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New Barbarians, The
There were some gloriously trashy movies made in Italy in the seventies and eighties, and Enzo G. Castellari made not a few of them. Blue Underground is releasing several of them, including post-apocalyptic epic The New Barbarians, also known as Warriors of the Wasteland. Castellari had the good fortune to cast Fred Williamson in a role, during his European period. This is a wonderful cinematic experience, for those with a taste for this kind of thing.
It's 2019 (right around the corner!) and the world has been devastated by nuclear war. Humans remain, scattered around the countryside, scrabbling to get by, looking for other survivors or some remnant of civilization. Their mortal enemies are the Templars, a group of zealots who blame books and learning for the holocaust, and strive to wipe out not only literature, but all human life. Presumably, when they are done with all the other life, they will in turn kill themselves. The Templars are led by One (George Eastman), and his two trusty lieutenants Shadow and Mako (Ennio Girolami and Massimo Vanni). Yes, all the characters have silly names like this. The Templars are opposed by Scorpion (Giancarlo Prete, credited as Timothy Brent), who used to be one of their number but now travels the wasteland in his tricked out Mustang with a transparent sphere on the roof. The Templars and Scorpion come into conflict (again) when Scorpion stops a couple of them from kidnapping a young woman, Alma (Anna Kanakis). One is determined to finally stamp out his rival, and almost does, but for the timely assistance of rootless wanderer Nadir (Fred Williamson) and a boy genius mechanic (Giovanni Frezza).
If the above description seems a little muddled, that's because the plot, and I use the term loosely, is a little muddled. Really, it's just a framework on which to hang car battles and chases and cheesy looking white Templar uniforms. Castellari himself admits, in the commentary and interviews, that the film was done with very little money and was intended to cash in on the Mad Max, Road Warrior success. That said, everything is executed with passion and verve, if not always with exacting technical skill. But everyone involved is so into it that the sometimes cheesy effects, strange acting turns, ridiculous costumes, etc. don't really matter. What do you expect? This is an Italian post-apocalyptic adventure! If you are a fan of the genre, you know what you'll be getting and what you want, and The New Barbarians delivers in spades.
And now to talk about Fred Williamson. He doesn't have an exceptionally large part, but he is certainly enjoying himself, smirking, shooting his arrows with exploding tips, getting the girl, and saving the would be hero's life a number of times. So, basically everything that Williamson wants to get out of a part. And while Scorpion fills the flinty eyed requirements for a hero, he is also, ah, sexually violated at one point (the memory of which makes Castellari laugh uproariously in an included interview), and keeps getting beaten and nearly killed. Nadir seems by far to be the more competent of the two, but I suppose he has less heroic impulses. The Templars are decent villains, and One is appropriately monomaniacal and deranged. Their pristine white outfits with enormous shoulder pads perhaps don't exude the menace they were hoping for, but they are more than happy to impale you on a spike or use a car mounted flame thrower to destroy your vehicle.
The film is very much a western, with all the associated tropes, set after a nuclear war. It's goofy, vibrant and action packed. The effects are over the top and outlandish, but quite fun. We get to see at least one exploding torso, some decapitations, and much more. This is a fun movie, for those like me that hold a place in their hearts for this kind of thing, and Blue Underground has done a very good job with the presentation and extras. Highly Recommended.
The image is 2.35:1 widescreen, and looks quite good, with nice resolution and good contrast. It's clear and bright, and the whites and greens really pop. There is some grain here and there, and a few shots with much more grain, but generally this is about as good as the film is going to look.
Audio is DTS-HD Mono, and does the job competently, but of course doesn't have the richness one would expect even with simple stereo. Nevertheless, no hiss or other problem can be detected, and the dialogue is always easily discernible. Subtitles are included for English, French and Spanish, but no alternate language track.
A number of extras are included. They are:
Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis in Conversation Part 2
Presumably Part 1 is included with a different film. De Angelis is the producer of The New Barbarians, and he and Castellari talk like old friends (which they are) about how the film came about, using sneaky editing tricks to make the cast look bigger, etc. Quite enjoyable.
Tales of the Hammer: Interview with Star Fred Williamson
One thing is very clear after watching this twenty minute interview: Fred Williamson is an incredibly dynamic and driven man. He doesn't focus strictly on The New Barbarians, but does talk about his football career, working as an architect while in the NFL, and breaking into Hollywood. He is very engaging, and this is a treat.
A number of trailers for Castellari films.
Poster and Still Gallery
Around 100 posters and stills from the film.
The commentary features Enzo G. Castellari, his son Andrea, and David Gregory (not the television journalist) as a moderator. Castellari reminisces about shooting the film, his own small cameo, working with Anna Kanakis and Fred Williamson, and much more. This is a lot of fun.
In a lot of ways, The New Barbarians is a goofy film. The villains are less than menacing, the story is muddled, and the effects are at times ridiculous. Regardless, it works, and this has a lot to do with the passion of the filmmakers. They know it's just taking advantage of the success of The Road Warrior and similar films, and they have fun anyway. If you like your movies cheesy, and just barely sleazy, but fun, then this is definitely one for you.