The New Barbarians (1982)
By: Mr Intolerance on September 25, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Shriek Show (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 91 minutes
The Movie
Director: Enzo G Castellari
Starring: Fred "The Hammer" Williamson, George Eastman, Giancarlo Prete, Venantino Venantini, Massimo Vanni, Anna Kanakis
Screenplay: Tito Carpi, Enzo Girolami, Antonio Visone
Country: Italy
External Links
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At the beginning of the 21st century, the nuclear holocaust had come to pass and civilisation vanished. It was a time of chaos and violence, until one day there appeared…The New Barbarians!

Well, that's what the original trailer tells us anyway. Seems to me that the time of violence and chaos is what we're about to watch the next 91 minutes watching. There's certainly plenty of both on hand, at any rate.

Our opening shot is a poorly constructed model of New York (I think – it looks like it was made for Space 1999) being destroyed by what looks suspiciously like a firefly. It's meant to be a nuke, of course, but those pesky budgets get in the way of everything, don't they?

Cut to 2019 (that date again…), and the world is a wasteland (the alternate title of this film is Warriors of the Wasteland, which I actually prefer), and we're shown some ruins and long-dead bodies just to emphasise the fact. Side note: apparently women in the not too distant future wear radiation suits with see-through plastic cups over their titties. Interesting. And (and you can join me singing this toon: it's got a good beat, you can dance to it and you all know the words) the future has no real civilisation, just pockets of people existing in a hand to mouth way, attacked by marauding gangs of bikers and guys with souped up cars. Nope. Never seen that before. The Italian exploitation industry has always thrived on ripping off popular successful films, and then re-inventing them for a much more low-budget approach, and for a maybe not so discerning audience, really revving up the elements of said films which made them appeal in the first place; usually the sex and the violence. So, if you said that this bad boy was heavily influenced by Mad Max, you wouldn't be too far off the mark.

One such pocket of existence (a bunch of survivors who've circled their wagons like cowboys and settlers in old westerns – a genre Castellari was very consciously trying to ape here, as he admits on the Commentary track) gets wiped out in an attack by the Templars, a large gang of evil dudes with implausible hairdos led by The One (George Eastman and his Amazing Eyebrows, hamming it up within an inch of his life in a highly entertaining turn). Their mission: kill everybody they can, as vengeance for the apocalypse. And they like doing it in spectacularly bloody ways. Prime nut-job and The One's right hand man Mako (who gets named after a shark?) has a cannon in the front of his car, and mounted on the side is a kind of saw which decidedly resembles a fan with the blades painted silver. The cars themselves are actually modified VW Beetles, stripped to the chassis and re-constructed to look ultra modern – i.e.: they're painted silver and are pointy, rendering them about as aerodynamic as a combine-harvester. The opening fight scene is trademark Castellari – the villains are sadistic, the explosions outrageous, the sound effects hilarious and the slow motion shots many.

What's interesting in a post 9-11 world is that when a bible is found, The One rips it in half, claiming that it was ultimately responsible for the apocalypse in the first place. You could kind of argue that the War on Terror had the same basis. The Templars are also, in a trademark Castellari fashion, wildly homo-erotic. Mako, for example has a little playmate who rides on his deathmobile, kind of like the Golden Youth in Mad Max 2, with the vicious biker Wes – Mako even has a Mohawk like Wes (and gee, guess which of these two films was released first…). The fact that they all appear to wear studded black leather codpieces, making them look like escapees from Police Academy's "The Blue Oyster Bar", doesn't exactly aid their cause in appearing otherwise. And as for their shoulder pads… The most frightening thing about this post-apocalyptic future is men's fashion.

And this is when our hero Scorpion hoves into view in his black muscle car, complete with silver-coated skull on the bonnet (kind of reminiscent of Trash's gang in 1990: The Bronx Warriors). However, it's not exactly as cool as the last of the V8s, with ridiculous silver tubes leading into the bonnet and the most jaw-droppingly awful enormous plastic dome on the roof (remember that episode of The Simpsons when Homer got to design his own car?). Talk about own goals… So Scorpion turns up to the scene of carnage that the Templars left behind and kills a bunch of scavengers, just to prove to us he's a tough hombre.  He then takes the car to be fixed by that annoying kid from House By The Cemetery and Manhattan Baby, who just happens to be a dab hand with a slingshot, don't you know. This is important later on.

So, roadworthy again, Scorpion meets up with Templars who are terrorising a young woman whose truck they've just immolated (killing her boyfriend by driving a very fucking large car-mounted spear through his crotch – it'd probably kill me too, and reinforces the homo-erotic sadism of the Templars), and stops their fun. Scorpion, it seems used to be a Templar, and one of the elders of the gang, Shadow, who despises Mako (probably because Mako's hairdo is even sillier than his), lets Scorpion go for this reason. Scorpion, because he's such a nice guy, takes the girl with him.

A word about Scorpion's car at this point. Many of the controls seem to be activated by the joystick next to the steering wheel, which put me in mind of those from the Vipers in the original Battlestar Galactica. The rest? Well, he has lots of lights, knobs and switches on the dashboard, but none of them are labelled – good memory, or bad construction of a prop – you be the judge!

We get some expository dialogue about The One and Scorpion's relationship for want of a better term – probably their "history" would be better, but given the homoeroticism from The One's angle… Then we get the first entrance into the film of the legendary, the one and only…do I have to say his name?! Fred "The Hammer" Williamson! And not a moment too soon, as a bunch of Templars led by Mako have returned to bushwhack Scorpion back to the Stone Age, just to prove themselves to The One. This, of course, is a bad move. Let's just say that Mako doesn't have a particularly good day, and that Nadir's (Williamson) arrows – he's an uber-bowman – have a rather devastating effect on the Templar's plans. Action scene-a-go-go!

Mako gets a bit of a Viking funeral, albeit with a The New Barbarians twist, and with some George Eastman over-acting, and Scorpion's fate is pretty fairly sealed. Shadow has become an even harder bastard than we thought he was to begin with (well, his hairdo did confuse us somewhat), and things are looking grim, even after Scorpion, Nadir and the girl meet up with a bunch of survivors and things seem to be briefly looking up.

This leads us to the last reel, and there are many things I've deliberately left up to you to find out – buggery, slaughter and the fate of our heroes being 3 of them – and the less said about Scorpion's body armour the better. There's an awesome show down to begin with, but what leads to it is even more of an eye-opener. And the gore and the guts are delivered Castellari-style all the way through. There is so much wonderfulness in the last 30 or so minutes I'm almost frightened to tell you. This is a fucking winner.
Pretty good picture, and shown in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement. There are a few moments when it seems a little hey-ho in terms of clarity, but I think you'll dig it as The New Barbarians looks about as good as it's going to on DVD here.
Maybe I'm going deaf, but I found the audio track to be very quiet and muffled at times, bordering on the indistinct, losing lines of dialogue. The score is by Claudio Simonetti, and proves, if nothing else, that some people need to have a band with them. I thought while I was watching it for the first time the music sounded rather like a sub-par Goblin… Oh, and the sound effects for the guns are hysterical – an M16 on full auto is a harsh metallic clatter, not a single bent note on a synthesiser or a poxy early 80s doorbell.
Extra Features
There is a full-length Commentary track with Enzo G Castellari, director extraordinaire, moderated by David Gregory, as well as Castellari's son Andrea Girolami (a film-maker in his own right), and Castellari's current scriptwriter, Lorenzo de Luca.

We also get an interview with the always entertaining Fred "The Hammer" Williamson – have a look at this, it's quite interesting for his take on filming in Italy on a shoestring budget (the short version is that he likes it), and it's nowhere near as self-aggrandising as his rants on the Shriek Show release of 1990: The Bronx Warriors or the Severin 3 disc "Explosive" edition of The Inglorious Bastards (Castellari films both, by the way).

There's also the original trailer for the film, and a collection of Shriek Show trailers: Duck: The Carbine High Massacre, Hell High, 1990: The Bronx Warriors and 2019: After the Fall of New York.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
What can I say? The New Barbarians is Castellari goodness writ large. If you can't dig this, you've probably been brought up on big budget Hollywood blockbusters. It moves at a mile a minute, entertains like a mother-licker, and the pay-off is so worth it, I can't even tell you how cool it is. As an unashamed fan of the post-apocalyptic oeuvre, I have to tell you that this is one of the best films of the genre. Hammy? Sure it is, but that's just part of the fun.  

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