Nobody carries the dogboy! – Salute Of The Jugger

1989 was a real kicker of a year. I was 13 years old. My brain was already a bubbling toxic soup from prolonged exposure to lethal amounts of 2000AD and undiluted Kia Ora. I was peaking hard and gobbling up everything I could get my greedy claws on to feed my developing appetites in twisted fiction, dystopian sci-fi and martial arts movies. At the cinema we finally got a ‘dark” Batman courtesy of Tim Burton and my cinematic comfort blanket The Burbs was released into the world.

What was I listening to? Guns & Roses ‘Appetite For Destruction’ exclusively. I hadn’t traded in the Grifter for a mountain bike yet either. Life was pretty good.

A little googling revealed that cinematic trend for B-Movies in ’89 was underwater alien horror. Sophie already dismantled The Abyss a couple of weeks ago much to Boardy’s chagrin, but there were at least four other ‘Aliens living at the bottom of the sea’  films doing the rounds. Leviathan, Lords Of The Deep and Deep Star Six. That’s all well and good but I’m from Margate mate, I saw horror on the regular down that sea front in the 80’s and didn’t care to revisit it in the cinema. That and I’m terrified of deep water. No friends, my attention was drawn to the other end of the environmental misery spectrum. The dusty plains of the post apocalyptic future…..

Salute Of the Jugger aka The Blood Of Heroes starred Rutger Hauer, Joan Chen and a young Vincent D’onofrio.  Hardly a stellar cast but for your information I love Rutger Hauer for the same reason I love Lance Henriksen. They both have faces that resemble an inside out moccasin, their voices sound like gravel tumbling down a quarry bank and they appear frequently in the type of B-movie toss with which I filled my adolescent days.  With their hangdog mugs and melancholy determination  I guess they are not your typical Hollwood leading men is what I’m saying and to this day I will still watch anything with either of them in it. Even Stone Cold with Brian Bosworth.

Salute Of The Jugger is a post apocalyptic underdog story based around a brutal full contact sport called The Game. The game is basically a cross between Bloodbowl and that game called Gauntlet off Gladiators. The objective? Batter the other team more than they batter you and stick a dogs skull on a spike in the oppositions end zone. How long do matches of The Game last? Glad you asked mate…I guess measuring time is a moot point in the future since no one has to get up for work anymore and  so the length of matches is determined by how long it takes an old fella who’s had a stroke to chuck a pile of 100 rocks at a bit of aluminium siding.  The Game is played by wandering teams of Juggers who show up to deadbeat Mad Max style outposts called Dog towns to challenge the locals and play the game. If you win maybe you get to eat a plate of dog meat for dinner and catch a blowie off some toothless rotter. If you lose maybe YOU become the toothless rotter. Stakes is high.

That aesthetic though

Rutger Hauer plays the enigmatic lead Sallow. It is revealed that at one time in his mysterious past he was a real ass beater and had played The Game at a professional league level in The Nine Cities where the rich people live. In the league Juggers are treated as venerated sporting heroes rather than punchy ronin prize fighters like Sallow and his mob.

Anyway the crew show up and give the locals a good hiding but *plot twist* they lose Dog Boy their Quick (the un-armoured member of the team whose job it is to score) to injury. Cue plucky chancer Joan Chen volunteering her nimble feet and busy hands and ferrets her way into the team. Poor old Dog Boy and bum leg gets kicked to the kerb. It’s a shit business.

Needless to say Joan Chen is nursing an ambition to play in the big leagues and susses out that Sallow wants another crack at it too. She convinces him to sack up and begin The Heroes Journey toward the inevitable showdown in The Nine Cities so he can expunge his past with the pro’s.

We are treated to plenty of epic shots of barren landscapes with the team wandering across desolate wastelands toward their ultimate destiny. And when that spiritual flute kicks in? Zen as a bitch , feels like a post-apoc episode of the old David Carradine Kung Fu show.  The manager of the team accompanies the players on their travels, brokering matches and cashing the cheques. Sounds like a cushy gig right? Guess again Yung Grasshopper, because someone in wardrobe decided that in this glum world the easiest way to transport your squads meagre belongings is to strap a whole chest of drawers to your managers back and have him lug it across the desert like a sad tortoise.

Look, there’s no convoluted story unfolding here. If you’ve seen Mean Machine then you know exactly where Salute Of The Jugger is headed as the third act approaches, so lets not waste each others time exploring the minutia of the plot and instead focus on some of the absolute nonsense that awaits in The Nine Cities.

After a lot of big talk about how life in the smoke is far more desirable than kicking rocks down Dog Town precinct, I gotta say I’m pretty unimpressed. If you’re a scruff it’s still dog meat kebabs for dinner and if you got a bit of wealth and status then that is signified by riding around in a pushbike with a side car or eating a dead blue bottle on a bit of Ryevita. Hardly something to aspire to is it? I fail to see how living underground, eating rats and sleeping in a bunk bed strapped to the side of a concrete abyss is preferable to living out in the countryside?  At least it’s always sunny in Dog Town. You got a bit of time to kill between bouts of The Game…why not play drafts with mismatched pieces from a Halfords Ratchet set? No mate. This version of the future is absolute guff. It’s poor people knocking hell out of each other for the entertainment of a wealthy elite.  It’s more of the same old shit we are becoming all to familiar with as our present reality slides further and deeper into it’s own arsehole. So that’s something nice to look forward to in my old age.

Before I go and stick my head in the oven I think it prudent to mention that The Game is now an actual sport on this planet Earth.  Yes, that’s what I said. It’s been re-dubbed Jugger and as you might expect it’s played by Larper’s with rubber weapons. Please enjoy this video film that I found for you/please do not contact me again.