THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR. Warner Brothers, 1975. Yul Brynner, Max von Sydow, Joanna Miles, William Smith, Richard Kelton, Stephen McHattie. Screenwriter and director: Robert Clouse.

   As much as I wanted to like this 1970s science fiction movie, I have to admit that The Ultimate Warrior was an ultimate letdown. Directed by Robert Clouse, the film opens with significant promise. The year is 2012 and New York City has been decimated by a plague/nuclear holocaust (it’s never revealed what actually happened). Yet, the Twin Towers are still standing, looming large above a city ravaged by death and hopelessness. It’s even creepier, since we know from the vantage point of 2016 that New York City is thriving, but the Towers are gone.

   As it turns out, there’s a commune somewhere in midtown Manhattan led by an erudite man known simply as the Baron (Max von Sydow). He and his followers are carving out an existence for themselves in the midst of chaos and decay. Their immediate threat, however, is a gang of violent street people led by a man simply known as Carrot (William Smith). Why does Carrot hate Baron’s people so much? Is he an evil man or just a rival? Unfortunately, we never learn much about him other than that he’s a bad dude.

   And if there’s a bad dude, there needs to be a good dude to counter him. In this film, Yul Brynner’s character fulfills that role. Carson is a fighter who sells his skills to the highest bidder and eventually takes up employ in Baron’s commune. Soon, he’s tasked with not only protecting the inhabitants, but also with guiding Baron’s pregnant daughter to a protected haven off the coast of North Carolina.

   Sounds like an interesting premise, right?

   Unfortunately, the movie never develops the characters to any great extent. They are more or less the same people the moment they appear on the screen as when they leave. And without any substantial changes in their personalities, wants, or desires, they end up one-dimensional caricatures. Baron = the erudite scientist. Carrot = the bad guy. Carson = the good guy. Just because stuff happens in the movie does not mean that there’s actually much of a story.

   Despite these harsh criticisms, I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t mention how effective the movie’s soundtrack is. Indeed, the score by Gil Mellé is so thoroughly captivating that it’s a real shame that the movie wasn’t such a missed opportunity.