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WEIRDO FLICKS: 'The New Gladiators'

by Eli Kroes

You might not be familiar with the term 'Z-Movie,' but if you grew up in the 90's, chances are you've seen one. They're the beyond-low-budget monstrosities that teased you from the walls of the mom-and-pop video store. Usually, the films themselves could never live up to the pictures on the videotape boxes (because this was way before your fancy 'Digital Video Discs' and 'Blu-Rays') but occasionally you'd find something truly unique. 'WEIRDO FLICKS' will clue you into some movies which 'unique' doesn't even begin to describe...  

'The New Gladiators' - 1984, Directed by Lucio Fulci

I can't be bothered to type out the Italian name of this film, but suffice to say, it did originate from Italy. In fact, it comes from one of the most acclaimed directors of Italian horror, Lucio Fulci, who was responsible for the fairly shady 1979 'sequel' to George A. Romero's 'Night of the Living Dead.' Known for his surreal visuals and heaps of gore, this film is no different, although it takes his style to the world of dystopian motorcycle movies. 

Playing like a hybrid of 'Mad Max' and 'Rollerball' (although, in my opinion, better than both) we're dropped into a world where convicts battle to the death for a chance at freedom. Of course, it's all broadcast live on TV because everything is controlled by warring television stations. The longtime champion of another violent motorcycle-battle show, Drake, is framed by his television network and convinced he murdered his wife, which they in fact did. This is so that they can put a TV 'star' into the new prisoner-gladiator show, which it really shouldn't need if it's so action packed. 

But, everybody likes Drake, and so they help him out, and he gains the convicts' trust and helps them to break out a few times (they always get caught, though.) The real kicker is that the TV station plans on executing the victorious criminals, which defeats the purpose of fighting, really.

Throughout, there are weird futuristic visuals, and plenty of heads getting smashed. I mean, it's re-released under the Troma label, and they certainly know what their fans like. So, if you're a supporter of 'The Toxic Avenger' or any of their other fine titles, you might want to check this little-known sci-fi flick out.

VHS photo by Toby Hudson.