In 1981 when George Miller's Australian action classic The Road Warrior brought in some huge box office numbers world wide, you know it was only a matter of time before the Italian cash-ins appeared. One of the more memorable films of the 'post nuke' genre was Enzo G. Castellari's I Nuovi Barbari, known better in English markets as The New Barbarians and as Warriors of the Wasteland in the U.S.
The story takes place in 2019, after the nuclear holocaust where a band of roaming cult members bent on destroying all of mankind called The Templars are wreaking havoc against pretty much anyone and everyone they come into contact with. Shortly after the high scale massacre of a band of nomads, we're introduced to Scorpion, who's waging a one-man war against the Templars as he drives around in his crazy bubble roofed car (if you've seen the episode of The Simpsons where Homer designs his dream car, you'll have a good idea of what Scorpio's battle wagon looks like) with a skull on the front. Eventually he runs into a convoy of peaceful travelers and, after rescuing a pretty girl from some nasty Templars, he brings her to them for some desperately needed medical attention.
But when Scorpion is captured by the evil Templars and surprisingly raped in the ass by their leader, One (George Eastman… the Anthropophagous himself! Ouch!!), it's all out war as he teams up with a nomadic archer named Nadir (played by Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson who should need no introduction to you if you're even half way cool) and a child mechanic (played by Giovanni Frezza, best known to gore-hounds as Bob from Lucio Fulci's classic, House By The Cemetery - possibly the worst child actor in history) and puts on his special plastic see-through bubble armor to take down the bad guys and save the girl.
There is very little that is done well in this movie, but it still has a crazy kind of charm and it really is a whole lot of fun. Budget restraints are obvious (the Templars look to be driving modified golf carts and Scorpio's bubble armor is … plastic). Most of the action scenes are totally over the top and all of the characters are dressed in some of the most garish (and phallic) costumes I've ever seen (everyone seems to have a giant codpiece in the future).
But despite all it's flaws, The New Barbarians has a nice sense of manic energy to it and makes for a good time killer. The action is non-stop, the macho posturing and more than implied homoeroticism is oddly hilarious, and the movie runs at an extremely fast pace. It may be a rather blatant Road Warrior rip off, but it's a damned entertaining one. Something seems to explode every few minutes, and Scorpio makes for a great hero as he wages his one man war on evil.
These characteristics make it really easy to look past the obvious shortcomings that the film has in spades. Don't go into this one looking for some sort of deep symbolism or some sort of thought provoking statement against the horrors of the atomic bomb – no, no, no – that won't do at all. Go into this one with your brain turned off and your beer level cranked to maximum capacity and enjoy it for what it is!
Shriek Show's 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer of The New Barbarians puts the Vipco PAL DVD release to shame. The colors are very distinct and bright, the image is strong and clear with only the faintest hint of print damage appearing as dust specks in a few spots. Edge enhancement, while present, is minimal even in the most glaring occurrences and mpeg compression is never a problem. There are a few scenes where you'll notice some shimmering primarily around the edges of vehicles and buildings but that's about the only thing worth complaining about and even then, it's not a big problem – this transfer looks good.
The English language mono track (no subtitles or closed captioning options are available for this one, kids) isn't great. There are a few scenes where the music blares over top of almost all the dialogue and at times this makes things pretty difficult to understand. Why this is, I cannot say but it really knocks this release down a few points when you can't manage to hear what the characters are saying in some of the scenes. When the music is more subdued things fair a little better but the score is present throughout a lot of the movie and when it is, you'll find yourself having to turn it up to be able to make out the speaking bits over the music – in short, it's annoying and it messes up an otherwise fine presentation.
There are two main extra features on this release – the biggest and best of the supplements comes in the form of an audio commentary with David Gregory and Enzo G. Castellari. Though English is obviously not the director's first language he speaks it well enough that it's not too difficult to understand what he's saying and Gregory does a fine job of keeping the track moving at a brisk pace throughout. Enzo's memory is pretty sharp and he does a great job of filling us in on the history of the film and the people that he made the movie with. It's a fun track, and worth a listen to Eurocult fans.
The second extra is a five minute interview with Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson. As always, Fred makes for an interesting interview subject and while he doesn't really go too in depth about anything specific, he does a decent job at telling us about his experiences on the set of the film.
There are also trailers for The New Barbarians and four other Shriek Show releases included on the DVD as well.
They don't make'em like this anymore! New Barbarians is a blast – needless explosions, plenty of violence, a villain you love to hate and a hero you hate to love! Shriek Show's disc looks great and has some nice extra features, too bad the audio is mediocre at best. Recommended!
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.