“1990: The Bronx Warriors” (1982) is “Mad Max”-ian post-apocalyptic trash masterpiece

By on July 29, 2019

In the early 1980s, Italian producer Fabrizio De Angelis and prolific director Enzo G. Castellari — inspired by movies like Walter Hill’s The Warriors, George Miller‘s Mad Max and John Carpenter‘s Escape from New York — set out to make their own trash masterpiece about a futuristic Bronx borough overrun by biker gangs following their own set of rules.

The result was the post-apocalyptic epic 1990: The Bronx Warriors (Italian: 1990: Guerrieri Del Bronx), which you can now watch — in a High-Def transfer by Blue Underground in 2015 — on Night Flight Plus.

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Shot in 1981 but not released until the end of 1982, 1990: The Bronx Warriors is set in the far-off futuristic year of 1990, after authorities have given up all attempts to restore law and order to the battlefields of the Bronx.

The borough has officially been declared a “High Risk District,” and a “No Man’s Land,” and it is now ruled by a biker gang, the Riders, a bunch of long-haired shirtless tattooed bikers with spiked elbow pads riding motorcycles decorated with glowing skulls.

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Their leader is called “Trash” (he’s played beefcake bodybuilder Mark Gregory — real name: Marco Di Gregorio — who De Angelis discovered working out in a gym).

Some of the other dudes in the Riders include “Hawk” a.k.a. “Paul” (Rocco Lero) and “Blade” (Massimo Vanni). Christopher Connelly — who plays a curse-befallen archaeologist in horror maestro Lucio Fulci‘s Manhattan Baby — plays a dude named “Hot Dog.”

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The movie actually begins with a wealthy future heiress “Anne Fisher” (played by foxy Stefania Girolami, Castellari’s own daughter) who flees from Manhattan into this lawless wasteland of motorcycle gangs and marauding warriors, where she falls in love with Trash, angering “Lieutenant Ice” (Gianni Loffredo).

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Anne’s act of defiance angers her corrupt father, “Samuel Fisher” (played by Castellari’s brother, Enio Girolami), especially since his daughter just about to turn eighteen and will inherit his company, the Manhattan Corporation.

Anne considers her father’s morally-questionable global arms manufacturer  “unscrupulous,” and would prefer to live instead with the poor and oppressed people of the Bronx.

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Sam and his company’s vice-president, “Farley” (played by Castellari himself) hire a ruthless mercenary-type bounty hunter named “Hammer the Exterminator” (played by American actor Vic Morrow), to bring her back no matter the cost.

Things become complicated when a rival biker gang, the Zombies — roller-skating hockey players in white WWII German helmets, led by “Golem” (George Eastman) -– kidnap Ann, which forces Trash to join forces with “Ogre” (black action star Fred Williamson) in order to save her.

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Ogre’s team includes his vampire-like chauffeur “Leech” and his blonde whip-cracking sidekick “Witch,” who shows up in a cape and fishnet stockings (she’s played by former Olympic swimmer and model/actress Elisabetta Dessy).

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Ogre’s gang, the Tigers, drive customized vintage jalopies (no doubt inspired by Carpenter’s film). Some of the other gangs include the Scavengers (raggedy-looking grunting sub-humans), and the Iron Men (tap dancers with canes and metal bowler hats, played by professional television dancers).

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The film’s explosive, climactic ending pits psychopathic rogue cop Hammer and his Special Vigilante Force against Ogre’s and Trash’s combined biker outlaw bunch in an attack dubbed “Operation: Burnt Earth.”

Read more about 1990: The Bronx Warriors below.

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Enzo G. Castellari

Italian filmmaker Enzo G. Castellari spent the first fifteen years of his career establishing himself as a formidable director of action films, Poliziotteschi, comedies and spaghetti westerns.

As the 1980s dawned, like many Italian exploitation directors, he worked on projects that ripped off or at least copied successful American and European blockbusters.

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Castellari’s 1981 film The Last Shark (Italian: L’ultimo squalo a.k.a. Great White) starred James Franciscus and Vic Morrow in a tale about a small beach community terrorized by a bloodthirsty great white shark. Sound familiar?

Although it grossed over $18 million during its first month of screenings in the U.S., it was later withdrawn from theaters after Universal Studios sued the production for being too similar to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.

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Castellari’s next film was this one, 1982’s 1990: The Bronx Warriors, which — like many of the films Lucio Fulci was making at the time — was set in New York City.

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Fabrizio De Angelis has said that the idea came to him after missing the subway stop for his Manhattan hotel and finding himself in a notoriously dangerous part of the Bronx, infested by street gangs and drug addicts, where he was confronted by thugs with switchblades.

He got back to his hotel in one piece, and later wrote up the screenplay — about a futuristic city where young punks fight over turf — with Dardano Sacchett and Elisa Livia Briganti.

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The exteriors were mostly shot in Brooklyn and the Bronx, which took place without closing down the streets. If you look closely you can see local New Yorkers driving their cars in the supposedly “no go” zone (only three weeks were spent shooting in NYC).

Most of the film’s interior shots were filmed at the De Paolis Studio in Rome, where Federico Fellini, Lucchino Visconti, Dario Argento and others have shot landmark Italian features.

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The huge box office success of 1990: The Bronx Warriors led to De Angelis and Castellari making two more sequels: 1982’s Escape from the Bronx (a.k.a. Bronx Warriors 2 and Escape 2000) follows the further adventures of Trash, while 1983’s blatant Mad Max-rip-off The New Barbarians (a.k.a. Warriors of the Wasteland).

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This was the last film actor Vic Morrow completed before his on-set death during the filming of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).

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Watch 1990: The Bronx Warriors on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.