Sunday, June 12, 2011
1984, Lucio Fulci
Starring: Jared Martin, Fred Williamson, Howard Ross, Eleonora Brigliadori
One of the things I love about Fulci is that he is not afraid to leap with reckless abandon from genre to genre. Though considered by many to be a horror director, he got his start in comedy and regularly made caper and mob films, Westerns and science fiction, which is where New Gladiators sort of falls. It is known in Italian as I guerrieri dell'anno 2072, which actually means "Warriors of the Year 2072," another of its alternate titles. I hate to say it, but one way to tell if a film has the potential to be completely shitty (or at least appallingly low budget) is by its number of titles. New Gladiators has five of them.
A television station whose physical location is on a small, in-atmosphere space craft is obsessed with maintaining a high level of ratings. When their star shows fails to deliver, the boss, Sam, cooks up plans for something more outrageous. With remarkable foresight, Fulci has the competing TV stations all obsessed with reality television. The station in question first had a show that simulated torture and death and if you could get through it without screaming and panicking, you would win a vacation. When ratings for that show dropped, Sam decides that they need a gladiatorial show. He "hires" several men around the globe preparing for death sentences, including a famous TV actor who may or may not have been set up for murdering his wife's killers. To really make it sci-fi, everyone working on the TV station basically has the same haircuts and costumes as the cast of the original Star Trek.
As you may suspect, the "gladiators" discover that the TV station plans to murder all of them after the show is over, so they put aside their differences, band together, and plan an all out attack. There are some side plots, such as the star finding out that he was set up, the TV boss being an evil computer, a budding romance, and a traitor on the inside preparing to spoil the whole thing. It is absolutely ridiculous and should only be viewed while consuming large amounts of alcohol. The writing is preposterous and while it does have some charm, there aren't many good points about this film -- though luckily, it doesn't have the persistent boredom of Manhattan Baby.
There is a really shitty DVD available from Troma, with a particularly ridiculous introduction from Uncle Lloyd. Unfortunately it is full screen, but it is still in print and easy to find. The quality is pretty much what you'd expect. It is from the mid-'80s, so the special effects are atrocious and the film quality is a little fuzzy at times, but there aren't many scratches in the actual print. If you love trashy '80s Eurocult films, this is definitely one to pick up.