2020 Texas Gladiators (1982)

2020 Texas Gladiators VHS CoverHow did I know the post-apocalypse portrayed in this movie was really, really post-apocalyptic? It wasn’t all the raping or the killing or even the leather-clad freaks on dirt bikes. That sort of stuff happens in every run-of-the-mill Mad Max rip-off scenario.

And all the ugly people fighting it out at cheap locations such as a refinery and rock quarries? That just means you woke up in either a Filipino or Italian-lensed no-budget trashageddon.

What really drove home the point that this was some serious apocalypse happening here? The characters’ names.

I’ll confess that during the opening scenes of 2020 Texas Gladiators I was so relaxed by its pleasingly throbbing synthesizer music, the grubby guys killing and assaulting people and the other group of grubby guys who show up to kill the first group of grubby guys, it was like I was on some kind of Italian exploitation film tranquilizer (warning – may cause the viewer to actually recognize Peter Hooten, Al Cliver, and Daniel Stephen from other films). That’s why I thought I must have been experiencing another side-effect when I heard one guy call another guy Catch Dog.

Catch Dog? Seriously? How is it that Nisus doesn’t laugh out loud when he has to call his pal Catch Dog? And even worse, Catch Dog is discovered trying to rape a woman, which goes against the Code that his band of men live by?

Can you imagine how outraged Jab, Red Wolfe, and Halakron are that Catch Dog (he should be called Caught Dog from now on) is giving them all a bad name? Well, you don’t have to imagine because in a world where the only rule is to kill stuff, Nisus lays a beat down on him, tears off the special medallion he wears signifying his membership in the gang and declares Catch Dog an outcast!

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Any moron who has lived through the end of the world a bunch of times via movies such as this one has to know that letting Catch Dog go free is only going to come back bite you in your leather pants clad ass later on.

But Nisus is different than everyone else. And by different, we of course mean idiotic. The sexy blonde gal (her name naturally is Maida) he saved even tells him that she can see it in his eyes. She doesn’t actually out come and tell Nisus he’s a dolt, but that she can tell by his eyes that he has feelings and has a way that’s trustworthy. And if you know anything about women, that’s pretty much them saying you’re a dolt. Oh, and she also knows of a place where society is being rebuilt by other dolts!

Then, in a transition that is so abrupt that it can only be described as entirely nonexistent, the next thing we know, Nisus has traded in his post-apocalypse duds for bib overalls and is helping to manage a refinery! I thought the only good thing about the end of the world was NOT having to go to a factory job!

Life is good at the refinery for Nisus with his hot blonde lady (the world hasn’t apparently gone far enough into the crapper that she can’t still keep her hair dyed), her child, and handling the day to day issues at work like trying to turn a valve before the whole place blows sky high! Nisus fixes things just in the nick of time, but the end of civilization being what it is, there isn’t much time to celebrate because Catch Dog is launching an invasion!

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Catch Dog and his motorcycle gang’s takeover attempt is thwarted until the arrival of Black One and his evil military troops and their magic thermal bullet-proof shields!

Nisus is shot, but survives because it hit a non-vital organ – his head! But following him being forced to watch his woman get raped, he goes crazy with a machete in the middle of all the bad guys and I don’t want to spoil anything, but the rest of the movie details Jab, Red Wolfe and Halakron avenging him.

If it doesn’t sound like much of a story, a movie like 2020 Texas Gladiators isn’t really served with getting all bogged down in a story. The old order has broken down! Rules of civilized society don’t apply! There’s not time to sit around talking about what happened (there was a few passing references to an atomic war) or just who all these people were and why they do what they do! After all, Halakron is too busy crushing a guy’s skull with a giant rock to make it look he died in an avalanche to shoot the breeze about plot points.

Besides, if director Joe D’Amato (Endgame, Beyond the Darkness, Ator, The Fighting Eagle) worried about luxuries like a story and character motivation, he might not have had time for Halakron and his gang to suddenly start walking around in a forest inhabited by stereotyped-living-in-teepees-Native Americans.

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And then we would’ve been deprived of the final battle at the refinery where Halakron teamed up with the Indians to defeat the bad guy. You know, because the bad guy’s bulletproof shields were no match for the spears and arrows of attacking Indians! I can only guess that the Indians’ war paint had some super shaman power to deflect bullets since you would expect them to just be mowed down by the bad guys, but for some mysterious reason they weren’t.

As far as Italian post-apocalypse movies go, D’Amato serves up exactly what you want here. Nothing made sense (you have technology for bulletproof thermal shields, but you need to take over an oil refinery with the help of a biker gang?), parts of the film felt like they were tacked on just to add more violence (Halakron and Jab getting imprisoned in a mine only to be broken out by Red Wolfe, a Russian Roulette scene, battle with the Indians before they joined up) and bad guys laughed maniacally every now and again.

D’Amato takes all of these deficits that would sink a normal movie and basically says “you can criticize me for my total lack of skill at constructing a professional-looking, coherent film or you can just sit back and enjoy this guy getting an axe heaved into his chest.” And remember, D’Amato is credited with directing 200 films of varying degrees of sleaze. So who would you put your faith in? Him or some snooty critic who’s never shot one scene of a guy getting impaled with a machete, let alone hundreds?

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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