By the end of his film career, Yul Brynner was still a force to behold and The Ultimate Warrior was a movie perfectly suited to his talents. Here, Brynner plays the strong, silent type, something he would repeat later in Westworld and Futureworld. Brynner is a warrior for hire at the right price though nobody has been able to offer him anything to gain his services, that is at least until Baron played by Max von Sydow makes him an offer he cannot refuse. Brynner’s Carson is a formidable man, one who enters a battle fearlessly and dispatches his opponents with cold efficiency. Yet, the plight of Baron’s people, specifically his daughter Melinda, reaches through Carson’s tough exterior and knowing that things are not going to last very long for the group in this post-apocalyptic future, Carson escapes with her though not without a few battles along the way.
As far as post-apocalyptic movies go, this is not one of the better ones, simply average if you were to give it a label. That does not mean it was not entertaining, it just means that there are better ones out there with The Omega Man and Mad Max being but two examples. Brynner is his usual stoic, yet dynamic self and von Sydow is just as good as the affable leader of his band of men and women. There is no explanation given as to how the world came to the point we see it in, you must simply accept that the world has degenerated into chaos and now everyone battles everyone else for every scrap of food and drop of water. It is a bleak existence and though some try to make the best of it, the overall tone of the movie is one of hopelessness. That in itself is not a bad thing and it helps to drive home this vision of the future that our actors find themselves in. Most of this though, we have seen before and the movie does nothing to set itself apart from any of the others that permeated the time period when it was released. So while it might have followed the plotlines of other similar films, the performances managed to carry it and make it somewhat better than it otherwise would have turned out to be.
One of the more laughable aspects of the film was how Brynner’s character was setup to be some great, unbeatable warrior. True, the man is skilled and Brynner looks the part to a T, but when everyone else around you is a bumbling oaf, just about any man with a modicum of skill could have been an ultimate warrior in this film. The only real challenge for Carson came towards the end of the picture when he faced off against Carrot, played by William Smith. It was a good fight with a fair amount of suspense and it was too bad that the rest of the film did not feature a few more scenes of a similar calibre.
Made in 1975, The Ultimate Warrior was definitely a product of its time and you can see it in many ways throughout the film. Thankfully it does not impede the enjoyment that the movie delivers, but again, there was room for improvement, anything to make it stand out from the genre aside from starring Brynner. That, above anything else is the only reason you will really want to see this movie. Brynner is the draw because you know he is going to be the bad-ass, the man that is going to dish out the hurt when called upon and you want to see him in action doing so. Max von Sydow is a very talented man, but if it were him and some random B actor in the role, you most likely would never see this. Robert Clouse did a fine job writing and directing, he simply needed a bit of a better story, one that either relied less upon clichés of the genre or at least one that was more exciting. Still, once you start watching this, you will see it through to the end because despite all of its faults, it is still fairly compelling and when all is said and done, has a happy ending.