Saturday, March 24, 2018

Ravagers (1979)

          There’s no good reason for sci-fi thriller Ravagers to be as dull as it is. Even setting aside the lively cast—more on that in a minute—the picture features a serviceable postapocalyptic storyline, in which gangs of violent people called ravagers prey on settlements of vulnerable people to steal food and other supplies. The underlying premise holds that something poisoned the world’s water, making it nearly impossible to grow new food, so everyone still alive competes for resources. Though hardly new, shouldn’t these concepts be enough for a passable mixture of pulpy adventure and social commentary? Before you answer that question, let’s get back to the cast: Ravagers stars Richard Harris, and supporting him in much smaller roles are Ernest Borgnine, Art Carney, Seymour Cassel, Anthony James, and Woody Strode. That lineup explains why Ravagers isn’t a total waste of time, even though the actors are squandered as badly as the potential of the storyline.
          Set in the near future, Ravagers begins with Falk (Harris) bringing precious food back to his companion, Miriam (Alana Hamilton), who dreams of someday finding a place called Genesis, where food is rumored to grow. Alas, ravagers led by a vile leader (Anthony James) followed Falk to his hiding place, so they rape and murder Miriam, leaving Falk for dead. He survives and exacts some revenge, then flees into the countryside with the ravagers in pursuit. Falk meets assorted benevolent people until stumbling across an installation supervised by Rann (Borgnine), who clashes with Falk over strategies for holding the outside world at bay.
         Some of the film’s episodes are more interesting than others, but the pacing is glacial and the movie is nearly over before Rann appears. Yet the shape of the narrative isn’t the worst problem plaguing Ravagers. In nearly every scene, actors stand still with their faces blank, as if they’re waiting for director Richard Compton to give them something to do or say. The movie’s script is so enervated that character development is nonexistent, with people defined by their situations instead of their personalities. This sort of one-dimensional approach can work in fast-paced movies, but it’s deadly for slow-paced movies like Ravagers. Adding to the onscreen lethargy are vapid turns by Stewart and nominal leading lady Ann Turkel. Ravagers is more or less coherent, but as goes Harris’ performancea wispy suggestion of what he might have done with a proper screenplayso goes the whole disappointing picture.

Ravagers: FUNKY


Guy Callaway said...

Big disconnect between the poster art and the Columbia logo! And filmed in Alabama, yet.

Raegan Butcher said...

Even more amazing how bad this is if one has read the novel upon which it's based, Path to Savagery, by Robert Edmond Alter. The book is sort of a lost classic in my opinion, and worth a read. The film has about as much to do with the source material as Damnation Alley had with Zelazny's novel, which is to say hardly any.