Island City (1994)

This one would have been better with marionettes.

Island City was meant to be the pilot for a new TV series:  set in a gadget laden future where a failed longevity treatment inadvertently caused most of the human race to mutate into murderous primitives, it all has this very familiar feel about it.  An elite rescue team, some high tech vehicles, a hidden ramp that opens up for those futuristic vehicles to enter their secret base, wild fashions, a future filled with lots of casual details: now where have we seen all this before?

You know that whoever made this thing had Gerry Anderson in mind:  the team’s two trucks look like something Captain Scarlet might have driven (and the power seats in the back of the command vehicle can actually slide around on their own!), and, while we don’t have them rising up out of a big crater, we have instead a dirt road with a secret ramp that opens seamlessly to let them in.

I suppose the “dirt” is really that lightweight foam rubber “ballast” they use on model railroad layouts.

You can tell this one was meant to be a pilot — we’ve even got a guest star for the episode (a long lost relative rescued from the wastes who hasn’t had a “Ma-aaan” in thirty years).   But, if you’ve seen a few Gerry Anderson shows you can kind of guess what we’ve got:  a brave and noble leader, with strong cheekbones, a sexy girl lead who has eyes for her Captain, the brain (who could easily have been replaced by a marionette as he isn’t allowed to get out of the truck most of the time) — heck, even the super-strong half mutant character seems familiar, particularly when he ends up forming a buddy-buddy relationship with the terminally inept genius.

Now I concede that the idea of the fountain of youth drug turning everyone into Morlocks is pretty cool, and the youth drug actually gives us a few intriguing SF problems, like the young, sexy 65 year old girl married to an elderly and jealous husband.  It also gives us the fascinating detail that those who lack the recessive genes that caused the mutation have been given a glowing, colored implant that shows who you can safely mate with, without fear of having a mutant child.  All the clothing has been designed to make this implant fully visible, something one can easily imagine as part of some lost Gerry Anderson show.

With Sylvia doing the fashions, of course.

A lot of the tech is well thought out and used in interesting ways.  Mind you, it is all prominently labeled “AT&T” so you never know, they might have suggested a few things that were in the works at the time…

Or just paid a lot of money for a product placement.

I can see why no one picked this pilot up — and I’m not referring to the fact that we spend far too much time watching those trucks driving around, or that it would have been a lot better if someone had edited this thing down to one hour.  The real problem is that I just can’t imagine how you could get more than a few episodes out of this thing, even with the soap opera goings on in the city of the future.  Every week they would have to go off into the wastelands to rescue someone new, with only minor complications, as we know those mutants aren’t about to turn into sinister super geniuses any time soon.

And that would get old in a hurry.

In fact, the only really notable thing about this is that the voice of the animated Batman, Kevin Conroy, plays the hero.

Island City ran as a TV movie for a while and has mostly been forgotten.  Which is about what it deserves.  It isn’t a lost classic, or a great lost opportunity, just another TV movie, made long after that golden age of TV movies in the Seventies.

It is running around for free on Youtube, which admittedly is the right price for this thing.  It isn’t too terrible, it just fails to rise to the occasion.

Although it would have been a lot better as a half-hour marionette show.

Kevin Conroy could even have done the hero’s voice.

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