DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: 1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS (Blue Underground)
Cult filmmaker Enzo G. Castellari’s penchant for onscreen mayhem is certainly showcased in this 1982 junk-movie favorite “inspired” by The Warriors (1979) and Escape from New York (1981).
In the “future” of 1990, the Big Apple is rotten to the core as gangs rule the Bronx, none more feared than the Riders, led by “Trash” (Mark Gregory, AKA Marco Di Gregorio, in his screen debut), who has hooked up with Anne (Castellari’s daughter Stefania Girolami), heiress to the powerful Manhattan Corporation.
The battle lines are drawn as corporate exterminator Hammer (Vic Morrow) sows dissent among the gangs, leading to a climactic battle above and below the streets of the Bronx.
With its bleak, cynical tone and stilted dialogue, 1990: The Bronx Warriors is pure exploitation, although none the worse as such. It hasn’t endured this long as a cult classic for nothing.
Morrow, who perished in the Twilight Zone (1983) calamity shortly after completing this film, is joined by fellow American expatriates Christopher Connelly (as a trucker/informant called “Hotdog”) and Fred Williamson (ever-cool as the dandified, deadly gang leader “the Ogre”) in this dubious endeavor. Gregory, who was only 17 at the time and whose current whereabouts are unknown, is physically striking but laughably amateurish as an actor.
The special-edition DVD/Bly-ray combo ($29.98 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews and more. Rated R.
AWAKEN (Arc Entertainment): Taking a belated cue from “Lost,” writer/ producer/editor/director Mark Atkins’ poorly written (but award-winning!) shocker is set on a remote island operated by a black-market organ-donor ring that hunts castaways. Originally titled A Perfect Vacation (ha!), the squandered cast includes Robert Davi (who simply walks away at one point), Daryl Hannah, Jason London, Vinnie Jones, Michael Pare, David Keith, Edward Furlong, Christa Campbell and Natalie Burn, who was also a producer, story writer, and performs the theme song over the end credits … which don’t come fast enough. Rated R.
ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX (Blue Underground): A special-edition DVD/ Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail) of Enzo G. Castellari’s 1983 follow-up to 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982), with Mark Gregory encoring as gang leader “Trash,” this time hunted by corporate thug Henry Silva. Originally titled Fuga dal Bronx, this wasn’t as successful as the first film but still offers Castellari plenty of opportunity to orchestrate his customary flair for action. Bonus features include audio commentary and retrospective interviews. Rated R.
EVIL EYE (Kino Classics): An early giallo for filmmaker and master stylist Mario Bava, this 1963 Hitchcockian whodunit (originally titled La ragazza che sapevo troppa) stars Leticia Roman as a mystery buff enmeshed in a murder investigation while vacationing in Italy. John Saxon plays a handsome doctor and potential love interest, and Valentina Cortese is under suspicion, too. This special edition also includes the original Italian-language version The Girl Who Knew Too Much. The killer’s identity is no surprise, which may be why Bava adopted a lighter touch than in other films. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION (VCI Entertainment): Yes, they’ll make a deluxe special-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) of anything – including Bill Rebane’s unintentionally hilarious, atrociously cheesy 1975 drive-in swill in which a meteorite unleashes hordes of arachnids – some resembling Volkswagen Bugs with giant hairy legs. A tired veteran cast includes Steve Brodie, Barbara Hale and real-life husband Bill Williams, Alan Hale Jr. (adrift from “Gilligan’s Island”), Leslie Parrish and Hollywood voice coach Robert Easton, who also scripted with Richard L. Huff (his only credit). Special features include a documentary, retrospective interviews, a comic book, a CD of songs from the upcoming stage musical (!), and more. Rated PG.
HOWLING II (Scream Factory/ Shout! Factory): A Blu-ray special edition ($24.97 retail) of one of the worst sequels in horror history, director Philippe Mora’s botched 1985 follow-up to the 1981 near-classic based on Gary Brandner’s novel. Christopher Lee, dignity intact, strides through as a werewolf expert – but Annie McEnroe, Reb Brown, Sybil Danning, Marsha A. Hunt and Ferdinand “Ferdy” Mayne don’t fare as well. Rated R.
LET US PREY (Dark Sky Films/MPI Media Group): Director Brian O’Malley’s award-winning debut feature stars Pollyanna McIntosh as a rookie Scottish cop matching wits with mysterious prisoner Liam Cunningham, who exerts a strange power over those around him. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
“MARIA WERN”: EPISODES 8 & 9 (MHz Networks): Eva Rose is back on the case in the title role of the mystery series based on Anna Jansson’s best-selling Scandinavian crime novels, as a widowed police inspector juggling parental responsibilities with professional duties on the isle of Gotland. This two-DVD collection ($29.95 retail) includes the feature-length episodes Sleepwalker and Not Until the Giver is Dead. In Swedish with English subtitles.
MUCK (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Writer/producer/editor/director/casting director Steve Wolsh’s leering, goresoaked shocker, filmed on Cape Cod, sees the usual bunch of dumb dudes and buxom babes slaughtered on St. Patrick’s Day. The first in a proposed trilogy (!), even the in-jokes (the name of the town is “Westcraven”) quickly get old. Genre icon Kane Hodder, 2012 Playboy Playmate of the Year Jaclyn Swedberg, Lachlan Buchanan and Youtube celeb Lauren Francesca are among those bloodied.
G. Castellari’s entertainingly silly 1983 post-apocalyptic Mad Max/Road Warrior knock-off pitting futuristic mercenaries Fred Williamson and Timothy Brent (AKA Giancarlo Prete) against the sadistic minions of big, bad George Eastman (AKA Luigi Montefiore). Originally titled I nuovi barbari, this was released in the US as Warriors of the Wasteland. Bonus features include audio commentary and retrospective interviews. Rated R.
“ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK”: SEASON TWO (LionsGate): The ladies of Litchfield Penitentiary return in all 13 episodes from the 2014 season of the Netflix series adapted from Piper Kerman’s best-selling memoir by “Weeds” creator Jenji Kohan. The ensemble cast includes Taylor Schilling, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Kate Mulgrew and Emmy winner Uzo Aduba (Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series). Emmy winner for Outstanding Casting and Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Comedy Series, with nine additional nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (Schilling) and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Mulgrew), available on DVD ($39.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.97 retail).
“SEXPOTS FROM SPACE DOUBLE FEATURE” (Alpha New Cinema): A DVD twin-bill ($7.98 retail) of campy, lowbudget sci-fi spoofs boasting beauteous babes from distant worlds in fur bikinis: Teen auteur Joshua Kennedy’s 35-minute Voyage to the Planet of Teenage Cave Women (2012), an homage to Italian space movies of the ‘60s, replete with Italian credits, intentionally cheesy effects and off-key dubbing; and the 2002 black-and-white farce Bikini Planet featuring Stephanie Beaton and B-movie fave Conrad Brooks.
ZOMBIES FROM OUTER SPACE (Martini Entertainment/Olive Films): Director Martin Flatermeier’s cheerful throwback to B-movies of yesteryear – with added gore – as a Bavarian village in the late 1950s is invaded by undead aliens. In English and German with (frequently misspelled!) English subtitles.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.