The Review: It all started with this animated gif image I found on a message board somewhere. When I first saw it, I was entranced, I watched it over and over again. I’m a pretty well versed guy when it comes to a lot of this cult cinema stuff (not a genius or anything, but I keep up), so really cool stuff such as that usually doesn’t come up and shock me all that often without me at least being able to place a good guess on what film it may or may not come from. When first seeing it, I assumed it was from an Italian action yarn. However, after I posted it over at The Deuce, the ever knowledgeable HungFist had come up with The New Barbarians. Now, The New Barbarians isn’t anything I had never heard of. Most geeks for Italian horror at some point hear about their love affair with post-apocalyptic films and such. I gave The New Gladiators a shot which was an okay experience, but nothing as amazing as those few seconds caught in that animated gif. So, to the top of my netflix queue The New Barbarians went and my quest to find if it lived up to the amazing hype of that digitally animated piece of art. When Enzo G. Castellari is in charge of the production though, you know you’ll at least be treated to something interesting. With one of Enzo’s favorite casting choices, and one of my favorite actors in Fred “The Hammer” Williamson in a starring role – I’d say The New Barbarians held the most interest for me as far as any of the post-apocalyptic Italian flicks go. Does the film live up to all of the promise though? Well, it depends on what you’re expecting. No doubt, that animated gif is probably one of the coolest things you’re going to find out there but no film could reasonably be that cool for 90 minutes – but if you know what to expect The New Barbarians does offer quite a bit of entertainment itself. There’s also a great deal of really awesome violence in the film – and more exploding bodies than you can shake a stick at: that right there sold me on the film that’s for sure.
The score by Claudio Simonetti… well, if you’re a fan of Italian synthesizers (and who isn’t?) then you’ll find it easy in your heart to show some love for it – but even I have to admit it sounds like something you would find in a PBS special from the early nineties dealing with computers. Some kind of “welcome to the internet!” video package that might be sold in an infomercial in the wee hours of the morning. Sort of like something from Mr. Wizard even. The main theme of most chase scenes is a breakbeat with light keyboard strokes played over it, and while it is indeed as funky as it gets – it does date the film considerably. Then again, do you see those costumes in the above photo gallery? The New Barbarians sure didn’t need any extra help in dating itself as an eighties scifi picture. Some might see all of these things as being too cheeseball to get into; but you have to simply view it as a piece of the charm. There’s a strange amount of homosexual tension in the film that really doesn’t come into play until the final half hour or so of the film, as we finally discover that the Templars are apparently homosexual. Don’t worry, that’s no real spoiler, it’s not like the director hides it from you and then the revelation makes any kind of difference. It really doesn’t, except for a little anal rape that comes from out of NOWHERE! This whole reveal is completely from out of the wild blue anyway, so what does it matter on the entirety of the film? Are all homosexuals super villains who desperately want to see the world demolished? Not that I’m aware, but if so maybe I have more in common with the homosexual community than I thought. Aside from all of the crazy stuff going on, the film is graced with an upstanding cast of characters featuring George Eastman (Antropophagus, Kidnapped), Giovanni Frezza who most remember as the annoying kid from so many Italian productions like A Blade in the Dark and House By the Cemetery. There’s also a little guy you may have heard of… FRED THE HAMMER WILLIAMSON! Everybody knows I’m a big Hammer fan, and this is definitely one of his quirkier performances to date. Completely over the top in every way, with him uttering such wonderful lines of dialogue like: “Use that anger, control that power! And you shall know the meaning of VICTORY!” which I promise you is uttered with this bizarre lack of passion and simply yelled out into the open. This is classic Italian cinema for sure. Unfortunately star Giancarlo Prete is often shown up due to the rest of the cast generally being so over the top, but he is very solid in his performance and seems like the only one in the film currently inhabiting planet earth at times.
A few years ago, this would have probably received a rating of one from me – because it’s truthfully not what I could consider a really “great” movie. It’s a cheesy action yarn with little in the way of dramatic purpose for the actors or creativity for a “futuristic environment”. This desolate future with such amazing technological advancements is only just slightly more believable than say Future War. However, we are talking about one fun film. As goofy as it is, The New Barbarians is such dumb fun that I am kind of impressed with its ability to be so strange and yet so intriguing. In the end, this won’t be a film for everyone but for those with an interest in the genre and Italian cult cinema – you might just have a lot of fun with this one. I’m giving it a rating of three of five, however, it is a high three and if it weren’t for some of the terrible dialogue and unfortunate performances I’d probably feel safe in awarding it a four.. That isn’t the case however and New Barbarians definitely has it’s problems. However, if you’ll give it a shot you will find it to be a lot of fun.