Thursday, 8 May 2008

The New Barbarians (1982)

Dune buggies, laser guns, Fred "The Hammer" Williamson and
George Eastman fucking a dude in the ass. This film has everything!

After the huge success of Mad Max, it didn't take the Italians long to realise that they could make their own post-apocalyptic epics using nothing more than some bearded Italians, a disused quarry, a few dune buggies and some leather S&M gear. Enzo G. Castellari's The New Barbarians (aka Warriors of the Wasteland) was one of them. It takes place in the year 2019, and the world is a pretty different place. For starters, people wear transparent bubbles over their boobs. After the bombs dropped, frightened and desperate survivors banded together, trying to intercept signals from civilisation as they hold off assaults from gangs of raiders.

Scorpion (Giancarlo Prete), on the other hand, is a loner who prowls the wasteland and steals to survive. He gets around in a sweet Dodge Charger, which doesn't have a scorpion airbrushed on the hood, sadly, but does have a shiny silver skull as a hood ornament, which is almost as good. It is also customised with glowing plastic bubbles, pvc tubing and other futuristic accoutrement. It isn't all cosmetic though: At the push of a button he can open the door for the lizzadies or activate the rocket launcher hidden in the trunk. Hell, his mechanic probably laughed at him when he requested a button to blast off the passenger door, but it sure came in handy when a bad guy stuck a mine to the side of his car.

You'd think all of this stuff would cost a fortune in gas or water or women or whatever has become the currency in this post-apocalyptic wasteland, but you'd be surprised how much sway you have when your mechanic is a 10 year old boy. He is played by none other than Giovanni Frezzi aka Bobby from House by the Cemetery. Luckily he's dubbed by someone else this time around, adopting a gruff Brooklyn-accented voice more befitting of a Warrior of the Wasteland. He's good with a slingshot too. I don't know what he was shooting, but the bad guys were dropping like flies in the finale.

Who are the bad guys? Well, Scorpion is being pursued by a group of white-clad raiders called the Templars, headed by the enigmatic One (George Eastman in a hilarious wig). The One has some sort of grudge against Scorpion (in addition to smouldering lust), but it isn't explained. The Templars have a philosophy that boils down to the destruction all life on Earth, which is at odds with Scorpion's desire to live. The Templars have dirt bikes and customised silver golf carts that can move at about 10 km/h, but are packed with all sorts of accessories, like flame throwers, spinning blades etc. It even has a flimsy looking fan that they use to decapitate people who are too stupid to duck.

Did I mention that the Templars are homosexuals? The leather outfits, the meticulously styled hair, the sensibly fuel-efficient cars, it all makes sense! In fact, their initiation ritual involves being sodomised by One in front of all the other Templars, something he proceeds to demonstrate on Scorpion. The synth-heavy soundtrack (by Claudio Simonetti ie Goblin) starts bleeping and blorping even more than usual, and the film cuts rapidly from Scorpion to One to the reaction shots of the henchmen. One doesn't even give him a reach-around and frankly that's just rude.

Before he is finished off, Scorpion is rescued by Nadir (The Hammer) who creepily stalks him from place to place, helping him out of jams with his explosive-tipped arrows and shiny gold codpiece. Who knows why, but when Scorpion is being dragged along behind a dune buggy, he slo-o-o-wly takes out all of the accompanying motorcyclists before turning his attention to the guy driving the buggy. Maybe he just likes watching him suffer, which explains his absence during Scorpion's unfortunate butt-rape incident.

The film builds to a climax at a survivor outpost, where the trio of warriors take out the entire Templar army. Nadir and the mechanic take on the henchman while Scorpion has a spaghetti Western showdown with One's second-in-command. Scorpion even whips off his poncho to reveal his bare torso encased in laser-proof translucent bubble-armour. Sergio Leone, you've just been served! The mechanic also whips up a four-foot drill for his car, so he can exact some penetrative vengeance on One during a climatic low-speed car chase.

As far as Mad Max rip-offs go, this one isn't too bad. Giancarlo Prete is a pretty poor Mel Gibson substitute, but the presence of The Hammer almost makes up for it. It has a lot of explosions (they are mostly the cheap-looking kind with lots of sparks and smoke) plus a few cool decapitations by exploding arrows. Most of the cars look like you could outrun them on foot, but there are lots of crashes and cars flying off ramps in slow motion. Ann Kanakis, Miss Italy 1977, appears briefly as window dressing, but she's very good at it, looking good even when the dirt on her face makes it looks like she has a five o'clock shadow. The 90 minutes or so move pretty quickly and I doubt you'll be bored, unless you hate explosions, laser-battles, James Bond style gadgets and life, in which case, the Templars are always looking for new members. Bring lube.

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