It is the future, after the last breakdown of technology. There is debris everywhere, but the most devastating consequence of the state of the Earth after war is that there is no water.
Several groups of marauders, men who have banded together for survival on the parched planet, battle each other in raids for water. There are outright, cut-throat massacres for possession of a five-gallon drum, which will be just enough to sustain them until the next fight. In the midst of these men is a group of brave and beautiful women who have made the most important discovery in the world -- they have found a water source. Soon their secret is exposed and the band of men are determined to discover the magical spring. At any cost.
"The last war started in error. Whose error nobody knows. Nor does it matter now. Nothing matters now, other than survival."
They say that imitation is the best form of flattery. Well, if that's truly the case, George Miller must be a very flattered human being after releasing 'Mad Max' in 1979. All of a sudden, dystopian action flicks with ragged dirty men in dune buggies sporting crazy over-designed weapons were sprouting up like weeds. By the time 'Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior' came out, the imitation game well well underway as Hollywood and the smaller B-movie operations were stuffing movie theaters to the gills with cheap knock-offs. While these movies may have been blatant ripoffs, they can be a whole lot of fun. Through Roger Corman's New World Pictures we're given Cirio H. Santiago's first of seven post-apocalyptic films 'Stryker.' A nearly incomprehensible movie is made all the better simply because of its manic energy.
After the nuclear holocaust decimated the planet, water became a scarce resource for the surviving clans of humanity. People have banded together as roving hoards of marauders - if one group has water, another group will kill anything and everyone to possess it. The evil Kardis (Mike Lane) and his army have made it their mission to seize all sources of water and hoard it for themselves. When they learn a band of women lead by the beautiful Delha (Andrea Savio) have found a large spring of clean water - Kardis and his men will stop at nothing to control this essential resource for man's survival. The only man in the wasteland capable of stopping Kardis and protecting Delha and her people is the lone warrior Stryker (Steve Sandor).
When you look back at the incredible library of films that Roger Corman had a hand in creating, you have to tip your hat to the man for knowing the marketplace. If the audience was thirsty for a certain genre or type of horror or science fiction picture, the man had ten more just like it in the can ready to be strung through theater projectors. His host of genre imitators is extensive and numerous. If there is an equivalency, one could think of 'Stryker' is to 'Road Warrior' and the dystopian science fiction film as 'Deathstalker' is to 'Conan The Barbarian' and fantasy films. Produced on shoe-string budgets, these are the sorts of films that require a lot of suspension of disbelief as a single location can be used multiple times from different angles with new set dressing. As one watches 'Stryker' don't be surprised if you start to feel like you've seen that same sand dune before - you probably have.
To be fair and honest, 'Stryker' isn't exactly groundbreaking cinema, nor is it all that competently put together. With little to no setup, the film relies on the audience being able to infer what is going on and various character relationships and their goals rather than providing any clean exposition. As an example, when Delha is captured by Kardis and his men, she merely has a canteen of clean water - we've never actually seen a massive wellspring that this water supposedly came from, but because the characters say it's there in a passing conversation, we're left to take it at face value. When random characters pop up, we're left to take it that these people have a pre-existing relationship with the main hero without any context or exposition to explain things. As a story, this movie is a bit frustrating. However, it isn't one you're supposed to waste brain power analyzing what is going on when. You're supposed to sit back and enjoy the cheap exploitation sci-fi fun 'Stryker' has to offer.
To that point, 'Stryker' is just fun. Cheap, imitation, junk food - sort of like the visual equivalent of a store brand Twinkie. It's not the real thing, it may taste kinda funny, but in a pinch, it'll do the job. As someone who has an undying love for this sort of movie, even I was only mildly entertained by 'Stryker.' The film has its moments. I enjoyed the colorful characters and the rugged apocalyptic costume design that seemingly requires nearly the entire case to sport some sort of shoulder padding - but this stretched my patience at times. When you're in desperate need of some sort of story exposition, nothing is given. When exposition is the last thing you need, too much is offered up. 'Stryker' is a good bit of fun at times, but if you're hankering for some good Cirio H. Santiago directed post-apocalyptic lunacy, I suggest you dig out 'Equalizer 2000,' or 'Dune Warriors' before plugging in 'Stryker'
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Stryker' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber Studio Classics and is pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc. The disc comes housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
Given its low budget roots, 'Stryker' was never one to be considered top-tier filmmaking and this 1.78:1 1080p presentation bears that aspect out. Film grain is present throughout with solid detail levels - but nothing terribly striking that would suggest that this film has undergone any sort of extensive restoration effort. Colors have a life-like vibrancy to them with some strong primary pop and healthy flesh tones. Black levels are a bit troublesome here and there as there doesn't appear to be much shadow separation and during dark scenes, the image has a tendency to flatten and lose details. The source print displays some slight speckling, small scratches, and mild staining during some sequences. All in all, this isn't a terrible transfer and considering the film and it's origins, it's pretty good looking.
Like so many films of this sort produced in Mexico, there wasn't any actual production audio present making this English DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio mix sounding canned. Dialogue, while clean and clear to hear throughout, has a lifeless dubbed quality to it where the voices often don't match the intensity of the on-screen performer. Likewise, sound effects have this gleefully over-the-top presence to them where gun shots sound like canons firing and cars somehow manage to screech their tires on loose sand. The roar of engines revving tends to dominate the mix during action scenes while scoring sort of flatly lays over the scene. Not a terrible mix for what this movie is, but nothing earth-shattering either.
Audio Commentary: Filmmaker Jim Wynorski proves an entertaining commentary for the film. It's a worthwhile listen.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:03)
'Wheels of Fire' Trailer: (HD 2:04)
'Dune Warriors' Trailer: (HD 1:12)
'Equalizer 2000' Trailer: (SD 1:39)
'The Sisterhood' Trailer: (HD 1:26)
'Stryker' is just plain good old fashioned "pizza and beer" entertainment designed to be watched with a group of like-minded friends who have a love for schlock. Even as a piece of imitation canned cheese, some may find it a stretch to fully enjoy this post-apocalyptic sci-fi yarn. Kino Lorber brings the film to Blu-ray in satisfactory shape. Considering its low budget origins, 'Stryker' looks and sounds pretty good, but its presentation is hardly demo-worth material. Extra features are slim but enjoyable none the less. At the end of the day 'Stryker' is worth a look.