2103 - The Deadly Wake (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

If you don't quite understand the word "cheesy," I think you will find this film to be an excellent learning tool.

This is a really bad movie, but I never fast-forwarded through it, and I found myself smiling a lot, not because it was funny, but because I admired the fact that they were attempting to create a "Blade Runner" world with no budget at all. It looks cheesy as hell - laugh out loud silly - but you can't help but think to yourself "if I had no money and wanted to make a SF film on my camcorder, how would I do it?" Some of their solutions are creative. 

First of all, the entire film, or about 90% of it anyway, takes place on a ship at sea. It is a cargo ship designed to be manned by insane convicts, so there aren't any portholes or any windows to be seen inside or out. Therefore, when they show the outside of the ship, they simply show a rectangular block being photographed in a bathtub or something. When they show the inside of the ship, it is obviously the inside of an old warehouse somewhere. In order to give the entire film an other-worldly atmosphere, most of the shots are composed through a hot-orange filter, making it look like a future without blue skies and bathed in some kind of dark and golden-colored industrial pollution. Again, it's Blade Runner without the budget.

Laughably, they had no concept of how to create a 22nd century feel inside of this "ship", so they took the imaginative stance that maritime activity in the future will deliberately preserve the traditions of the distant past. Therefore, the captain walks around smoking a corn-cob pipe and wearing a Captain Bligh coat, and since the role is played by the white-haired Malcolm McDowell, the costume makes him look like a cross between Popeye and Frosty the Sea-Going Snowman

The steering of the ship is done with a gigantic round wagon wheel, manipulated by human hands, as if the giant cargo ship were some kind of windjammer adventure cruise. At one point, somebody lets go of this wheel for a second in the open sea, and the captain lunges for it, as if the slightest unattended moment might run the ship into a ditch on a stray continent. They basically attend to it as closely as you'd attend the steering wheel of your Porsche if you were driving 220 kph on the autobahn. Apparently those sea lanes will be quite narrow in the future.

With all the deliberate anachronisms honoring naval tradition, the crew resembled a road-show cast for H.M.S. Pinafore. They even had a professional ballet dancer play the part of a perfect killing android,  and McDowell waltzed while his ship burned, so that was plenty of dancing for any company of Pinafore. I was somewhat disappointed to see no peg-legs or eyepatches. Not even one blinkin' parrot, mateys. Aarrggggh!

Not even the Norwegian Blue. (Beautiful Plumage) 


a breast-peek is provided by McDowell's co-star from Generations, Gwynyth Walsh (B'Etor)

The shots which are not at sea take place in a corporate headquarters. This company, which also owns the ocean-going ship, is so large that the United Nations is considering its application for nationhood. To avoid complicated allegiance to another country, it has its "capital" on something which looks like a giant offshore drilling rig, somewhere in international waters. The concept was actually pretty good, although the execution had to be done with painted sets and cheap miniatures. To imagine the level of realism, think about what it would look like if you photographed some of your wife's little alpine building figurines and some of your kids' toy cars, in order to create the exterior shots for a Swiss village.

One actual quote from the credits says it all: "Sets constructed by: Handmade Sets". That's the same company that makes those serapes they sell in all Mexican tourist towns.

The mighty sailin' ship also has something called a fetal-neural intelligence system, which basically means that one of the officers jacked in his mind to the mind of a fetus which was artificially farmed and permanently maintained in some kind of embryonic fluid. I'm not really sure why you would want to take advice from a creature that says stuff like "baby hot now," but they seemed to think it was a source of wisdom tantamount to attaching the oracle at Delphi to an omnipotent super computer.

To tell you the truth, their concepts weren't that bad, and I admired the creative solutions they contrived in order to create a futuristic look while covering up the lack of a budget. But it sure got old fast. How many shots can you take of an old warehouse shot through an orange filter, with the camera tilted slightly off-kilter in most shots, or sometimes moved slightly to create that nautical rocking feel? Those shots are usually followed by the exterior shots of the block of wood in the bathtub, also shot with colored filters, with the color depending on whether it is supposed to be day or night. When you get tired of these, there are always the extreme facial close ups of people talking on communicators, and the shots of sunsets over the ocean, again with the orange filter. Then the painted "corporate headquarters" exteriors, followed by the talk going on in the headquarters, the sets for which look suspiciously like the sets on the boat.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think this miniature was created by Industrial Light and Magic

DVD info from Amazon.

  • no widescreen 

  • no meaningful features

I was surprised to see that Malcolm McDowell is only 58. He looks about 10 years older. How did his career fall so far that he has to make these things? McDowell has finally reached the moment dreaded by every former a-list actor "Starring Malcolm McDowell, co-starring Michael Paré"

In the past three years I've seen McD in three other films as bad as this one, or worse: Garden of Evil (3.0 at IMDb - another low-budget cheese-fest, but kinda fun), Island of the Dead (a contender for the worst film I've ever seen - rated 2.3 at IMDb, and every bit that bad!), and The First 9 1/2 Weeks (4.0 at IMDb). And let's not forget Mr. Magoo, which I haven't seen, but which is rated 3.2 at IMDb!. In other words, "2103 - the Deadly Wake" is one of his better recent efforts! 

The Critics Vote

  • no major reviews

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 3.3 
  • With their dollars ... straight to video. In fact, straight to bargain-bin at the video store.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D. It is bad, but is strangely fascinating, and I enjoyed it in a perverse way.

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