"Ravagers" is another motley fable about survival in the wake of atomic holocaust, presumably aimed at the dozens who flocked to "Quintet" and "Damnation Alley." As it happens, the more civilized survivors are known as Flockers. They have formed secluded colonies partly as a defense against the Ravagers, itinerant bands of predators costumed halfway between pirates and Hell's Angels.
The credits begin over a drawing of the Manhattan skyline in which the buildings look partially melted, like some skyscraper ice cream cake that's been left out in the sun. It might have been amusing to hear a few bars of Gershwin here, but composer Fred Karlin, intent on ominous hokum, passes up the temptation.
Alabama supplied the would-be desolate locations, which range from an abandoned steel mill to an abandoned barn to underground caverns to an old dark house to a mothballed warship, a setting obviously cribbed from the finale of Sam Peckinpah's "The Killer Elite." The hero, played by Richard Harris, is neither Flocker nor Ravager. He calls himself a Loner, although his case history would appear to make terms like Jinx or Bad News or Loser more appropriate.
Harris is introduced on a scavenging trip that nets him two blackened cans from the back of a former gun shop. He also gets sniped at by a gang of Ravagers, who succeed in following his none-too-elusive trail home. Harris shares a cosy nook in the steel mill with an adoring, breathy blond simpleton who calls him "Fog." It suits him and I kept thinking of him as "Fog" until the closing credits identified the character disillusioningly as "Falk."
Fog's mate opens his treasure, apparently canned ravioli, and begins stirring the contents around in a skillet. One fears that this may be the closest she can come to "cooking," but there's no time to learn for certain. Shortly after she points out how she's rearranged their two pieces of furniture - one of the rare witty strokes in Don Sanford's script - the Ravagers are upon them.
Following a picturesque flight across the mill, Harris is knocked into a pond and his mate abducted. Clutching his aching ribs, he returns to find her murdered. He sneaks up on the reveling Ravagers, who appear to be passing around a department store mannequin to make up for the woman they've wantonly snuffed, and kills the first one who wanders off from the pack to relieve himself. This reprisal infuriates the leader, a tall, skinny despot embodied in Early Palance style by Anthony James, and he pursues Harris to the next-to-last grasp of the wheezing scenario.
Harris proves to be bad luck to a blind man, played by Seymour Cassel, who has evidently been driven out of a Flocker commune. Harris escorts him back and attempts to reason with the tribe, which turns out to be Stoners. When Harris looks around, a flying rocked has conked Cassel into eternity. A bit later a kindly old Flocker who gives Harris two fresh apples, symbols of Earth's regeneration, gets pummeled to death by the James gang.
In fact, it appears that only the cracked and simpleminded are attracted to Harris' company.At an abandoned rocket base he acquires a man Friday in the person of Art Carney, a balmy old master sergeant who confuses Harris with his commanding officer. At a thriving underground settlement of Flockers, the hero somehow charms the principal harlot a playfully kittenish Salome impersonated by Mrs. Richard Harris, Ann Turkel.
The Wandering Trio of Harris, Carney and Turkel fight off a Ravager attack at the old dark house, then stumble upon a Flocker settlement hidden among the mothball fleet. Ernest Borgnine makes a belated entrance as the hearty but probably tyrannical leader of this outpost. If Tim Conway were in the cast, one might feel more confident about Borgnine's good nature. Not that it matters: The Ravagers have tailed Harris easily again, and the security aboard Borgnine's ultra-secret hideaway proves so farcical that a devastating climactic battle flares up before anyone can get acquainted.
The acting is often ostentatiously bad. It's difficulty to tell whether director Richard Compton encouraged it or just threw in the towel. Clumsy line readings and long, narrow-eyed stares abound. Should we interpret these howlers as unfortunate consequences of nuclear war?
Borgnine's menacing chortle is the funniest sound in the show. Harris' Edvard Munch pantomines are the funniest spectacle. At one point Harris literally reproduces the immortal silent scream from Munch's "The Cry." In this context it suggests postatomic Excedrin Headache No. 1. CAPTION: Picture, Richard Harris and Ann Turkel in "Ravagers"