In the future, two television networks compete for ratings by producing violent game shows. One network produces a modern day version of the Roman gladiators, only on motorcycles instead of chariots, and uses convicted murderers as the participants, The network decides it needs a champion for this sport, so they frame a constant winner from another game for murder, and place him on the show.
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
. Starring: Jared Martin
, Fred Williamson
, Howard Ross
, Eleonora Brigliadori
, Cosimo Cinieri
, Claudio Cassinelli
, Valéria Cavalli
, Donald O'Brien
, Penny Brown
, Al Cliver
, Mario Novelli
, Hal Yamanouchi
, Nick Alexander
. Music by: Riz Ortolani
THE NEW GLADIATORS is the 20th movie by Lucio Fulci I have seen, and it marks a little piece of movie-going history for me. I was a teenage horror fanatic, so to speak, and in the beginning of my horror odyssey I wouldn't have thought I would get to see even five. But that was before imported DVD. That was before the Internet. Now I have a fairly good view of Fulci and I know very well why my admiration for him is so high. The New Gladiators, Fighting Centurions, or whatever you want to call it, is just an example. I love the very idea that Fulci even tried to make this movie.
Fulci was not high class, to say the very least, but he definitely had an artistic vision. He went out to follow his themes no matter what. It's like he didn't notice, or cared, that the actors were horrible, the effects crappy and the dialog so ridiculously high-blown that basically every movie he ever made, in some way or another became hard to take seriously. This one is definitely no exception.
In the mid 80's, Fulci tried to jump off the horror wagon for a while. I guess he felt he knocked himself out for good with THE NEW YORK RIPPER and who can blame him. Just one year after that movie he did the sword&sorceryfantasy-fest CONQUEST and if you put those two beside each other, well, one conclusion is that he definitely could do different things. Conquest is a howler, if I hadn't known about Fulci I would have pretty much assumed it was a comedy. Much of the same goes with The New Gladiators, but unlike Conquest, or any other Fulci movie for that matter, it has a more obvious problem: It's a sci-fi-fantasy movie with a budget taken from the tin can of a bum! The models are barely convincing even as models, and the many sequences of biker action comes off as peculiarly pointless, since there are basically no stunts and we don't know which character is which (since they are all stunt men). Many of the drivers also seem to drive into spears and walls all by themselves, for no apparent reason.
The plot is also just barely there. There's a bunch of "gladiators". They are supposed to fight. In the end we get the would-be-showdown, but between the first scene and the last there's just a bunch of separate sequences of torture or escape action and one or two loose plot threads. One mad scientist here, one Gestapo-dressed Howard Ross there, who is a threat one second, and totally outsmarted the next, and I don't blame Fred Williamson for later claiming "I have no idea what that movie was about".
But who cares, right? Just like in Conquest, another plot less feast for the senses, there's a lot of hilarious sequences. Swallow this gadget and you will be able to melt stuff with your brain. Pick up the gun. No. Pick it up. No. PIIICK IIIT UUUUUPPPP. I mean, the list goes on. For Fulci apostles though, we get some familiar themes of humanity with some seriously bad odds against it - in this case by computerization and TV, something you have to give Fulci some before-his-time-credit for - but with a surprisingly happy ending. The eyeball theme (or "who sees what" as I like to call it) becomes totally physical towards the end when a supposedly half-blind man turns out to have a camera behind the blind lens (OK, that's a little brilliant) and there's even.... let's see... one cool Fulciesque moment, involving a bizarre and surrealistic murder with three whistling men dressed in fancy 80's suits.
It's no surprise that this move is re-distributed by Troma, because it's surely a joy for all. It's a great movie to watch if you want to get together and laugh at a bad movie, and it's definitely worthwhile for Fulci enthusiasts (I mean.... why not??). As long as you don't expect Blade Runner, you're in for a treat. In addition, I recommend to watch it back to back with Conquest, which should be saved for last because it's even funnier.
Review by revival05 from the Internet Movie Database.