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The New Barbarians
(I nuovi barbari, 1982)

Enzo G. Castellari

Italy / USA

91 min, color, English (dub)

Review © 2007 Branislav L. Slantchev

Alternatively known as Warriors of the Wasteland, this Castellari extravaganza rips off Mad Max but some genuinely inspired touches make it a lot more (or less) than a rehash of the brutal Aussie original. Unlike various Italian post-holocaust movies of the 1980s that try to imitate American films like Escape from New York (for which they have neither the budget nor the feel), this one manages to maintain some, ok not a lot, but not zero either, credibility. How hard can it be: go to a desert, assemble some funky buggies, put a bunch of guys in ridiculous outfits, have them grow beards and long hair, then start the cameras rolling and set off all the explosions.

And you thought driving and talking on your cell phone was dangerous This ingredient not authorized for high-octane fuels

The above essentially summarize the content of the film whose whole point is to show various deliciously over-the-top ways one can kill people. When heads are not blown clear off the body by a charge embedded in an arrowhead, then entire bodies explode or at the very least get riddled with bullets making very attractive see-through patterns. When people are not impaled on ramming spears attached to vehicles, they get their heads sliced off by rotating cutlery attached to same. When they don't get their heads stuck under the carriage of a speeding car, they get incinerated while driving. When they don't get shot with a sling, they get caught in a net and dragged behind a car. When... oh well, I guess you get the idea.

The Templars about to get medieval It is I, Scorpion, who will nail this broad

The year is 2019, and as we know, this is not a good year for humanity. The nuclear holocaust has come and gone, turning everything into a replica of Southern California. And I don't mean the coastal areas either. In this wasteland, some remnants of humanity survive and wander about vainly listening to signals from other groups hoping they all use the same frequency on the one remaining ham radio. If you think life is hard without manufactured products, processed foods, fuel, and just general necessities (especially in the desert), then you'd be right. However, as far as I can tell, the only problem these guys have is lack of shower facilities (all people in the future will go around dirty). That and the Templars.

George Eastman has some "issues" I may not be a qualified physician, but you need to get naked so I can inspect your shoulder

These Templars are some bad mothers. For one, their leader is called One. For two, he is played by George Eastman. This should have most people surviving a nuclear holocaust start running around screaming and pulling their hair, and generally wishing they had perished with the rest of humanity. The real problem with the Templars is that they shack up illegally in the desert, speed on abandoned state highways in their electric scooters, tote ray guns, and are often rowdy neighbors seeing how they tend to kill people not only during the day but also late into the night. That is, unless they are indulging in one of their periodic orgies that mostly consist of the One sticking his smaller one into some random schmuck's ass hole.

Random violence against mannequins Did not work for Icarus either

It is actually this last thing that makes the film so endearing. Quickly, how many movies can you name where the good guy and sometimes hero gets rammed in the ass by the otherwise heterosexual leader of the opposition? And I don't mean that figuratively either. Now don't get me wrong, the film is not about how two rivals can find peace and understanding in mutual physical adoration. It's not an affirmation of homosexuality. In fact, it's precisely the opposite for the rape is presented as the ultimate humiliation and degradation of our hero. (Did I mention it was in public?) However, I do wonder if that was the intended meaning because said hero did not appear unduly worried about having the One's member explore his prostate. Truth be told, he surrendered without a fight and looked quite content with his lot. Of course, the latter may just be due to Giancarlo Prete's acting (dis)ability.

Scorpion's fearsome jogging skills on display I seem to have a corpse stuck behind my tire

OK, maybe this is all very confusing. So here's the lowdown. The Templars subscribe to some cockamamie philosophy that makes New Age crackpots sound positively profound. Without getting into intricate doctrinal subtleties, one can summarize its first and only commandment as "Kill all fucking humans." That's because they hate humanity. The reason for this abiding hate is that said humanity turned everything into Southern California. We all know how crappy SoCal is, so I fully sympathize with their feelings. The real estate is killing me although the weather is nice. In this case, these guys are so completely priced out of the housing market, that they have to live in the desert, in some odd-looking tents or, failing that, sleep in their cars.

Gratuitous shot of Anna Kanakis Nadir inspects Anna through viewfinder

Scorpion (our hero) is a concrete block dressed in puffy suede and sporting a toupee designed to make him look vaguely human. He has some beef with the One although this doubtless fascinating backstory is never revealed. Only murky details emerge and they all involve some duel between them and the loss of the One's dignity. Since the One seems quite alive, I can only imagine what they dueled with. Or what the loss involved. This would go a long way in explaining the choice of revenge although it still leaves all that fear of Scorpion quite puzzling. You see, the Templars treat the guy as if he could kill 100 of them by just throwing his toupee at them. As we can clearly see in the film, he's nowhere near that competent. In fact, the sissy can't even fix his transmission and has a 10-year old boy do it for him. (The boy is also a better driver.)

Fred Williamson is cool "They believe in something called... GOD"

With the mystery of Scorpion's legend deepening, the guy manages to run into a group of Templars who unimaginatively want to kill a woman by the name of Alma (Anna Kanakis). This led me to my first suspicions that the Templars are really a homosexual cult because no sane male with hetero tendencies would try to kill Anna. Not without at least raping her first (if he's a freaking Templar) or offering to marry her otherwise. She is stunning, which should come as no surprise to anyone in the know. For those in the don't-know, Anna was Miss Italy at 15 in 1977. I am not much for girls that young, but in the film she's 20, and, well, definitely not worth killing. Scorpion naturally saves her although this is done mostly by the Templar Shadow (Ennio Girolami) knocking out his comrade Mako (Masssimo Vanni) under the flimsy pretext of saving his life from Scorpion who will soon be revealed for the incompetent patsy that he is.

Anna abandons Scorpion for a bunch of religious nuts Come back in half an hour, we'll finish the scene then

Following a night in which Alma and Scorpion do not have sex although at least one of them, presumably Scorpion, fantasizes seriously about it (complete with full blown color widescreen visions), the two are joined by Nadir (Fred Williamson) who is the other breath of fresh air. He is cool but then when is Da Hammer not cool? He runs around with a nice bow, shoots the aforementioned arrows with explosive heads, and is even up to speed on screwball yoga practices and is not ashamed to practice fruitcake mumbo-jumbo as long as it helps in getting laid. Which he does. Unlike Scorpion who gets some lovin' too but not of the well-lubed kind. It is Nadir that helps our guy regain some dignity, which we all know will have to involve some serious mayhem even if it would cost the lives of dozens innocent holocaust survivors in the final epic showdown. Of course, Scorpio promptly lost about half of that dignity by appearing in translucent plastic body armor.

That guy in the back is not licensed to practice rectal examinations Don't lose your head while riding

The film is actually lots of fun to watch, mostly for the cheesy effects and the gusto with which nearly non-stop mayhem is perpetrated on screen. As I said, there are plenty of explosions to satisfy even a budding Corps of Engineers enthusiast. There are even headless torsos on motorcycles. And the final screw is a sight to behold. (Yes, it does involve screwing someone with a screw. Although don't get any ideas: the screw is attached to a car and it also doesn't involve any lubricant whatsoever.) I think it would be worthless to spend any time on the performances although I would believe Anna whatever she tells me she is supposed to play. George Eastman is, as usual, delightfully evil and unhinged.

I'm gonna nail me a Templar today Pleasure or pain? You decide

I watched the Shriek Show DVD and it is quite nice. The film is presented in its OAR at 2.35:1 and is anamorphic. Don't expect major Hollywood studio quality, of course: it's a low-budget flick about a bunch of guys with goofy uniforms in the desert. The English soundtrack is serviceable although I often could not hear well parts of the doubtless deep exchanges. The explosions sounded a bit muffled but the screams were ok. The extras include an interview with Da Hammer although nearly all of it is available on the 1990: The Bronx Warriors DVD, and the latter is much longer. Nothing much to write home about really, but the film is about as much fun as these things can get.

January 19, 2007