“The Aftermath”: Steve Barkett’s post-nuclear apocalyptic saga was a UK-banned “Video Nasty”

By on August 17, 2018

Steve Barkett’s The Aftermath — filmed in 1978, and given a limited theatrical run and VHS home video release in 1982 before it was labeled a “Video Nasty” and banned in the UK, where it was titled Zombie Aftermath — is today considered an early ’80s cult classic.

This early attempt at the dystopian post-nuclear apocalyptic saga — which recently made its debut on Blu-ray from VCI Entertainment — is now streaming over on Night Flight Plus!


Our story begins as a trio of astronauts — “Newman” (Steve Barkett), “Williams” (stop-motion animator Jim Danforth), and “Mathews” (Larry Latham) — as they return from their space mission, unable to communicate with NASA or make contact with anyone on the planet.

They re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and end up ditching their spacecraft “a few miles off the coast of Los Angeles,” but only Newman and and Mathews survive the crash-landing, swimming to shore.


Their first hint that something is seriously wrong is when they spy a trio of sunbathers on the beach, only to discover upon closer inspection that they’re actually charred corpses, victims of a nuclear war.


That night, sitting around a campfire on the beach, they’re attacked by a mutant post-nuke survivors, misfits bent on robbing, raping and killing.


The next morning the two astronauts are startled to see the smoldering ruins of a completely destroyed Los Angeles, now a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested wasteland.

Newman listens to a dead radio controller’s final words and learns what happened (the voice on the tape was provided by longtime Roger Corman cult film vet Dick Miller).


Newman and Mathews disagree about what they should do next.

Matthews wants to stay put where they’re apparently safe, in a mansion up in the Hollywood hills, while Newman decides he should roam the vast wasteland down below to see if there are any other human survivors.


Trying to get out from beneath the radioactive red skies that are pouring down acid rain, Newman seeks shelter in what turns out to be a strange museum.

There, he comes across a “Museum Curator,” played by Famous Monsters of Filmland creator and certified “sci-fi” legend Forrest J. “Forry” Ackerman.


The Curator — who tells Newman about what happened while he was away in outer space, detailing how civilization collapsed and degenerated into madness — also tells the astronaut that he’s dying from radiation exposure.

When he does, Newman takes the man’s son, “Christopher” (played by director Barkett’s real-life son, Christopher Barkett) under his wing.

Traveling on, they come across the scantily-clad and plucky “Sarah,” played by Lynne Margulies (she was Andy Kaufman‘s girlfriend at the time).


She tells them about escaping from the evil clutches of a man known as “Cutter” (Sid Haig) and his roving gang of outlaw mutant bikers, who are running amok, killing all the men they encounter and kidnapping the women, who they hold hostage at their camp.

Newman, Sarah and Christopher decided to help these hostages escape and plot a daring nighttime raid on the camp.


Read more about The Aftermath below.


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A decidedly low-budget independently-financed production, The Aftermath was something of a “vanity project” for Barkett, who also directed Empire of the Dark (1990).

In addition to producing, directing, editing and writing the screenplay — from a story by Barkett and Stanley Livingston (“Chip” from TV’s “My Three Sons”) — Barkett also stars and did his own stunts.

The filming of The Aftermath actually predates the release of George Miller’s dystopian epic Mad Max (1979), but you’ll no doubt find cinematic references and overt debts of gratitude to other contemporary films like Planet of the Apes, Logan’s Run, The Omega Man (also Last Man on Earth) and A Boy and His Dog.


The legendary Sid Haig — who appeared in Jack Hill’s Spider Baby (1968), The Big Doll House (1971), Coffy (1973) — is truly memorable here as Cutter.

This performance comes years before he had a career resurgence after appearances in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (1997) and scared the crap out of audiences as the evil clown makeup-wearing “Captain Spaulding” in Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses (2003) and The Devils Rejects (2005).


The Aftermath is notable for the way Star Wars-effects artist John Wash and Academy Award-winners Robert and Denny Skotak — whose work can be seen in James Cameron’s The Abyss, Aliens, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day — were able to create some of this film’s visual effects on a shoestring budget.

In particular, the film is singled out for its often stunning use of numerous matte-paintings, a painted-on-glass visual effect in the ’60s-’80s popularized by the legendary Albert Whitlock, whose work can be seen in literally dozens of sci-fi movies like Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), Earthquake (1974), John Carpenter‘s The Thing (1982), and David Lynch’s Dune (1984).


The matte paintings here — showing us obliterated post-nuked L.A. cityscapes — were created by Jim Danforth, who VFX work can also be seen in movies like Day of the Dead (1985), They Live (1988), and dozens of other movies.

The cinematography by Dennis Skotak and Thomas F. Denove is also worth noting, as is the robust original score by composer John Morgan.


Although The Aftermath wasn’t charged and prosecuted for obscenity, copies of the VHS home video were seized and confiscated in the United Kingdom under Section 3 of the Obscene Publications Act 1959 during the so-called “Video Nasty” scare of the 1980s.

In 2014, VCI Entertainment made it available on DVD as a Manufactured-On-Demand release before finally releasing it on Blu-ray earlier this year.

Watch The Aftermath tonight on Night Flight Plus.


About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.