Shitty Movie Sundays: The New Barbarians

What an incredible piece of shit. Enzo G. Castellari is my new favorite shitty filmmaker. He elevated the art of shitty filmmaking to sublime proportions. His films are cheap, derivative to the point of intellectual theft, completely shameless yet self-aware, and entertaining as all hell to the true shitty movie connoisseur. They are also films that play to the basest appetites of an audience. For example, this is the third film I’ve seen that was helmed by Signore Castellari, and in every one a character is roasted alive by a flamethrower. That’s dedication to craft.

The New Barbarians, aka I Nuovi Barbari, aka Warriors of the Wasteland, was the flick Castellari and producer Fabrizio De Angelis sandwiched in between 1990: The Bronx Warriors and Escape from the Bronx. They must have left Mark Gregory back in New York when this one was filmed, because his name is strangely missing from the credits. That’s a shame. I was getting used to seeing him traipsing around in these dogs. But at least we still get Fred Williamson!

It’s the future, 2019, and civilization has been ravaged by a nuclear apocalypse. The world has been rendered a desert wasteland, or what appears to be a slightly manicured piece of airport tarmac in Italy. Hey, you film where you can, right?

A roving gang of nihilists led by One (Italian b-movie legend George Eastman) kills every group of survivors they encounter. One believes that the only thing remaining for mankind is the dark embrace of death, and he has taken it upon himself to deliver as many The New Barbarianspeople to oblivion as possible. He never seems to want to die himself, but never mind.

Opposing him is the film’s hero, Giancarlo Prete as Scorpion. He’s a lone wanderer in the Mad Max vein. Castellari and company showed no hesitation when it came to ripping off The Warriors and Escape from New York, so it’s no surprise that they mined George Miller’s films for ideas, right down to the car…sort of. Scorpion drives a black muscle car, but this being the future and all, it has all sorts of tubes and doodads. There’s even a dome. They took a 1967 Pontiac Firebird and turned it into the spaceship from Dark Star. It even bears more than a passing resemblance to a bong.

Scorpion, with help from another wasteland badass, Nadir (Williamson), go to war with One and his gang to protect a group of survivors. The details hardly matter. What does matter is that Castellari was a fan of spectacle. Every opportunity for a stunt is taken. Cheesy custom cars go flying and do crazy donuts, all filmed from multiple angles at multiple frame rates, so the perfect combination of full and slow speed action can be brought to the viewer. It’s a symphony of low rate exhibitionism. Early on the plot becomes superfluous but it just doesn’t matter.

There is also some gore here and there. The best word I can use to describe it is outrageous. The gore bears little relation to reality, yet it still manages to be shocking. It’s as if it resides in the uncanny valley of blood and guts.

But the most incredible sequence in the film wasn’t full of driving stunts or exploding bad guys. It was this:

Okay, not only was I not expecting an anal rape scene in this flick, I certainly didn’t expect it to be so disco. Was there penetration? Castellari left it to the imagination but things sure got funky there for a bit. That is without a doubt one of the most bizarre sequences I’ve ever seen put to film, but also one in which Eastman was quite at home.

Alien: Resurrection is a better film than The New Barbarians, but I feel like Judas writing that. Alien: Resurrection isn’t nearly as entertaining or raucous.

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