Wednesday, 28 May 2008

2020: Texas Gladiators (1982)

Who ordered the beefcake?

You know what kind of of film you are in for when the first shot is a guy getting a throwing knife in the skull. The awesome kind! Sleaze king Joe D'Amato directs (under a pseudonym, but that's implied with D'Amato) yet another post-apocalyptic knock-off. Watching this film you might get a sense of deja vu, since D'Amato re-used many of the actors, locations and props from his earlier post-apocalyptic film Endgame. Hey, why make a film once when you can make it twice?

As everyone knows, once the bombs drop it's every man for himself, and it's not long before dirty faced mutants start fussin' and a-fightin', invading ruined churches to rape nuns, crucify priests etc. Luckily there's the Rangers, a gang of five topless, greased up vigilantes, and if there's one thing they hate more than wearing shirts it's filthy mutants. They consist of Nisus (Al Cliver), Jab (Harrison Muller Jr.), Halakron (Peter Hooten), Red Wolfe (Hal Yamanouchi) and Catch Dog (Daniel Stephen). Surprisingly George Eastman does not make an appearance, though he did pull writing duties.

Cowering in a corner is the beautiful Maida (Sabrina Siani) and the sight of her exposed nipple is too much for Catch Dog. When the rest of the gang catch him in the act (of rape) they chastise him for breaking their code of honour. They kick him out of the gang and Nisus runs away with Maida to live a life of non-violence.

Years later Nisus is wearing a shirt and working at a power plant, cementing his "hero" status by stopping a leak of exsplosive[sic] gas. Soon after, their commune is attacked by a gang of post-apocalyptic bikers, led by Catch Dog himself. They manage to repel the raiders, despite heavy casualties on both sides, but before they can exchange high-fives they are attacked by the armoured stormtroopers of the New Order, a totalitarian regime led by the Black One (Donal O'Brien from Zombie Holocaust). They break through the plant's defences, thanks to shields that emit a bullet-repelling force field. The New Order take control of the power plant, and Nisus is killed when he intervenes to stop his wife from being raped (again). Hm, didn't expect that.

The films over already? No sir, it's just begun. We now cut to Jab and Halakron entering a saloon straight out of a spaghetti Western, complete with pinball machines and a Defender cabinet in the corner. Two guys are playing Russian Roulette (apparently all the playing cards were burnt up in the apocalypse) and the loser, a guy in a very Deer-Hunter-esque red headband, blows his brains all over the wall. Jab and Halakron notice that the winner has one of their special Ranger medallions and Maida, and win them both back by cheating. Afterwards they get into a bar-room brawl and are sent to the salt mines for their troubles.

They are busted out by Red Wolfe and chased by Catch Dog and his crew into the same fucking quarry that's in every one of these Italian post-apocalyptic films. It's interesting to note that although most people are armed with a wide variety of historical firearms, Catch Dog is armed with a stupid-looking laser gun. They couldn't afford any laser beam effects so instead it just makes zappy noises. Catch Dog attempts to kill them by starting an avalanche, but they trick him and escape.

It's now that Jab, Halakron, Maida and Red Wolfe venture into a very un-post-apocalyptic forest and seek the help of the most unconvincing bunch of Indians I have ever seen. They refuse to help at first, but Halakron repeatedly calls them cowards until they acquiesce. You see, the New Order's shields provide no protection from bows and arrows because they aren't hot like bullets. Or something. Now that they have backup, it's time for the remainder of the Rangers to march on the power plant, liberating it from the evil oppressors once and for all.

There's a lot of violence in this film, and because this is a Joe D'Amato film there's also a lot of rapes. Plant workers, nuns, teenage boys... none are safe in a D'Amato film. Poor Maida gets raped twice. D'Amato leers over the action in typical fashion, in fact sometimes the heroes will pause for several minutes before acting, just so we can take in a few more acts of depravity. Most of the violence is fairly uninspired, but it keeps the film moving along at a pace that's less sluggish than your average D'Amato film.

Acting is generally pretty poor. O'Brien stars gives a truly insane performance as a pseudo-Nazi officer, including one of the most over-the-top maniacal laughs in motion picture history. Plus with all his hair shaved off he looks like Popeye. Toot, toot! Also, Sabrina Siani is totally hot in that suede mini-dress.

As far as budgets are concerned we are really scraping the bottom of the barrel, even for post-apocalyptic films. In fact, we've probably scraped right through the bottom of the barrel and are scooping out the dirt from underneath. The ridiculous "futuristic" buggy our heroes get around in makes the customised golf carts of The New Barbarians look like Hum-vees. I like the idea of combining the spaghetti Western with a Mad Max style post-apocalyptic setting, but here the two genres jostle uncomfortably next to one another. It's more like a cheap, uninspired post-apocalyptic film with a few jarringly anachronistic "Old West" touches.

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