Remembering Vic Morrow in “1990: The Bronx Warriors”

From The Cinematic Bartender by Winthrop J Quiggy:

Bronx Warrior (aka “Italian Rip-off”)

Take one jigger of Escape from New York. Add two shots of The Warriors. Sprinkle with a liberal dose of Mad Max. Shake vigorously. Serve over ice with a twist of Usagi Yojimbo.

Italian cinema, especially the kind that populated drive-in theaters, was not well known for its originality. Witness the plethora of spaghetti westerns that followed Sergio Leone‘s classic “Man with No Name” trilogy. Or just about any sci-fi movie from that country (including this one).

Not that that means they aren’t entertaining. In fact, if you can approach low-budget Italian movies with an open mind, they can be a nice way to spend the afternoon. You hardly ever get the caliber of performance of, say, Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, but the plots usually have a lot of action, which is why most drive-in movie lovers went to the drive-in in the first place.

Vic Morrow is the headline name of this flick and his talent as a bad guy is pretty much the same as most other bad guy roles he played. This was the penultimate role he played before his unfortunate death on the set of the next movie he was in, The Twilight Zone: The Movie.

It also stars Fred Williamson as Ogre, one of the kingpins of the gang society in the Bronx, and a guy named Mark Gregory. Gregory (whose real name was Marco di Gregorio) runs around this movie looking like a refugee from an 80’s MTV hair band video.

Which brings me to a point about the music for the film. It pretty much distracts from the feel of the movie. Ogre plays jazz music in his lair, for crying out loud. Personally I think a sprinkling of some heavy metal songs would have improved it. Stuff like Accept’s “Balls to the Wall,” Krokus’ “Long Stick Goes Boom,” and Judas Priest’s “Some Heads are Gonna Roll”. Although, truth be told, those songs came out post-production of this film, but surely there were some fitting heavy metal songs that could have improved the soundtrack.

1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982):

In the preface to the film, much like Escape from New York, the future of crime has had devastating effects on the city of New York. (NYC seems to get the brunt of negative associations in futuristic sci-fi. Must be one hell of a bad place to be in the future, don’tcha think?) Anyway, by 1990, the police and government have basically just given up the city as a lost cause.

In the beginning of the film, a woman, Anne (Stephania Girolami who was the director’s daughter), is on the run. She enters the No-Man’s Land of the Bronx, where she is accosted by a gang called The Zombies. To the rescue comes “Trash” (Mark Gregory) and his gang, The Riders. And of course, being the stud muffin that he is, Anne falls head over heels for him.

Meanwhile back in the real world, the VP of the Manhattan Corporation and his number one man (played by, in what must have been a budget-driven move, director Enzo Castellari and his brother Ennio Girolami) are desperate for the return of Anne to the fold. Why? Because she is 17, and when she turns 18 she will be the de facto head of the Manhattan Corporation. Which is a big arms dealership, and the reason why she ran away in the first place. She didn’t WANT to be the head of an arms dealership, and apparently she thinks the company will dissolve if she’s not around to lead it.

Anyway the VP calls on his sure ticket for the return of Anne, in the person of The Hammer (Vic Morrow), a renegade policeman somewhat like a sick version of Dirty Harry. Only Hammer is a loose cannon in the extreme sense of the word. He’s not just trying to get the girl back. He ultimately wants to destroy the entire sick civilization in the Bronx.

To expedite matters he will do anything and everything, including getting Trash’s second-hand man Ice (John Sinclair) to betray his leader. He also has the help of Hot Dog (Christopher Connelly), a truck driver who seems to be able to come and go as he pleases within the confines of the Bronx.

When Anne is kidnapped by the Zombies, Trash has to get help, and he chooses to make a deal with the leader of the Tigers, a rival gang. Ogre (Williamson) agrees to help under certain conditions. But the fly in the ointment is Hammer who is driven by a maniacal need for destruction.

Morrow is over-the-top in this film, but I have it on some word that his voice is dubbed. Maybe someone who is familiar with his voice can tell, but I can’t. (Apparently by the time it came for studio overdubs, Morrow was already dead so they had to get some other guy to do the job). If that’s the case, you could blame the actor who did the dubbing, but Hammer’s actions speak louder than words. He’s still a sadistic S.O.B. Hey, he shoots a couple in a stairwell that are getting it on, for no apparent reason than just to see them die.

There were two sequels to this movie, neither of which I watched for this entry but will get to, if only for the fact that Fred Williamson is in the third one (albeit, I guess, a different character since it seems apparent Ogre dies in this one).

Jim Brymer, AKA Quiggy, runs the movie blog The Midnite Drive-In, check it out for more insights on other classic films.

This post is part of our Sci-Fi Sunday series, celebrating the latest and greatest in contemporary science fiction.