Tuesday, June 29, 2021

#2,592. The New Gladiators (1983)


With The New Gladiators, Lucio Fulci took a stab at a futuristic sci-fi / action film (a la Escape from New York), with a premise similar to that of Schwarzenegger’s The Running Man.

Rome, 2072: two rival networks, each specializing in real-life violence, are locked in a ratings battle. To win over a global audience, the World Broadcasting Service has devised a new program that harkens back to ancient times: an all-out, gladiator-style fight to the death starring death-row inmates, including Drake (Jared Martin), a proven champion who has been accused of brutally murdering his wife’s killers.

But as Drake will soon discover, the network executives have already determined the final outcome of this new "show".

With cheesy but awesome set pieces (the opening shot of a futuristic Rome gets things off to a fun start) and the always entertaining Fred Williamson in a supporting role (playing one of Drake’s fellow combatants), The New Gladiators showed a lot of promise early on, some of which was realized (the clip from the long-running series “Death Bike” was a blast, as was another program that featured a pendulum).

Unfortunately, the behind-the-scenes intrigue (network execs vying for power, Drake trying to find out if his new show will be on the level, etc) takes up a large chunk of the movie’s midsection, and these moments aren’t nearly as interesting as the violence-fueled sequences.

But the opening is strong, as is the finale (both bolstered by Fulci’s special brand of blood and gore), and the futuristic setting, even when it isn’t convincing, is always appealing.
Rating: 6 out of 10

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