The Ninjabot

Post-Nuke Review Double Feature: RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR (1984) and 2020: TEXAS GLADIATORS (1982)

Posted on May 12, 2015 at 9:38 am by Dylan Reynolds

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My how time flies! So my original intention was to get to way more of these post-nuke flicks (yeah, there’s a lot of them) before MAD MAX: FURY ROAD comes out. But since that’s being unleashed upon the feeble masses May 15 (So soon! So excited!) I’m going to attempt to do some “double feature” reviews in order to cover more ground.

But in the meantime- let’s take a peek at the “legacy” trailer for Fury Road, shall we?

Hot damn- that looks awesome!

Anyway- there’s a saying amongst us cinefiles and cult film enthusiasts; “No one makes them like the Italians”. That’s because in the golden age of “Grindhouse cinema” (i..e the ’70s and ’80s) no one cranked out exploitation movies faster, cheaper, and sleazier than those lunatics.

And even though this era of “Spaghetti-sploitation” can claim some genuine auteurs and classics (i.e. Sergio Leone and Dario Argento)- in all honesty they were few and far between. But despite this fact there’s no denying that it was a dazzling period of creative fertility that may never be replicated. That’s because in essence you had passionate artists (or people who fancied themselves as one) taking on a popular genre (i.e. action or horror) and being able to do whatever the hell they wanted just as long as the producer/ investor had a product they could sell.

Therefore you would get plotlines that have a certain degree of “fever dream logic” (i.e. they didn’t make a lick of sense) coupled with stylish cinematography, editing, and odd musical scores that resulted in movies that were infectiously entertaining (even in a “so bad, it’s good” way) or at the very least interesting.

The typical formula for these Italian productions would be to take whatever was a recent hit (or was particularly popular in Italy) and keep making “knock offs” until people grew tired of the “trend” and they would move on to the next one. And in 1981 two sci-fi/ action movies- ROAD WARRIOR and ESCAPE FROM N.Y.- drew the Italians like moths to a flame.

Again- there’s a handful of these Italian Post Nuke flicks that one could certify as “exploitation classics” such as the back-to-back whammy from director Enzo Castellari- 1990: BRONX WARRIORS and WARRIORS OF THE WASTELAND (both ’83). For my money these are two of the best “Mad Max rip offs” out there and if you’re in the mood I would defineltely check them out.

1990 wasteland

And while we’re on the subject- peep this scene (which I love) from 1990: BRONX WARRIORS… apparently the “drummer” wasn’t part of the script and was just some random street musician hanging around the set- so the director decided put him in…

I think the above clip is a great representation of the appeal these Italian productions have… there’s a sense that there are “no rules” and these filmmakers are creatively “flying by the seats of their pants”. And if you think about it- where else in the history of cinema can you say genre films (which often rely on formulas) were so unpredictable and bat-shit crazy?

Which brings us to RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR and 2020 TEXAS GLADIATORS. And right off the bat I’ll tell you that these aren’t “classics” in the traditional sense (or the untraditional sense for that matter) but there’s still a good deal of fun that can be derived from both.

The plot for RATS can be summed up thusly: “Mad Max meets Night of the Living Dead. Except, you know… with rats.”ratsnight5

Directed by the “Ed Wood/ Uwe Boll of Italy” Bruno Mattei (he of the notoriously awful Dawn of the Dead rip-off HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD fame) the movie follows a group of “nuclear holocaust” survivors who climb up from the underground to the surface world in order to start a new life.

ratsnight4Our “heroes” are poorly drawn and gratingly annoying Road Warrior-types who apparently raided the wardrobe department at a local community theater and sport names like Video, Chocolate, Duke, and Lucifer.

So this merry band of assholes happens upon an abandoned building and as night descends they find it to be infested with rodents that apparently evolved and/ or mutated in the years since the nuclear war into intelligent/ flesh eating monsters.

rat attackTo achieve the “effect” of the rats’ attacking- the film crew hilariously dumps bucket loads of the very confused and obviously harmless critters onto the screaming bad actors. Which is funny and all- but a bit of warning to all animal lovers- PETA was obviously not involved in this production and it appears in some scenes rats were either harmed or killed “for the sake of the arts”. It doesn’t reach the levels of say CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST but it definitely diminishes one’s enjoyment of this low-level schlock (for me anyway).

So with oodles of inane dialogue, head scratching character motivations, and bloodletting the group fights to survive the “night of terror” and frankly- we can’t wait for them all to die. But then when we get to the final “twist ending” which almost makes up for all the crap leading up to it because it’s so insanely over-the-top and cheesy. I suppose I’ll avoid spoilers but trust me- the final minute of RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR is also its best so you might as well jump right in:

The second feature on deck is the much more competent 2020: TEXAS GLADIATORS from director Joe D’Amato- who is perhaps best known for a pair of grisly slasher films; ‘79s BEYOND THE DARKNESS and ‘80s ANTHROPOPHAGUS (a.k.a. the Grim Reaper). He also had the vision to mix gut-munching horror and hardcore pornography with the appropriately titled PORNO HOLOCAUST and SEXY NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD… so he’s got that going for him.

Harrisonmullerjr2020texasgladiatorsThe set up is pretty basic for the genre… Following the “Nuclear Wars” society has all but collapsed and lawlessness reigns in the state of Texas. And no, that’s not describing the Texas of today but sometime in the “not too distant future”. Attempting to set things straight are a handful of beefcake dudes that call themselves “the Rangers” who wander around dispensing some good ‘ol “frontier justice” to an assortment of marauders and “fallout/ mutant zombies”.

Into this setting comes a group of “Neo- Nazi” fascists who invade a peaceful community and do some raping and pillaging. The bad guys have a vague goal of “taking over the world” but it’s not exactly clear how screwing over a handful of poor and innocent people will go about achieving said goal- but whatever- the rest of the movie goes as predicted… the Rangers swoop in and save the village in a “final siege” with a little help from a tribe of Native Americans (seriously). And though there’s the expected stereotypes and casual racism with their depiction- they at least become heroes who save the day.

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Needless to say- 2020: TEXAS GLADIATORS is very much an old school western where gladiatorinstead of horses you have motorcycles and spruced-up dune buggies and a whole heck of a lot more nudity and graphic violence than Gene Autry or Tom Mix ever thought possible. The action and stunts are fine but I wouldn’t exactly describe the movie as being very engaging. It’s a “and then this happened” movie where you have an endless series of gunfights and car chases peppered with a semblance of plot every ten minutes or so. Being that director Joe D’Amato dabbled in porn one can assume where this discipline came from.

The trailer for this movie shows what can be expected… a lot of action- a couple lines of dialogue- then rinse and repeat for 90 or so minutes:

As such I would call it a good “folding laundry on your couch” kind of flick. It’s something you can more-or-less throw on in the background while you fold your socks and switch out loads because the plot never requires your full attention and you’re probably better off if it didn’t anyway.

So that’s it for today. Next up I will check out a couple flicks from another frequent contributor to the “Post-Nuke” sub genre… Albert Pyun!

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Be sure to check out my other Post-Nuke reviews.

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