to Tacoma, with a mild rain coming down the whole way. Upon arrival, they came upon a small group of people sheltering in some abandoned buildings down by the waterfront. Elpida said it might be good to bring them into the gang, just in case one of them knew where the G.U.B. was located. Jack and Cecile agreed, saying they would need more people to crew the vehicles for wherever they headed next.

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Dr. Kassabian gave a health check-up to all the new members. In the course of talking to them, he learned that almost as soon as the pandemic had started, soldiers from Fort Lewis had come up and assumed control of the city. They had put a strict quarantine in place on certain districts and maintained guardposts. One of the Tacomans said that always struck her as odd, since as she said, "there isn't much worth protecting up there".

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Still unsure about whether the G.U.B. really was in this city, Florida Man, Elpida, and Cecile went out to find out who was guarding the restricted zone. They finally found a checkpoint on one of the roads.

As Elpida approached, the guard stood up a bit straighter and called out, "Ma'am, can I help you? Please maintain your distance. This is a restricted area."

She stopped walking and replied, gently but firmly, "We're not trying to get into this area. We're just looking for some information. And I believe that this man can help you, or if not him, I can."

Eventually the guard called in a superior officer, and after speaking with him, Elpida told them the procedure: Follow the road along the waterfront until it heads into a short tunnel. Once inside the tunnel, stop halfway through. They'd be given a challenge question. If they answered correctly, they'd be led to the right place.

The trio took the Gatormobile and went together down to the location they'd been told. At first the tunnel seemed completely dark and empty, but they did stop in the middle, and Florida Man called out, "Hey!"

A voice answered from an unseen location, probably a hidden speaker. "What is the last date in the director's journal?"

Cecile looked questioningly at Florida Man and whispered, "Do we know that?"

He shook his head at her, and then called back, "Uh... Christmas?"

There was no answer for a moment. Then, quite suddenly, a section of the black tunnel wall slid open. A brilliant line of fluorescent lights switched on and they could see another tunnel, just barely wide enough for a car to drive down.

Elpida said, "This has got to be it." They jumped back in the Gatormobile and drove for what seemed like more than a mile along a gradually sloping downward road.

At the end, they arrived at a large steel door. Florida Man stopped the car. Suddenly the lights in the tunnel switched off, and everything behind them was blackness. An alarm blared and a red light began flashing as the steel door slowly rose up.

Behind the door were two more armed guards, their weapons down and positioned loosely in the direction of the car. In the center of the passage stood a man, about 40 years of age, standing pensively in a grey suit. He wore glasses, and his face had a grim expression which lightened slightly as he spied the bright green Gator Mobile.

"Florida Man? I'm G.U.B. Director Herrell. We've been waiting for you."

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This week's film: Hell Comes To Frogtown

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