Firebird 2015 AD
1981, Starring Darren McGavin, Doug McClure, George Touliatos, Robert Charles Wisden, Mary Beth Rubens. Directed by David M. Robertson.
In Firebird 2015 AD picturesque Drumheller, Alberta stands in for the Iowa countryside getting ripped up by Darren McGavin's bad, bad Turbo Am Firebird. McGavin, who you may recognize as the father in Bob Clark's A Christmas Story stars in this sci-fi epic set in the not-too-distant future where cars are banned and gasoline is hoarded. McGavin plays Red, a hard livin' sonuvabitch who defies The Department of Vehicular Control (DVC) by driving his super secret car all over creation.
The movie begins with a "burner" (fuel burner, slang term for an illegal car operator) raising huge clouds of dust on the road to our theme song, "Dee Vee Cee." Don't get up and start dancin' to this synthesizer heartland rock anthem, because if you don't listen to the lyrics you will never learn the plot. Yes, this song explains the back story of how the government passed a law banning cars, and how those evil DVC officers are blowing up cars. And herein lies our conflict: There is a network of burners driving around Drumheller, and a DVC team under the guidance of McVain (Doug McClure) who have camped out nearby to shoot cars.
Our lone burner meets up with Red and buys some illegal gas, and then we get to see Red's super secret Firebird lair, which is cleverly concealed as a darkly lit garage. Red's son Cam (as in Overhead?) comes by to have his father further elaborate on the plot, explaining how as a proud American it's okay to break stupid and/or unpopular laws so long as you get to drive high performance vehicles. To prove it, Red and Cam jump in the car and haul ass.
Meanwhile, the burner from the beginning has a run in with a bunch of DVC officers on motorbikes. They unload several clips into the car, but it's no use, the burner is too fast for them. That is, until crack DVC officer Dolan (who looks like the love child of Lou Diamond Phillips and David Carradine) grabs his rocket launcher, strips to his loincloth, does Tai-Chi and smears war paint on his face. Screaming war chants he shoots the car, as well as the driver. The other DVC officers get worried, because Dolan was supposed to arrest the burner, but McVain turns a blind eye to Dolan's psychotic actions.
Red and Cam meet up with fellow burners Andy and his dune buggy ridin' daughter Jill. While Red and Andy drag race, Jill teaches Cam how to drive stick while making ridiculous double-entendres. After puttering around for awhile to another hilarious song called "Ridin' For Our Freedom" , Jill and Cam find a secret stash of classic cars and have sex, intercut with shots of waving grain. While the young and the stupid get romantically entwined, the DVC are busy too. Red and Cam are scared off by a trigger happy DVC officer, and Dolan stumbles on our young couple. He knocks out Cam and kidnaps Jill. Back at the DVC camp, McVain tries to make her tell them where Red stashes his Firebird. A bloodied Cam makes his way back to the secret garage, and tells Red and Andy what happened. Outraged, our heroes spring into motorized action against those freedom hatin' bastards.
The biggest problem this film has it that it is set in 2015. So it's futuristic right? Wrong. Basically the not-too-distant-future angle serves only to make the forbidden car laws plausible. Nothing else has apparently changed since 1981. People still drive slick sports cars, and have CB radios in their dune buggys. Even by 1981 these trends were on their way out--it's like making a move about 2027 where kids play with Pogs and listen to swing music. They should have anticipated that culture would change at least a little in 25 years. Of course Windstar 2015 AD doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
This obvious tax shelter film can't get much more American than the message of this film: "We just want to be free to rip up the countryside in our powerful machines." There is some sort of plot barley alluded to where a convoy of burners are bringing a senator to Washington to repeal the laws, presumably to show that burners are still democratically fighting for their rights. Firebird 2015 AD is also very similar to another tax shelter outing about forbidden cars, the Lee Majors vehicle The Last Chase.
Considering Firebird 2015 AD's potential for multiple exploding cars and drive-in movie excitement, this film really dropped the ball. This is most likely because of budget limitations, since the entire movie takes place in the rolling hills of Drumheller, with no context in the form of civilization. There is literally a few tents for the DVC officers, and Red's shack. That's it it's like daycamp or kids playing Cowboys and Indians with no parents. A lack of special effects can often be made up with an exciting or interesting plot, but all we really get here is "cars for freedom" rhetoric. However, Firebird 2015 AD isn't the worst film I've ever seen, and it's humourous look at the future of CB radio will have you calling everybody "good buddy" for days.