A beautiful young girl ventures forth into the Bronx of New York City even after a nuclear attack has left it a forbidden wasteland of gangs and undesirables.
"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!"
Have you ever wondered what would happen if 'Mad Max,' 'Escape From New York' and 'The Warriors' hooked up together and had a cinematic love child? It took Italian Director Enzo Castellari to find the answer to that query with 1982's '1990: The Bronx Warriors.' This gleefully over the top exploitation flick has it all, gangs, guns, gore and so much more. Brought to Blu-ray thanks to Blue Underground, this movie can now be fully appreciated in all it's gleeful glory.
In the near future, the Bronx has become a complete loss. New York police are completely incapable of controlling the rampaging violence at the hands of vicious gangs. Rather than attempt control, the decision was made to contain. With the Bronx left to it's own devices, a new order arose with a hierarchy unique unto itself. At the top, the man acting like the king of the borough is The Ogre (Fred Williamson) and his gang the Tigers. Through a fragile alliance with the Riders headed by Trash (Mark Gregory), order between the outlaying gangs is maintained so long as no one trespasses onto someone else's turf without permission.
This delicate new social order is threatened by the arrival of the beautiful and mysterious Ann (Stefania Girolami Goodwin). After being saved by Trash and the Riders from a gang of rollerskating guys with hockey stick swords called the Zombies, Ann becomes Trash's girl and she finds a new life within the gang. Unconcerned with her mysterious past, Trash is blind to the mounting threats from within his own gang and outside by the powerful industrialists who run The Manhattan Corporation lead by Mr. Fisher (Ennio Girolami). These are the kind of men who are ready and willing to do anything to get the woman back - or see her killed in the process. She is the lone heiress of the company and her death means Fisher and his goons can retain control.
Working for these shady men is Hammer (Vic Morrow), a man who once was part of the gangs but now only operates in his self interests. Retrieving Ann may be just another job, but it also offers him the chance to settle a few old scores. As Hammer kills off Trash's men one by one and pits the gangs against each other, Trash must figure out a way to keep Ann safe, retain power over his gang, and prevent the industrialists from taking over control of the Bronx.
Talk about one hell of an entertaining movie! Italian exploitation movies offer their own unique flavor that few can match. From frame one, there is a kind of fearlessness that is evident in this movie that just puts a smile on my face. When you have a gang that looks like broadway show dancers complete with spiked and bladed canes and solid gold top hats - you know you're in for a good time. Director Enzo Castellari wasn't afraid to let inexperienced actors lead his movie, show off goofy gore effects, wild pyrotechnics, and even let actual Hell's Angels star in and provide protection for the shoot within the Bronx!
Then you have the performances. With a mixed bag of professionals and amateurs, the results are a bit shaky at times, but still commendable. The obvious standouts are clearly Fred Williamson and Vic Morrow who seem to be loving every single minute of the parts they're playing. It's sad that Morrow would die shortly after this production while shooting 'The Twilight Zone: The Movie,' it would have been great to see him in some of Castellari's other films. Then you have Mark Gregory who does an amiable job looking like a tough yet shrewd gang leader in his first acting role yet some of the more emotional scenes feel a bit forced - but that doesn't keep him from giving the role of Trash his all.
The real highlights of this movie are the many goofy fight sequences. Things look hard and tough as clubs, blades, and sharp sticks are flung about, but then the mannequins come out. When a particularly gory death happens, a rag doll makes a poor yet incredibly entertaining substitute for a real person. It's in these moments that '1990: The Bronx Warriors' finds its numerous charms. It's hard to complement it on story since it feels like a knock off of other movies, but what is here works in its own way. Perhaps my favorite scene in the entire movie is a meeting between The Ogre and Trash on the New York waterfront. This scene isn't the source of compelling drama or Oscar-worthy performances - it's the fact that it has an onscreen drummer providing diegetic theme music! It's just so cool one can't help but love every second of it. And that's how the whole movie plays. Each scene has something unique and inventive going for it that making it a great edge-of-your-seat watch. You also can't help but love a movie with a climax involving guys armed with flamethrowers while riding horses!
If you've never seen '1990: The Bronx Warrior,' you owe it to yourself to have some fun. When Blue Underground announced they were releasing this film as well as two other Castellari films 'The New Barbarians' and 'Escape From The Bronx' I was incredibly excited. Getting to review this movie and the two other releases is a treat because I get to nerd out a bit and gush about films that fall into that wonderful "so bad they're amazing" category. This movie is pure entertainment, nothing more and nothing less. Turn your brain off, put your feet up and let yourself go with the flow.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Blue Underground brings '1990: The Bronx Warriors' to Blu-ray pressed on an all regions BD25 disc. Along with the Blu-ray is a an identical DVD offering the same bonus content in standard definition. Both discs are housed in a 2 disc Blu-ray case with reversible artwork listing the chapter stops through the transparent blue plastic. The Blu-ray opens to an animated main menu offering scenes and music from the film.
Considering the nature of the shoot and the low budget, I honestly didn't have much hope for Blue Underground's Blu-ray release of '1990: The Bronx Warrior.' Thankfully everything looks pretty darn fantastic for this 2.35:1 1080p HD transfer. I once rented an import DVD of this movie several years ago and I can say this is a vast improvement over that picture. The big stand out is color. For such a bright and beautiful looking film, primaries have lots of pop without any kind of color bleed. There is some slight speckling here and there as well as a couple fine, slight nicks and scratches peppered throughout, but otherwise the print is in magnificent shape. Black levels are strong over all, but some of the darker scenes can look like contrast has been kicked up a bit high, but not terribly. With fine film grain retrained through out, detail levels are pretty fantastic for most of the movie. There are a couple soft scenes here and there, but from the looks of them thats a fault of the elements rather than the transfer.
With a strong DTS-HD MA 2.0 English Mono track, '1990: The Bronx Warriors' is an auditory feast for the ears. From the awesome score by Walter Rizzati to the bombastic sound effects to the dubbed voices - everything feels alive and present. So many Italian films can have that hollow tinny sound to them, so I was very happy to hear that things feel more natural and alive. Sure there is plenty of rubber mouths not lining up to the dubbing, but that's not the fault of the track. Levels are spot on making sure all elements have plenty of space to breathe while not over blowing the mix when action sequences pick up. Without any kind of age related anomalies to report - there just isn't anything to knock the score of this track for.
Audio Commentary: Co-Writer and Director Enzo G. Castellari and Enzo's son Andrea Castellari with David Gregory moderating - makes the commentary lively and fun while being incredibly informative.
Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis in Conversation Part 1: (HD 14:09) it's a great conversation between two guys that have been long friends. They discuss how the film came together, the cast, and shooting the movie. Part 2 of this conversation is found on the Blu-ray for 'The New Barbarians' and Part 3 is found on the Blu-ray for 'Escape From The Bronx.'
Sourcing The Weaponry - Enzo G. Castellari visits the Italian Weapons Rental House of Paolo Ricci: (HD 11:55) This is a fun little feature, it's not often you get to see a stunt weapon's shop, it's a real hoot seeing these guys play with all their toys.
Adventures in the Bronx - Interview with Actor/Stuntman Massimo Vanni: (HD 7:20) A nice interesting interview about how Mark Gregory was cast in the lead - especially because no one knows where Gregory is today and working on the production as a whole.
International Trailer: (HD 2:42)
Italian Trailer: (HD 2:41)
Escape From The Bronx Trailer: (HD 3:15)
The New Barbarians Trailer: (HD 3:25)
The term "guilty pleasure" gets tossed around a lot when discussing movies like '1990: The Bronx Warriors.' Personally I don't think there's anything to feel guilty about, one gets to enjoy the films they love. I love this movie, it's tons of fun and I know I'll be rewatching this fantastic Blu-ray from Blue Underground many, many more times in the days and weeks to come. Add in the fact that it's part of an experience with two more films and you have yourself several hours of entertainment. With a rock solid A/V presentation and a slew of amazing extras - I've got to call this one highly recommended.