Color, 1983, 89m.
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
Starring Mark Gregory, Henry Silva, Valeria D'Obici, Timothy Brent, Paolo Malco, Antonio Sabato, Alessandro Prete
Blue Underground (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Shameless (DVD) (UK R0 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9), Vipco (DVD (UK R0 PAL), Avo (DVD) (Italy R2 PAL)
Released hot on the heels on the Italian post-apocalyptic classic 1990: The Bronx Warriors, this direct sequel finds director Enzo G. Castellari and producer Fabrizio De Angelis compensating for the relative drop in star power (with tough guy Henry Silva the only significant name in the cast) by ramping up the violence to an utterly outrageous degree. People get torched, shot, bashed, and other mistreated in an almost nonstop succession here (complete with an avalanche of brutal dummy deaths including a crazy opening helicopter gag), meaning there's never a dull moment for our hero, gang leader Trash (Gregory, reprising his role from the first film).
This time the Bronx is under siege even before than the prior film as the citizens become victims of a gentrification plan gone absolutely insane. Silver-suited officers from the General Construction Corporation (in a plan engineered by Silva and the reliably shifty Paolo Malco) called the Disinfestors are seen storming the area over the opening credits ordering everyone out, but the helpless residents (including a poor old homeless guy) get doused by flamethrowers when they dare to show their faces. Among the unlucky ones are Trash's parents, which sets him off on a violent quest to defend the city with the aid of Strike (Brent, aka Giancarlo Prete) and fashion-challenged Toblerone (Sabato). Their plan involves kidnapping the corporation president, which of course results in an astronomic body count.
The delights of this film are really too numerous to list, but suffice to say this is one ferocious party movie that pulls no punches. On top of all the carnage there's also an unexpected small role for Italian porn queen Moana Pozzi and a fantastic, thundering score by the great Francesco De Masi, the best of the trilogy and a fun successor to his prior musical ode to the Big Apple in The New York Ripper.
Unlike the first film, Escape from the Bronx has run into numerous censorship and distribution hassles over the years. It was released in slightly edited form by New Line in American theaters in 1983, and while Media released it in edited form on VHS, it was otherwise kept out of circulation in the US for decades as part of the New Line library. However, it did pop up in drastically edited, brutally cropped form on Mystery Science Theater 3000, which of course caused its reputation to plummet lower than either of the films bookending it. To make matters more confusing, it was often circulated in butchered form under the title Escape 2000, caused people to mix it up with the retitling of the Australian sci-fi film Turkey Shoot. The first British DVD from Vipco as Bronx Warriors 2 was cropped and purported to be the uncut version, but it was actually trimmed to minimize the deaths caused by young Junior (Alessandro Prete). Other European releases were often incomplete as well with various random bits of footage and there missing for no discernible reason until 2009 when Shameless releases a DVD tin set with the other two Castellari films and later a standalone disc, featuring a very erratic but correctly framed 2.35:1 transfer touted as a composite representing the longest version ever available. Clocking in just under 86 minutes at PAL speed, it was the best option at the time despite some significant print damage at times and some dupey inserted shots framed at 1.85:1. It's a very noble effort and definitely a major step up from its predecessors at least, with some fun extras including their trademark pop-up fact track for the film, a brief Castellari intro, and the international and UK video trailers along with the UK credit sequence.
Jump forward six years to 2015 and we have a US dual-format Blu-ray and DVD from Blue Underground in the US released simultaneously with 1990: The Bronx Warriors and The New Barbarians, sporting a fresh HD transfer that finally presents the oft-censored scenes in prime quality with correct scope framing. Yep, the Junior killing, belly explosion, and other bits of nastiness now look as good as the rest of the film, which is considerably cleaner and clearer than ever before and flat-out miraculous if you consider the very bumpy history of this film. It still has that familiar gritty, grainy veneer familiar from many De Angelis productions, which is as it should be. Most surprisingly, the color timing is actually far more natural and fresh than any previous transfer with far less of that pinkish tinge usually seen in the past. For example, compare this shot from the Blue Underground Blu-ray with this same shot from the Shameless disc. Big difference, eh? Audio is presented in DTS-HD English mono, sounding very good, with optional English, Spanish and French subtitles. As with the previous film, there's a solid audio commentary with Castellari, his son Andrea, and moderator David Gregory, identifying tons of background players (including both Castellaris and other family members and Italian stunt men) and breaking down the expert juggling between New York and Italian shooting locations. They also theorize about the infamous Pozzi including speculation about whether she's really dead! The 13-minute "Enzo G. Castellari & Fabrizio De Angelis in Conversation" is listed as part three of the session also present on the other two discs, with the pair explaining how the film came about due to the success of its predecessor and how this one was "a piece of cake" thanks to less actual New York location shooting. As usual, they're also a lot of fun talking about all the big "boom" scenes, too, and still seem a bit amazed that no one ever got harmed on these productions. There's also a sort of explanation for why Gregory's notoriously awkward gait in the first film changed visibly by the time he made this one. "The Hunt for Trash" is essentially a 13-minute video expansion of a fascinating piece posted by British "Bronx Warriors superfan" Lance Manley at his site, chronicling his attempts to track down the elusive Mark Gregory who vanished from the public eye after the late '80s. Did he solve the mystery? Watch and find out! It's also an affectionate tribute to the enduring appeal of the films as he covers the ins and outs of the series including the full death toll of this film: 174 people. Also included are a poster and still gallery and the English international and Italian-language trailers with bonus ones for the other two films.