Thursday, January 3, 2013

1990: The Bronx Warriors (Enzo G. Castellari, 1982)

The world of motion pictures is made up of two separate yet equally important groups. First and foremost, you have the scumbags who are obsessed with telling a compelling story. As for the other group, well, they think every film needs to end with motorcycle helmet-wearing government troops on horseback setting people's faces on fire with flamethrowers. And which group do you think 1990: The Bronx Warriors belongs to? If you chose the latter, you're obviously well aware that this Bronxsploitation yarn was directed by Enzo G. Castellari, one of them inordinately Italian men I often refer to. Who else would feature something so exceedingly badass in their movie? No-one, that's who. I don't know what it is about Italians, the apocalypse, and flamethrowers (both Rats: Night of Terror and 2019: After the Fall of the New York boast scenes with flamethrowers), but they have taken the post-apocalyptic genre to a whole new level of awesome. Taking their cues from films like, The Warriors, Escape from New York, and Mad Max, the makers of this film envision a future where The Bronx, the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City, is a lawless land overrun by gangs. The first thing you'll notice about the residents of this unlawful version of The Bronx is their sense of fashion; it's not only on the cutting edge, it serves a practically purpose in their day to day life. On the other hand, the uptight squares living across the river in Manhattan are all dressed in bland business suits. Proving yet again that instability is good for fashion, the gang members seen throughout this film are able to freely express their inner clothes horse thanks to society's undoing.
The practical purposes of the gang clothing worn in this movie are on full display during the film's stylish opening credits sequence. Featuring a black background, each credit is accompanied by an item of clothing, an accessory, a weapon, or an example of the makeup will be seeing over the course of the film. And judging by some of the weaponized accessories, elaborate lingerie, Toyah-esque makeup I saw during the credits, it looks like I'll be wallowing in my cinematic comfort zone for the next ninety or so minutes.
For those interested, the order goes something like this: Skull rings, makeup, knife knuckle dusters, green roller skate wheels, spiky elbow pads, an undefined skull, makeup (butterfly face paint), a spear, claw rings, makeup, another undefined skull, makeup, knife boot, and, last, but not least, lingerie!
The year is 1999, and there is no law...Wait a minute. Wrong movie. The year is 1990, and The Bronx has been declared a "no-man's land," one that is ruled by bikers, hot rod driving pimps, and bowler hat-wearing tap dancers. If that's the case, why is Ann (Stefania Girolami Goodwin), a Manhattan socialite, fleeing her cushy existence across the river? I don't know, but the second she crosses the bridge, she greeted by The Zombies, a gang of roller-skating fascists who wear white German army helmets paired with red and orange knee and elbow pads, and carry hockey sticks as weapons. Even though this gang is in desperate need of a stylist, they look quite formidable. Proving that looks are deceiving, The Riders, lead by Trash (Mark Gregory) show up to teach The Zombies a lesson or two in street fighting.
After the brawl is over, Trash goes over to collect his blonde prize. Now, you would think Trash would be hostile towards Ann; after all, she's from Manhattan. But much to my surprise, Trash let's Ann join The Riders. And, get this, he doesn't merely let her ride on the back of his bike like some "girlfriend." No way, Ann gets own bike. Which we can clearly see her on as Trash and the gang rumble their way underneath The Manhattan Bridge. Parked in a w-shaped formation, The Riders stare ominously at the body of one of their own as a loner drummer wails away on a drum-kit. I'll be the first to admit, I haven't done any research about the drummer. But I have a strong feeling that the bridge drummer from 1990: The Bronx Warriors has his own cult following, as the sight of him drumming for no apparent reason is pretty fucking cool. Oh, and I also liked how none of the other characters acknowledge his presence.
Even though the opening title card states that The Bronx is ruled by The Riders, the borough's largest gang are actually called The Tigers, a dapper group who take their cues from 1930s American gangster culture and mix it together with the gaudy swagger of your typical 1970s street pimp. Arriving under the bridge with a flamboyant aplomb (we're talking flame-adorned hots rods, baby), Trash requests to have a chat with The Ogre (Fred Williamson), leader of The Tigers, who, of course, smokes thin cigars and has a leggy sidekick named Witch (Betty Dessy). Telling Trash that the dead member of his gang was a spy, The Ogre says he'll let it slide this time and gives him a stern warning. It's true, I''m not that familiar with Fred Williamson as an actor, but even I know he's not someone to be trifled with.
Accepting what The Ogre told him to be the truth, Trash instructs his gang to hit the road. You'll notice that the bespectacled Ice (Joshua Sinclair), whose nickname should be Fisher Stevens, isn't convinced  that they had an informant in their midst, and starts to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of his fellow Riders. It's early on, but I can tell already that this Fisher Stevens fella is going to be trouble. And it's obvious he doesn't like the fact that Ann has joined the gang, either.
If you're wondering if anyone in Manhattan is concerned about Ann's whereabouts, we're introduced to The Hammer (Vic Morrow), a self-proclaimed badass who has been hired by some shady corporate types to bring her back safely.
Making his presence almost immediately, The Hammer guns down two Riders, Speedy and Sandy, in the stairwell of their dilapidated hang-out. You have to wonder why The Hammer chose to kill those seemingly random bikers. But his cruel actions do lead to one of the film's most memorable sequences. And that this, Speedy and Sandy's funeral. The cremation ceremony and the act of flinging their ashes in the East River (each biker flings a bit of ash) was downright poetic. Still not convinced that the Tigers are behind the series of setbacks that have befallen The Riders as of late, Trash must contend with Ice, who has managed to rile up the troops; some of which are calling for war with the Tigers. Having to deal with a gang that is fracturing, and the pressure that ultimately come with having a Manhattanite as a girlfriend, Trash heads to the beach to clear his head.
Leaving the sensible Blade (Massimo Vanni), a dead ringer for one of the guys in Man 2 Man, behind to keep an eye on Ice, whose got side deals going with The Hammer, a trucker named Hot Dog (Christopher Connelly), and Golan (George Eastman), the leader of the Zombies, Trash takes two of his men deep into Tiger territory. The plan is to ask The Ogre to form alliance with them, so that may defeat The Hammer and rescue Ann from the clutches of The Zombies. And while that sounds easy enough, they're going to have to get by The Jackals, The Scavengers and The Sharks. Now, I know the Scavengers are the one's in the ragged clothing who live underground. But I'm not sure about the rest.
Choosing my favourite gang from this movie was more difficult than I expected. The Tigers have great style, The Zombies wear white German helmets and get around on roller skates, and The Riders looked like they had just walked off the set of Cruising. However, after much deliberation, the tap dancing gang in the Toyah-inspired makeup and silver bowler hats, let's call them, The Dandies, were my gang of choice; you gotta love any gang that uses jazz hands to intimidate their rivals.
Picking my favourite gang member, on the other hand, was easy. What do you expect to happen when you put a lankly blonde woman in black stockings worn over black pantyhose, a black leather corset, and a silver cape? To put it in the simplest terms possible, Witch rules! Watching her dispatch Scavengers with her trusty whip and knuckle claws was downright electrifying. When we first meet Witch at the meeting between The Riders and The Tigers under the bridge, I figured she was just The Ogre's lady–you know, an accessory, like his thin cigars and puffy shirts. But the moment she springs into action, I was like, whoa, this woman is amazing. Looking at her bio, I was shocked to discover that 1990: The Bronx Warriors was her lone film role. Which is a shame, because she really has a great screen presence. The same goes for the bridge drummer. It should go without saying, but more films should feature unexpected drummers.

 video uploaded by aylmer666


  1. Reading this made me want to rewatch Toyah in Urgh! :)

    I couldn't sleep last night--frequently happens--so I wound up watching Alphabet City on Turner Classic Movies. By the way, when I went to IMDb to look at the discussion boards, someone put a link to your review and said something like, "here's a great review." :D

  2. Well, that makes sense. I did after all mention Toyah twice. :)

    Apparently they had a mini Amos Poe festival last night on TCM.

    Did you see the cover of the latest issue of EW? It looks like photoshop hell.

  3. Man, I really need to watch this. Witch sounds divine and should have had an entire film series based around her.

  4. A witch spinoff, perhaps? Yeah, I like the sound of that.

  5. He couldn't jump further than eight years? Amazing.

  6. Eight years is the ideal length of time when you're working with the small budget.