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The Mutants 

of 2051 A.D.

     "Fleshy-headed Mutant, is you friendly?"

-- Captain Bob McKenzie     

     "No way, eh. Radiation has made me the enemy of civilization."

-- Fleshy-Headed Mutant     

 

     

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Mutants of 2051 A.D.

 
 

In the far flung future of 2041, mounting tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union found the cold war turning hot, bringing the world to the brink of war for the fourth time. History shows that World War III, a non-nuclear affair, was a brief skirmish where the entire forces of NATO beat senseless the Totalitarian Regime of a small Caribbean Island, thus making the world safe for democracy. However, event though Communist sympathizers say the government wasted 250 billion dollars overrunning two farmers and a cow, the President insisted that it was two farmers, a cow, and several unruly chickens.

Thus, tensions were running high after this International Incident, and things escalated quickly from embargoes, to sanctions, to the full commitment of both super powers' nuclear arsenals. Some say the whole thing was almost prevented, but latent hostilities over the Yakoff Smirnoff defection was the straw that ultimately broke the Bolshevik's back.

There were also unsubstantiated rumors that the whole thing was an accident, caused by some punk hacking into NORADís defense systems. An anonymous source claims the instigator denied any culpability -- quoted: "I just wanted to play tic-tac-toe! I knew I shouldnít have played hooky from school. Itís all Cameronís fault!" end quote -- before he was summarily executed.

Our sci-fi opus begins ten years after the bombs weíre dropped. Fortunately, our protagonist, Bob (Robert McKenzie), was off planet while it was nearly destroyed, and there are still a few pockets of civilization remaining. And now that the radiation levels have died down, the first priority is to scour the countryside for provisions and find a more suitable spot for civilization to start over. But that's not as easy as it sounds. Base Alpha is near the mysterious Forbidden Zone, where it's rumored that survivors of the war roam the countryside, looting and pillaging. Mutated by the radiation from the bombs, their heads have become grotesquely fleshy, with huge sores and pustules protruding over their eyes.

Undaunted, our hero makes his way into this hostile territory and makes it as far as the ocean, where Bob finds himself longing for a simpler time before the war. Here, he waxes nostalgic for things like recreational facilities. (Bowling alleys, bars etc.) Now completely depressed, Bob, always the maverick, contemplates drowning his sorrows with some alcohol. But, he has to find some first. And while looking, he spots something in the rocks; a busted Statue of Liberty souvenir. So overcome by the fact that these brazenly materialistic things, and other, cheap souvenirs and collector plates -- just like his late wife used to horde, will never be again, he breaks down and cries.

After managing to pull himself together, Bob decides to chuck it all and confront the unknown, head on. Mounting his hi-tech hovercraft, he probes into the Forbidden Zone. Reaching sector 16-B (-- formally known as South Dakota), our hero detects something moving on his scanners and barely has time to land and dismount before he's surprised by a mutant (Douglass McKenzie)! Bob draws his trusty plasma gun but doesnít fire, because the mutant doesnít attack. Curious, he cautiously approaches the hideous thing and tries to make peace. He gives a friendly query only to be quickly rebuffed by this "genetic freak" who angrily states there can never be peace because of what mankind has done to him and the other mutants. He will always consider himself an enemy of civilization, and they will not rest until all of humanity is destroyed.

Disheartened, Bob retreats and informs Base Alpha of the hostile mutantís intentions. But while he radios in, the creature commandeers his hovercraft. Before it can escape, Bob fires off several rounds from his plasma gun; but, to his dismay, the creature appears to be immune to the blasts as the energy spheres just bounce harmlessly off the mutant's thick skull. And as our hero cranks up the power settings on his weapon, and the ghastly ghoul shouts epitaphs, with this hellish world destined to repeat its cycle of destruction yet again, the film reaches its startling climax. A climax so cunning, so visceral on a visual level that I'll just let it speak for itself:

The End

With all apologies to Monte Hellman, you have to give the McKenzie brothers a lot of credit. The co-writers, directors, producers of The Mutants of 2051 A.D. have a lot of balls to end their first film effort like that. Usually I donít buy into these nihilistic visions of the future, but this film was so powerful with its message of utter hopelessness, that it really couldnít have ended any other way.

There is a strong influence of Richard Mathesonís I Am Legend -- a tale of the last survivor on Earth fighting off vampire mutants. Itís been adapted to the screen, several times, most notably as a vehicles for Vincent Price, (The Last Man on Earth), Charlton Heston (The Omega Man) and Will Smith (I Am Legend). Here, the McKenzieís substitute a nuclear holocaust in for the plague as the root cause of Earthís downfall, but the novelís overtones of isolation and despair are still there. In fact, Bob's character makes several pop-culture references to himself, a prerequisite in films these days, it seems, that he is just like his counterpart, Charlton Heston, in The Omega Man.

There is also a nod to Star Trek as the survivor's ensemble resembles an old Star Fleet uniform. Apparently, Bob McKenzie is a big William Shatner fan and, according to several sources, disdains The Next Generation and considers it sacrilege. In fact, they tried to get William Shatner to play the mutant, but conflicts with the shooting schedule of T.J. Hooker could not be resolved, so Doug stepped our from behind the camera and took the role instead.

The stark and hellish cinematography brings to mind the minimalist work of Ingmar Burgman (Whispers of the Wolf) but the film's heaviest influence comes from Johnny LaRue (Polynesian Town, Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Stewardesses), an old cohort from the duo's days working on broadcast television. And a lot of folks complain and simply write the film off because the F/X arenít up to snuff. Feh. This little independent film couldnít afford ILM and had to make do with what they had. Aside from some opening credits (-- that look like someone made it with a piece of cardboard and a Sharpie), the F/X really arenít that bad. And whoís to say that after a nuclear holocaust that we wonít be modifying tape measures into communicators, and ping-pong guns into weapons of mass destruction?

I'm not trying to say that The Mutants of 2051 A.D. belongs in the same breadth as 2001: A Space Odyssey but it's a lot better than you've heard. Others who have seen it may disagree. To those I say watch it again -- preferably the letterboxed director's cut with the directorís commentary turned on, and then kindly reconsider your opinion.

The Mutants of 2051 A.D. (1983) Hoserama Productions Inc./ EP: Elron McKenzie / P: Doug McKenzie, Bob McKenzie / D: Doug McKenzie / W: Doug McKenzie, Bob McKenzie / C: Doug McKenzie / E: Doug McKenzie, Bob McKenzie / M: Bob McKenzie / S: Doug McKenzie, Bob McKenzie
Originally Posted: 04/01/00 :: Rehashed: 12/18/2010

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.

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