After a terrific Fat Tuesday it’s time for Ash Wednesday … as in Empire of Ash, the awful series of post-apocalypse movies. From Canada! Brave the Canuckalypse with me!
EMPIRE OF ASH (1988) – Also released as Maniac Warriors, this post-apocalypse movie is, as you would expect, another of the 1980s’ countless imitators of The Road Warrior. In Empire of Ash our year is 2050 and our main location is an American settlement called New Idaho, with Canadian forests passing for the post-holocaust world. All cities have become uninhabitable so survivalists scrape by in woodland communities.
The plague that destroyed civilization is a blood disease and it continues to be one of the biggest threats, along with the usual mutants and rampaging, gun-wielding gangs. There are some scattered scientists trying to come up with a cure for the blood disease but there are also evil sufferers of the disease who prey upon the unafflicted by consuming their blood and bone marrow to survive a little bit longer.
The disease-ridden have been organized into a bizarre religion and they consider the plague to be God’s vengeance, just like AIDS was being called by assorted zealots at this point in the 80s. The religion and government are run by a preacher called the Great Shepherd (Frank Wilson). Before draining the blood and marrow of “pure-bloods” they baptize them as human sacrifices.
The armed loons that the Great Shepherd sends out to round up disease-free victims are called Leucocyte Acquisitors for Remission of Disease, or LARD. I’m not joking. One of our main characters is Danielle (Melanie Kilgour), a butt-kicking babe whose younger sister gets taken by LARD thugs. Danielle sets out to save her before she can be baptized and sacrificed.
There’s also Baalca (Michele Chiponski), the assistant leader of the cult. Baalca is a butt-kicking blonde lesbian with a weird hairdo like Tina Turner in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Orion (Thom Schioler) rounds out the main cast as a hunky warrior-type who throws in with Danielle to free her sibling.
In support, Chuck (Sandy McKenzie) and Iodine (James Stevens) are a pair of Survivalist Stoners in New Idaho. They are handy tech-wise as well as pharmaceutically and love to play various video games that survived the apocalypse. They eventually help Danielle, Orion and other New Idahoans take on the Great Shepherd’s followers.
What’s not to love, as long as you’re into horrifically bad movies? We viewers also get repetitious shootouts with the same extras in the same outfits very noticeably getting “killed” over and over again. Plus we get Rocket Man, a bad-guy who shoots explosive rockets from a HUGE helmet that he wears.
If all that’s not enough we get assorted post-apocalypse vehicles that are supposed to be all souped-up but wouldn’t even make the grade in Warlords of the 21st Century. The icing on the cake is a bland cover of Born to be Wild which plays during the climactic fight scene.
Put your mind on hold for 93 minutes and laugh your ass off with this little honey.
EMPIRE OF ASH II (1989) – Empire of Ash was re-released the following year as Empire of Ash II, even though it’s the same damn movie! It’s similar to the way Blackenstein was re-released a few years later as The Return of Blackenstein even though it was just the original flick “returning” to theaters. The things low-budget filmmakers could get away with in those pre-internet days!
EMPIRE OF ASH III (1989) – Also released as Last of the Warriors. The Great Shepherd and Baalca continue to plague (as it were) the good people of New Idaho in this unnecessary sequel. Those two main villains are still alive thanks to some retconning/ cheating that would have made the folks who edited old Republic Serials say “Oh, come ON!”
Added to the bad guy roster is B-Movie legend William “Big Bill” Smith as Lucas, the Great Shepherd’s son. Our villainous theocrats are into baby-making, both naturally and artificially this time around. They still want the blood and bone marrow of the disease-free, too, of course.
Melanie Kilgour is back as the butt-kicking Danielle, who once again teams up with the Survivalists of New Idaho to thwart the vile schemes of the post-apocalyptic cultists. Ken Farmer plays Chuck this time around.
Rocket Man is still played by David Gregg but we’re told he’s been captured by the people of New Idaho in between movies and when he’s not devising rockets and other weaponry for the good guys he gets used as a sex-toy by his female jailers. I’m not joking.
The Stoners are back, too, and have rigged up a female-voiced computer that used to run NORAD systems in the pre-plague world. “She” helps New Idaho with its defenses and can remote-control attack helicopters.
Our good guys are trying to reunite a pair of young lovers separated by the evil deeds of the Great Shepherd, Baalca and Lucas before the woman can be forced to procreate with the Great Shepherd in an unholy ritual.
For some reason Empire of Ash III often gets rated more highly than the original but in my opinion it’s no better. It just throws in more blatant t&a and groan-inducing attempts at humor. Plus an oil massage.
Still, it’s worth at least one viewing but I find myself rewatching the first flick more often than I do this “meh” sequel. If you’re inspired to write Empire of Ash fan fiction (I’m kidding!) there’s ample fodder to be found in explaining how the Stoners got the NORAD computer equipment from mid-America to New Idaho or how Rocket Man got captured by the good guys and decided to make weapons for them instead of the Great Shepherd’s followers. +++
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