STARRING: Rutger Hauer, Joan Chen, Vincent Phillip D'Onofrio, Anna Katarina, Delroy Lindo 

1988, 90 Minutes, Directed by: David Peoples

In the unlikely event of this obscure Rutger Hauer feature (also known as The Blood of Heroes) being remembered, it would be as the movie in which the accounting department forgot to budget for a screenplay and lighting.

Salute of the Jugger is set in a clichéd The Road Warrior type of post-Apocalyptic scenario - the typical desert wasteland, people as Tuareg nomads, medievalist survivalist fantasy. It follows a group of so-called traveling "juggers" who play a brutal sport, which is a grimy mix of Rollerball and the cage game in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Just how grimy? You score points by planting a dog's skull on a protruding stick . . .

Anyway, the plot doesn't really kick in until about halfway through the movie. Instead the movie seems to consist of endless "jugger" matches. To make things worse, the plot serves merely as a set-up for yet another, this time climactic, "jugger" match. Initially the "jugger" matches are interesting, but they soon get repetitive. Also, they are difficult to follow because the players all seem to wear the same costumes and while it would be nice to root for the main characters in these scenes, if only one knew who they were!

"You score points by planting a dog's skull on a protruding stick . . ."

This brings me to the non-existent lighting budget. No doubt Salute of the Jugger was made on a shoestring budget. Some of the sets actually look big and impressive, especially for a video cheapie such as this one. Or make that, what one can see of those sets! The entire movie seems to be set in perpetual darkness and in the few daylight scenes forefront figures dressed in murky brown outfits bleed right into the murky and brown backgrounds.

The last movie I saw with such bad photography was the 1975 post-apocalypse cheapie A Boy and His Dog (a major inspiration for the first Mad Max movie). However, whereas A Boy and His Dog had a clever and witty screenplay to make up for its piss poor production design, Salute of the Jugger seems content to indulge in clichés and handles its plot and characters in a most cursory manner.

This is all rather strange considering that the movie is written (and directed - no excuse there!) by one David Peoples who scripted Blade Runner, worked on 12 Monkeys and Unforgiven. However, that Peoples also wrote the abysmal Soldier and Leviathan (for an article on the man's schizophrenic career, click here) should come as no surprise after watching Salute of the Jugger.

Despite its faults, Salute of the Jugger is better than it has any right being. Some "jugger" scenes are well done and stars Rutger (Ladyhawke, Split Second) Hauer and Joan (The Last Emperor) Chen and some of the supporting cast lend some gravity to the proceedings. There is much worse sci-fi stuff gathering dust on your video shelves, but that is really no recommendation at all when one considers the likes of Fortress 2 and Future Fear . . .



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