Posted: 12/06/2007

 

W Is War

(1983)

by Jef Burnham



A.K.A., The Filipino Mad Max


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I should tell you first off, that I am a sucker for bad movies. I devour anything that comes at me that is a poorly made, foreign rip-off of a cinematic classic. You have, most notably, the Turkish Star Wars, infamous for its blatant pirating of footage from Lucas’ sci-fi epic, the Turkish Star Trek, which also uses pirated footage, as well as the Turkish Wizard of Oz and the Italian Jaws (known otherwise as The Last Shark). Whilst all those are terrible in their own special ways, I felt that W Is War (which you can find on Google Videos) deserved some closer analysis.

The story, which is merely a rip-off of Mad Max if you just took every major plot point and bastardized it, is that of Agent W2 (not to be confused with the tax form). After W2 randomly shoots one of 300 or so skin-head bikers, who just so happens to be the brother of their mind-controlling leader, Nosfero, he is castrated by a group of villains while trying to make love to his wife. There follows a whole lot of other things not involving W2, and in the end, he and a bald woman in a crappy, black car take on an entire army of be-mohawked rogues.

W Is War is considered to be one the worst movies of all time, but for the same reasons it is considered trash by so many, it is held as a masterpiece by many, many others. And it’s quite possible that I fall into the latter group. You see, there is one aspect of the film that I just cannot shake—something so bizarre and unique that it sticks out like a… well… a severed penis.

That’s right. We are led to believe that the castration of the hero 15 minutes into the film not only resulted in the customary removal of his testicles, but his penis as well. An action hero without a penis seems somehow sacrilegious to the action genre, which revolves around the phallus. For what is the hero’s gun but a representation of his manhood? And does not his car follow suit?

Imagine for a moment that 15 minutes into Die Hard, John McClane comes down with Erectile Deficiency, or 15 minutes into The Matrix, Neo becomes impotent. It is unarguably a touchy subject, as these disorders wouldn’t make them any less of men, but it certainly does change things in a way that defies explanation. I am aware that this sort of situation has been dealt with in action movies since then, but the simple fact that the entire movie revolves around the castration makes this a particularly interesting case. After all, Mad Max didn’t strap on an S&M leather outfit and patrol the Australian countryside in the last V8 Interceptor, eradicating Toecutter’s crew because he couldn’t satisfy his wife. They slaughtered his family.

Another notable event in the film is when W2 ends up with the bald woman in the end. Perhaps the filmmakers’ message is that a woman without hair is equal to a man without a penis; and in a film where a little girl is mercilessly mowed down with a machine gun, who knows?

W Is War may not have much more to offer the audience than a man in a pleather jumpsuit and an iron chest plate 3 sizes too big, but at least it’ll give you an hour and a half to ponder such topics as the role of the phallic symbol within the action genre and whether or not Nosfero really does fit the description of a “Darth Vader Buddha.”

Jef Burnham is a film critic and freelance writer living in Chicago.



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