Today I watched Albert Pyun’s Radioactive Dreams (1985)
In the near future of 1996 nuclear war is waged and all of the world’s nuclear weapons are launched, save one. Phillip and Marlowe were very young boys when the bombs dropped and they grew up together in a vault loaded with cultural ephemera of the 1950’s so when they finally get out, it is their dreams to become private detectives. The film gets some good laughs early on as they introduce themselves to the wasteland denizens as a pair of ‘big time dicks’ and using other hilariously outdated slang. This duo become unlikely heroes as they get wrapped up in a plot to control the two keys that control the last remaining nuke.
This is such a unique film, the concept is as fresh today as it was then and perhaps even more so considering the return of apocalyptic narratives. The film is really a coming of age rock opera that focuses more on overcoming the grimness inherent to the genre than reveling in it. So of course, there is a lot of 80’s style pop rock and new age electro setting the tone of the film, there is a smattering of swing music to help establish the protagonist’s and I honestly thought they could have leaned into the 50’s music a bit more.
A lot of my issues with this film come from the woeful state of it’s home releases, having only ever come out on VHS with the exception of a rare DVD from Germany. The imagery is frequently quite creative but the low quality it is presented in does it no favours. I talked briefly about the remastering of Star Wars as being downright criminal but that was because those instances re-edited scenes, added whole new sequences and did more than a simple touch up. But films like this one here could really use the work of tidying up the images, the finale of his film is simply too dark because the drop in quality throws off the contrast and makes it too extreme to see anything. This movie is quite fun and I would like to see it in a cleaner state than the aged VHS.
Radioactive Dreams is a fun and jaunty romp through the radioactive wasteland that should appeal to many fans of post apocalyptic media. It has an original concept and it plays it to the hilt; the protagonists transforming from hopeless nerds to hardboiled badasses and then into something a little nicer and more reasonable is the kind of light hearted positivism film seems to need more of. 4/5