Over the past year, we three kings of low budget schlock cinema appreciation have witnessed a great many on-screen spectacles - some good, some bad, some brilliantly bad and some so bad they're just brilliant.
And that's where the Bronx Warriors double bill comes in. Low budget, Italian-made and borrowing heavily from The Warriors, Escape from New York and Mad Max even, these movies should stink in every way and, if you look at them through mainstream goggles, it's true, they might just.
Of course, we don't wear mainstream goggles at Zombie Club, far from it. I for one was wearing heavily red-tinted vino goggles and had the best time.
I guess it's just a matter of taste, yeah...
Tonight's post apocalyptic mumbo jumbo was bought to you by Jim in association with the Trash's trousers club.
Bronx Warriors (1982)
Plot Buff biker gang leader with bad trousers falls for high maintenance rich bird in a 'futuristic' Bronx. Cue outlandish gang costumes, cool bikes, bullets, double crosses and some ropey kung-fu.
Jim The yearis 1990 and the Bronx has officially been declared a ‘no man’s land’. The authorities have given up all attempts to restore law and order and the area is ruled by the local gangs.
And what gangs they are – imagine Walter Hill’s The Warriors gangs but envisaged by kooky Italians filmmakers instead. We’ve got a roller-hockey gang all kitted in white called 'The Zombies', a bunch of well choreographed, glitter-laden tap dancers lead by the jive-talking 'Toblerone' and a silky pimp gang called 'The Tigers', lead by the thoroughly reliable Fred Williamson. Oh, and of course we have 'The Riders' – complete with glowing skull headlights – lead by the super-toned but badly tailored Trash (played by Marc Gregory, who – quote - "worked in a shoe store before being discovered in a gym").
Anyway, enter stage-left Anna, the rich kid daughter of the head of the Manhattan Corporation. She’s the movie’s femme fatale who falls in with Trash and generally fucks things up for everyone by bringing the weight of her father’s whole corporation crashing down on them. But when the rent-a-cops can’t find her (or are two scared to try – who can blame them with fine specimens like Trash protecting her), her father sends in a bad ass cop bounty hunter named Hammer (Vic Morrow), to shake things up a bit. And he does – I particularly liked the sequence where Hammer just piles through ‘The Bikers’ front door, blasts half a dozen of them with a shotgun (including girls – no discrimination here) then runs off. Brilliant.
It’s when Anna gets kidnapped by ‘The Zombies’ that things really hot up though. Trash, blinded by love, journeys through the Bronx taking on gang after gang, eventually teaming up with Fred Williamson to stage the actual rescue. And ‘The Zombies’ boss is George Eastman with a pony tail, did I mention that?
Bad kung-fu (“If you’re gonna do slo-mo at least make contact” – Zomblee) and bad costumes not withstanding (“Fucking hell, tight jeans an’ an arse crack!” – Rawshark), Bronx Warriors is an absolute riot. It’s immortalized by the lengthy drummer sequence alone, although it does have a lot of other things going for it - a good score, a few familiar faces in the cast and some excellent locations for a start. I do have one question, though, and it’s about all the cops in this movie. How come they're all wearing tight black leathers? Vic Morrow's outfit at the end of the movie is a masterpiece, although I admit I do feel a bit bad about mocking it as the poor guy died soon after making Bronx Warriors on the set of his next film. A freak helicopter accident on the set of Twilight Zone – The Movie robbed us of Mr. Morrow’s fine acting talents, so it’s slightly ironic that the last movie he appears in before that involves him wearing Nazi S&M leathers. Go figure.
"I still think we'd be better off sending a special squad."
Rawshark Bronx Warriors begins with such an incredibly well-designed credits sequence (flashes of sharp weaponry in front of a dark background) that it’s a shame that the rest of the film goes downhill from there. Not that I’m knocking it that much, I like my Italian Trash as much as the next man, but somehow my long-awaited first viewing of Bronx Warriors was a bit of a let down.
It looks cool, that’s for sure, with several gangs looking as mean as fuck - such as the Riders with their skull motorbikes and The Tigers’ flames on fenders oldsmobiles. But some of the gangs are a little silly – sure the tap-dancing Clockwork Orange crew may look good on film, but in reality who the hell would want to join a gang like that? Especially in the gang-run, run-down Bronx of the future (well, 1990 – but this was made in 1982.)
But the main problem with the film (aside from it’s pedestrian plotting) is Trash himself, a rather wet lead character who seems to be more of a lover than a fighter (“Since he got hooked up with that Manhattan pussy, all the blood’s rushed to his cock.”). In a film called Bronx Warriors, you want a hero who at least looks the part, but when Trash does fight (he spends a lot of the movie avoiding fights, and disappearing during the lengthy fight sequences) it looks more like a bitch-slap Michael Jackson video than a truly gritty man-on-man showdown. It was no surprise to learn that he was an amateur actor, trained in ballet, and found in a shoe shop. And, really – those trousers? Looking like a cross between jogger pants and jeans, Trash’s trousers often revealed far too much buttock shape for a ‘hard-man’ bike gang leader. Jim pretty much summed him up with “impeccable upper torso, bad actor.”
Maybe I am being too harsh, for to be fair, Bronx Warriors does contain a few moments of magic. The scene with the drum-playing as one of the Riders’ gang members is found dead on the riverbank is brilliantly filmed and staged, Vic Morrow is great fun as the hard-as-nails undercover cop Hammer, and there’s certainly enough going on to get into the groove and enjoy the action. But ultimately, Bronx Warriors plods along, failing to offer any real characters to properly engage with, and by the end, with all the cops in motorbike helmets and flamethrowers in faces (“At last!” – Zomblee) it’s pretty much hard to care who lives and who dies.
“You gotta be kiddin’! You got your grey matter in your butt!”
Zomblee Worthy of silver medal status in the beloved 'So Bad its Good' category, Bronx Warriors appeals for many reasons. Firstly, the (lack of) acting talents from the lead hero, Trash - in actual fact a shoe-shop sales executive. Secondly, as you may have already guessed from point number one, a plethora of characters with the most ridiculous names ever (e.g. Ice, Hammer, The Ogre, Hotdog, Witch, Leech...need I continue?), and thirdly, the amazing drumming sequence by the river. This could go on, and on, and on. Man, you gotta love the Italian B-movie universe.
Supported by a stronger plot than it's sequel, Bronx Warriors delivers the goods in terms of graphic violence which includes some particularly horrible shotgun blasts and at least one cool decapitation.
Marc Gregory stumbles his way through proceedings as the Snake Plissken-inspired 'Trash', and sporting a very handsome head of hair making him look like he should be a Motley Crue guitar tech. In my opinion, he seems more at home with greater confidence in the sequel, but such positive impressions could be affected by the fact that he has much less screen time and lines in the said second instalment. I know Rawshark has mentioned this already, but his jeans, or perhaps we should just call them trousers, really do have to be seen to be believed... I felt a pain in my nether regions just looking at them.
Vic Morrow deserves mention as the ruthless Hammer - an evil, misanthropic bastard of a bounty hunter who gets real pleasure from killing the innocent and making his entrance with a real sense of style: "Let me introduce myself. I'm the one they call Hammer," and "I believe in nothing! I'm Hammer - the Exterminator!" Nice.
Last but not least, this movie has the always welcome Fred 'The Hammer' Williamson as The Ogre, donning an outfit almost as silly as the one he wears in Casterelli's brilliant The New Barbarians. Unfortunately however there is no Al Cliver in either instalment but you can't have everything now can you...
I love how the Italian filmmakers got it wrong by assuming that you can make a film seem more hip, or it's characters more cool or credible by having them swear, curse and cuss all the way through the script with such unappealing vulgarity that the end result falls somewhere between being funny and uncomfortably gross. Interestingly, most of these Italian B movies dubbed into English usually substitute bad language in favour of absurd, family orientated replacement swearing such as "mother grabber", "son of a gun", etc. By contrast, the Bronx Warriors movies held an uncensored middle finger up to such foolish etiquette, assaulting us with plenty of smutty vernacular as if trying to very rudely say sorry for past bad language dubbing crimes, you fuckin' fuck bitch asshole.
"You fuck! It could be a pile of shit out of someone's asshole!"
Director Enzo G. Castellari
Cast Mark Gregory
Stefania Girolami Goodwin
Runtime 92 mins
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Bronx Warriors 2 (1984)
Plot The CG Corporation disinfest the Bronx to make way for new high-rise blocks, provoking resistance from the interestingly-dressed and not-so-charming foulmouthed residents. Better kung-fu. Bigger budget.
Zomblee It must have taken Enzo Casterelli the two years that elapsed between Bronx Warriors and Bronx Warriors 2 to gather up enough trampoline stuntmen to make this OTT sequel a reality. Plot really does take a back seat in this bigger (but not necessarily better) follow-up to Enzo’s first instalment of a lot of fighting and gratuitous swearing in the futuristic Bronx.
In this story, the GC Corporation is rebuilding the Bronx and hence the Disinfestors - men in silver suits and motorcycle helmets (with optional steamed-up visors) - are evacuating (killing) the low-life scum out of the old Bronx. Residents are ruthlessly exterminated and Trash’s parents are 'flamed in the face' and killed, imbuing the lame story with some sense of contrived and ineffective poignancy. Then add to the recipe:
• some silly mumbo-jumbo about kidnapping the President of the GC Corporation
• a criminal mastermind called ‘Strike’ with his “nice red rucksack” (thanks Jim) and his explosive-expert son, Junior (kids in futuristic films of this ilk are always great!!!)
• a 'nosy crusader' meddling reporter
• the impressively jawed Henry Silva (veteran of various Chuck Norris / Steven Seagal vehicles and ‘Kane’ in Buck Rogers) taking over the ‘has-been’ role that belonged to Vic Morrow in the first film
• a vengeful Trash, wearing new jeans (Rawshark was very relieved to see), this time keeping his jacket on because he obviously didn’t renew his gym membership since the first film…
…and we have a good time, trashy action feast - high on stylish mindless violence and low on intelligence. And I’m not just talking about Trash. Hey, who cares anyway? When violent action rocks this hard, I don’t care about the story or lack of any discernible message.
Slick editing, bad acting, slow motion fighting, more flame-thrower action than you could shake a silver bodysuit at and a truly ridiculous amount of stuntmen whose speciality is the ‘trampoline-assisted explosion-jump’ all combine to make this a much more action-packed piece than the first film. That being the case, the first film has something that the sequel doesn’t – Fred Williamson, as well as a superior opening credits sequence.
The script is as lousy as the soundtrack is excellent, and if anyone can tell me why Trash’s parents have a poster of Trash (which looks like a publicity still from the first film) on their wall, I’d be immensely grateful.
After watching a Bronx Warriors movie, you will probably want to own a flame-thrower. Or a silver bodysuit. Or grow your hair. Really long.
“I like scratching my balls.”
Rawshark So, it’s back to the Bronx then, for more Trashy Poodle Rock action, but this time the whole area is being demolished, and lots of silver suited cops with motorbike helmets (again!) are moving in to flame people in the face, and generally be a bit rude to everyone who lives there. It’s up to Trash (in desperate search of a plot) to go underground, unite the warring gangs and lead the rebellion / resistance / revolution / whatever, to stop the evil Corporation from moving in (but without the aid of Robocop).
Bronx Warriors 2 is more or less the same as Bronx Warriors - more in the way that there’s a bigger budget, better stunts and more face-flamage, but less in the way of plot, characterisation and style. Where the first one got away with it by playing it cheeky and cool, BW2 falls down by having an even worse plot (even more clichéd and unoriginal than the first film), an unfit Trash (the success of the first one must have gone to his stomach!) and even worse acting.
No, it’s not all bad – the kid (reminiscent of Mad Max 2) is definitely someone to root for (perhaps the only character to root for!), Henry Silva is an adequate replacement for Morrow (Jim couldn’t stop himself telling us “he was in Buck Rogers, you know!”), and the fight scenes are much, much better. At least this time it looks as if the people fighting are actually making contact.
But on the whole, BW2 doesn’t quite manage to scale the dizzying mid-levels of greatness that the first film almost achieved. Trash is still pretty rubbish – here he looks like the gay Punisher - there’s even more characters to care less about, and er.. you know I still can’t quite remember exactly how it ended. Oh well.
“No sugar I tell you! How many times do I have to tell you ‘No Sugar!’ It makes me crazy!”
Jim No, neither can I. I’m sure there was a big end fight involving Trash, Strike, his bomb dropping son, the GC president, guys in silver suits with crash helmets that steam up and other guys getting flamed in the face, sometimes in slow motion, or something. I’m not entirely sure I admit.
Hang on a minute, I might be getting confused with the beginning of the film. There are plenty of flames in the face in the first 20 minutes as the GC Corporation guys in silver suits and crash helmets (yes with fully steamed up visors again – how could they see anything?) forcibly remove Bronx residents from their rather crappy dwellings. There’s also a rather amusing sequence where Trash shoots down a helicopter with a revolver. Ouch.
Then, we get introduced to Henry Silva (“He was in Buck Rogers you know” – me), whose character is called Wangler (“Mr Wangler? That’s not a villains name!” – Rawshark, I think), then it’s back to people getting flamed in the face. Did I mention the flame throwing guys in silver suits and crash helmets? There’s a lot of them in this film, or perhaps there’s only half a dozen suits but they keep getting used over and over, like Stormtrooper suits in Star Wars. Who can tell?
Anyway, next we’re introduced to the gangs, or what’s left of them, and there’s a little plot involving Trash trying to talk them into uniting against the GC Corporation (a bit like in the first film) before the guys with silver suits and crash helmets turn up again. Man, what a breath of fresh air – I missed those guys in the several long minutes since they were last on screen.
Loads more running around in tunnels follows, then board meetings as the GC Corp. talk shop. Then a bit more flame guys, a few bombs courtesy of bomb kid, then the end – somehow. Like its predecessor, Bronx Warriors 2 looks really cool, has a cool score and is a lot of fun, but it has absolutely no plot. Whereas in Bronx Warriors shouts were heard whenever the action stopped and the story focused on Trash’s romance with Anna, here I actually found myself longing for a break in the action. Yes – I can’t believe I just said that either.
At least Trash’s trousers were more acceptable this time around.
“A gang lead by Trash has attacked one of our squads and wiped them out!”
Director Enzo G. Castellari
Cast Mark Gregory
Runtime 92 mins
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So there you go then, that's the whole Bronx Warriors experience over and done with. Drums were played, dances were tapped, dodgy trousers were worn, shoes were sold and a great many people got flame-in-the-face, especially at the beginning of the sequel.
But are our lives any better for it? I certainly feel enriched from the experience, but then again i'm a sucker for Italian action movies, as is Zomblee (stay tuned for a Zombie Club classic in the near future of Blastfighter teamed up with Endgame - ouch).
And to think, nobody mentioned the odd bit that Rawshark spotted in the first movie when Ice falls off his bike and they kept it in, even though we wound that bit back a couple of times just to make sure it really happened. Maybe we're slipping in our old age...