Even despite the fact that director Enzo G. Castellari refuses to reference Escape from New York as the clear influence on 1990: The Bronx Warriors during an interview featured on this Blue Underground Blu-Ray, anyone remotely knowledgeable about that John Carpenter cult classic should immediately see the similarities. 1990: The Bronx Warriors is basically the Italian B-movie exploitation of popular action films of the late ’70s and early ’80s, attempting to bank off of the monetary gains in that genre with lower budgets, similar scripts, and worse actors. It’s exploitation at its most egregious, something Castellari was routinely known for – his work in westerns and other films like The Last Shark (see: Jaws for its inspiration) quickly proved that he was not averse to basically ripping whole plots from other screenplays and making subtle changes to their stories.
In the case of 1990: The Bronx Warriors and then its sequel Escape from the Bronx (I think you can clearly see the inspiration moreso in that title), Castellari pulls the main post-apocalyptic theme of Escape from New York into a film that reverses the antagonists, if only slightly. Carpenter’s classic excelled not only because of its unique premise – a post-apocalyptic New York City shut off from the rest of the world – but also because it had an antihero in Kurt Russell’s character Snake Plissken, a criminal who by all rights should be stuck in New York with the other bad guys but who also works for the good of the people. The Bronx Warriors, on the other hand, are people who clearly belong trapped in the confines of the gutted Bronx simply because they like the chaos and danger.
Castellari idealizes their predicament, forcing the viewer to see things from their perspective only. In this world, the criminals of the Bronx may be bad, but they’re also expected to behave this way by a corrupt government; Trash (Mark Gregory), our male lead and Warriors stand-in, is our most compelling character, and he’s interested in uniting the other rival gang led by Ogre (Fred Williamson, in yet another film with a character named Hammer) against a far worse enemy in the hunter Hammer (Vic Morrow) from the Bronx.
Still, the thematic bent of The Bronx Warriors can still mostly be attributed to Escape from New York, and the resulting action sequences and gang designs are similar but less compelling because of the lower budget. Reversing our perspective of the post-apocalyptic wasteland does have some benefits, forcing the viewer to understand the heroine Ann’s (Stefania Girolami) reasons for running from her rich, comfortable life outside the prison city. Otherwise, though, The Bronx Warriors is a poor man’s imitation.
That actually gives this exploitation flick some charming features, though. For the ladies and gay men, there is the young (sub-17 year old!) Mark Gregory – shirtless, absolutely ripped, and sweaty throughout the film, with a babyface that’s almost disconcerting compared to his physique. For the men, there’s Witch (Betty Dessy), a leather-clad dominatrix with a whip. Then there’s the unintentional comedy, which comes from both the poorly-written script and the voiceover deliveries. Girolami, too, is a particularly terrible actress, something that stands out since she’s basically the red herring of the film.
The two major elements I’ve documented above – the ripped-off plot paired with the awful hilarity of it all – seem to indicate a film one should probably stay away from. Not so – especially for fans of Italian exploitation, a country that seems to excel at stealing ideas and releasing them in crappier versions. 1990: The Bronx Warriors has moments of odd stagnant scenes (like the inclusion of an extended drum solo), but for the most part it has all the requisite parts of an enjoyably bad movie. Castellari is no stranger to this – see nearly all of his schlock, and the upcoming reviews of The New Barbarians and Escape from the Bronx.
Blue Underground has released 1990: The Bronx Warriors on Blu-Ray with a two-disc combo set. The HD transfer of the film is presented in letterbox, and while the image looks fairly good from afar, closer inspection reveals quite a bit of white noise depending on how light the scene is. Certain details get very fuzzy because of this white grain – this will obviously depend on how close you are to the television and the magnification of the TV. Unfortunately, the film suffers in some places because of this. The audio is a DTS-HD 2.0 mono master and sound good, and it comes with English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
For extras, the main feature is an interview with Enzo Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis titled “Conversation Part 1” – the second and third parts show up on the subsequent releases. That’s an interesting discussion about the making of The Bronx Warriors in the Bronx, and worth a watch at 14 minutes. There’s an audio commentary from Enzo Castellari as well, so there’s even more details to be had in that full-length discussion.
There’s an 11-minute featurette titled “Sourcing the Weaponry” that finds Castellari visiting Paolo Ricci, notable for his work on the weaponry in films like The Bronx Warriors and hundreds more. And “Adventures in the Bronx” is an interview with actor Massimo Vanni, who elaborates on the scary movie shooting in the Bronx and the protection afforded by the Hell’s Angels.
Trailers and a still gallery top this off – and as a Blu-Ray/DVD combo set, it’s a good deal despite the sub-par video quality.