Ravagers (1979)

There sure were a lot of post-Apocalyptic films in the Seventies!

I really wouldn’t even want to guess how many. We tend to think of the genre as starting with Mad Max and The Road Warrior, but it goes the whole way back to the silent era, and they were pretty heavy on the ground at the time Max first climbed behind the Police Interceptor’s wheel.

A terrible nuclear war has left the Earth apparently sterile, with the last few human beings eking out a meager existence by scavenging among the scraps. Some people (“Flockers”) have banded together for safety, while others, the Ravagers, roam around in gangs murdering and pillaging.

Falk (Richard Harris) and his wife don’t belong to either group: they’re trying to survive on their own and so far have stayed ahead of the Ravagers.

Only the Ravagers catch up with the two and kill the wife. Harris kills one of them in revenge, then heads out aimlessly away from the city. Only he can’t forget his wife’s talk about a place called Genesis, a clean and fertile place where mankind might start again.

And he gets very frustrated when a few of those he encounters decide to follow him because they think he knows where Genesis is.

I have to admit I quite like this one. Yes, there were better post-Apocalyptic films, but Ravagers looks quite good, with Richard Harris traveling through one beautiful landscape after another (and a blasted and ruined city borrowed from Beneath the Planet of the Apes). Perhaps the most memorable is a visit to an abandoned Military base, which was actually a Rocket museum down in Alabama.

The various survivors Falk encounters are all interesting, and the film boasts a solid cast, with Art Carney and Ernest Borgnine in leading roles, and familiar TV heavy Anthony James as the revenge-obsessed leader of the Ravagers. While Richard Harris’ performance is generally good, I’m not quite sure what I think of it: Falk suffers a lot but somehow manages to endure, like a lot of the characters Richard has played. However, with his scarf pulled over his face most of the time and his slightly hunched posture, Falk always seems to be cringing just a little, as if he’s afraid that something bad will happen to him. This, obviously, is a valid interpretation of the character, except that he supposedly keeps inspiring other people to follow him. It’s a bit of a contradiction and it is the weakest part of Ravagers.

Although the idea that even in such a broken and seemingly dying world there is still hope is the strongest part. That is what Falk really represents, and Richard Harris does a superb job of portraying his gradual transformation over the course of his journey.

As I said, I liked this one. It’s not a great classic, it isn’t perfect by any means, and it has its share of flaws. But it is a beautiful film, well made, suspenseful, with a touch of humor or two.  It’s even moderately hopeful, even if the ending is still very open.

What more could you ask for from a Seventies post-Apocalyptic film?

Other than a planet full of intelligent apes, that is.

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