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on 10 May 2009
I came across this DVD after I recalled seeing Peter Arne, thirty years ago when I was just a child, with his ear to the sidewalk like a madman, saying, "Just like ants!" That remains the memorable opening of the first film, which must be the ultimate yellow-peril paranoia matinee flick. It contains - I kid you not - Americans made up as devious members of Chinese army who stop at nothing (including bad hypnosis) to literally undermine the USA. Unfortunately, I'd confabulated from childhood recollection that 'Battle Beneath the Earth' had James Bond style subterranean sets. It doesn't. I must say, though, Arne is peculiarly watchable as the ultimate outsider called in to save the day. The second cheesefest can't even be saved by its two famous leads - Max Von Sydow and Yul Brynner - and tempting premise (post-apocalytic New York). It mostly suffers from poor set design and a lack of imagination. Brynner is quite mesmeric though, knifing all comers without needing his shirt, getting slapped by females and not flinching a bit, and doing various other hard man acts (check the end). Forget 'Crank' - Brynner puts our current bald nuts like Jason Stratham to shame! Conclusion: both films drag a bit but are worth watching if only for the cheese factor. My advice? Pour yourself a nice beer, think like an eight year old, settle back and enjoy.
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on 26 August 2011
The reason I loved Battle Beneath the Earth as a boy and still remember it almost 40 years later is because the American soldiers all the same fantastic machine guns that my plastic soldiers had and as such I could recreate the battles with the Chinese or whatever they were with my soldiers. I remember there was a large nuclear type bomb invloved and the film was underground and thats about it.

I did see a bit of it on Sky a few years ago and I cant say its a great film but I guess it must have had something, much like At the Earths Core and The Land That Time Forgot, for me to have remembered these films for so long. If this film had Doug McClure in it would have been so much better I am sure. As it is its a one for 8 year old boys who want to see some exciting battles between American soldiers and some evil looking Dr.No-type bad guys.
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"While we've been wasting time up there, they've been busy down there where it counts!"

Beginning with Peter Arne being arrested by cops in Las Vegas for listening to the pavement and insisting "Just like ants. They're crawling under us, I tell you... If you listen carefully, you can hear them. I tell you, they're right beneath us!," the gleefully unsane Battle Beneath the Earth is one of those films that's all the more fun for taking its reds under the bedrock bonkers premise seriously and playing it straight. Arne ends up in a Vegas lunatic asylum complete with slot machines for its patients where even old friend Kerwin Matthews won't believe him until a mine disaster in Oregon reveals the unthinkable truth - the Red Chinese have been burrowing under the Pacific and have a massive network of tunnels under strategic points in the USA where rebel warlord Martin Benson plans to detonate atomic weapons to literally destroy the country from within.

It's a plot that Fu Manchu would have dreamt up had he been around in the 1960s and one which you suspect The Man from UNCLE passed on as too outrageous even for their third season, but it's rather endearing in its way. Filmed with the odd ex-patriate American actor (Ed Bishop and Robert Ayres, come on down!), Canadian and Brits with variable accents in the home counties area around MGM's Boreham Wood studios in the UK, it's filled with silliness - Vivienne Ventura's geologist nearly stepping on molten lava, all of Kerwin's regular marines being able to defuse atomic bombs, which can also be detonated by dynamite, causing an explosion which can easily be outrun in just ten minutes, Arne is brainwashed by a woman waving a mini electric hand fan around - not to mention the odd bit of stock footage (as well as a shot from Bad Day at Black Rock they even recycle one shot of Matthews sneaking atom bombs past unobservant Chinese soldiers). Journeyman director Montgomery Tully somehow makes it look better than the low budget without ever looking remotely convincing, and it's all harmlessly bonkers kids matinee stuff.

Beyond both having scenes set in tunnels, you have to wonder who at Warner Home Video thought it was a great idea to double-bill Battle Beneath the Earth, aimed firmly on the kids' matinee market with gritty 70s post-apocalyptic actioner The Ultimate Warrior aka The Barony which throws in the then commonplace but definitely kiddie unfriendly brutal violence and attempted rape. Robert Clouse's film is the more upmarket of the two, though it still seems aimed at the drive-in market despite headlining Yul Brynner and Max von Sydow. But then Brynner's career had fallen into disrepair by 1975 - despite the success of Westworld only two years earlier, the part had originally been intended for emerging Shaw Brothers star Gordon Liu, who Warner Bros. saw as the next Bruce Lee. Nonetheless Brynner gets an impressive entrance, standing resolutely immobile for days waiting for various gangs to pitch for the services of his professional fighter. Once he's decided to throw in his lot with von Sydow's failing commune he becomes a more conventionally charismatic and talkative hero, facing off against William Smith's sadistic rival gang leader who rules from a deserted prison and gives chase when Brynner is sent to take von Sydow's pregnant daughter (Joanna Miles) and some valuable seeds to a place of safety through New York's abandoned subway tunnels.

Set in 2012, its vision of a world after a plague has wiped out most of the world's population and food supply is a familiarly nihilistic one, and it was shot at a time when a New York in crisis didn't need much in the way of set dressing to look like a bomb site. The Bronx was a wasteland of burned out and crumbling buildings and rubble that famously looked like Berlin or Dresden at the end of WW2 and, like its onscreen counterpart, violence was rampant, though at least in the 70s they were more likely to kill you for your watch and your wallet than a sackful of pigeons or the shirt off your back. Played much straighter than the studio's hip and often unintentionally funny The Omega Man a few years earlier, Clouse's direction is rather better than his usual anonymous job, though the action scenes definitely could have benefited from a martial artist. Certainly better than its low reputation, it's more of a surprisingly half-decent programmer than a forgotten classic.

Both films have decent but not outstanding 1.85:1 widescreen transfers (though there are a few bits of blue streaking on The Ultimate Warrior) but no extras unless you count English and French subtitles.
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on 10 May 2011
Both films are, in fact, presented in the anamorphic format of 16:9 - 1.85:1. Subtitles in English & French. And like many US Warner DVDs, it has both the American and the European region code (R1 + R2). However, I can't think of anything else to actually recommend these films. For cult-freaks only.
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on 22 September 2011
not sure why these two films are joined together,battle beneath the earth is a joke,so bad it`s worse than plan 9 from outer space,but even as a kid I laughed out loud,how do you keep NUCLEAR WASTE in a plastic dustbin and that`s just for openers,all I can say it`s a laugh a minute,keep a six pack next to you at 2am on a friday night and great low grade entertainment.However the second film ultimate warrior is quite good,my father who saw this when he was in his 50`s,liked it,and he only watches war films,an ok end of the world story,made on a budget that only covered brynner`s wages,I saw it first on vhs and had a good evenings viewing,the movie just kind of stays with you afterwards,good picture and sound on both,give the second film a go,and see what you think,as for the first,get the vodka out beforehand.
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on 9 November 2015
Fantastic
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