OCTOBER 11 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : TRAP ON COUGAR MOUNTAIN (1972)
Movies (especially of the unknown kind) may always be in the back of my mind, but there are other things I like to think and ponder about from time to time. One of those things is animals, specifically the various relationships man has with the animal kingdom. The various ways that man looks upon animals is fascinating. Sometimes I wonder about the seemingly primary way that man looks upon animals, as to be used to his advantage, such as being beasts of burden or food. Is it right of us to take advantage of our superior intellect to exploit animals? Well, it could be argued that there are animals that eat other animals, and I believe there is a passage in the Bible saying that God gave man dominance over animals. Still, I sometimes wonder if we go too far at times with this. What really interests me is that while we think of some animals in this way, there are other animals that we have a different perspective about. There are some animals that we instead shower love upon, and think of as friends. I guess that, even as a non-vegetarian, I can understand this - some animals seem effortless to warm up to. Take dogs, for instance. Dogs can be very loyal, can be very loving, and you can train them to do a number of tricks that make them seem more, well, human. It's probably this "human" factor most of all that has made dogs popular as pets (except in Korea, where they eat them), and probably explains many of the other animals that we don't consider as food. Cats have that independent spirit that many of us wish we had, for example, and I could probably find some human spirit in many other kinds of pets.
Unfortunately, there are a number of people who take this idea too far, treating certain animals in this "human" spirit when these certain animals should be treated more as, well, animals. For example, I remember a few years ago reading this true story about a couple that owned a horse, a horse that was very devoted to them and couldn't stand to be separated from them. So they let the horse in and out of their home, like it was a cat. They claimed that the horse only had one "accident" in the home. That may sound somewhat silly, but it seems sane when you consider some of the other animals some humans treat as people. One of those animals are bears. In countless movies (such as Escape To Grizzly Mountain) and television shows, bears have been shown to be lovable lugs and great companions to bearded individualists who live in the deep woods. While they may be cute and devoted as cubs, the truth is when they grow up, they become wild animals - they can never be fully tamed, and even one that's been with humans since birth can viciously attack its human master. The same thing can be found with apes and monkeys. Sure, a chimpanzee may look cute and can be trained to do stuff, but they too can never be fully tamed. They can act cute and cuddly at one moment, and then suddenly turn without warning into vicious beasts. Being much more stronger than humans, a chimpanzee could rip off a limb from a human with barely an effort, and this strength is one reason why Michael Jackson quietly got rid of Bubbles the chimp.
Cougars may not have gotten as rosy a picture as bears and apes over the years, but you'll find on occasion that in entertainment they are pictured as lovable as well. The truth is that cougar attacks on humans are on the rise, at least where I live in Canada. Although I remember fondly Trap On Cougar Mountainthe time in grade school where a cougar was brought to school and we got to pet it, the headlines of attacks over the years have sunk in. I don't see how a human could bond with a cougar, but in Trap On Cougar Mountain, that's what was advertised. My intrigue about how the filmmakers would handled this relationship made me pick it up for review. Here's the plot description from the back of the video box: "At last, a film that the entire family can watch and enjoy! All ages will love the beauty and excitement of this masterfully told story of a young boy and his undying love for animals. Filmed against breath-taking scenery high in the rugged mountains of Utah, these are the heart warming and thrilling adventures of Erik Thompson and Jason, his pet cougar. Misunderstood by family and neighbors alike, young Erik begins a single-handed crusade to save his animal friends from the traps and bullets of the hated hunters. But chores are neglected in favor of high-spirited rescue missions and Erik is soon forced to return his animals to the wilderness. Saddened and desperate, Erik watches as his beloved Jason is chased from the ranch. When Jason is wounded, however, Erik is moved to decisive action. Braving the perils and challenges of the wilderness, pursued by ranchers and hunters alike, Erik races to save Jason and finds himself not only fighting for his cougar but fighting for his own survival!"
I think that the majority of you readers would agree with me that when it comes to this genre - that being "A boy and his (animal)" films - that one of the main aspects of such movies that determine if they work or not boils down to the boy and his animal. Is the boy someone we will root for as he faces his challenges? Is the animal charismatic, having some kind of behavior that could almost be mistaken for human behavior? And is the bond between man and beast believable and able to hit home on your emotions? With my review of Trap On Cougar Mountain, I'll start by analyzing the movie through these particular questions, starting with the character of Erik, the boy. It didn't take long in the movie for me, an adult, to start seriously questioning Erik, because while he's supposed to be "good", many of his actions are questionable. We see him grab leg traps planted by hunters, and throw these expensive traps off a cliff or into a river. He uses himself as a human shield to block view of an animal that a hunter is about to shoot. He enters a hunter's camper without permission, and steals all the ammunition he finds in the camper's cupboard. He raids the lunchboxes of his fellow classmates so he can bring their sandwiches to feed the cougar. Although he loves animals enough to help them in the wild, it is mentioned several times he does not clean and maintain the cages of his homemade animal hospital/zoo he has at home. It was repeated behavior like this throughout the movie that made it very hard for me to generate any sympathy towards Erik. In fact, I am convinced that many of the kids who watch this movie will also question Erik's behavior, and as much as their parents will.
It's bad enough that Erik does all these things, but what makes it even worse is that the movie seems to approve of all his actions and his beliefs. I was hoping someone would come up to him at some point and say something like, "Son, some people depend on hunting for food or for their livelihood. And in some parts of these United States, animals such as deer and the nutria have become such pests that we need to hunt them to keep their numbers from becoming too high." Had the movie not been so one-sided and allowed for some material coming from the other side of the argument, the conflicts that would come up because of this could have been interesting for adults and kids. But instead, the movie keeps insisting Erik is in the right. Even if you are a die hard environmentalist and Erik sounds appealing, I have some bad news for you. Despite doing all that stuff, Erik remains a boring character. We never get to know what he's thinking, or why he does the things he does. In fact, all of the human characters in Trap On Cougar Mountain are boring. Time and again you'll see that they are not real people, just devices used to advance the plot, a plot so limited that with all the fat trimmed, it could play with commericals in a 30 minute spot on TV. Well then, what about the cougar? Unfortunately, there's not much enjoyment to be found with this animal. The filmmakers didn't seem to understand that it's hard to warm up to a cougar. Cougars always seem grumpy and unfriendly, and when you're near even one that's spent time around humans, you can't be sure if it will not suddenly take a swipe at you with its claws. Even during times in the movie when the cougar is simply resting, the vacant look in its eye is actually a little scary.
Even if the filmmakers had used an animal that was more cuddly, it wouldn't have helped much because the animal central to this movie is, incredibly, not seen that much during the entire course of the movie. That's right, a "boy and an animal" movie with not much of the animal present. The blame for that can rest on the shoulders of writer/director Keith Larsen, and there's a lot more blame for him to take for a lot more that's found in the movie. There's one lengthy moment when Erik and a friend flee the ranch to look for Erik's cougar. After making their way deep in the wilderness, suddenly they are back at the ranch with no explanation. Then there's the movie's setting; it's a curious place. We never really get a good wide look at this area, just a bunch of close-ups. Also, even though characters mostly wear winter apparel and there are patches of snow everywhere, there are a few scenes when it's warm enough for some characters to wear short-sleeved shirts. It's a place where high school students read from anthropology textbooks even though there are algebra equations on the blackboard. If you're a child and you accidentally roll down a hill, you will suddenly be over a foot longer in height as you roll down, then revert back to your normal height when you stop rolling and start to pick yourself up. Also, if you happen to fall into a raging river high in the mountains in a winter environment, you won't get hypothermia even if you don't build a fire. In fact, all you have to do is wait several seconds and your clothes will suddenly be completely dry. After watching countless moments like that, I came to a conclusion: Any post-1970 independent family movie with the word "mountain" in the title will be bad. Just see Escape To Grizzly Mountain, The Force On Thunder Mountain, The Giant Of Thunder Mountain, and The Legend Of Black Thunder Mountain. Don't get trapped by those movies, or this one.
OCTOBER 11 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : BRONX WARRIORS (1982)
Time and time again, some of us come across a film so bad, the very fault it has is what makes the film even better than intended, where it becomes enjoyable. Whether it could be the bad dubbing and dialogue, phony looking sets, or just the story unfolding in the movie, it will have some sort of charm that it leaves on you is a unique, yet almost hilarious memories from them, this film 1990 THE BRONX WARRIORS and it’s sequel Escape From the Bronx are these kind of films i am speaking of.
The plot of the film is about a woman named Ann who runs away from her father’s company The Manhattan Corp., because she doesnt want to inherit a company that creates weopons of death, and basically runs shit in Ny. She runs to a no man’s land The Bronx and is attacked by The Zombies, a group of skating gang members wearing puffy coats like its cold outside. Then a gang called The Riders come to her rescue, led by Trash (Mark Gregory, in a off kilted yet hilarious and enjoyable performance as the leader of the riders)
and fucks everybody up, stabbing a person in the face with spiked elbow pads type shit.
Then we come to find out after the Bronx residents wailed out they took over the Bronx as gangs. The Manhattan corp, President orders for Ann’s return, and gets the hired help of a sadistic killer cop named Hammer(played by Vic Morrow, in his last film performance before dying while filming The Twighlight Zone movie) who is wonderfully played by Morrow, and is convincing as a sadistic son of a bitch.
Hammer likes to kill people just for fun and for the hunt and knows the Bronx well. So with the help of Hot Dog, and a traiterous member of The Riders about to spring a plan to kill all the gangs and get Ann results in the film’s plot. Explosions, fights, tap dancing gang members(that’s right you read that right) are all kicking ass and doing funny things. The most prevalent of all the things in the film is the film’s anti-hero ,Trash. It all boils down to one thing…
His walk. It is so damned funny,he walks like he has a stick in his ass, and his wooden acting is something that brought the charm and enjoy level to a all time high on this film. Plus some of the best lines in a italian rip off film like:
Trash: You fuck! It could be a pile of shit out of someone’s asshole!
Trash: You bastard! You work for the Manhattan Corporation!
Hammer: I work for nobody. I don’t care about the Manhattan Corporation! I don’t care about the girl, I don’t care about politics, I don’t care about anything! I believe in nothing. I’m Hammer – The Exterminator!
Trash: You’re the biggest son of a bitch in the world. You’re afraid somebody might remember you were born in the Bronx?
Hammer: No, you’re wrong. I’m gonna make sure that nobody ever forgets.
The film of course has one more thing that upped the entertainment level as well: motherfucking Fred Willamson as the Tigers leader Ogre. Dude comes in with his mixed fighting/martial arts/street fighting and fucks up as many folks as you can count. Then there is a bit of horror in it when Trash and co. encounter The Scavangers, a group that kinda look like fast moving ,biting and fighting zombies. The score from Walter Rizzatti is fantastic, the cinematography from Sergio Salvati is simply nothing less than gorgeous, and the best way i can describe this film is that it’s Mad Max meets The Warriors. It’s a film to be seen in a comic book like fashion much like what it partly imitates, but its not a bad thing either.
One notable scene is where the gang The Riders, does a viking funeral for their just killed friends. It’s a spooky scene, in the fact that the twin towers were still standing there at the time in 1983, so it leaves a eerie impression, especially after 9/11.
It’s worth at least a watch one especially if youre into eurotrash like this, it’s a pretty fun time going thru it on the first go around. If i had to rate it, i would give it 4 out of 5 stars, just for the goon factor alone, the hilarity and fun times from this film ,will indeed leave impressionable memories until the next goon film is found.
OCTOBER 11 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : BRONX WARRIORS (1982)
If you've ever read a comic book or a novel or even watched a movie that depicts what future would be like, have you ever noticed the year? I always did, and I always wondered would I live to see the year mentioned? Some books and movies did take precaution to make the audience just keep on wondering by making the year so far distant, like year 2045 or 2072 or 3000 or something like that. But this movie here my friends, is something quite laughable mainly if we're care to take a look at the year. The movie was produced in 1982 and it tells about The City of New York (mainly Bronx) in 1990. And this is already year 2011 :-). So basically, the there goes all the imagination of the so-called dystopian society. But I'm happy because at least I could laugh at the movie and saying "Bah! I live through it and prove that you're wrong!" Bit childish I know, but the child in me always eager to prove all those years mentioned in movies like this, heck...you can't possibly live until year 3000 right?
Anyhow, I liked this movie back then, and I thought I would just review this in case fans of post-apocalyptic films miss this title.
Anne (Stefania Girolami) is escaping to Bronx in New York, and not from Bronx! Because for her personally, the life and responsibilities on the civilized side in New York was much much worse compared to Bronx. And if she didn't flee to this hell hole so-called Bronx, she would be responsible for the death of numerous people. Anne is a good girl, a refined girl with good personality, and just when Anne is about to be raped/kidnapped, a couple of men with bikes save her from doom. Lead by a tall man named Trash (Mark Gregory), this gang is called the Riders. Anna leads a peaceful life with Trash and his bikers gang but it won't be for long, an undercover ruthless cop named, Hammer (Vic Morrow), is on a mission to get her back. And this cop is also trying to eliminate all the dwellers of Bronx by turning them into each other, mainly between the most powerful gang called The Tigers led by The Ogre (Fred Williamson) and The Riders. To prevent worse thing to come, Trash and his two friends has to reach The Tiger's den bvy crossing the turfs of the Iron Men gang, The Scavengers and the Zombies that would gladly kill any trespassers in an instant. What will happen in the Bronx?
The premise of this sci-fi flick is once again about chasing/hunting/protecting/loving a babe. A hot woman on the run who has something very important to the world and her fate could determine the fate of others. The word on the street about this Italian sci-fi film ---the original title is 1990: I guerrieri del Bronx--- was something very extraordinary, while in fact there is nothing special to set this movie apart from its ilks. If you have never seen other movies belong to the same genre than I'm sure the contents may shock you for its depiction of a place in chaos. And I used the word "place" intentionally because this movie doesn't cover a large place such as the "world" or a "nation" like other movies do. Okay what makes it lame, for starter, the lead male actor, Mark Gregory is very stiff and despite his well-built bod and considerable height, he moves very funny. More like a female model, the way he runs and walks are something un-hero-like. George Eastman, the regular face of B-movie, is underused here. Furthermore Fred Williamson, the regular face of Blaxploitation, is present and though he performs with his usual style, I'd rather see any title of his blaxploitation films instead of this so-so post apocalyptic flick. But I guess, this movie is considerably precious because it's the last completed movie of Vic Morrow who died an untimely death only one year after this movie was produced.
But I don't see any other strong reasons to recommend this to you all. Being a child (and in the time of Betamax/VHS), I think everyone including myself was very tolerant to almost any action/sci-fi movie. But some movies just could hold the test of time... Like this movie of course. The action now feels fairly standard, the fighting scenes are lackluster and worsened by the confusing camerawork. The editing is moderate but clutters at some points and the blood or gore are tame compared to modern standards or even to grindhouse's. Again, if you fond of the premise or the genre, you'd have moderate fun viewing time and this movie also has a much better sequel titled Escape from the Bronx (1983).
> These films from director Enzo Castellari are much more fun: L'ultimo squalo AKA The Last Shark (1981) and Quel maledetto treno blindato AKA The Inglorious Bastards (1978) or a Spaghetti Western Keoma (1976).
OCTOBER 11 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : BRONX WARRIORS (1982)
With immaculate timing, Shameless Screen Entertainment launch this three-disc extravaganza of jaw droppingly camp post-apocalyptic cheese by Italian 'Macaroni Combat' merchant, Enzo G. Castellari, just as the director's stock is on the definite up -- his name now likely to be familiar, at least in passing, to a fair proportion of the cinema-going public, thanks to his being the latest obscure artisan of '70s European exploitation to receive the patronage of publicity from latter-day director-genius and encyclopaedic uber-geek, Quentin Tarantino. Castellari, of course, directed the original "Inglorious Bastards": a 1978 Italian riff on the guys-on-a-mission genre, inspired by "The Dirty Dozen", which itself then prompted Tarantino to crank up his own tribute to the Italian film industry's shameless dedication to ripping-off all the most successful Hollywood films of the day, but always in its own inimitable style. The rugged Castellari was a specialist in this area: knocking out genre films -- Westerns, war films and police thrillers -- by the dozen but (and this is undoubtedly what attracts a dedicated film buff and undiscriminating student of both 'High' and 'Low' art like Tarantino to his work), at the same time always producing work that demonstrated impeccable craftsmanship; his genre films generally showcase the director's apparently innate talent for constructing an arresting, beautifully composed image or a viscerally dynamic action sequence, no matter how inane or ridiculous their subject matter.
There can be no better illustration of this tendency than the three films in this box set. By any normal standards, all of them could be considered to be absolutely bloody terrible: they are all marred by simplistic, highly derivative stories, laughably inept scripts, cripplingly bad acting and even worse English dubbing, not to mention their poverty row production values and dodgy, eighties 'Big Hair' fashion sense. And yet, at the same time, it would be hard work indeed to visualise another set of films that took a more deliriously cinematic approach to such derivative subject matter; few films could better these trashy, bottom-of-the-barrel rip-offs of the work of Walter Hill and John Carpenter for their bold visual flair, punchy, rapid-fire editing and gorgeous, sweeping camera work. These dystopian, apocalypse-on-a-shoestring Italian budget films may very well be completely daft; but while watching, the viewer is, frankly, too caught up in the sizzling energy and the corny but explosive madness of them -- just their sheer, unadorned chutzpah! -- to really give a damn!
"1990: Bronx Warriors" (1982) is a simple tale. And if you've seen "The Warriors" or "Escape from New York" you'll recognise most of it! In this version of the pre-millennial future, something called the Manhattan Corporation is both mighty international arms dealing conglomerate, and fascistic feudal governing force of the city of New York. Vital to the continuance of its power structure it seems, is the inheritance of its presidential title by prospective seventeen-year old heiress, Anne (Castellari's daughter, Stefania Girolami). She's not keen though. So morally distraught by the prospect is she, in fact, that she flees Manhattan into the un-policed 'no man's land' (as it has been declared by the Corporation) that is the Bronx. Here, there is no law. No nothing, in fact. Just a burned-out, fallen down wasteland, inhabited exclusively by a colourful patchwork of futuristic gangs, who defend their various rubble-strewn territories with gleeful violence. It's not long before Anne falls foul of one of these groups, but she is rescued by a Harley riding gang called The Riders, led by a doe-eyed, muscled-bound adonis with flowing curls known only by the name Trash (Mark Gregory). She takes a shine to him and becomes a member of the biker gang, riding alongside Trash and becoming his girl. Meanwhile, corporate bigwigs in the Corporation send in their number one hatchet man, Hammer (Vic Morrow), an ex Bronx boy turned vicious mercenary. He sets about concocting a plan to turn the gangs against each-other, planting evidence with the aid of a traitor in Trash's camp with the aim of sparking internecine warfare. When Anne is kidnapped by the ruthless gang known as the Zombies, Trash risks all to embark on a most dangerous trek through the ravaged districts of the Bronx, hoping to make peace with Ogre (Fred Williamson), the self-styled King of the Bronx and head of the gang known as the Tigers, in a bid to persuade him to join forces and confront the power of the mighty Corporation.
Near the start of "1990: Bronx Warriors", the street gang known as The Riders and their sharp-suited, vintage car-driving rivals, the 'Tigers', meet on neutral territory on the outskirts of the Bronx, for an inter-gang conference. During this scene (and a few others dotted throughout the movie) the viewer is confronted with the retrospectively ironic image of the Manhattan skyline, as it was in 1982, being shown in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic themed movie, where the twin towers are clearly still standing, gleaming and proud, in every scene! Italian filmmakers from this period liked to get their money's worth while on location, and were prone to filling the screen with as many iconic landmarks as possible. Such is the case here; which means that no futuristic sci-fi action epic could look more resolutely innocent, and of its time, if it tried. Elsewhere, Castellari didn't have to do too much work dressing the Bronx locations in order to present them as an abandoned, derelict wilderness of burned-out tenements and rubble. In 1982, that's exactly what they were. The place looks like a war zone! When, at the climax of the film (and all the way through its grittier and even more violent sequel) armoured Corporation goons led by a cackling leather-suited Hammer, turn flame throwers on the warring gangs, it's like a surreal symbol of the Bronx's violent, riotous past of arson attacks back in the '60s and '70s.
Castellari's means of suggesting this trad landscape is a futuristic one depends on filling the film with lots of bizarre characters and outrageous-looking gangs who end up only emphasising its period nature. The Riders are the most prosaic of the bunch, the luminous, skull-shaped headlights of their motorbikes being their most notable visual quirk. The roller-skating gang known as the zombies on the other hand are as camp as a row of tents: wielding hockey sticks as weapons and led by Golem -- a blacked-up George Eastman with a samurai hairpiece -- they seem to spend all their time 'training' in an underground gym bunker. The menagerie of crazy gangs soon helps to turn Italian exploitation veteran Dardano Sacchetti's screenplay into a library of reference to other classic films, not just the obvious "Escape from New York" and "The Warriors" influences: the underground-dwelling mud-men called the Scavengers bring to mind the Morlocks from H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine"; the odd tap-dancing gang who call themselves the Iron Men, dress like a cross between Alex's boot boy Droogs in "A Clockwork Orange" and the leg-warmer-clad kids from "Fame"; while The Tigers manage to incorporate sharp-suited cool black dudes in shades, led by Blaxsploitation supremo Fred Williamson, and New Romantic proto goths, the most notable of whom is the dominatrix known as Witch (Betty Dessy), who sports a whip, a silver cape and six-inch steel nails.
Common to both movies is leading man Mark Gregory (or rather Marco di Gregorio), supposedly discovered by Castellari working out in the director's gym! People who saw the films in their youth, tend to remember this rather unique-looking young actor. With his cascading brown curls, bronzed, well-toned physique and rock star good-looks it's obvious why he was cast in this lead role; his complete lack of acting skill is hardly a handicap in an industry that routinely re-dubbed its international casts as a matter of course. The dialogue is primitive in these two films anyway. What people tend to remember though is Gregory's rather unusual gait; he has a very peculiar walk which makes him look rather like a constipated emu (I would imagine)! Some wag overseeing the English dubbing of the sequel, "Escape from the Bronx", even appears to have included their own private joke on this issue: at one point in the film, you can hear a couple of soldiers commenting in the background, "look at the way he walks, the guy's a fag!"
The film is cheesy, mad, surreal-heavy weirdness all the way, with loads of slow-mo fight sequences in tribute to Castellari's cinematic hero, Sam Peckinpah. The underground trek through the Bronx also brings to mind "Beneath the Planet of the Apes": the ultimate dystopian future-shock film. With outstanding cinematography from Lucio Fulci regular Sergio Salvati, and one of those catchy Italian prog-rock cum operatic disco scores by Walter Rizzati ("The House by the Cemetery"), this is pure Italian exploitation gold of the type only the Italian film industry during the nineteen eighties could possibly have produced.
The sequel, "Escape from the Bronx" (1983) is a dirty, stripped-down action-fest with a grittier shoot-em-up policy eclipsing the rather more theatrical stylised fight sequences of the original. Like all these films, it was produced by Italian exploitation supremo, Fabrizio de Angelis, who was behind all of Lucio Fulci's golden period flicks, from "Zombie Flesh Eaters" to "New York Ripper", as well as Joe D' Amato's sordid Emmanuel films. In fact, think of almost any Italian exploitation flick from this period, and de Angelis' name will almost certainly be on the production credits.
The story for this sequel could be seen as almost a test run for Paul Verhoeven's "RoboCop". The Bronx is now even more run-down and dilapidated than it was in the previous film, if that's possible. The semi destitute population who live in the burned-out remains of the tenements are being forced out by silver-suited 'disinfestation' squads employed by a redevelopment company called the GC Corporation. President Clarke (Enio Girolami) assures the press that everyone is simply being relocated to New Mexico, no-one is able to verify this though, because a fake epidemic has been invented so that a 'forced' quarantine can be imposed on the whole area! Only one campaigning journalist, Moon Grey (Valerie Dobson), knows the truth: that the corporation have employed a former prison warden called Floyd Wangler (Henry Silva) -- expelled from his position for torture and murder -- to dispose of the remaining population, exterminating them if necessary!
Meanwhile, Trash (Mark Gregory) is living alone in the Bronx, forging a living of sorts supplying ammunition to the remnants of the former street gangs who now live together as a community, underground. Their leader, Dablone (Antonio Sabato) cannot be persuaded to fight the genocide that is taking place above -- that is, until Moon Grey (rescued by Trash after her scouting mission to expose Wangler's crimes goes wrong) informs him that the Corporation plan to target his underground community next. She and Trash concoct a plan to kidnap president Clarke at a Demolition Ceremony that is to take place on the East Island, in order to force the Corporation to put a stop to their redevelopment programme. They locate a dynamite expert called Strike (Timothy Brent) who lives in the bowels of the sewer system with his young son, and join forces with him (and his explosives expert son) on a crazy mission to abduct Clarke via the Bronx sewers. However, Wangler and the vice-president (Paolo Malco) have plans of their own, that will surely result in even more ultra-violence.
From its opening scenes depicting vagrants and street rabble being set alight by silver suited solders with flame throwers as Francesco de Masi's ("The New York Ripper") terrific action theme pounds away in the background, "Escape from the Bronx" proves itself a much more in-your-face prospect than its often rather camp predecessor. The arch surrealism that dominated that film is less evident; instead Castellari concentrates on the violence and the action; bodies are flying about everywhere all the way through (included amongst the madness, a crazy scene where Trash shoots down a helicopter with just a hand gun, sending a limp dummy occupant flying as the helicopter blows up!). By the end of it all, only a few characters remain alive! Machine gun battles and constant explosions now replace the hand-to-hand fight scenes of the former film -- and this may be why the film fell foul of the BBFC back in the early eighties. All the previously cut scenes of solders being smashed in the face with baseball bats, people rigged with explosives being blown up, etc., have now been reinstated under a 18 certificate. This often plays more like a guerilla war film than a sci-fi flick! Rare shots of the child, little Strike, lobbing hand grenades and merrily gunning down soldiers with a revolver have also been reinstated in this definitive version of the film, although they've had to be sourced from a grainy, inferior video version. The direction has a less stylised feel to it than the first film, but director of photography Blasco Giurato presides over some extremely inventive shots, with a striking depth of field very evident in the intelligently choreographed action sequences. Of the two films, this is probably the better: the action is non-stop; the music, catchy, pounding Italian prog-rock at its best; and the locations look much grungier and more authentic than they did in the first outing.
Coming between these two Bronx Warrior movies is another post-apocalyptic film by Enzo. "The New Barbarians" (1982) is a "Mad Max" sandwich filling a space between two slices of "Escape from New York", and was shot in the same year as "1990: Bronx Warriors". The success of that film, according to Castellari, made things a little tricky for the director, since it led producer de Angelis to shave much of its allotted budget, reassigning it to a prospective Bronx Warriors sequel instead! "The New Barbarians" looks mega cheap, although not as cheap as it actually was, since Castellari uses lots of editing tricks to make his meagre cast of extras look more numerous than they actually are. The film is basically a Western catapulted into a 'futuristic' setting and given a space opera makeover. The year is 2019 and civilisation has been reduced to rubble after a nuclear holocaust. Only small bands of humans remain alive, each isolated from the others in a flat, cold, dustbowl landscape. The film starts with one small band of survivors, a caravan of religious believers trekking through the wilderness, hoping to find some remnant of civilisation with whom they can rebuild human society. There is one group of humans, though, who's only mission in life is to wipe out the rest of humanity once and for all: nihilists who call themselves the Templars; High Priest of Death and ruthless killers, they will not stop until all human hope is lost.
This is the basic plot of the film then, and it’s as basic as you can get (not surprising, as the script was written in two weeks!): Good versus Evil. The religious communities represent 'hope', since they still believe there might be a reason to save humanity. The Templars don't believe there is any hope left, and so have resorted to the only other option available to them, which is to kill as many people as possible. They turn up on motorcycles and in souped-up cars and set about doing exactly that when they encounter the previously mentioned wanderers, who are no match for their futuristic silver vehicles with decapitating blades and phallic stabbing spears fitted to them. These caravans of religious survivors on a journey are an obvious biblical reference; but just in case there are any thickies in the audience who didn't catch it, the leader of one of them (who comes into the film later on) is given the name Father Moses!
The hero of the hour (the lone stranger who is to help one of these communities survive the onslaught of the Templars) is an ex templar himself: Scorpion (Timothy Brent). He teams up with a big-haired female called Alma (Anna Kanakis, ex missus of Claudio Simonetti, who also provides the score) whom he rescues from a couple of rogue Templars, and a cheeky child car mechanic expert (the ubiquitous annoying child actor of eighties Italian cinema, Giovanni Frezza). Together, they run into butch but camp leather-suited Fred Williamson, who plays Nadir: a bowman who's arrows are tipped with explosives (a precursor of Rambo). The leader of the Templars, One (George Eastman), is determined to make Scorpion pay for his interference, and after Scorpion and his friends join up with another caravan of religious wanderers the requisite showdown between the two men is guaranteed.
"The New Barbarians" is bargain basement sci-fi, and looks like it's getting by on little more than the budget of a 1979 episode of "Blake's 7". Preposterous costumes with bits cut out in odd places, weapons that are clearly toy guns with prop add-ons to try and make them look futuristic, and classic '80s ray-gun sound effects dubbed in on the soundtrack; vehicles that are clearly just ordinary cars or buggies with bits of piping or perspex added on by the props department and villains who look like they still have access, in a post-apocalyptic desert-scape, to a full range of hair-styling products and make-up -- the film is always amusing to look at, and of course, is laughably dated now. What keeps the whole thing afloat, as usual, is Castellari's action dynamics. He fills the screen with propulsive explosions, cartoon gore (decapitations, spearings and bodies literally exploding), car crashes and bike stunts punctuated by Simonetti's classic eighties synth-rock score (which sounds like a close cousin to Goblin's work on Argento's "Tenebrea"). There's one mad scene involving Scorpion being ritually sodomised by George Eastman's character while disco lights start flashing and Simonetti's score goes bonkers! Later, Scorpion pays him back in symbolic kind by spearing him with a phallic looking corkscrew blade attachment on the front of his car.
Weird guys, these Italians!
This three-disc set comes packaged in a limited edition special collector's tin (nice to see these coming back into style again!) and includes the usual Shameless reversible sleeves for each individual title. Castellari has filmed an introduction which automatically plays before the menu comes up on each disc. Disc one features an all-new 20 minute interview with the director, in which he talks about the making of each film and about his new friendship with Tarantino. In addition, each disc features trailers, alternative credit sequences and a 'Shameless Fact Track' written by Paul Alaoui which plays while the film is running. Each of these is filled with actor biographies and filmographies, trivia and production info for each film. They aren't as humorous as some of the other fact tracks in the Shameless' catalogue, but each one certainly helps to place the films in their proper context and are well worth a look.
I enjoyed looking at these films, although I've never been much of a fan of the Italian post-apocalyptic genre before now. Castellari and his editor Gianfranco Amicucci have managed to turn rather cheap and silly fare into a master class in low budget film making and anyone interested in Italian exploitation of the '80s, or in low budget film making in general, will find them engrossing viewing.