Saturday, June 27, 2015

1990: Bronx Warriors, Escape from the Bronx and The New Barbarians (Blue Underground Blu-ray) - Warriors from the Future and the Bronx

1990: Bronx Warriors

My first experience with 1990: Bronx Warriors was a double feature at the Forum Theater in Metuchen, New Jersey. While I was familiar with the name and though it’s only merit was that it might come close to the 80’s gang fury of The Warriors, I actually showed up for the second half of the double feature, Demons. And what stole the show that night? Why a preview trailer of an independent effort billed as a darker version of Kentucky Fried movie, Midnight Show. Of course when you have a crab monster costumed actor, charismatic filmmaker a bunch of unique, humorous horror parody sequences back to back, you’ll definitely feel good when you leave the theater. As it turned out, seeing one of my favorite Italian Horror pictures projected in Demons did not come in second place that night; 1990 Bronx Warriors did with equal parts action, unintentional comedy and a ravishingly awesome score (I’m a bit of a soundtrack nut). I’ve waited to enjoy Bronx Warriors again until it was on Blu-ray and Blue Underground has seen fit to give me the opportunity with their well-endowed release.

This viewing of 1990: Bronx Warriors wasn’t as part of a large crowd of Italian film fans, but its spirit and upbeat tempo kept me going through the entire release. All of the nuisances that make it great hold up and stand the test of multiple viewings from the costume design for the various rival factions to the war drumming of a single lone snare and high hat, drummer boy. You’d almost think the recent incarnation of Mad Max featuring the guitar flamethrower, Doof Warrior paid homage to the inclusion of this rival faction technique, playing on the traditional drummer boy and the call to war. The performances are over the top and over dramatic in pure 80’s fashion with a focus on the ever-cool Fred Williamson in the king seat calling the shots. Calling him The Ogre is hardly a fitting name with his level of cool. Your leading man Trash played by Marco Di Gregorio struts around like a gangland peacock but still maintains that level of cool that leads him into pure icon status. Vic Morrow plays a shit of a bad guy. Pure evil. He is a mastermind of minuscule proportions with a plan to destroy the gangs of the Bronx for good. George Eastman… a true legend of Italian cinema play the well armored, barbarian warrior, Golem. He’s one mean mama jama.

From what I understand from friends having grown up in the Bronx, the battle rages on to this day. Bronx Warriors seems to be the perfect amalgam of The Warriors from 1979 and John Carpenter’s Escape from New York featuring a dystopian world rich with reality and locations that truly embody what the bombed out borough would look like. Combined with a Walter Rizzati score du perfection which you can pick up on the flip side post-Record Story Day exclusive courtesy of Death Waltz, you are looking down the barrel of an Italian action post-apocalyptic esque classic. Fans of Enzo Castellari will rejoice in its release on beautiful Blu-ray with perfect film grain, rich color and deep blacks. It looks pristine save for a few marks here are there that show its age and battle wear, appropriate for the time period from which it hails.

The release comes with a voluptuous extra package. It includes a commentary track from Director Castellari and an interview with Castellari and Producer Fabrizio de Angelis. The “Sourcing the Weapons” extra is a look into Italian film history with the weapons maker who created some of the most memorable pieces for Bronx Warriors and beyond, showing off his stuff. It’s a treasure trove. True Italian cinema fans must watch this extra. Both Castellari and Paolo Ricci are candid and generous.

The attention being paid to early 80’s Italian cinema is both deserving and exciting especially when Blue Underground gets involved. They don’t go half way with any release as is the case with this powerful release of 1990: Bronx Warriors. The best part? Blue Underground gave us two other releases in the Castellari, post-apocalyptic action zone with Escape from the Bronx, a sequel to Bronx Warriors and The New Barbarians. All three movies share common tone, shooting style and feel. If you like one, then you can appreciate them all though I think my favorite is Bronx Warriors.

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From Blue Underground:

It's 1990 and the Bronx has officially been declared a "No Man's Land." The authorities have given up all attempts to restore law and order. When a beautiful young woman runs away from Manhattan into this wasteland of motorcycle gangs and marauding warriors, her corrupt father sends a ruthless mercenary to bring her back at all costs. But gang leader Trash has other plans, uniting the rival outlaws to wage an all-out guerilla war against their corporate oppressors.

Co-written and directed by Enzo G. Castellari (THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS), this action-packed post-apocalyptic cult classic is a delirious mix of elements from THE WARRIORS and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. Starring Vic Morrow (TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE), Christopher Connelly (MANHATTAN BABY), Fred Williamson (VIGILANTE), and Mark Gregory (ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX), 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS has been newly transferred in High Definition and includes exclusive new Extras created especially for this release!

 Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari
 Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 1
 Sourcing The Weaponry - Enzo G. Castellari visits the Italian Weapons Rental House of Paolo Ricci
 Adventures In The Bronx - Interview with Actor/Stuntman Massimo Vanni
 Theatrical Trailers
 Poster & Still Gallery

Escape from the Bronx

I think you’ll be more familiar with the sequel to 1990: Bronx Warriors solely for the fact that it was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 rather than its popularity. If the great riff master took notice enough to use it in episode under the name Escape 2000 than perhaps it’s worth your time to appreciate it as the sequel to the Enzo Castellari classic 1990: Bronx Warriors. We’re here to discuss Escape from the Bronx, the follow up to the 1982 Italian action classic Bronx Warriors (I always want to drop the 1990 for some reason).With similar imagery and feel, there’s a good chance that if you enjoy one of these pictures you’ll like the other. That’s what Blue Underground felt as they releases Escape from The Bronx and consequently The New Barbarians, another “warriors” film from the Italian action maestro.

While we lose the feeling of gangland camaraderie and extensive use of liberties taken from the wardrobe department, we make up for in a strong villain played by Henry Silva in the role of Floyd Wrangler. You’ll get plenty of guns and fire when the General Construction Corporation comes to town to try to gentrify and demolish the gangland Bronx warzone. You want a great name that is pure 80’s for a group of bad guys? How about the Disinfestors? This brings back memories of the Decepticons. The dark, cold world of the Bronx 10 years after Trash fought the suits is maintained though I must admit that there’s a certain feeling of sadness in it. It isn’t the upbeat, hedonistic battlefront we saw in 1990. Escape from the Bronx is a revenge picture, but given the slightly negative slant on the GC Corps plans to exterminate the residence of the Bronx, you begin to feel that the comeuppance can’t come soon enough.

The picture is excellent. The quality as stunning as 1990: Bronx Warriors and the release is comparable in preserving the traditional cover art and including part 3 (part 2 being on the New Barbarians disc and part 1 on the 1990: Bronx Warriors disc) of the interviews with Enzo Castellari and Fabrizio de Angelis. The disc also including an interview with a Super Fan as well as stills a trailer. This is a Blue Underground disc through and through. It’s given great attention.

Do the gangs win the Bronx? Was Trash’s sacrifice in 1990 make a difference at all to the war waged by corporate greed? Perhaps the best reason to watch both Bronx Warriors and Escape from the Bronx is to enjoy the “vision of the future” provided in these early 80’s films. It’s the same reason you waited for 1997 after watching Escape from New York in the 1980’s. You had to know whether Manhattan had in fact become a prison island. Did the Bronx become an isolated borough controlled by fashionable gangs? Did big corporations try to gentrify the district? Sounds more like Brooklyn these days rather than the Bronx. Blue Underground offers the complete picture of the future of the Bronx from the Castellarian time line. Best to know your history and pick em up.

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From Blue Underground:


The year is 2000 and the Bronx has been reduced to a decaying, desolate wasteland infested with swarms of vicious street gangs and outcast scavengers. When an imperialistic mega-corporation plans to rebuild the doomed "No Man's Land" into a perfect metropolis, they unleash their secret army of sadistic death squads to wipe out the few remaining inhabitants. But beneath the twisted rubble, fierce legions of resistance fighters arm themselves for the final onslaught - ready to die for their homeland. And ready to kill for it.

Co-writer/director Enzo G. Castellari (STREET LAW) and star Mark Gregory (THUNDER) return for this thrilling sequel to the post-apocalyptic cult classic 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS. Also starring Henry Silva (ABOVE THE LAW), Timothy Brent (THE NEW BARBARIANS), Paolo Malco (THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY), and Antonio Sabato (SEVEN BLOOD-STAINED ORCHIDS), ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX is presented in a brand-new High Definition transfer along with exclusive Extras for the first time ever in North America!

 Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari
 Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 3
 The Hunt For Trash - Interview with BRONX WARRIORS Superfan Lance Manley
 Theatrical Trailers
 Poster & Still Gallery 

The New Barbarians

Williamson is back. Eastman is back. Castellari is at it again with a post-apocalyptic, non sequel to the Bronx Warriors saga. It has the same look and feel of the Bronx pictures, but it is a different time line. The action takes place post-nuke incident in 2019… incidentally the year 2019 comes into play in Sergio Martino’s 2019: After the Fall of New York, a move that arrives from the same genre as the Castellari Warriors trilogy. The New Barbarians was released as Warriors of the Wasteland in the US which is truly the only tie to the Bronx series. It sort of fits into the series though as if it was an alternate story in the same universe, and it came out in the same two year period as the Bronx movies. Blue Underground recognized that as well and included it in their three releases for June alongside 1990 Bronx Warriors and Escape from the Bronx.

The only issue I take with New Barbarians is that I want it to be a Bronx Warriors follow up. I know it feels the same and a fan with an imagination might see fit to work it into the canon of the Bronx movies, but it simply isn’t especially with actors who may have died in 1990: Bronx Warriors showing up as different characters. Once you get beyond that you realize that it’s a similar story line, different locale, different people, but isn’t that the essence of struggle throughout time (and apparently even in the year 2019!). The action is strong and the grit is great with The New Barbarians. Instead of the Disinfestors, it’s the Templars (but not the ones from Tombs of the Blind Dead).

The extra include commentary by Director Enzo Castellari and the second part of the interviews with Castellari and producer Fabrizio de Angelis. Parts 1 and 3 are on 1990 Bronx Warriors and Escape from the Bronx respectively. It’s a great looking release with a great transfer and preserves the grindy aesthetic of the period nicely.

The first time I watched New Barbarians I didn’t read the synopsis; I just dug in head on knowing that a movie that had a cover art like that want me to enjoy it. Well I did, but in the absence of knowing better and this having been my first experience with the movie, I truly thought it was somehow related to the Bronx world. Like I said, it seems to almost fit (almost). Pair it up with 2019, After the Fall of New York and check out how two movies made in approximately the same year about the same futuristic year differ. Very different stories, but both movies are directed by Italian masters. Remember that you still have four years left before a post nuke world of the New Barbarians and After the Fall of New York so procreate now before the infection spreads and you can’t (a la Marinto) and prepare to battle the Templars!

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From Blue Underground:


It's the year 2019 and the world has been devastated by nuclear war. The few survivors try desperately to reach a distant land, only to be thwarted by brutal attacks from the fierce Templars and their leader One. When solitary warrior Scorpion rescues the beautiful Alma from the clutches of the Templars, they join Nadir and a ragtag group of survivors in a furious fight to the finish against the ruthless exterminators.

Timothy Brent (STREET LAW), Fred Williamson (FROM DUSK TILL DAWN), George Eastman (ANTHROPOPHAGUS), and Giovanni Frezza (THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY) star in this post-apocalyptic cult classic from co-writer/director Enzo G. Castellari (THE BIG RACKET). Also known as WARRIORS OF THE WASTELAND, THE NEW BARBARIANS has been freshly transferred in High Definition and includes exclusive new Extras produced for this release!

 Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Enzo G. Castellari
 Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 2
 Tales Of The Hammer - Interview with Star Fred Williamson
 Theatrical Trailers
 Poster & Still Gallery

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