Cinema masochists can experience more Cirio H. Santiago in HD with Kino Lorber's Blu-ray of STRYKER.
Comparing poorly with the Italian "water war" post-nuke EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000, STRYKER offers very little to enjoy for all but the most ardent Santiago devotees. The story is incomprehensible for the first thirty minutes of its eighty minute running time (even with a black and white flashback), the ROAD WARRIOR borrowings are already tired, a band of Jawa-like dwarves is anything but comic relief, and the dubbing of almost the entire cast makes the performances seem even worse than they are. The last nuclear war has left the Earth an arid wasteland where water is scarce, and those who hoard it have the power. As his supplies begin to dry up, warloard Kardis (Mike Lane, THE NEW CENTURIANS) cuts his men's meagre rations in half and stops them entirely for the unproductive sick and wounded. When his men catch Delha (Andrea Savio, DEATH SCREAMS) crossing the desert with a supply of water, their attempt to abduct her is foiled by the separate actions of drifters Bandit (William Ostrander, CHRISTINE) and Stryker (Steve Sandor, BONNIE'S KIDS). They take her to the camp of Stryker's brother Trun (Ken Metcalfe, THE THIRSTY DEAD) and she reveals that she is the daughter of Trun's old friend Beet who reneged on their agreement that whoever finds a spring will share it with the other. A band of female warriors from Beet's camp – lead by Cerce (Monique St. Pierre, MOTEL HELL) – try to prevent Delha from sharing the spring's location but Beet realizes that they will need Trun's and Stryker's help now that Kardis knows they have a water source.
One of the last New World releases before Corman sold the company in 1984, STRYKER was released on tape by Embassy Home Entertainment (Avco president Bob Rehme returned to New World that year as its CEO) and was one of the few Corman titles that went to the new New World and remained with it when the library was acquired by Lakeshore who licensed it to Kino Lorber for their current 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray that does what it can with the rough-hewn and sometimes sloppy photography as well as the post-production handling (on the commentary track, filmmaker Jim Wynorski recalls that the Filipino negative cutters often handled the film with bare hands and allowed dirt to embed itself in the emulsion). The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track does sufficiently well with a dubbed dialogue track, unexceptional sound effects, and an uninvolving score credited to Ed Gatchalian but featuring the work of Susan Justin (THE FINAL TERROR), wife of Corman filmmaker Allan Holzman (FORBIDDEN WORLD). Optional English SDH subtitles are a welcome addition.
The film is accompanied by an audio commentary by Wynorski that has some rare interesting tidbits related to the film with little help from his moderators (post-nuke historian Damon Packard contacted Wynorski about doing the track because Code Red's Bill Olsen told him that Wynorski replaced Santiago on the film when he actually replaced Santiago on Corman's remake WATER WARS). Wynorski was on the set for STYRKER after having cast Santiago's CAGED FURY and getting the okay from Corman to take a vacation in Manila to work with Santiago. He gives an overview of Filipino filmmaking and the practice of hiring at least one Playmate among the female cast. Of WATER WARS, he recalls replacing Santiago, getting to shoot six days out of the scheduled thirty because of a monsoon and shifty British producers (the finished film is unreleased stateside but reportedly incorporates stock footage from STRYKER), and that Michael Madsen agreed to appear in the film because of Quentin Tarentino's admiration of Santiago's works. The moderators offer up information gleaned from their other interviews and commentaries to support Wynorski's observations of the state of Filipino exploitation filmmaking – Olsen may or may not be joking when he mentions that Santiago-regular Metcalfe's wife worked in travel and offered a discount when he was hired – but it is not a particularly compelling or well-prepared track. The film's theatrical trailer (2:03) is included along with trailers for other titles. (Eric Cotenas)
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