Endgame (1983) Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: November 30, 2021 (June 25 website-exclusive release)
Audio: English and Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Run Time: 92:23
Director: Joe D’Amato (Aristide Massaccesi)
In a radiation-ravaged future, an underground society of mutant rebels will attempt to overthrow the tyrannical government by infiltrating the TV sport in which humans are hunted as prey. (From Severin’s official synopsis)
Post-WWII Italian genre cinema was always driven by fads. The most popular trends – the peplum adventures of the ‘50s, the spaghetti westerns of the ‘60s, and the gialli and poliziotteschi of the ‘70s – tended to last about a decade before they were replaced by the next big thing. Other fads blazed and burnt out at a much quicker rate. Spurred by the one-two punch of George Miller’s Mad Max 2 (aka: The Road Warrior) and John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, both of which were released in 1981, the biggest names in Italian exploitation churned out an incredibly dense crop of post-apocalyptic action movies. Following the November 1982 release of Enzo Castellari’s 1990: The Bronx Warriors (Italian: 1990: I guerrieri del Bronx), the peak spaghetti-apocalissi were released in the short two year period between 1983 and 1984. Castellari made two pseudo-sequels, Warriors of the Wasteland (Italian: I nuovi barbari, 1983) and Escape from the Bronx (Italian: Fuga dal Bronx, 1983), trash-meister Joe D’Amato made 2020 Texas Gladiators (Italian: Anno 2020 - I gladiatori del futuro, 1983) and Endgame (Italian: Endgame – Bronx lotta finale, 1983), giallo great Sergio Martino made 2019: After the Fall of New York (Italian: 2019 - Dopo la caduta di New York, 1983), Bruno Mattei & Claudio Fragasso teamed-up for Rats: Night of Terror (Italian: Rats: Notte di terrore; aka: Blood Kill, 1984), B-grade western king Giuliano Carnimeo made Exterminators in the Year 3000 (Italian: Il giustiziere della strada, 1983), fresh off of Cannibal Holocaust (1980) Ruggero Deodato made Raiders of Atlantis (Italian: I predatori di Atlantide, 1983), and Godfather of Gore Lucio Fulci made Warriors of the Year 2072 (Italian: I guerrieri dell'anno 2072; aka: The New Warriors and Rome 2033: The Fighter Centurions, 1984).
In my review of Warriors of the Year 2072, which I wrote a couple of weeks before this one, I mentioned the similarities between Fulci’s film and future-set, televised deathsport movies, like Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000 (1975) and Norman Jewison’s Rollerball (1975), not realizing that D’Amato’s Endgame actually beat it to theaters by several months. Furthermore, D’Amato (real name: Aristide Massaccesi) engages in the same kind of media satire, obviously also inspired by Bartel’s movie and Elio Petri’s The Tenth Victim (Italian: La Decima vittima, 1965), including zealous announcer commentary and sponsored content. In fact, despite years of fans accusing Hollywood of ripping Fulci off, Endgame might have even more in common with Paul Michael Glaser’s The Running Man (1987) than Warriors of the Year 2072. Fulci’s film isn’t subtle, by any means, but its social meanings are slowly doled out (much like The Running Man), unlike D’Amato, who stops to have the bad guys explain their cruel political plan in detail, before he and co-screenwriter Aldo Florio delve into the fundamental Mad Max meets Escape from New York adventure tropes of the typical spaghetti-apocalisse.
Unlike Fulci, D’Amato was not known for his strong action direction. Fortunately, Endgame is a rare exception, in that it features plenty of bombast and well-choreographed stunts. Even the most lethargic fights and shoot-outs are dynamically framed with plenty of mood and just a dollop of shock value. D’Amato was always a talented cinematographer, but had a bad habit of slacking off in order to produce as much product as humanly possible during the 1980s and early ‘90s. This is a rare case (for the time) of him using his technical strengths to his advantage, creating a compellingly bleak atmosphere, in spite of the limited location and effects budget. The gore levels aren’t even close to the barf-inducing standard of the director’s nastiest horror movies, but there are a handful of gross-out moments, usually revolving around the radiation-burned cannibals and the rat-eaten dead bodies they collect, and a bloody, Carrie-inspired climax. One of the film’s more interesting ideas is that some humans began to de-evolve into fish and ape creatures, though this is barely explored in a scene or two. It might have been cool to watch the heroes battle an army of fishmen, instead of a couple of creatures and a cadre of Adam Ant lookalikes on dirtbikes.
The cast is made up of some of D’Amato’s most consistent collaborators, including George Eastman (aka: Luigi Montefiori), who, despite not being credited, co-wrote the script; Black Emanuelle herself, Laura Gemser, cast against type as a telepathic mutant leader whose entire body, outside of her face, is covered in a habit-like garment (not for the entire film, of course, as lead fishguy rapes her mostly offscreen); and Gemser’s husband, Gabriele Tinti as a smarmy badass with an eye patch.. The lead role went to Fulci favorite Al Cliver (Pierluigi Conti), who also appeared in and co-directed another D’Amato apocalypse movie, 2020 Texas Gladiators, and Fulci’s Warriors of the Year 2072. Cliver had no shortage of tough guys on his CV – after all, he has the facial hair for it, but he always feels miscast as anything but an affable man who stumbles into a horrifying situation that he almost survives. In this case, his groggy grittiness is an effective foil to Eastman, Mario Pedone, Bobby Rhodes’ indomitable stature. Still, Tinti seems the more logical choice for a Snake Plissken stand-in.
Endgame was released on North American VHS by Media Home Video in 1985, but was only available on DVD via non-anamorphic German and Italian companies. Severin is releasing a barebones DVD alongside this Blu-ray debut, but I’m sure most fans will prefer owning a 1.85:1, 1080p disc. The advertising tells us that the transfer is derived from a 2K scan of the original negative and the image quality is in line with Severin’s other, same-day Italian post-apocalyptic discs, though, overall, this is probably the weakest of the three. I suppose this might just be the difference between a 2K and a 4K scan, but D’Amato’s fuzzy, pollution-baked photography also isn’t the easiest thing to remaster. The transfer accurately reproduces all the smoky environments, hazy black levels, diffused highlights, and blued-over hues. My only real criticism is that the duskiest blends feature some snowy grain/CRT noise; otherwise, Severin and whatever company did the scan did their best.
Endgame is presented with English and Italian dub options, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. Again, there was no sound recorded while filming, so all language tracks were dubbed in post. This time, English appears to be the on-set language of choice and the English dub cast puts in the work. Additionally, some characters communicate via telepathy, which saves some effort on lip-sync. The Italian dub dialogue is a bit cleaner and less hissy, but is also louder on the track, covering some of the already minimal effects work. Frequent D’Amato, Bruno Mattei, and Claudio Fragasso collaborator Carlo Maria Cordio’s electro-pop and smooth jazz score is a highlight, though not always utilized as well as it could have been. The music sounds essentially the same on both tracks.
Disc One (BD)
After The Bomb (14:58, HD) – The only substantial video extra is a new interview with actor Luigi Montefiori/George Eastman, who talks about writing the story the script was based upon, basing the plot on Tenth Victim and the ending of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), costume and props, fellow cast members, stunts (of which he’s critical of), locations, his relationship with D’Amato during the production, and the making of 2020 Texas Gladiators.
Disc Two (CD)
Soundtrack by Carlo Maria Cordio (22 tracks)
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.