Friday, June 8, 2018

Movie Review: Ravagers (1979)

I had originally intended for this to be one of my "80's TV Thursday" posts, as I had recalled this being a made-for-TV movie from the early 80's that I saw precisely one time right around the time that I had learned about the Gamma World role-playing game. But, as it turns out, it was actually a theatrical release from 1979, so it qualifies as neither "80's" nor "TV."

Back in the early 1980's, after I learned about Gamma World, I had gotten onto a huge post-apocalyptic kick and this movie was right up my alley. I stumbled across it after seeing a small ad in our TV Guide, and had to watch it by myself because no one else in my family was interested. Thankfully I remember that my parents were out that night (doing, of all things, square-dancing) and my sister was studying so I didn't have to fight anybody over the TV.

"Ravagers" is based on a book from 1965 called Path to Savagery, which sadly hasn't seen a lot of reprints so it's quite expensive on Amazon right now. The novel is, however, highly reviewed, with only 5-star reviews. 

The movie, unfortunately, didn't receive much critical acclaim, being somewhat praised for its sense of aesthetics but receiving less enthusiasm for its acting and story. It has a large cast, including some pretty heavy-hitters from the time, including Richard Harris, Ernest Borgnine, Ann Turkel, and Art Carney; combining the salaries of the cast and the production designs, it couldn't have been an inexpensive movie to make. 

"Ravagers" is a post-nuclear holocaust movie in which the survivors do their best to protect themselves from the dangers of the world, which mainly comes in the form of wild humans called "ravagers." Opposing the ravagers are other groups of survivors, generally divided into a group called "Flockers," who are relatively primitive and not well organized to defend themselves, and another unnamed group that live on an old naval vessel off the coast for protection, are well-armed, organized, and much cleaner than most humans of the era.

The point-of-view character is a loner, living with his wife, trying to find a place they can settle down in peace, and scavenging for small comforts like old cans of food. The film focuses on his journey as he is attacked by Ravagers, makes his escape, kills one in revenge, and then makes his way across the countryside, interacting with other survivors, all while being followed by the Ravagers.

Honestly, the plot of the movie is very thin and extremely slow-paced, and the characters are very one-note with no personality. The main villain of the movie has maybe one or two lines of dialogue at most, and is so unmemorable that I can't recall his name. His fellow Ravagers are even worse. The fight scenes are also poorly choreographed, especially by today's standards.

The main character, Falk, comes across the ruins
of the Alabama Space & Rocket Center. 
I had very vague memories of seeing this on TV as a kid, and had never seen it offered on video or DVD, but discovered that it's available for streaming on Amazon, so I watched it yesterday, and can say that pretty much the only thing this movie has to offer is its landscapes and set designs. There are a variety of different locations, but the one that really sparks the imagination for a post-apocalyptic type game is an old, abandoned space port, which was shot on location at the Alabama Space & Rocket Center Museum. In particular, the back of the museum, which holds a bunch of rockets, was aged for the movie, so you have old, rusted rockets poking up from the landscape and the effect is suitably creepy and nostalgic at the same time. Those scenes, along with the huge matte painting of a destroyed cityscape shown at the beginning of the movie during the credits, definitely fit within the design aesthetics of 1st Edition Gamma World.
The opening credits backdrop. The destroyed city reminds
me of the cover of 1st Edition Gamma World. 

Other than the set designs, there is little to offer from the movie for players of post-apocalyptic role-playing games. The different cultures of the survivors are barely fleshed out; the cryptic alliances as described in the Gamma World rule-book offer much more role-playing opportunities than the Ravagers, Flockers, and Loners as portrayed in the movie. My understanding from reading the reviews of the novel upon which the movie was based is that the book has much more detail, and is more creative, in the description of the different post-apocalyptic cultures.

However, on the note of role-playing games, I did stat up the three main characters from the movie, as well as a band of Ravagers, way back when I was a kid as part of my encounter tables for Gamma World, and a few years ago, I updated them to the Mutant Future rules here on my blog. I changed the names to "Wanderers" and "Pillagers" to avoid copyright infringement.

Does anyone else remember this movie? What were you thoughts? Did you try to incorporate any of the elements into your post-apocalyptic role-playing games?


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Listening: "You Know - Extended Mix" by Herald, Gee
Drinking: Coffee

5 comments:

  1. I just found the trailer online and i definetly saw this either on TV or on VHS a long time ago. How many postapocalypse films could there be with Borhnine and Art Carney? I really don't recall much about it. I could swear I read the book it's drawn from as well. I know real helpful but yup saw it.

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    1. Thanks for chiming in! For the longest time, I thought I was the only one who saw this! I'm actually very curious to read the book - it sounds much better than the movie.

      Cheers!

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