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1990: The Bronx Warriors

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Blue Underground
Dual Format BD/DVD
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Enzo G. Castellari
Mark Gregory
Fred Williamson
Stefania Girolami
Vic Morrow
Bottom Line: 
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I still vividly remember seeing the VHS box art for 1990: The Bronx Warriors for the first time. The image of a feral looking, long-haired gang member firing a machine gun toward the heavens whilst mounted police officers in body armor wielding flamethrowers rode across the burning silhouette of New York City. The tagline read “The First to Die Were the Lucky Ones”, promising a post-apocalyptic blend of action/horror the likes of which I’d never seen. Of course, this wasn’t quite true, as, upon my first viewing of Enzo G. Castellari’s 1982 cash-in I’d realized I had, in fact, seen it, or, at least I’d seen the films from which it “borrowed” from so liberally; namely John Carpenter’s Escape from New York and Walter Hill’s The Warriors.  Still, while I did feel a bit cheated, I couldn’t help but enjoy the goofy dialogue, hilariously dubbed actors, and batshit-insane costumes. It’s been at least twenty years since the last time I watched the film, but, thanks to Blue Underground, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to not only to revisit this super sharp slice of Italian aged cheese, but to see it in all its HD glory in its stupendous Blu-ray debut!

It’s 1990, and the Bronx has been ruled a No Man’s Land by state of New York. With no police presence whatsoever, the borough has fallen into ruin, and has been divided amongst a group of rival gangs. One of those gangs are The Riders, led by Trash (Mark Gregory) and his trusted associates, Ice (Joshua Sinclair) and Blade (Massimo Vanni), who, like the rest of the outfits in the Bronx, maintain a fragile alliance with The Ogre (Fred Williamson) – defacto King of the Bronx.

One night, Anne (Stefania Girolami), the heir to the multi-million dollar Manhattan Company, flees from her handlers and seeks refuge in the Bronx. She’s assaulted by a gang of…well….frankly ridiculous looking guys on roller skates wearing white Nazi helmets and rainbow elbow pads, but she’s rescued by Trash and the gang. Anne and Trash fall in love, but she quickly proves to be a liability as the Manhattan Company will stop at nothing to get their future CEO back, including sending in the mercenary Hammer (Vic Morrow) to retrieve Anne, while simultaneously instigating a war between The Riders and The Ogre.

As Italian ripoffs go, The Bronx Warriors is actually pretty damned ambitious stuff, even if it doesn’t always live up to its aspirations. For one, the “no man’s land” of the Bronx is remarkably well-populated in several shots where the film’s lack of budget (or Castellari’s lack of permits) show us the actual denizens of the real-life neighborhood milling about in the background and traffic zig-zagging around in the streets, seemingly oblivious to the garishly-dressed actors riding their skull-appointed motorbikes through the streets. Anyone old enough to remember what parts of the Bronx actually looked like back then will no doubt recognize the crumbling apartment complexes and rubble where Castellari sets most of the action, and it makes for a damned fine location for a post-apocalyptic shoot, but, when shots across the East River clearly show a bustling downtown and planes landing at LaGuardia, well, it sort of dampens the effect. Of course this is all part of what makes The Bronx Warriors such a charming hoot!

In terms of performances, Castellari’s cast is a mixed bag. Williamson and Morrow are obviously the cream of the crop, here, hamming it up in high style, but the film’s lead, “Mark Gregory” (aka; Marco Di Gregorio) seems to have been cast for his hair and chest muscles, as he’s only capable of one expression, and moves around as though he’s got a human-sized Popsicle stick jammed up his ass. Girolami’s Anne is your typical Italian flick femme fatale in that she does little more than stare longingly at Trash or spout nonsensical drivel. Still, this isn’t a thespian showcase, and Castellari wisely limits the chatter, instead focusing on atmosphere (as in one of the film’s best sequences, which involves nothing more than shadows and a projected skull shape on a concrete wall), well-choreographed fight scenes, and some pretty harrowing looking stunt work.

Blue Underground brings 1990: The Bronx Warriors to Blu-ray in a 2-Disc set that features both a DVD and Blu-ray version of the film and its bonus features. The new 2.35:1 1080p HD transfer is absolutely amazing stuff; crisp, clean, and super-detailed, it looks like a brand new film rather than a thirty-plus year old oddity. Colors are rich and vibrant, blacks deep and true, and there’s not a hint of any sort of digital manipulation. It’s astonishing stuff!

Surprisingly, the DTS-HD MA 2.0 is just as much of a revelation. Usually these stereo mixes are simply serviceable, but for a 2.0 mix, this thing is positively potent! The dialogue is as clear as crystal, and the bass has a welcome rumble that actually leaves some 5.1 tracks I’ve heard in the dust. I was also pleasantly surprised by how spacious this mix sounded, with each and every audio element ringing forth with perfect clarity.

Bonus features include a wonderful and lively commentary with Castellari and his son, Andrea, moderated by David Gregory, as well as a few supplemental featurettes.

Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis in Conversation Part 1 is the first part of a three part discussion between Castellari and friend/producer, De Angelis, covering this and the other two parts of the Bronx “trilogy” (parts 2 and 3 are available on Escape from The Bronx and The New Barbarians, also from Blue Underground).

Sourcing The Weaponry features Castellari’s visit to an Italian weapons rental house, where he and the owner look over a selection of the latter’s wares.

Adventures in the Bronx is a short but entertaining interview with co-star/stuntman Massimo Vanni, who, among other things, discusses how he introduced Castellari to The Bronx Warriors’ star, Marco Di Gregorio.

Other bonus features include the film’s international and Italian trailers, as well as trailers for the aforementioned Escape from The Bronx and The New Barbarians.

1990: The Bronx Warriors is a terrifically silly and oftentimes unintentionally hilarious flick, but it’s also exceptionally well-crafted and a step up from your typical Italian exploitation/ripoff. The film is atmospheric and, at times, downright gorgeous, and there are moments of pure genius scattered throughout. Blue Underground’s Blu-ray presentation is fantastic stuff, and the new HD transfer is jaw-dropping. Highly recommended.                                 

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