Warriors of the Year 2072 Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Release: December 7, 2021 (June 25 website-exclusive release)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Run Time: 94:16
Director: Lucio Fulci
“Go to Hell!” “I would, if I thought it would improve my ratings.”
In a future dominated by ultra-violent TV entertainment, the top-rated global sport Kill-Bike drafts two condemned gladiators – Drake (Jared Martin) and Abdul (Fred Williamson) – for a 'Battle Of The Damned' in the Roman Coliseum. (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).
Among the ‘82 to ‘84 crop, Warriors of the Year 2072 drifts furthest from the base Escape from New York and Mad Max models. It takes place in an Escape from New York-like rundown city environment and runs on Mad Max-like car stunts, but Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti’s story takes place in a still (barely) functioning civilization and doesn’t follow Roadwarrior type, well, road warriors. It is a dystopian tale that runs closer to the death sport social satires of Paul Bartel’s Death Race 2000 (1975) and Norman Jewison’s Rollerball (1975). While Fulci can’t manage to blend media satire, science fiction, and ultra-violence on the same level as, say, Paul Verhoven, Warriors of the Year 2072’s ‘Escape from New York meets Network meets Spartacus’ riff is still a potent reminder of the the director’s ingenuity and the comedic skills he built the first half of his early career upon. Additionally, it’s one of the few Fulci movies with a clearly stated political message, rather than one hidden deeply within the subtext of a particularly gruesome special effects gag (did you know that the drill through the head bit in City of the Living Dead was meant to be a “outcry against fascism”?)
For decades, Fulci’s fans (including myself) have perseverated on the idea that Fulci, whose latter career was build upon a faux-sequel to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), Zombie (Italian: Zombi 2; aka: Zombie Flesh Eaters, 1979), was himself ripped-off by Paul Michael Glaser’s The Running Man (1987). Glaser’s film was released several years after Fulci’s, but was based on a novel by Stephen King (under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) that was first published in 1982. Sacchetti & Briganti’s script was completed at least a year later, so it’s in the realm of possibility that they had read King’s story. On the other hand, the earliest Italian language release of the book (under the title L'uomo in fuga) appears to have been published in 1997. The most likely possibility is that King and Sacchetti were both drawing upon other deadly game show stories, namely Robert Sheckley’s 1953 short Seventh Victim (adapted by Elio Petri as La Decima vittima in 1965) and Ib Melchior’s 1956 short The Racer (adapted as Death Race 2000). Still, the visual similarities between the films are pretty striking, from the color and shape of some of the costumes, to the metal rhinestone motorcycles and Christmas light decorative elements.
Despite the concept of deathsport promising plenty of violent mayhem, Warriors of the Year 2072 rarely attempts to match the gore quotient of Fulci’s zombie movies and Gothic horrors. He was working with an embarrassingly minuscule budget, even by Italian exploitation standards, so perhaps the money on hand went into stunts, pyrotechnics, and the salaries of American stars Jared Martin and Fred Williamson, leaving little left for prosthetics effects, other than Donald O'Brien’s somewhat convincing burn make-up (there’s a quick face-melting, on the other hand, that pales in comparison to a similar effect in The Beyond [Italian: ...E tu vivrai nel terrore! L'aldilà, 1981]). Fulci might also have simply been bored with graphic violence, since he went out of his way to make his other 1984 release, a slasher/giallo combo called Murder-Rock (Italian: Murderock - Uccide a passo di danza), very nearly bloodless. Whatever the reason, the lack of gore is a disappointment, as are the other obvious budgetary deficiencies, but, considering the impractical visual scope of Sacchetti & Briganti’s story, which calls for even bigger sets and action spectacle than the multi-million dollar endowed Running Man, Fulci’s valiant attempts to make it work are respectable.
Fans willing to engage with Warriors of the Year 2072 for what it is, instead of what it isn't, can probably respect the fact that Fulci was putting in the work and not sleepwalking through his direction, as he would in the years that followed. With support from stunt coordinator Sergio Mioni, the vehicular mayhem is impressively dangerous and probably the best demonstration of Fulci’s action chops since Massacre Time (Italian: Le colt cantarono la morte e fu... tempo di massacro; aka: The Brute and the Beast, 1966). I’ve also personally come to really appreciate the creative approach to the science fiction landscapes and locations that the filmmakers take. The first step is cinematographer Giuseppe Pinori’s patently foggy photography, which disguises the lack of set dressing and attempts to disguise Joseph Nathanson & Alvaro Passeri’s extensive miniature work. Fulci went all-in on the smoky, shallow focus look, following The New York Ripper (Italian: Lo squartatore di New York, 1982), to the point that it defines the last decade of his career and the blooming, ethereal quality serves the concept and gives the miniatures a charming, dare I say adorable, shoe-string Blade Runner look. Come to think of it, the game show segments of The Running Man are pretty foggy/bloomy, too, aren’t they?
Warriors of the Year 2072 was one of the few post-horror career Fulci movies not already available on Blu-ray, alongside Contraband (1980 – just announced on BD by Cauldron Video), his TV movies, and Door into Silence (Italian: Le porte del silenzio, 1992). Unlike those films, it didn’t even have a quality standard definition release. Here in the states, it was officially released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment, then on misframed, non-anamorphic, VHS quality DVD from Troma, both under the title The New Gladiators. Severin’s Blu-ray was first released as a website exclusive and is now available on the retail market. The 1.85:1, 1080p transfer was created by scanning an inter-positive print in 4K.
It’s an understatement to say the people behind the remaster had their work cut out for them, simply because Giuseppe Pinori’s photography is so processed and strange. It’s not quite as extreme as Fulci’s Conquest (1983, shot by Alejandro Ulloa), but the mix of extra dark backgrounds, foggy details, and over-amped highlights, coupled with the film’s age and fact that they’re working from a print source, adds up to a lot of artifacts. With all of this in mind, I think Severin has done an admirable job balancing elements and producing a surprisingly clear version of a visually confusing film. The grain sheen doesn’t clump up and has the appropriate bloomy quality, the blacks are deep without overwhelming important details, and the colors, though limited by design to a lot of browns and greys, are consistent and as neatly separated as we can expect. The biggest issue is occasional gunk that I believe was created by overlaying special effects, which would’ve taken extensive effort to digitally remove.
This is the first catalogue release from a boutique label to feature an epilepsy warning. Good for Severin.
Warriors of the Year 2072 comes fitted with only the original English dub, presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. While an Italian dub might have been a nice inclusion, the bulk of the film was clearly shot with actors speaking English and both Jared Milton and Fred Williamson seem to be dubbing their own performances (the dub staff also includes Italian horror favorites Nick Alexander, Edward Mannix, Susan Spafford, and Pat Starke). This is a pretty thin mix, in part to save money, but it also gives the film’s future environments a sanitized vibe, where the suction of silence is only broken by dialogue, music, or the beepy-boopy of computers. Intentional or not, it kind of sounds like George Lucas’ THX 1138 (1971). The humming din, squeak, buzz, et cetera is clean, though there is some high-end distortion that carries over to dialogue. The soundtrack was composed by Oscar & Grammy nominee Riz Ortolani, his second collaboration with Fulci following Don’t Torture a Duckling (Italian: Non si Sevizia un Paperino; aka: The Long Night of Exorcism, 1972) more than a decade prior. Ortolani fully embraces the ‘80s notion of the future with electronic drums, pop keyboards, and hair metal guitars, only occasionally producing his typically jazzy mood for Eleonora Brigliadori’s theme. Severin has also included a CD copy of the soundtrack.
Disc One (BD)
Commentary with Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thomson – Howarth, the author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films (Midnight Marquee Press, 2015) and Thompson, owner/reviewer at Mondo Digital, are again paired for another full-bodied chat about a Euro-cult title. The duo discusses the film’s production, its complicated title history, its connections to other Fulci films and other spaghetti-apocalissi, and the careers of the cast (including the dub cast) & crew, all while critically appraising the film.
The Fulci Tapes: Conversations Between Lucio Fulci and Michele Romagnoli (11:08, HD) – An excerpt from 1991 audio interview in which Fulci talks about (or rather shouts about) the film’s concepts being reflected in the real world and compares Warriors of the Year 2072 to La Decima vittima, all while complaining about the state of Italian film distribution.
Unloved (15:50, HD) – Screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti discusses his original concept being stolen by The Running Man (again, it seems very unlikely to me that either party ripped off the other) and the studio politics that led to his famous falling-out with Fulci over Warriors of the Year 2072, in which (in short) concerned concepts and titles being shared between this and Lamberto Bava’s Blastfighter (1984).
The Nicest Villain (17:49, HD) – Actor Howard Ross (Renato Rossini) chats about working with Fulci on New York Ripper and Warriors of the Year 2072, getting along with the notoriously moody director, and shares stories from behind-the-scenes of the sci-fi gladiator movie.
The Good-Hearted Gladiator: Actor Al Cliver Remembers Lucio Fulci (12:15, HD) – Cliver (Pierluigi Conti), who worked with Fulci on a great number of movies, recalls his friend and colleague, the films they made together, and some of the director’s more idiosyncratic behaviors.
My Father, the Hero: An Interview with Antonella Fulci (19:19, HD) – Fulci’s daughter, Antonella, discusses her father’s inability to function outside of a film set, his wide range of films, how he overcame the expectations of Italian B-movies that were only meant to cash-in on Hollywood counterparts, Warriors of the Year 2072 as a contractual obligation, and injecting social messages into science fiction.
Photographing the Future: Giuseppe Pinori Travels Back to 2033 (17:11) – The cinematographer breaks down the technical and logistical photographic processes behind Warriors of the Year 2072 and (briefly) Murder-Rock, as well as his working relationship with Fulci.
Four Times Lucio (7:58) – The interviews end with actress Cinzia Monreale, who recalls working with Fulci in Silver Saddle (Italian: Sella d'argento; aka: They Died with their Boots On, 1978), The Beyond, Sweet House of Horrors (Italian: La dolce casa degli orrori, 1989), and Warriors of the Year 2072.
Disc Two (CD)
Warriors of the Year 2072 OST by Riz Ortolani (19 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.