Monstervision Host Segments for
The Ultimate Warrior (2012)
Sometimes you wake up at night terrified that our society will crumble in the wake of a plague that's destroyed our food supply, leaving helpless bands of kind-hearted people dependant on a bare-chested Yul Brynner to knife-fight threatening bad guys. We all have such sleepless nights. But guess what? You can work through such irrational fears by watching The Ultimate Warrior, which is about plagues, Yul and fightin' with edged weapons. Oh, we should mention that tomatoes play a key plot role. The world's first action film for gardeners?
Well, Professor J.B. Briggs asked us to investigate this phenomenon more closely and since his checks don't bounce we were happy to do so. Our research has determined that The Ultimate Warrior illustrates many key elements representative of the cinematic art form. To wit, a setting (2019 AD in NYC), a theme (the tenacity of life) and even a conflict (man against man). And it has Yul Brynner. Yes, we do realize our critical ponderings will never grace the halls of Harvard or Oxford but what do you expect with the Mail Girl delivering our film journals? We're also distracted by The Ultimate Warrior's spectacle of an ecological disaster of some kind (a bit unspecified, but there's no gasoline for one thing, almost no food for another). This has wiped out most of humanity and NYC residents as well, leaving the survivors to form little groups to roam the nearly deserted cities while piecing together a meager living. The Ultimate Warrior opens with the most riveting pigeon-capture scene ever filmed and journeys from that luminous spark. OK, we'll admit it's not a slam-bang Mad Max sort of post-apocalyptic action film, indeed at times it's almost a meditation on the nature of, oh, something really important, but Prof. Briggs insists that it's OK to think once in a while.
But don't abandon all hope because The Ultimate Warrior was directed by none other than Robert Clouse, the almost-genius who crafted such mini-masterpieces as Enter the Dragon and The Big Brawl. We have to admit, however, that even though we first see Mr. Brynner bare-chested, he's not quite Bruce Lee. As super-def critic David Thomson puts it, Brynner was "the only bald, ex-trapeze artist, philosophy graduate of the Sorbonne to star in films." Hey, are you gonna miss that? Especially since, Brynner made The Ultimate Warrior during downtime between Westworld movies.
The leader of the good commune (the movie basically has two communes: good and bad; we're too caffeinated to figure out why) is played by Max Von Sydow, who we presume learned about morality from starring in all those Bergman flicks like The Seventh Seal and The Virgin Spring. That or from the Exorcist films. (The Ultimate Warrior was two years after the first but two years before the second). Real exploitation buffs might get a kick out of seeing William Smith (as Carrot, the bad boy gang leader) who graced such cult faves as Grave of the Vampire, Invasion of the Bee Girls and Angels Die Hard. Hey, sometimes Bergman films just don't get ya through the night.
Professor Briggs has been getting his beauty rest ever since that MonsterVision mainframe computer got installed under the double-wide. It should be spitting out the drive-in totals about now:
"THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR" Intro
And speaking of tough crowds, "The Ultimate Warrior" takes place in New York City, 2012 A.D., where the Plague has somehow eaten up the pavement, and people kill each other for a string bean. Yul Brynner plays the bald and beefy warrior Carson, who Max von Sydow hires to help defend his vegetable garden, and to walk his knocked-up daughter through the subway tunnels to North Carolina. Of COURSE.
"It's the end of the world--where do you wanna go?"
"North Carolina, of course. Don't try to put me in South Carolina."
Let's do the drive-in totals and get it going. We have:
26 dead bodies.
Rock to the head.
Scissors to the throat.
Death by plummeting.
Death by heavy thing.
Sawblade to the head.
I give it two and a half stars. Check it out, and we'll be here for the whole apocalyptic experience.
[fading] We did it in Paris. Right? We marched in and said, "Get the hell out," and the Parisians cheered. But in this case, even if someday we take these people back to their smoldering ruins that used to be Grandma's house, they're gonna say, "What's WRONG with you people? Not very BRAVE, are you?" That's just my opinion. Okay, shoot me.
"THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR" Commercial Break #1
So Yul Brynner kills five guys because . . . he likes cigars. This movie was WAY ahead of its time, wasn't it? Why is it I can't smoke my cigars on the show? Tell me that one more time. Oh, right, because 14-year-olds might think I was an underage smoker. Anyway, Yul's looking very "King and I," isn't he? What does everybody remember about Yul Brynner? The bald head and "The King and I," right? On Broadway he did 947,000 performances of "The King and I," a record that still stands today. Oh, did one of the cats in "Cats" break it? What else do we know about Yul? Maybe "Westworld," where he played the cowboy robot that goes haywire and starts killing everybody. I think people today think of him as sort of a limited-range kinda guy, but you'd be surprised at the variety of things he did. Like he and his first wife, the actress Virginia Gilmore, co-hosted the FIRST TV talk show, called "Mr. and Mrs." Can you imagine Yul Brynner hosting a talk show? Not exactly the WARMEST guy I can think of. Then in 1950, he produced a children's puppet show on CBS called "Life with Snarky Parker." Then Mary Martin recommended him for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I," where he became an instant sensation, and in 56 he did the movie version and won Best Actor for it, and it became his big claim to fame. And he kinda cashed in on that for the rest of his life. And nobody knew much more about him, except all these lies he made up about himself to confuse the public. He used to say he was a half-Swiss, half-Japanese named Taidje Khan. But then after he died, his son wrote a biography on him and told the truth. Turned out he was actually Swiss, Mongolian, and Russian. He was born in Russia, lived in China briefly, and then moved to Paris at the age of 14. In Paris he played guitar for gypsy musicians, and he was a trapeze artist for this famous French circus, the Cirque D'Hiver [dee-VAY]. So tell me the guy has a narrow range NOW. He died of lung cancer in 85, and I vaguely remember an intense anti-smoking commercial he made that they didn't air till AFTER he died. Pretty creepy. Okay, let's go back to Yul Brynner, "The Ultimate Warrior."
[fading] It was probly all those cigars he got from Max von Sydow. That was SOME foreshadowing, huh? Cigars are baaaaaaaaad. Until the show is over.
"THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR" Commercial Break #2
You know what's sad about this movie? It was banned in Sweden. Too intense for Swedes. Here they had the number one Swedish actor in the world, Max von Sydow, and his own country banned the flick. There's no justice. We got quite an international cast here. A Swiss-Mongolian-Russian, a Swede, and Joanna Miles, who plays Melinda, who was born in France. But she's not really a French actress. If she was a French actress, she'd be more pouty. French actresses are all pouty. Pouty and moody. They frown a lot. They scream a lot. Makes you wanna have sex with em, you know? Have you ever noticed that, in French movies, the women never wear French lingerie? They wear . . . no lingerie at all. Is that some kinda trick? They only make that stuff for tourists. Okay, back to the flick.
[fading] So I guess there were some kinda plagues that wiped everybody out. How did the New York streets turn to dirt, though? Did they explain that? Did they run out of asphalt at the Burbank Studios? Maybe there's a scene missing. "Baron, I think I can turn this asphalt into a food source." No underwear--pretty much standard in France.
"THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR" Commercial Break #3
The great William Smith as Carrot. When you need tough-guy sleaze, Bill is your man. Bill Smith is still acting, isn't he? I haven't seen him in a while. Last time we had him on "MonsterVision" was, I guess, "Hammer"--he has that great final all-out fight with Fred Williamson in the parking garage. Bill Smith has been in at least 150 movies, and guest-starred in practically that many TV shows. Everything from "The Mod Squad" and "Kung Fu" to "Fantasy Island" and "BJ and the Bear." He was even on "The Hollywood Squares." He's been in 80 movies in the last two decades alone. All the greats--"Hell Comes to Frogtown," Maniac Cop, "Invasion of the Bee Girls," "Manosaurus." He was in the best wrestling movie ever made, as the aging wrestler on the road--what was that movie? "Blood and Guts." He was Conan's father in Conan the Barbarian, which Max von Sydow was also in, as you may know. And if you watched Red Dawn when we showed it here a while ago with WarGames, you might recognize him as the evil Russian colonel. This is a real treat. We're in the presence of greatness. William Smith. Okay, let's go.
[fading] He's one of those actors that you have to think would have been more famous if he'd changed his name. Bill Smith. William Smith. Billy Smith. Not much you can do with that. He basically had a parallel career to Lance Henriksen, but Lance had a much cooler name. Billy Don Smith--that would have worked.
"THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR" Commercial Break #4
Cal is one dead garden vegetable, isn't he? If the whole secret to preserving civilization is Cal's tomatoes, then why don't they ALL get the hell out and go to North Carolina? What's the point of living in a city with no open land, and people crawling the streets who'll slit your throat with a pair of scissors for your CLOTHES? Actually, I guess that's what New York is like today. But these people don't have any of the BENEFITS of living in New York--the theater, the restaurants, the topless karaoke bars. I don't really get it. Of course, they DO have theater. They could always just ask Yul Brynner to sing medley from "The King and I." But I'm not gonna dwell on it, cause I have my New York City subway map here left over from "The Warriors," and where'd they say they were? 29th Street, right? All right, the New York Public Library is on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, and I thought that was supposed to be the building Yul Brynner was standing out in front of, flexing his muscles. What do you think, guys? Can you see the New York Public Library from 29th Street? I guess, after a few nuclear explosions, maybe you CAN. But they say they're going down into the subway tunnels, and there's no 29th Street subway. Twenty-EIGHTH Street, over here on the west side--maybe it's some kinda New Jersey Transit thing. They got all those tunnels that only people from Jersey use. All right, I won't dwell on that. Back to the movie.
[fading] Do you guys know what the names of those lions are, out in front of the New York Public Library? Prudence, and . . . the other one starts with a "P," too. Prudence and . . . Pamela. No. Paulina. No. Prudence and Ponderosa. What's the name of the other lion? Pocahontas. Damn.
"THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR" Commercial Break #5
That was my favorite William Smith scene back there, where he makes love to the tomato. "Mm . . . that farmer had an answer." He's like the beatnik of the apocalypse. Who was that babe in the window, though, wearing the black lace babydoll nightie? Let's have more of HER. Yowza. They may not have vegetables in 2012, but it looks like they got no shortage of Victoria's Secret. Did Max Von Sydow tell Yul Brynner that, if he got into trouble, just DITCH his pregnant daughter and save those seeds? You can't say that in a movie! Even if it's true. Even if Max Von Sydow is doing the right thing, trying to save civilization, you can't ditch the pregnant broad and let William Smith's goons molest her and club her to death. See, that's why this movie never did quite catch on. It's one BLEAK mother of a story, isn't it?
[fading] Oh, let's check the map, see where they are. Okay, there are no subway stations on 29th Street, so let's assume they entered at 28th Street. That means they're either on the 1, the 2, the 3, the 9, the N, the R, or the 4, 5 or 6. Well, maybe I can narrow it down more later.
"THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR" Outro
[surveying map] They're in Bloomingdale's, right? They're going the wrong way! They're headed for North Carolina, right? Holland Tunnel! What are they doing up here in Donald Trump Land? All right, this is where the movie starts to get a little slow for me. Too much wandering around tunnels with torches, not enough hanging guys up on coat hooks by their shoulder blades. I call this the cat-and-mouse part. Guy runs down a corridor, hides behind a pole. Looks out. Bad guy snaps his head around, pulls out his gun. Trash-can lid falls on the floor. Guy starts climbing a catwalk. There's always a catwalk. Usually a boiler room AND a catwalk. Cat-and-mouse can go on for, like, ten minutes. [head gestures] Anyhow, I don't really wanna hold up the fight scenes we got comin up. This is it, the grand finale of "The Ultimate Warrior."
[fading] That Melinda is pretty skinny for a pregnant gal, isn't she?
She's one of those NEW YORK pregnant women, the ones who look like they could pop any day, but they're still orderin salads and doin two hours a day on the treadmill. They got the nannies hired and hooked up to a beeper so they can hand the kid over as soon as the umbilical cord is cut, and lose the 7.4 pounds they put on. They're not like Texas women. Texas women put on 40 or 50 pounds, and then say they might as well not lose the weight YET, why do it now when they're just gonna have eight MORE of the little yard monsters? "She just never was able to REDUCE after that second baby, was she? Poor thing. She looks like a Polled Hereford feedlot cow. She doesn't have time to do Thighmaster, does she? Mm mm mm."
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Host segment transcript of 4-24-99 broadcast
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