Warriors of the Year 2072 (1984)

*. I don’t rate Lucio Fulci that highly as a director. Despite the number of truly dreadful projects he worked on, however, you can usually count on a couple of interesting scenes per Fulci film. Scenes that at least give you the sense that he was trying.
*. The scene that stands out the most in this film comes near the beginning, with the murder of Drake’s wife by a trio of whistling, well-dressed assassins. It’s a creepy bit of work with echoes of A Clockwork Orange, Once Upon a Time in the West, and maybe Argento’s Tenebrae, ending with a classic bit of artsy gore: the victim’s bloody hands sliding down a glass wall. I don’t think it makes much sense in terms of the plot — it’s an incredibly contrived scheme to frame Drake and so get him on the Killbike show — but for a moment Fulci seems at home.
*. Fulci probably enjoyed putting it together. I don’t think he cared very much for SF as a genre though, and he seems not to have been that interested in saying anything about violent spectacle as entertainment, which is the theme of this film.
*. Fulci’s métier was suspense, horror, and blood. He wasn’t that great at action, and could only offer limited help to his actors (like using quick zooms to show their surprise, again and again). There’s a short scene, also near the beginning of this movie, that’s supposedly part of a futuristic Fear Factor-type television show where a woman has her throat cut open by a swinging pendulum blade in the best Poe tradition. It’s less than a minute long but you sense right away that this is where Fulci’s heart is really at. Not the ray guns and cheesy special “futuristic” effects (mainly a lot of blinking lights), but instead something more primitive and atavistic.
*. Of course there is a lot that’s primitive going on here too. All of these movies dealing with murderous game shows harken back to gladiators fighting in the Colosseum so what better place to set this one than the eternal city itself and the “New Colosseum”? Along the way we drive past various Roman landmarks, as well as some pretty bad models of the city, and the whole thing ends with a chariot race on motorbikes. Motorbikes that have a nasty habit of exploding into fireballs whenever they collide with anything.
*. The various alternative titles underline this connection to the Classical past: The New Gladiators, Fighting Centurions, Rome, 2072 A.D: The New Gladiators, and so on. The year 2072, by the way, marks the two-thousandth anniversary of the beginning of construction on the original Colosseum. This was during the reign of the emperor Vespasian.
*. Not quite as ancient a source is the film Rollerball, which I think was clearly in mind. Drake is the movie’s Jonathan E. (here he’s announced as “the undefeated superchampion of the world,” which is quite a title). Meanwhile, Rollerball‘s computer, Zero, has been replaced by one named Junior. Alas, Zero’s occasional absentmindedness has degenerated into psychopathy, as Junior, for whatever reason, has decided to go full Skynet as a way of compensating for the fact that it had been programmed to be benign.
*. It’s a film that also looks forward to The Running Man, particularly with the idea of using convicts as contestants and the need for the show’s managers to find/frame a celebrity to boost ratings. There’s even a similar interest in media manipulation, with Drake’s “memory tape” being comparable to the “raw footage” of the Bakersfield massacre.
*. It’s nice to see Fred Williamson getting some work, even if he has nothing to do. The only character of any interest is Howard Ross’s Raven, head of the Praetorians and wearing a cap that foreshadows that of Bison in Street Fighter. He also gets to go crazy as he tries to exert “maximum psychological pressure” on Drake, with a highlight being his yelling at him to “Pick it up! Pick it up! PICK IT UP!”
*. Aside from these trashy moments there is nothing to recommend this one. It’s a good example of a VHS movie: the kind of thing you rented back in the 1980s so you could just waste some time watching it with your friends. I’m not sure if that’s a genre that really exists any more, and not just because VHS is no longer with us. I guess today it would be a YouTube video, but that’s not quite the same thing. In any event, even fans of Fulci are unlikely to find much of interest in it, as he clearly wasn’t inspired by the genre or the theme.

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