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It's hard not to rant about remakes. The soulless churning of tract house-like Blockbusters with another film’s name is enough to boil the most optimistic of blood. I don't really want to get into that mess of shit, plus there are few examples of remakes being great, or at least watchable. Instead, I would like to draw attention to the remakes shady ass cousin, the rip off, specifically the fact that it, many times, can be more entertaining, worthwhile or at least less offensive. Where the remake appears to be saying “I can do that better” the rip often feels like it is saying “that was cool- let me try”. Of course there are various degrees to the exploitation of a concept. I'm not trying to say Asylum is out there doing God's work by releasing mockbusters, but at least it doesn't have any official rights or canon to shit all over and therefore does not truly have the keys to some of our fragile hearts. Also, not every rip off is equal, as some have made huge impacts on Cinema on their own merits. John Carpenter’s Halloween, which was founded as a cash-in in to Black Christmas, arguably spawned an entire genre with its copycats, and tired ass Star Wars was just a sloppy mix of Valerian comics and Flash Gordon but went on to birth countless rip offs of its own(some more fun in my opinion). The Mad Max series created some of my favorite examples, along with the Escape movies and The Warriors. Their edgy, anything- goes, dystopic worlds inspired international “tributes”, carving out a large sect of trash cinema. Epic cheese equipped with impossible hairdos like 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982).
The opening text does more to confuse the plot than help. It very well could have said “Have you seen Escape From New York and The Warriors?” and I'm sure we could have caught on sooner or later. The film takes place in a post-apocalyptic 80s version of 1990, where corporations openly rule the world. For whatever reason, the Bronx has been sectioned off and given to rule by gangs of wardrobe- heavy young adults, each with their own unbelievable style sense. One of the more lovingly problematic gangs is the The Riders, a group of bikers with a relatively tame theme based on the Hells Angels. Their leader is the beautiful love child of Fabio and the Karate Kid, who everyone calls “trash”. Trash, of course, has a heart of gold, and when the rebellious daughter of a powerful corporate president enters the “No Man's Land" he takes to protecting her. The girl, destined to be CEO herself, through some kind of dynasty program, has run away from the glitters of the ruling class high life out of moral standing. Shit complicates, as shit will, in post-apocalyptic penal colonies, when members of The Riders are killed in the regime's efforts to retrieve the heiress, almost starting a war between the city’s gangs. To strengthen his efforts against the government/corporation and unite the crews against a common threat, Trash attempts the trek to the zone’s raining king “Ogre” to plead his case, which means strolling through several other colorful gangs territory, including safety concerned roller hockey players, and Clockwork Orange inspired theater kids. So pretty much- Escape meets Warriors. Oh.. and I think Snake Plissken has an evil cousin, who too is kind of a badass but you know... evil.
The film was one of three films director Enzo G. Castellari made to capitalize on trends set forth by Mad Max (specifically Road Warrior), Escape From New York and The Warriors. Coming out in 1982, it was followed by Escape from the Bronx (its sequel) and Warriors of the Wasteland the next year. Castellari was notorious for his borrowed themes, having been sued by Universal the previous year for his definitely-not-Jaws shark movie, The Last Shark. Despite this reputation, Castellari always has great style and energy to his jack-moves. The best kind of trash has a soul, and Castellari would too influence others with his work. The most recent of note being the Quentin Tarantino 2009 film that not only borrowed a few elements from Castellari’s 1978 film The Inglorious Bastards but also a misspelled version of its title. The film enlisted the help of the actual Hells Angels bikers for stunt work and filmed its exterior shots in New York. Interior scenes were filmed in Italy to comply with Italian funding regulations.
While the film may wear the borrowed look of several sci-fi flicks that came before, its tone comes off closer to Welcome Back Kotter (1975), which is amplified by the fact that Trash and a few more of the cast could easily be members of the Sweathogs with minimal wardrobe changes. While it's hard to truly judge watching it dubbed in English and despite parts being slow and stiff, it manages to hang on during any back and forth dialog. Most responses actually make sense, sometimes even circle around witty, but don't get me wrong, everything thing they say is still silly as fuck and full of lines that would be fun to yell at your movie watching partner, then later say around people that have no idea what you are talking about.
Like a lot of the Italian rip offs, it can be beautiful and well shot. New York, I assume, just looked like that back then and is utilized well on the exterior shots, although the geography is a little confusing based off of landmarks. A funky synth track laces the bulk of the film with appropriate change ups and sampling for each situation or according to the film it's jacking at the time.
As with Castellari’s other classic The Inglorious Bastards (1978) the action is a blast to watch and really where the film excels. Fights are almost hypnotic, even while trying ape the grunt-dancing style of The Warriors. Most of the actual battles between the gangs have little to no consequence plot wise but provide well timed breaks between goofy drama and haphazard story development. Everybody has a fun weapon or style that matches their personality (even if sometimes their personality is guy who gets punched) and it seems that decapitation is the official way to truly end a fight in the post-apocalyptic east coast, which is cool. Plus, I'm pretty sure,more than 2 people are lit on fire ,and watching Fred Williamson punching nameless thugs never disappoints.
Mark Gregory plays the human action figure “Trash”. He moves as though he doesn't have as many points of articulation as the rest of us, with his chest stationary at all times and he looks like he shows up to punk shows in the 90s just to steal peoples girlfriends. He's awesome and perfect for the shallow role. If you can get a hold of it, he is also really great in a somehow cheesier way as the titular “Thunder” in Thunder (1983) . Fred Williamson plays “Ogre” and as always, steals every moment he's in with slabs of hammy confidence. He doesn't have a gun this time so it's all punches and very clean, one-slice head removals. Legend Vic Morrow plays “Hammer”. This was his last completed picture before the tragic events during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
There are plenty of trashy derivative post-apocalyptic flicks to choose from, and even some of the worst are still pretty fun, but the casserole like mash up of Road Warrior, Escape and Warriors seems extra tasty in my opinion. More importantly, while it may blatantly rip off those classics, it does not seek to erase them, as the majority of “ in name only”remakes made today appear to be attempting to do (mostly unsuccessfully). They are just as sleazy, but from the viewers standpoint the rip off is much more beneficial. The horde of Escape rip offs have brought me hours of entertainment. While I can almost guarantee the inevitable day they make due on their threats to remake the film series, I will feel nothing but soul rupturing heart ache. I don't think John Carpenter would agree and with good reason. From the filmmakers point of view, it would be a different story altogether, I guess. While I can understand why, as a poor fan that has been hurt too many times, I just can't take another streamlined abomination. Enough is enough. Fuck the remake, long live the rip-off!
1h 29min | 1982
Director: Enzo G. Castellari 
Writers: Elisa Briganti, Enzo G. Castellari, Dardano Sacchetti


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