Wheels of Fire (Review)

Wheels of Fire


1985
Starring
Gary Watkins as Trace
Laura Banks as Stinger
Lynda Wiesmeier as Arlie
Linda Grovenor as Spike
Joseph Anderson as Scourge
Jack S. Daniels as Scag
Directed by Cirio H. Santiago

Mad Max and it’s sequels were a big influence on post-apocalyptic action films. They spawned a long string of imitators, mostly created from low-budget film grinding countries like Italy and the Philippines. Hey, amazingly enough, this very film is a knock-off of Mad Max, and it was made in the Philippines! It’s almost as if I prepared the opening sentences for some sort of reason… Not only is this film a low budget rip-off that is nowhere near as good as the film it is aping, the film has a bonus feature not found in the Mad Max series: It hates women. Brutally. This movie takes women and knocks them around like they were Nazis or something. There is more misogyny in this movie than tea in China. More misogyny than bad films made in the Philippines. Hey, directed by Cirio H. Santiago of The Destroyers and T.N.T. Jackson fame, so it’s got to be….just as sub-par.

It’s the future, all cities are destroyed, and everyone drives around in the desert. What country is this? Maybe it’s Australia, which explained the deserts in Mad Max, but everyone is American, except for the non-main characters, who are all Filipino. So not only did all the cities die off, but the world has become a desert wasteland. This would lead one to wonder where food is coming from, except one is instead distracted from wondering where they get all the gasoline they use for their massive fleets of automobiles. Our hero is a man named Trace, the manliest name in the universe. Mad Trace. I can see it! Wait…I just lost it. Trace doesn’t have the screen presence of Mel Gibson, or even Gary Coleman. Mad Max had the Last of the V-8 Interceptors, while Trace has a late ’70s four-door with some painted plywood on the bumper and a fake Batmobile-style rocket engine on the end.




Trace arrives at the local swap meet, where you can use the barter system to pick up some rusted junk. Trace runs into her sister Arlie and her useless boyfriend Bo. Bo is headed to the Arena to fight some random guy for the keys to their car. Two men enter, one man leaves. We’ll just add all the Mad Max movies together, even the one that came out the same year this movie was made. Bo gets beat down, as the random guy he was fighting is switched with a ringer. The audience of the Arena is a hodgepodge of B-Movie extras, Wheels of Fire must take place in a nexus location where B-movie realities converge. There are shirtless punks, shirtless punks with leather vests, guys wearing headscarves, people who look very much like pirates, and some ninjas in the cheap sheets. Flags fly over the Arena, including the Jolly Roger (with horns on the skull), which is the flag of the evil Scourge’s gang. Trace steps in and starts smacking around the ringer, beating him and snatching his car key. The ringer’s gang chases him, and he and Arlie flee in their respective cars, Bo riding shotgun with Arlie. Trace uses his special driving ability to cause the gang to keep falling over cliffs that are strategically placed at hairpin turns. 2/3rds of the cars explode instantly when crashed.

The safety from the gang doesn’t last, as Scourge’s gang is approaching, with their Jolly Roger flag flying in the breeze. Trace decides that he and Arlie will split up, and he’ll run distraction. He doesn’t do a very good job at all, as the gang notices there are two cars instantaneously. One group of the gang is led by a guy named Scag, played by the actor who played Ox in The Destroyers, and they head for Arlie, while group two is lead by a completely uninteresting man named Robot and heads for Trace. some of the gang members are dressed as ninjas, driving motorcycles. The gang also has some Sunni Muslims and some guy driving a cow-painted car. The group lead by Robot heads forward, just to be fried to a crisp by a flamethrower wielded by Trace. If they can’t stand the heat, get out of the post-apocalyptic future! I wish the movie would get out. Or turn off. Because in the governmentless future, there is plenty of flamethrower fuel. Robot does nothing but send his men to die, while not doing any work himself. No punishment will be dealt to him for his failure.

Arlie isn’t so lucky, instead of getting a flamethrower, she’s getting hot and heavy with her boyfriend on the ground. Surrounded by Scag and his gang, the movie now turns the misogyny on Maximum Overdrive! Arlie gets her shirt ripped off and tossed around by the gang, while Scag gets ready to rape her (and we see his nasty Ox-butt….EEEEWWWW!) but he’s stopped by Scourge, who wants her for himself first. As that is not humiliating enough, they tie Arlie to the roof of Scourge’s car, still topless, and drive her back to the hideout through the desert. Bo asks to join the gang, what a winner. So he gets the initiation. Anal Gang Rape Initiation. Scourges Gang must be an offshoot of a College Fraternity. Trace arrives just in time for the anal rape, oddly enough. I wonder… Anyway, He kills all the gang members by machine gun as they were kind enough to line up for him. Trace demands information onto the whereabouts of Arlie from Bo, then shoots him when he finds out. An Eagle calls out…

Yes, an eagle. The eagle brings Trace’s attention to a lone woman warrior being attacked by more random gang members. These gang rejects drive bikes and go-carts, but aren’t bullet proof, as they find out when Trace machine guns them. The girl’s car is destroyed in the fracas, and she is the owner of the Eagle. Isn’t there another movie set in the post-apocalyptic future where someone has a pet bird? Her name is Stinger, a perfectly proper name for a girl. Trace is all about letting Stinger rot in the middle of the desert with no ride out, except he likes her eagle. More good treatment of women that this film is known far and wide for! They completely ignore all the bad guys, and don’t get any supplies from them, even though they are armed and would have bullets, and clean water, and gas in their still functioning machines, which could be stripped for useful parts…this is bad future planning. Trace doesn’t feel like talking to Stinger, thus they don’t have to invent any back story for either of them, or personalities.

On the highway (still maintained after the apocalypse!) Grandpa is driving at full speed running from a gang, while a kid in the backseat says “They’re still coming!” The kid is named Spike, and is a girl, despite it not being clear during this segment. The future continues the trend of having girls with masculine names, part of the movie’s hatred for their sex. The movie hates old people even more, as Grandpa is killed while Spike runs off and hides. Grandpa is killed by Robot’s Samurai Sword. That’s just…just…I…ugh. Trace and Stinger have stopped for the night, and she wanders off and finds the ruins of Grandpa’s car, dead Grandpa, and is then grabbed by a hand from under the desert sand.

MORLOCKS??????

Freaking Morlocks living underground with white skin and wild hair. They capture Stinger and put her in a cage with Spike, who is a mind reader. Freaking Morlocks!?!? They call them “Sandmen” making me wonder if they were ripping off The Time Machine or Star Wars.

Back in Scourge’s camp, Arlie is getting the beginning of a whole trainload of rape, starting with Mr. Scourge. She’s still topless as well. I looked her up, she’s a Playboy Playmate, so she’s used to lounging around without any clothes and having an old guy hit on her. In the desert, the Eagle alerts Trace to something being wrong again. Women can’t seem to stay out of trouble, can they, movie? Trace finds the Morlock lair just as they are getting ready to eat the girls, and he saves the day as the Morlocks shriek, most of them don’t get killed, so they’ll be eating more and more people soon enough. Because a lone road in the middle of the desert if full of people walking by just waiting to get their ankles grabbed.

CONVOY!

Cause we gotta mighty convoy, rockin’ through the night
Yeah we gotta mighty convoy, ain’t she a beautiful sight?
Come on an’ join our convoy, ain’t nothin’ gonna git in our way
We’re gonna roll this truckin’ convoy, cross the Post Apocalyptic Wasteland!
Convoy… Convoy…

A convoy that also has a grunting midget dressed in a Civil War costume (Union side), and containing an armored taxi, as well as a giant fuel tanker, just like another movie. The convoy is attacked by Scag and the gang. Soon, Trace finds the burnt out wreckage, and finds the midget. Great, another useless member of his group. The convoy was from the Ownership Army, the biggest power in the wasteland today. CAVEMAN ATTACK!!! Caveman from the desert. Even desert cavemen aren’t immune to flamethrowers. Trace once again doesn’t bother to kill all of them, leaving them free to kill again. Maybe they’ll run into the Morlocks. Oh, while all this is going on, Arlie is still being raped, this time by Scag and his men.

Trace decides to take the Midget to where the convoy was going, as he doesn’t mind his sister being passed around like a joint at a college party, so it seems. The destination is a town full of crazy cultists. Here, the head nutjob is building a rocketship to fly everyone to another planet, called Paradise, which is only 10 million miles away. Yeah. Crazy. The rocketship looks like those fake plywood rocketship-shaped playgrounds you sometimes find in city parks. The cult is called the “True Believers” not only for their cult views, but because the head cultist thinks he’s Stan Lee. Spike reads the cultists’ minds and says they are all good people. I guess being psychic doesn’t mean you can tell when people are stupid. Scourge is also getting ready to attack the True Believers, and Arlie is still getting raped. Trace gets ready to leave, and is dumping all the women with the cultists as well. Stinger yells at him, and fight some more, then start getting it on, post-apocalyptic style! It’s fancy, with their images projected on the sunset, which is nice and all except…YOUR SISTER IS STILL GETTING RAPED!!!

Trace leaves everyone behind, then drives off. The gang attacks with shells! Yep, they must have a factory that makes shells somewhere that allows them to waste them on a raid. Lots of barrels explode randomly all over the place, and the rocket explodes as well. Trace notices the smoke and returns just in time to see it all over. Spike hide with the midget, while Stinger joined a few visiting members of the Ownership Army in shooting back at the attackers. Trace finds a necklace of his sister on one of the dead invaders, and suddenly remembers he has a sister, who’s being raped.

Trace wanders into the fortress of the Scourge Army, by himself, and bumps into his sister. They both get caught a few seconds later, so he failed again to protect her. Trace is tied up, a goon proclaims “Let’s peel his skin off. I always like it when we’re peeling skin off. We haven’t done that for a while!” Oh, those wacky gang torturers! The Ownership Army is ticked off, and is sending the entire Ownership Army to kill them. Scourge yells at Trace for a while, as they have some sort of history together that’s not gone into much, since they we’re doing the no back story thing earlier. Meanwhile, Arlie is back in the rape chambers, but instead grabs a knife and stabs a guy in the balls, escaping. Her and Trace escape when the Scourge Army is distracted setting up their defense.


The Ownership Army swarms in….GOOD LORD! Look at all those extras! They must have an entire army division doing extra work! Scourges Army has mined the entrance, and they scum are sitting around ready to blow the charges. Trace goes to stop them, and Arlie wanders near the the detonator as well, but she gets shot repeatedly. Unable to be killed instantly, she crawls forward and sets off the explosives prematurely, so they don’t destroy the Ownership Army. But she’s dead, Trace has failed again! At least she won’t be raped anymore. The movie teaches us that women who are rebellious like her deserve to get raped all day and then shot up. Also, you shouldn’t bother to rescue them pretty fast, because they just die.

The Ownership Army fires artillery, and Scourge’s men scatter back to the base. The Ownership Army charges, including Spike, Stinger, and the Grunting Midget still in Civil War uniform. Scourge takes off in his car, and Trace follows in his, which was conveniently parked nearby. As the army marches upon the base, Spike suddenly is turned into Beatrice Kiddo, and starts slicing up Scourge’s Goon’s left and right with her knife. That was completely out of her established character. Stinger takes on Scag, and shoots him repeatedly, but he charges her with his sword, and they fall together off the side of a building with his sword in her gut, and him dead. The final fight with Scourge involves sped up footage, and Trace setting his car up to drive off a cliff as he gets out. The car surges forward off the cliff and lands on top of Scourge’s car. It killed Scourge because the terrible crash standards in automobiles after the apocalypse, causing the driver frame to crumble. In addition, Scourge deserved to die for just parking at the bottom of a cliff during a car chase.

Stinger dies as well, Scourge’s Army is defeated, and after some words with Spike, Trace drives off into the desert. The end. How depressing. Not the ending, the movie. It looks like the movie remembered right at the end all the strong female characters were killed for their strongness, and suddenly decided that Spike would become Supergirl as to try to cover the rest of the lesson. It’s as much a failure as the movie is a failure as a Mad Max film. Max would beat the living tar out of Trace. Heck, the Gyrocaptain would beat the tar out of Trace. The Midget half of Master-Blaster would beat the tar out of Trace. The V-8 Interceptor would beat the tar out of the Crapmobile Trace drives. Basically, this movie has a target sign painted on it’s back, and late night at video stores across the nation, tapes of Wheels of Fire were mysteriously destroyed, while the Mad Max films were suddenly found on more prominent shelves.

Rated 2/10 (Cow Car, Jolly Roger!)


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Written by Tars Tarkas

Tars Tarkas

Runs this joint!