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Kings of Cult

King Of the Wasteland….King Castellari!!

Now there are post apocalyptic wasteland films and then there is the Italian post apocalyptic wasteland film, more specifically the films of Enzo G. Castellari in his Post Apocalyptic Trilogy. All the films contain a true 80’s underground film feel and although all rift some of the best elements of similar films (Road Warrior and The Warriors are the first to come to mind) there is something adrenaline pumping about them.

Personally I knew nothing about these pieces of post-apocalyptic brilliance until I happened upon the (quite literally gorgeous looking) boxset in HMV, and for the first time in what felt like an age while almost harking back to my pre-teens when I was banned from watching a lot of films, there was an excitable rush of the forbidden to me. I had to know what these films were and it constantly caught my eye the more I went into assorted DVD shops. But was I able to take the plunge; well no not right away but then on a sudden impulse by after scouting through various films on sale, I noticed very little really hooked me in. Everything seemed stale and uninspiring but then for the final time the gleaming metal of the boxset caught my peripheral vision, the embossed metal tin skull on the front of a motorbike image, finally allowing me to through caution to the wind; letting my curiosity kill a cat and jumped in to the cinematic void. And in a filmic leap of faith it actually became one of the best film choices I have made for a very long time, contained within this super cool boxset is : “1990-The Bronx Warriors” / “Escape from the Bronx aka Bronx Warriors 2” and “The New Barbarians-Warriors of the wasteland”.

Lets start with the first entry which when I first watched, instantly fell in love with its camp tone and impressive use of slow-motion during the action sequences, and like all good post-apocalyptic epic concerns the warring gangs in the Bronx rebelling against a corrupt government. Mainly with the use of explosions and choppers adorned with skulls. But like most Italian exploitation films plot is either incomprehensible or so downright ludicrous you can not help but laugh at its kitsch appeal. With The Bronx Warriors it feels as though I have finally found a long forgotten friend whom I embrace with a warm loving hug, how have I managed to avoid these films is truly beyond me. This first entry has some amazingly over the top moments not to mention it contains two acting legends in the form of Fred “Black Caesar” Williamson and Vic Marrow. Marrow stars as an ex-cop trying to cause riffs between the local gangs and start a turf war. Whereas Fred Williamson appears as The Ogre one of the rival gang bosses, and fully fledged pimp daddy badass. He elevates the film to a certain level of exploitation quality; the guy just oozes super cool charisma, and for that it really can’t be beaten.

What is also of note is the opening titles all of which are close ups of the various gangs tooling up rituals, granted by many it might be seen as a shameless rip-off of Walter Hill’s “The Warriors” at times. But there is still something great about such an unpolished and badly dubbed film. You might think I am just pointing out all its flaws, but it is because of this that the film has such merit through the countless re-watches I have since put myself though. I want to show people just how enjoyable this piece of cult cinema really is. And how can you not like a film where in a long shot during a scene two motorcycles which are riding to a disused building (fantastically framed by the legendary Sergio Salvati) has one of the actors unintentionally crash the bike and have it kept in the final cut. It has steadily become (over the last month or so) one of my new cult action favourites, up there with the likes of Road Warrior and Steel Dawn just minus their more polished budgets. Because of this there is something even more likeable about its rough and ready (dare I say) more gritty look to proceedings.

While on the subject of Road Warrior and Steel Dawn I think I will mention the next film (in shooting order at least) in the series, and it is quite frankly my preferred choice over the trilogy: The New Barbarians. This little piece of post apocalyptic fried gold again starts the man mountain of Fred Williamson but with an extra side of badassery in the form of a wasteland warrior who uses explosive tipped arrows which causes his enemies explode…..I’ll say that again EXPLOSIVE ARROWS, just how bad ass is that, Mad Max stick that in your tailpipe and smoke it, only in Italian exploitation action films.

It also contains some of the most surreal images I have ever had the good fortune (or in some cases misfortune) to witness within an action film. It takes camp to a whole new level that Mike Nichol’s Flash Gordon could only have wet dreams off. Seriously there are elements of this film which felt like I was have a hallucinogen dropped into my Earl Grey (yes I know what you are thinking that would spoil the taste). But there are some completely psychedelic moments to this film, for instance I do not know a single action film (exploitation or otherwise) that contains the rape of a main male character by another man…. I mean what the hell was that about, on top of which it verges on laughable with its use of psychedelic porn film lighting. Never again will laughable and male rape come together in the same sentence again, either way that is the second most disturbing thing about this trash classic. Later in the film the main character appears in see through body armour, now think about it what use is that to his enemies, unless he is thinking “well they have already violated my body once, why not give them a bit more of a tease before I slaughter the lot”…..there could possibly be method to this madness. But then that would be negating the whole point of the film, this is slow motion filmed / arrow grenade launching / body exploding/ see through armour/ big boobed Italian vixens wearing capes, hilariousness. And it deserves to be shown on more double bills with Road Warrior or even the aforementioned Flash Gordon, because of its campy kitsch appeal. If you feel brave enough check it out.

Casterllari concluded his epic post-apocalyptic exploitation trilogy with the second Bronx Warriors (aka Escape from the Bronx) and where the first was less action packed, this takes a lot of its cues from New Barbarians. In the sense that a lot of slow motion is used to spectacularly adrenaline pumping effect, and this is evident from the get go. When Trash (the main character from the first Bronx Warriors) has gone into hiding, his parents place gets ambushed by a corporate hit squad, here we get to see an amazing slow motion and painful smash to the face with a baseball bat, and it truly encompasses everything that is awesome about Casterllari’s direction. All that and its only the few minutes into the film, throughout the film we are also treated to prisoners of the Bronx (strapped with high explosives) doing a kamikaze run at the corporate henchmen before they detonate in eye watering slow motion .

If Bronx Warriors was Alien in terms of its action, the Bronx Warriors 2 is the Aliens of Italian exploitation action cinema. It really does up the action rate of the first film, and who cares if it does riff off so many better or more polished American or Australian wasteland films, there is still an undeniable charm to proceedings. You can see just why Tarantino respects the Italian exploitation masters so much, particularly Casterllari. So if you fancy something different and pretty unique then pop The Post-Apocalyptic trilogy in, how I have managed not to find these film before hand is beyond me but I am so glad that I did.

Long Live The Bronx Warriors !!!!!!!!

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