Tuesday, May 8, 2012

1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)

Title: 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)

Director: Enzo G. Castellari

Cast: Fred Williamson, Vic Morrow, Marc Gregory, Stefania Girolami


Director Enzo G. Castellari was one of the many Italian directors that made a career out of  ripping-off more successful American films; this guy liked an American film, he’d immediately go and make his own low budget version of it. The most infamous of these rip-offs is of course Great White (L’ultimo Squalo) (1981) a film that was so similar to Spielberg’s JAWS (1975) that Universal actually sued and won, which is the main reason why we haven’t gotten a proper dvd release of that film yet. Gotta be honest, I am more than a little curious to check that film out, from what I’ve seen, it looks like fun. But anyways, for a while there all Castellari could do where rip offs. The Great White fiasco didn’t stop this guy! Right after that one, he went and made The New Barbarians (1983) and 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982), two films that ripped off various successful American films. The film I will be reviewing today is 1990: The Bronx Warriors; a film I’d been looking forward to seeing for a while now; if anything, out of sheer curiosity. How was it?

Enzo G. Castellari, ripping off some American film!

Same as in Escape from New York (1981) the apocalypse on this film isn’t a world-wide event, the apocalypse has only taken place in The Bronx, New York where as the film states in its opening statements “The Bronx is officially declared ‘no man’s land’".  The Authorities give up all attempts to restore law and order to that notorious borough. From then on, the area is ruled by gangs with such names as Sharks, Scavengers, Tigers and The Riders. So basically, nobody dares venture into The Bronx, well, almost nobody. The daughter of the president of a powerful weapons manufacturing company called ‘The Manhattan Corporation’ decides she no longer wants to be a part of her fathers business, she considers him and his company scum, and “unscrupulous”.  So she decides to go and live with the poor and the oppressed deep within the heart of The Bronx. Problem is her father wants none of that! He needs his daughter because she is the heir to his fortune! So he sends a murderous cop known as “The Hammer” to find his daughter and kill those who get in his way.

Weirdest thing happened while watching this movie. Normally, when I watch an Italian Rip-Off like this one, I try and pin point which films have inspired the rip-off, but on 1990: The Bronx Warriors the opposite happened! I noticed how an American film ripped this one off, I’m speaking of course of John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A. (1996). If you guys remember correctly, Escape from L.A. is all about the presidents daughter escaping to L.A. (which has been turned into an island/wasteland by a savage earthquake) and falling in love with a Che Guevara type gang leader called ‘Cuervo Jones’. The president then sends Snake Plissken in to rescue his daughter, who has taken with her a doomsday device that could shut down the entire world. The plot for 1990: Bronx Warriors is extremely similar, a rich and powerful girl decides to side with the rebels, she falls for one of them, and her father sends a mercenary of sorts to rescue her. The real difference between both films is that the man sent in to rescue the girl in Escape from L.A. is our hero, Snake Plissken while in 1990: The Bronx Warriors the man sent in to rescue the girl is a murderous cop known as ‘The Hammer’. This is a man who thrives on killing people; he believes in nothing and works for no one. He just loves killing! So anyways, if we take in consideration that 1990: The Bronx Warriors rips off Carpenter's Escape from New York, one could argue that Carpenter was executing sweet revenge on the Italians and giving them a taste of their own medicine by ripping off 1990: The Bronx Warriors with Escape from L.A., but that’s just me and I could be horribly wrong. But I make perfect sense don’t I?

Alex De Large's Italian Droogs

So yeah, of course 1990: The Bronx Warriors borrows heavily from other American films. If I had to describe it in someway it would have to be a mix between Escape from New York (1981) and The Warriors (1979), with a little bit of A Clockwork Orange (1971) thrown in. Same as Escape from New York, on this film they’ve gone and turned a part of New York City into a wasteland populated by bums, low lives and gangs, the kind of place where anything can crawl out of the darkest corners. And it’s like The Warriors because each gang has its own distinctive gimmick. For example, one gang looks like a roller derby team, the other looks like a group of zombies, the other is a gang of dudes with make up and batons who like to tap dance and so forth. The main gang in the film is actually a biker gang called ‘The Riders’ led by a super gay dude called ‘Trash’; why all these super tough dudes, riding choppers and sporting huge beards and leather jackets would let themselves be lead by this skinny clean shaven, effeminate is beyond me, but such is the logic of an Italian Rip Off.

The film is filled with nonsensical moments, for example. When two gangs are about to meet for face off, we hear the beat of a drum. Normally you’d think ok, it’s the soundtrack setting the mood for this big face off between two gangs, but then as the camera zooms out we realize, no, in fact there is a drummer banging his drum set right there in the scene. For no reason! Ha! I’ve read that in fact, the drummer in the scene wasn’t planned; he was simply there when they were going to shoot the scene and Castelliari decided to include him in the scene. What the Hell?? Another scene that left me baffled: The Bronx is supposed to be a ‘No Man’s Land’ according to the films opening credits, but in one scene as the biker gang rides across an abandoned neighborhood, we can clearly see regular every day traffic going on in the background! Yeah, right, post apocalyptic waste land my ass! How lazy! Had I been the director I would have simply NOT used those seconds of film, but they didn’t care and left it in there so it could completely take us out of the film. So be ready for lazy filmmaking and some bad acting, especially from the two leads.

Fred Williamson plays 'The King of New York'

Don’t know what it was about New York City, but Italian filmmakers were enamored with it. How many Italian made films take place in New York or partially in New York City? Just off the top of my head: The New York Ripper (1982), Escape from the Bronx (1983), Inferno (1980), Zombie (1979), House by the Cemetery (1981), Cannibal Holocaust (1980), Zombie Holocaust (1980), 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983), the list just goes on and on! My guess is that the infatuation with New York had something to do with the fact that many of these exploitation films played in 42nd Street Cinemas, where they probably made most of their money and had their biggest audience, so that makes sense; plus New York has always been considered a pulse for cultural happenings, so all these things add up I guess, to this mega infatuation that Italian b-movie filmmakers had with the city. But who am I kidding right? The Big Apple rocks, I personally love the place. 

This film was shot between New York and Rome, but mostly in Rome. What they did to create the illusion that the whole film was shot in New York is they shot lot’s of exterior shots with New York buildings in the background and the rest was simply shot it in places that looked like New York but where actually Rome. Gotta say they did a good job of hiding it. I didn’t really notice! But the scenes that they did shoot in New York look very much like The Bronx, the abandoned buildings and isolated areas look post-apocalyptic because The Bronx was kind of post apocalyptic looking back in those days. The Bronx was a borough that was emerging from the 70’s and was in a transitional period. Lot’s of changes were going on in terms of buildings and architecture back in those days. I know because I lived in The Bronx during the early 80’s, I experienced this desolation first hand!

Vic Morrow as 'The Hammer'

Final words on this film is that it’s bad, it’s got some bad acting, and it’s obviously a rip off of many films that came before it, but at the same time some of you out there with a tolerance for heavy cheese and b-movie madness will find it watchable and maybe even entertaining. The film made me giggle a time or two, especially when the character called The Hammer comes into play. He was played by Vic Morrow before Vic Morrow died while making John Landis’s segment for Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), so 1990: The Bronx Warriors was actually Morrow’s penultimate screen performance before his untimely death. Morrow steals the show as ‘The Hammer’ a heartless bad guy who laughs while ordering his minions to kill. Another bonus is Fred Williamson as ‘The Ogre’ a.k.a. The King of New York. Though to be honest, I don’t know why they didn’t call Williamson’s character The Hammer, that’s how he calls himself in real life anyways! But whatever, let’s not try and make sense of these Italian rip offs which are best enjoyed with our sense-o-meters turned off. Speaking of Willamson, highly recommend you check out the dvd extras which include an interview to Williamson where he goes on and on about how he built his career from the ground up, loved hearing his story. He kind of comes off as the black Arnold Schwarzenegger. Or many Schwarzenegger is the white Fred Williamson? So anyways, 1990: The Bronx Warriors is at times a slow film, a violent film and a funny film all rolled up into one. Just don’t expect a masterpiece.

Ratings: 2 ½ out of 5 


Jack Thursby said...

Really enjoyed this film and it's sequel. I guess I love Escape from New York and The Warriors and watching these Italian rip off films are the equivalent of hearing an amateur band covering your favourite song. Sure, it's rough around the edges but it's interesting (and sometimes unintentially hilarious) to see how they re-interpret it.

You make an interesting point about Italian Rip-off cinema. It was really just a small handful of Italian directors:- Martin Dolman, Enzo Casterelli, Lucio Fulci, Joe D'Amato and a few others. And they went through phases of ripping off various American genres - in the 60s it was Westerns, in the 70s Zombie films, then Post Apocalyptic film and Sword and Sorcery films in the 80s. As far as I can tell the practice died out in the early 90s.

One good one to check out is Thunder Warrior - which also stars Mark Gregory - an Italian version of First Blood with a Native American rather than a Vietnam vet.

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks for that suggestion Jack, I'll see if I can find it. I enjoy this movies as well, they always make for a fun (and funny!)watch. They just amuse me with their craziness. Take for example this film, nobody wins! What was the whole point of the freaking film?? Well, the only real winner was maybe Trash...but damn, what a bleak ending. When the credits started to roll I was like WHAT??!!

Jack Thursby said...

Yeah, a bleak but very funny movie. Particularly the scene early on where the Warriors throw the ashes of a fallen comrade into the river only for the wind to blow it back in their faces!

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, and the scene just goes on and on and on...I was like okay you made your point! Ha ha ha...that moment reminded me very much of a similar joke in The Big Lebowsky when the dude gets Donnies ashes thrown back to his face in the same way.

The dvd extras were cool though, I loved the whole thing where they interviewed Fred Williamson, the dude sure is full of himself, he's like this bigger than life persona, a la Arnold, I mean, the dude even makes his own special brand of cigars! It was a very informative interview, I did not know that Williamson was a film producer and director himself, he made a couple of low budget films, so the guy knows what he's talking about. It was actually a very inspiring interview, made me want to go talk to some one to produce my scripts!

I read that Marc Gregory, the actor who plays Trash had dissapeared for years and years, no one could find him. But they finally did, he looks very different now, he's actually kind of gained a couple of pounds!

Jack Thursby said...

Don't think my DVD copy has extras. Damn, the Fred Williamson interview does sound quite interesting - I bet he's got some great stories from all the cheap b-movies he's done.

I remember reading that someone was trying to track down Mark Gregory but didn't realise they found him. Do you have a link?

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, they talk a bit about the search for Mark Gregory on the dvd I got a hold of.

Heres that link, this person even went to Italy looking for this actor! Check it out, dont know if its real or not, but here the ling anyways:


Armando H. said...

I think this movie is okay. If it wasn't so slow at times, it would of been a very cool Italian rip-off movie. I also had no idea this was partially made in Rome! That's cool to know :D

Franco Macabro said...

raculfright_13: Yeah, you can catch the New York City scenes because the buildings and backgrounds are very obviously NYC, whenever it isnt obvious, or whenever they shot in interiors, it was Rome. They had this documentary on how they made the film on the dvd I watched, it was informative.

Agree, it gets slow at times! You feel like they could have cut some of the fat off of this one.

Thanks for commenting!

Roberto Zanni said...

When I was a teenager I was a fan of this movie and its lead actor ... I wrote a short biography of Mark Gregory in Italian, perhaps with Google traslator you can manage to understand what is written. Sorry, but my English is bad!

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks for the link, I'll try and get some sort of translator engine to translate it, but I could see you've mentioned some italian rip offs on your article, as you might already know from reading this blog, I love watching Italian Rip Offs! Some of them are very entertaining and funny, thanks for stopping by and reading all the way from Italy.

Roberto Zanni said...

Thanks for your appreciation, congratulations for your blog is an endless source of knowledge, I have discovered many interesting news!

Franco Macabro said...

Glad you enjoyed the blog Roberto, it's a great feeling knowing that my ramblings are being read on all parts of the world! Also, welcome on board as a regular reader! I've got some really interesting articles lined up for your reading enjoyment, so keep your eyes pealed!


Related Posts with Thumbnails