Exploitation Retrospect | The Journal of Junk Culture and Fringe Media
New Gladiators (1983)
Troma DVD | Review by Dan Taylor

Lucio Fulci's New GladiatorsBest known for his paint-the-screen-red gorefests, Lucio Fulci cuts loose with THE NEW GLADIATORS a futuristic gladiator film with family branches jutting back to DEATHRACE 2000 and DEATHSPORT (both from Roger Corman's New World and starring David Carradine) and the quintessential futuristic sports film, ROLLERBALL ("Jonathan! Jonathan!").

While efforts like ZOMBIE, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, THE BEYOND and CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (aka GATES OF HELL) went a long way to establishing Fulci as the godfather of Italian splatter, the director would occasionally direct something slightly out of character. For example, CONTRABAND delivers a tale of smuggling and double-crosses while CONQUEST taps into the post-CONAN sword-and-sorcery genre.

In the same way, THE NEW GLADIATORS is Fulci's attempt at the futuristic gladiator film – and it predates Governor Ahnold's THE RUNNING MAN by four years!!! Sure, it took five years for it to make it to these shores, but that's beside the point.

The flick opens with a rousingly ridiculous pan of a cheesy model of futuristic Rome. It's as convincing as a late night talk show backdrop, but ten time more entertaining. And then, we get "the rundown."

Because it's the future and violence is the big thing, there are two popular television shows. One is called 'Death Bike' and it's exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of guys on motorcycles kick the shit out of each other until one guy is left. The other features psychological torture that proves entertainment is at its finest when they're trying to scare you to death! Due to slipping ratings, the WORLD BROADCASTING SYSTEM has dipped back into ancient history and resurrected the idea of gladiators for 'The Battle of the Damned,' which is sure to be the greatest sporting event ever! 12 convicted killers battle it out and the survivor gets their freedom. For the others... well, I guess the phrase "Sucks to be you" would be appropriate.

To jack up the ratings, Cortez (the guy running the whole show) decides that he needs a people's champion. So, they hire Drake (played by Jared Martin, later seen on the syndicated 'War of the Worlds' )... a pasty-faced, sunken-chest ween we're supposed to believe is the world's greatest 'Death Bike' champ. He's in prison for the murder of the guys that offed his young bride in an effectively chilling scene. Along for the ride is Fred Williamson, who amassed a small fortune acting in these things.

As expected, 'The Battle of The Damned' is the flick's price-of-admission highlight – competitors get gouged, set on fire, decapitated (in loving slow-mo) and generally abused. My only complaint? The uniforms and darkness of the set make it difficult to tell one competitor from the other at times.

Like THE RUNNING MAN, THE NEW GLADIATORS features a mission to knock out a satellite, a maniacal man in charge, framed competitors, a "people's champion" and more. Either Fulci ripped-off Stephen King (though neither film has the short story's nihilistic ending) or Paul Michael Glaser and Steven de Souza actually had the nerve to rip-off Lucio Fulci.

Boggles the mind, don't it?

Our eBay Store

The ER Blog

The Hungover Gourmet | Food, Drink, Travel, Fun

Site Meter


E-Mail Us Home Reviews Guide to Klaus Kinski Features Interviews About Contribute Contact The ER Blog