The New Barbarians (1983)
By: Stuart Giesel on October 3, 2013 | Comments
Shameless | All Regions, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 1.0 | 87 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Starring: Giancarlo Prete, Fred Williamson, George Eastman, Anna Kanakis, Thomas Moore
Screenplay: Enzo G. Castellari, Tito Carpi, Antonio Visone
Country: Italy
The second film in Enzo Castellari's apocalyptic trilogy, which began with the goofy Bronx Warriors, suffers from a severly limited budget that greatly hamstrings its dystopic vision of the future - if Castellari had waited until the box office receipts from The Bronx Warriors came in, he probably would have found himself with a much more significant budget for this film than he had at the time. The New Barbarians (aka Warriors of the Wasteland) may have Mad Max 2 as both its template and aspirational goal, quality-wise, but it is so deliriously camp that it has more in common with Roger Corman-produced cheapo Death Race 2000 than anything George Miller has directed.

As the opening titles tell us, it's 2019 A.D. (Jesus, it actually WILL be 2019 soon!) and the nuclear holocaust is over. Survivors have banded together in gangs, roaming the wasteland in cheap golf buggy cars that double for futuristic modes of transport in a futile bid to survive. The biggest and most threatening gang is The Templars, white-clad twats who run around under the command of silver-streaked One (George Eastman). The Templars want to apparently cleanse the wasteland of everyone else. Out of the survivors, we come to know two of the more robust specimens: Scorpion (Giancarlo Prete), who seems to have no special talents other than an ability to avoid grisly death, and Nadir (Fred Williamson), who certainly does have a special talent in his adeptness with bow and arrow - explosive-tipped arrows, to be specific. Scorpion is a loner, but is forced to band together with Nadir, a female survivor named Alma (Anna Kanakis) and a kid mechanic (Giovanni Frezza) if he has any chance against The Templars.

Until an authentic Fallout game-to-movie adaptation is made, fans will have to settle with... apocalyptic films other than this one. Apparently the script was written in two weeks, and it's easy to tell. There's not much to the story other than what's been covered above, or at least nothing else that's particularly noteworthy. The whole production looks and feels like a quick and cheap follow-up to The Bronx Warriors, which I assume it was, because it is explained in the Fact Track that director Castellari started this film before he realised what a success The Bronx Warriors turned out to be. Yet it doesn't really matter. The cheapness shows, yes, but as with Bronx Warriors this becomes part of the film's appeal. You get lame vehicles with horrible fake "sci fi" driving sounds, hilarious "pew pew" sci-fi shots pasted over traditional gun blasts, horribly poor chase scenes that lack any excitement. So what? It's fun as hell. When Nadir fires his explosive arrows and the umpteenth bad guy explodes in a grisly slow-motion parade of gore, you'll be cheering (alcohol helps). If Castellari knows anything, it's how to stretch a buck, and it's to his credit that The New Barbarians remains as enjoyable as it does - the production could very easily have resulted in a dire slog of a picture.

As with The Bronx Warriors, it's the little things that shine: Anna Kanakis appears as the typical damsel in distress who takes off her goggles and the dirt on her face gives the unfortunate effect of a 5-o'clock shadow; there's a weird sex scene in a plastic green blow-up tent; the pissweak chase scenes where cars can barely keep up with fleeing victims are pure comedy gold; by the end of the movie, Scorpion winds up wearing the most mindboggingly gay futuristic uniform imaginable. Undoubtedly the most WTF moment is when Scorpion is captured by the Templars and he's strung up by the arms. As part of a Templar ceremony, Eastman brandishes a glass blade which he uses to strip the backside off of Scorpion's pants, and then proceeds to rape him! - it gets really strange and psychedelic from there. I must have missed the part that explained beforehand how The Templars were a bunch of sadistic homosexual rapists. My jaw had well and truly dropped by this point.

It's true, watching the action scenes in The New Barbarians makes you reflect back on how visceral and brilliantly-edited the chase scenes were in Mad Max 2. But for the limited budget and short shooting schedule, the action is pretty good - there are a couple of great exploding bodies (though one shot uses a poorly rendered fake dummy) and some nice slo-mo shots - bodies are crushed, driven over, impaled and cut up with impunity. The cast struggle with the limited material. Williamson is fine as always (presumably Stallone must have been watching and taking notes about the explosive arrow tips for his Rambo: First Blood Part II) and Prete is a solid, if unspectacular, lead. And as for the kid - yes, he's same annoying blonde kid who appeared in Lucio Fulci's House by the Cemetery - fortunately he hasn't got the same screechy, irritating dubbed voice he had in Fulci's film, and is nowhere nearly as annoying here as he was in House. Still, it's George Eastman as Templar leader One who has the most screen presence, the hulking actor trying his best to look menacing even as he's prattling around the dull landscape in a revamped Volkswagen Beetle.

The New Barbarians is certainly the weakest in Castellari's apocalypse trilogy, but that doesn't mean it's a failure. It's too silly and enjoyable to be called a failure. To be sure, it's poorly scripted, flatly acted and looks as cheap as a tramp-stamp, but viewers are sure to get a kick out of the sporadic gory violence and its undeniable kitsch-factor.
The Disc
The anamorphic widescreen presentation of The New Barbarians certainly shines a light on the cheap production design. Clarity is strong, even if the picture is a little flat and washed out at times, but that's probably more to do with the shooting location than anything else, and it suits the tone of the film. It's a grainy but often handsome picture, befitting the film's low budget origins, and as such is a commendable transfer. Audio isn't exactly crisp; as with The Bronx Warriors, it appears that much if not all of the dialogue was recorded in post, so everything sounds a little "off" - if you're used to Spaghetti Westerns then you get the idea and probably won't mind. Admittedly, the soundtrack is pretty flat. There's nothing here to give your system a workout.

There are fewer features here than on Shameless' The Bronx Warriors DVD. The Fact Track makes a reappearance, once again providing informative (and some not-so-illuminating) facts, though it tends to fall back in detailing what other films so-and-so - who did such-and-such on this film - worked on. There's an International Trailer and American Credits - nothing much to see here. The disc provides ten trailers for Argent Films releases including Django, The Battle of Algiers and A Bullet for the General. There's also a reverse DVD inset with an alternative cover.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
By far the campiest, cheapest and silliest of the three Enzo Castellari directed apocalypse movies, The New Barbarians is a winner whenever Fred Williamson is blowing up baddies with explosive arrows or people are puttering around in ridiculous "sci-fi" vehicles, but the script - like the setting - is a wasteland.
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