Everyone loves low-budget futuristic spaghetti-fi trash, don’t they? It’s perfectly normal. At least, that’s what we keep telling ourselves...
Lucio Fulci’s bizarre outing into the futuristic sci-fi arena, Rome 2033 – The Fighter Centurions (AKA The New Gladiators), was up first, after I eventually managed to win the original 1984 UK VHS release off eBay. What a sleeve too. So bad it’s good, though I always had the bad feeling that the film itself would bear only a passing resemblance to this strange garish ink rendering of gladiatorial events.
Second up, a movie that had me foaming at the gash in excitement: 2019 – After the Fall of New York. Any information I have ever found on the net about this crazy-ass flick made we want to see it so badly, but I knew that if my patience held out that my zombie buddy Jim would get his hands on the Region One disc. And so he did, eventually making the line-up for tonight’s futuristic Italian trash night complete.
Gentlemen, please start your engines.
The New Gladiators (1984)
Plot A ruthless ‘futuristic’ media organisation gathers ‘futuristic’ gladiators fight in a deadly ‘futuristic’ battle to be shown in “Globalvision” in an effort to win viewer ratings in a ‘futuristic’ media war. ‘Futuristic’ TV star ‘Drake’ is framed for murder and forced to train and then fight with a ‘futuristic’ motley crew of ‘futuristic’ death row convicts. Big, gay bike fights or “no-holds barred motorised combat” – you decide.
Zomblee Rome 2033 – The Fighter Centurions is a pretty bad film. But you probably knew that already. The question is, does it entertain? Affirmative. The fact that it comes across as a poor man’s Rollerball, featuring a poor man’s James Caan (Drake, played by Jared Martin) and a poor man’s Chuck Norris (Kirk – played by Fulci veteran Al Cliver), only serves to heighten the pure entertainment value of this endearing ambitious Fulci outing. It also comes across as a poor man’s precursor to The Running Man, but let’s not even go there…
The budget shows in Rome 2033 – The Fighter
Centurions. The ‘futuristic’ Rome cityscape tries to emulate that Blade Runner look, but instead looks like someone’s been having loads of fun making miniatures with the help of sticky tape, glue, shoe boxes and fairy lights. The same shot of the cityscape is used repeatedly throughout the course of the film – sometimes the camera moving from left to right, sometimes vice-versa, and you know what – it looks pretty cool, even if its an obvious miniature.
I think we were all somewhat disappointed by the lack of actual fighting in this flick. Sadly, when the fights do happen, they’re either done in a strobe effect (eh? why?) or they’re just a bit rubbish, relying on a few too many bike explosions for my liking. Most of the film takes place inside the gladiator’s training base, focusing on the victimised fighters, the evil corporation (I love a good evil corporation in a movie!), and the ruthless trainer – Raven, who gets a kick out of disciplining his gladiators with his big green laser gun.
I’d love to mention the magic coffee bean that Drake swallows to enable him to disable computers and melt steel walls, but will leave that to my co-zombies.
“Ok, Raven, now you can zap me with your magic stick.”
Jim Yes... It's like this - Monk turns up half way through the movie with a weird magic bean thing that Drake swallows and then melts the prison bars using the power of his mind, so they can escape. Right...
What initially comes across as one of the most obscene plot devices ever witnessed, ends up being just one ridiculous moment in a movie simply brimming with absolute absurdity. The big gay bike fight opening gives us a good idea of what's to come ("This is going to be shit, isn't it..." – Zomblee) before the plot dives into extensive futuristic gladiator death camp training stuff. This section bangs on a bit but is still funny – Fred Williamson looks like he’s walked in off the set of Bronx Warriors, Al Cliver similarly looks like he’s running late for Zombie Flesh Eaters while Jared Martin (Drake) must be wondering how he went from Dallas to this. That or his ears are still ringing from his fight with the bizarre whistling gang, or perhaps it’s the overuse of strobe lighting, either way the poor man doesn’t look himself.
The training itself is longwinded but has quite a few comedy highlights - namely the chin-ups over the electrified floor, the magic bean induced prison break and the bizarre scene where Drake threatens to electrify himself if he doesn’t get his way, supported by the rest of the inmates. Eh?
And then before you know it, we arrive at the finale. Yes, it's another big gay bike fight - as crap as the opener, although this time around the guys are asked to wear the campest outfits ever and the allocation of weaponry seems oddly in favour of the stars of the show - one guy gets a rope net, another a flame thrower. How can that be fair? I dunno, but it doesn't seem to matter - nearly all the contestants' bikes seem to blow up at some point, although for some reason the special effects of those shots remind me of when as a kid I set my Evil Kinevil toy on fire and sent him charging into the garden fence...
Still, what a ride - Rome 2033 had me crying with laughter. In fact I don't think there was a dry eye in the house all night, since Rome 2033 is easily one of the best good-bad movies ever made - right up there with Zombi 3, Cannibal Apocalypse and the classic Manos - The Hands of Fate. That's good company.
“I’m not afraid, I’m just wondering what this big gadget does of yours.”
Rawshark What do you do when your TV station Network is attracting less ratings than what seems to be a cheap 70s advert for perfume? Well, if you’re anything like Mr Evil Computer Man from Globalvision, you obviously employ the Bee Gees (whilst whistling in white suits) to murder the wife of one of TV’s top sporting star’s so you can frame him to put him in a new ‘Gladiators from Ancient Rome’ type of show. Obviously.
Rome 2033 is a terrible movie, but for all the right reasons. Immediately starting off with an awful miniature shot, we know we shouldn’t be taking this film with any sort of seriousness supplements, and set about enjoying it’s quirkily crap charm, and to laugh out loud at it’s many preposterous plot points. Alongside the great coffee-bean escape sequence (Jim wasn’t having any of that – “I’ve worked in IT for 10 years, and I’ve never heard of anything like that. And this film’s 20 years old”), we get a great training sequence with flashing strobes and repeated ‘subconscious’ commands (‘Pick it up, pick it up..’), face melts, futuristic talking computers (why do they always say negative instead of no?) and a painfully bad end Gladiator game with exploding sidecars, gay karate kicks and blood-filled dummies being runover by motorcycles.
Other laugh out loud moments to watch out for include the team suddenly finding a map when they’re escaping through the caves (only to emerge on a rooftop? Huh?), the green laser of discipline, the meeting with disfigured Monk (“good to see a friendly face”), the chin-up bar to prevent them sizzling like sausages, the Games countdown (starting at 20 – 19 – 18..?!) and an ending countdown that has 49 seconds left at one point, but still 2 minutes remaining a couple of minutes later. Bless you Fulci for constantly ignoring such things such as plot logic. All that and some great 80s bob haircuts for both ‘Goodie Girl’ and ‘Baddie Girl’. I go all weak-kneed for bob-cuts on girls in films.
Is Rome 2033 a good film? No, it’s bloody terrible, and really everyone involved should be shot. Is Rome 2033 an enjoyable film? Hell yes. Just don’t expect to take any of it seriously, drink lots (although to comply with advertising standards, please remember to drink sensibly) and be prepared to forget about it all straight after.
“You’re all going to be de-materialised anyway!”
Director Lucio Fulci
Cast Jared Martin
Runtime 89 mins
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2019: After the Fall of New York (1983)
Plot 2019. Disgraced former hero heads in to the war zone that is New York to rescue the president... sorry, I mean rescue the last fertile woman alive. That's who he's rescuing, not the president, that's another film...
Rawshark Part Two of Futuristic Spaghetti-Fi Trash Night kicked off with 2019, and within the first few minutes it was easy to spot that this film had a much larger budget, at least $50,000 more than the previous film. Yes, it’s another post-apocalyptic scenario (no babies have been born for 15 years) and the ruling Federation ride about on white horses getting annoyed by the Euraks who control New York City, and apparently, the only fertile woman left alive on Earth.
Obviously the Federation need someone to go to New York and rescue said fertile woman, and seeing as they’ve all seen Escape From New York on video before, they enlist rugged car-driving hero, Parsifal (Parsifal? Parsifal?!? What sort of a hero’s name is Parsifal?) to undertake this mission. He is joined by Claw Man and Ratchet (?) – “The Strongest Man in the Confederacy” and together they enter New York, meeting a feisty blonde fighting chick, a ‘Flash Gordon’ dominatrix babe, a midget and George Eastman as ‘Big Ape’ along the way.
Like tonight’s other ‘piece-of-art’, in no way can 2019 be taken with any amount of seriousness. Featuring many scenes ripped straight out of EFNY, 2019 is nothing but a cheap rip-off, but one that has managed to insert just enough originality and absurdity to make it worth watching. The gore is reasonably effective, and some of the characters are a blast – special mention to the midget, whose death scene really needs to be seen to be believed (“Stupid Bastards! Aaargh!”)
In fact, by the time you get to the grand getaway - driving at speed past the pyramid mines and avoiding the laser guns of hundreds of Nazi-ish guards in the tunnel leading out of New York – if you’re not cheering these dudes on, you’ve obviously got a heart of stone. Still a pretty shit movie though, and what were they thinking by leaving ‘Big Ape’ alone with the only fertile woman left in the world?
“They say there’s a woman around here that can make babies.”
Jim Next up 2019 - After the Fall of New York finally gets rolled out at zombie club, and not before time either. Rawshark and I were suitably excited - I mean who wouldn't be - but Zomblee was going positively ape, or rather 'big ape', at the prospect. Fair do's though, this was Escape from New York's turn to get the Italian rip-off cash-in remake treatment, and Zomblee loves his Carpenter. Besides, out of all the early 80s Italian post-apocalyptic capers this one had the highest rating on imdb.com. It must be good then.
Bizarrely, the film opens with a trumpet solo played by a mutant black guy standing on the outskirts of one of those ropey miniatures the Italians love so much, although this time it's supposed to be a burnt out New York City. Across the other side of the US in Nevada (same day) Parsifal is having some kind of car jousting match with a gang of guys in hockey gear. The weird thing is all the gang are in the same car, which kind of defeats the point of having a gang in a car joust I thought, but there you go. Parsifal obviously wins, finishing the last of the gang off with some cheesy car bonnet fighting acrobatics, and takes the fairly ugly slave girl as his prize. He doesn't hold on to her though, he let's her go just as the Eurak helicopters turn up to 'offer' him a job. The job is simple: go and rescue the last surviving fertile female from the gangs of New York, and consequently save the human race.
New York, of course, has turned into a ravaged land swarming with gangs of dwarfs, mutants and apemen, and ruled over by futuristic police who use those ornate guns that Brian Blessed's hawkmen were armed with in Flash Gordon. Thank goodness then that Parsifal's got a bald guy with a claw hand and Trash's dad from Bronx Warriors 2 to help him on his quest.
In retrospect, 2019 was a great companion piece to 2033 since the two movies have a very similar feel. They're both cheap, they're both Italian, they're both outrageously blatant rip-offs of recent US hits and they even share some of the same furniture. I'm talking of course about that big black computer desk, which I'm also sure makes an appearance in Contamination, come to think of it. They also both have quite dull middle bits; 2033's gladiator training bit is as long winded as 2019's wandering aimlessly looking for the fertile bird, but like the first feature it’s hard not to be entertained by the sheer cheapness of the filmmaking on show. The entire middle section has plenty of running and shooting, although oddly the ‘laser’ guns stop generating laser flashes for quite a while – I guess they were saving the SFX budget for something special later on.
2019 does seriously picks up when the sonic weapons come out (which hurt the dwarfs more, "Is it because they have little ears?" - Rawshark) and even more so when Big Ape turns up, played with great style by Anthropophagus the Beast's George Eastman. Big Ape is a Neanderthal who apparently is the last man with fertile sperm alive. And as Rawshark points out, it’s pretty obvious where that one was going…
“Stupid Bastards! Aaargh!”
Guys, I haven't seen Rawshark laugh so hard since Manos...
Zomblee The music for 2019 was written by a gentleman called Oliver Onions. I’m not kidding. Christmas had come early for me this year. I was so excited about seeing this film and yes, Jim, it’s fair to say that I was going (Big) ape, like Spaghetti Trash Stalwart George Eastman. However after noticing that the soundtrack was courtesy of someone called Onions, the comedy value had increased tenfold and we hadn’t even seen any action yet. Cue iffy miniatures and lone mutant trumpet player. Oh Jesus, this is going to be a fucking scream.
I noticed what I thought might be several hand-me-downs from Escape from New York in 2019 but you know what? They weren’t hand-me-downs. The props department had obviously been told to make props that looked like the props from EFNY, even though most props from Carpenter’s film were pretty lame. Even plot situations are stolen straight from Carpenter’s template. For example, the bus attack scene, the landmines on the bridge, the crazies living in the sewers who appear through the manholes and the barricade made of old cars - just so that our hero, Parsifal, can ram straight through it. Bizarrely, (Snake) Parsifal wasn’t wearing an eye patch.
2019, despite plenty of shortcomings, does offer up quite a platter for hungry trash hounds. The action is fairly relentless, and does not stop for breath very often. Did I mention the music by Oliver Onions? Gore, fighting, dwarves, monkey men – its all right here in 2019, and it’s a blast too. The vertically challenged feature quite heavily in 2019 and could easily place this bizarre flick in a sci-fi dwarf sub genre. You may see some familiar little faces too, as I think Jim did: “He’s…he’s…he’s…aw, come on guys…that midget’s been in loads of stuff!”
The oppressing forces are dressed in black, as they were in 2033, but this time they’re on big horses. How come the horses are normal then? How come they can have babies and how come they aren’t mutants? Does anyone care?
There’s more going on in 2019 than there is room to mention here. As Rawshark says, this has just enough “absurdity to make it worth watching” and in keeping with Spaghetti Sci-fi traditions, features flame-throwing carnage aplenty, as well as the best rat-whipping scene I’ve seen since Whip my Rat, Bitch. Fantastic fun. It makes wine taste even better and vice-versa. End music by Oliver Onions. He also scored Blastfighter, you know.
"We have ways of making you talk."
Director Sergio Martino
Cast Michael Sopkiw
Paolo Maria Scalondro
Runtime 91 mins
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Man, I can't believe we were so hard on that little guy! I had a wee look on imdb.com and found out the guy's name was Louis Ecclesia (pretty easy to find out - he's credited as 'Shorty') and he never worked in movies again. Or before. So all my (Jim) mouthing off about seeing him in something else was drunken bollocks. Sorry about that...
The rest of the cast went on to feature in umpteen more Italian cash-in fests, although as Zomblee points out, Blastfighter is the next one to look for, starring both George Eastman and Michael Sopkiw. I keep seeing that on ebay, and I bet I crack and buy it before Zomblee does.
On a more somber note, I stumbled upon something while doing my 'Shorty' research. Romano Puppo, who played the strong man and Trash's dad in Bronx Warriors 2, died in a car crash in 1994. A downer certainly, but wherever he is now I'm sure he'd be pleased to know that guys like us are still discovering his work decades after it was originally released, and having a great time in the process.
I'll sure as hell be raising a glass to “The Strongest Man in the Confederacy” at our next meet, that's for sure...
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