The other day, I reviewed 1990: The Bronx Warriors, an Italian post-apocalyptic film from the early 1980s. That movie was directed by Enzo Castellari and starred Mark Gregory (as Trash). Vic Morrow and Fred Williamson. 1990: Escape from the Bronx continues the story with Castellari and Gregory back in the fold, but with Henry Silva as the villain.
In Escape from the Bronx, Trash is still hanging around town. We get to meet Trash’s parents, who keep a poster of their son on their apartment wall. You see where Trash gets his guts from, since Trash’s dad shows real gumption fighting the vile forces of GC.
This time around, Manhattan is largely in the hands of the General Construction Company, usually referred to as “GC”. General Construction is trying to clean out the Bronx, supposedly with the cover story that everyone is being relocated to New Mexico. In truth, General Construction is simply wiping out Bronx dwellers anywhere they find them. The flame thrower is one of their favorite modes of annihilation.
Here’s a handy tip if you want to engage in mass murder: don’t name your unit something like the “Disinfestation Annihilation Squad”.
That’s a pretty good tip off to the locals that you want to exterminate them all. DAS is going around the Bronx involved in ethnic cleansing, or should I say “class cleansing”? Class conflict is at the heart of this movie, like it is often in Euro films. I take off points because it was so heavy-handed. I wanted either post-apocalyptic bleakness or action movie swashbuckling or, like in the original, a mixture of the two.
Evil Corporations Are Evil
This is nothing new in cinema, of course. Hollywood and its counterparts worldwide love to tell is that corporations are evil. This is from the “Takes One to Know One” school of logic, since the movie industry is also run by evil corporations. I suppose this is explained by the fact the directors and actors consider themselves outside the apparatus of film studios, at most the downtrodden officer workers of the movie making corporation–and maybe the middle management in the case of producers and directors. So maybe the quality control experts at the studios don’t quite get they’re being criticized along with Wall Street when a movie depicts evil conglomerates like the General Construction Company and its colorfully named Disinfestation Annihilation Squad. Maybe I should give a director like Enzo Castellari credit for pulling one over the censor’s eyes.
Henry Silva at His Finest
Henry Silva was excellent as the head of the DAS, described as being perfect for the job of cleaning out the Bronx because he once ran a prison. Does any profession have a worse reputation in movies than a prison warden? I bet you could count on one hand the number of prison wardens in cinema who were decent human beings. Pretty much the same goes for head prison guards.
You might remember Henry Silva from The Manchurian Candidate, or as a hitman in either Sharky’s Machine or Dick Tracy.
Heck, Silva even appeared as the heavy in Steven Seagal’s action movie debut, Above the Law. And, of course, he was also in Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai. He’s good.
Trash as You’ve Never Seen Him
Trash appears to be less buff in this film. He wears a jacket most of the time to cover up his lack of muscles, though he still appears to be in pretty good shape. I tend to think it’s an improvement for Gregory. Either less bulk or more experience onscreen meant he was a little less stiff walking around. Still, Mark Gregory is no Brando.
Something is lost in the sequel. Now the gangs don’t war with each other for turf in the Bronx. They hide out below the city and appear to hang out together like they’re all friends or something. The Rockettes are in the subways practicing their dance moves.
Don’t get me wrong; the dancing gang members made me laugh in both films. But that takes any edge off these people, especially since the one group continues to perform their dance moves. Any good Rider should finish these people off quick.
Good Post-Apocalyptic Cinema
Still, if you want to see what Italian post-apocalyptic cinema is about, you could probably do worse than 1990: Escape from the Bronx.This was the era when even the US president’s daughter thought her father was leading the world to nuclear annihilation. It’s a little odd that Enzo Castellari made nuclear winter about class warfare, but the apocalypse tends to bring out conflicts between the haves and have-nots, I suppose.
I enjoyed watching this movie, which in the end is the true litmus test of whether an action movie has done its job. Sure, a lot of the entertainment involved laughing at what was happening, but that’s part of the fun of campy B-movies. Escape from the Bronx had a man in an eyepatch as a nod to Escape from New York‘s Snake Plisken, though the fellow in the eyepatch looked a little more like Chuck Norris. (Read more about eyepatches in the movies here.) Our group of film viewers ended up calling him Little Chuck Norris, because he was so short. That should be an indication of the kind of campy fun to expect with the 1990 movies. The lesson: watch these with friends, because these were made for running commentary.
Here’s a trailer for the boxed set including this movie:
And here’s the full movie you can watch for free online: