8. 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)
“A Heavy Metal Journey Into An Urban Hell Where Everything Was Done Wrong!” . An Italian rip off of the film Escape from New York, which also manages to take elements from The Warriors, The Road Warrior, The Exterminator, and Class of 1984.
In the post apocalyptic future of 1990, the Bronx is declared a no man’s land and is run by a group of street gangs. The daughter of a rich Manhattan man, who runs the Manhattan Corporation, runs away into the Bronx and ends up with a biker gang called the Riders. They send a man called Hammer to go into the Bronx and bring her back.
The major plot is taken from Escape from New York, involving a man who is sent into the lawless zone of New York to rescue an important girl. The look of the rundown city is mostly taken from that as well. The different gangs and their unique looks were taken from The Warriors, which involved New York gangs who all dress in various costumes.
The gangs shown consist of the Zombies, a group on roller skates that carry hockey sticks. The Riders are the motorcycle gang and they have skulls on the front of their bikes that light up at night. Their leader named Trash resembles the main character of the Warriors gang. Then there is a gang called the Tigers led by Fred Williamson, who wear suits and drive fancy old cars.
There is another gang dressed in rags that actually look like zombies. Depending on the version you see, there are appearances of some other weird gangs as well. The music is a combination of what you would have heard in both the Warriors and Escape from New York.
This is a great low budget rip off combination of both movies. It doesn’t have the best dialogue or the best acting, but it has a good overall look to the film. Partially filmed in New York, they took advantage of filming in and around buildings that were dilapidated and run down.
While the gangs may look weird and not make sense, they did the same thing in the Warriors and it worked. They had some unusual and inventive weapons, like the knives on the side of the bike.
The director did a decent job framing shots, shooting some close ups, and angular shots to keep the look of the film interesting. Vic Morrow is good as Hammer; this was one of his last films before he was killed on the set of the Twilight Zone movie.
9. A Man Called Rage AKA Rage (1984)
This Italian production is a Mad Max rip off, plus Rambo, plus Escape from New York. A little bit of everything is in this post apocalyptic story as the man named Rage (Previously Captain Strike) is hired by a group to obtain some uranium which may save the planet, but an old enemy named Slash wants it too.
It has elements of Mad Max with the theme of a post apocalyptic future and the loner Max type character getting involved, being chased by outlaws in modified vehicles. But he could also be considered a Rambo type character as a soldier of fortune, with most of the marketing poster showing him posing like Rambo. Then his outfit looks pretty much exactly like Snake Plissken in Escape from New York.
There is a decent amount of action to keep you entertained. The most bizarre part of the movie is the music, which is super upbeat and sounds like it belongs on a kids show.
10. Rats: Night of Terror (1984)
This is an Italian production that involves a post apocalyptic society that is divided between groups that live underground and scavengers that live above ground.
One collection of scavengers discovers an abandoned town full of mutilated corpses, but decides to stay because of the vast supply of food and water that has been left behind. They soon discover that the town is infested with genetically mutated flesh eating rats and they must fight for their survival.
As with most Italian horror films this contains a decent amount of gore and violence. There is also a significant amount of real rat death and torture taking place, so animal rights people may want to stay away from this one. This was directed by Bruno Mattei, who also brought us the cult favorites Strike Commando 1 and 2, Robowar, and Hell of the Living Dead.
11. Warriors of the Apocalypse AKA Searchers of the Voodoo Mountain (1985)
This is a Filipino produced Mad Max rip off. It’s not a straight rip off, basically taking the idea of the post apocalyptic future, a Max type main character, and outlaws. After that it gets pretty wild and out of control as he deals with Amazon women, radiated mutants, pygmy tribes, groups of outlaws, and an evil queen who can shoot lasers from her eyes.
There is a decent amount of sci-fi madness involved, along with action, explosions, graphic violence, and nudity. So pretty much everything you want from a low budget 1980’s VHS rental. Plus I think one of the outlaws is wearing a sleeping bag for shoulder pads, it looks pretty weird.
12. Radioactive Dreams (1985)
This has to be considered a must see for true cult film fans. In what could be best described as a nuclear noir story, two kids named Phillip Hammer and Marlowe Chandler escape from a bunker after being locked in there for 15 years after the atomic war occurred. During that time they had grown up on various items from the 1940’s, including pulp novels and swing music.
Upon leaving, they discover a world full of unusual characters and gangs, mutants, and cannibals. They meet a girl and end up with the two keys to last nuclear weapon, leading to every gang trying to kill them for the keys.
It’s an unusual mix of sci-fi, apocalypse, comedy, slapstick, music, and gangs that contains characters and wardrobes from every era from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. The story is told in the style of film noir movies but it contains a cast of characters that easily matches films like The Warriors, Flash Gordon, and even Star Wars.
There is just an insane mix of groups that include a pair of kids in disco outfits, hippies, mutated freaks with pink wigs, punk rockers, greasers, a giant monster dog and so much more. There is music throughout the picture and it is mostly in the style of new wave rock, including an on screen performance by Sue Saad.
It was written and directed by well known direct-to-video and cult director Albert Pyun, who also made Dollman, Cyborg, Alien from L.A., and Captain America (1990). It also co-stars Michael Dudikoff, who would go on to star in the American Ninja series.
This one has yet to receive a U.S. DVD or Blu-ray release and it was only ever released on DVD in a limited format in Germany. Luckily it is currently available to view on YouTube.
13. The Quiet Earth (1985)
This is a New Zealand production that is loosely based on a novel with the same name from Craig Harrison and a combination of the 1954 novel I Am Legend, Dawn of the Dead (1978), and The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1954).
It finds a scientist waking up one morning to discover that everyone has disappeared and it seems to be that he is the last person on earth. His loneliness takes him to the brink of madness until he meets a woman and later on a Maori man. The scientist was involved in a project to create a global energy grid and he believes that was the cause of the cosmic event, which is going to happen again if they don’t figure out some way to stop it.
This is one of those forgotten gems that became a cult film, but could easily be called a classic by fans and critics. It has some great sequences, most notably during the first 36 minutes when the scientist is alone roaming through the empty city teetering on the brink of madness.
The final shot is also one not to be missed and the meaning of the ambiguous ending is left up to the viewers to make their own decisions on. Noted astrophysicist and celebrity Neil deGrasse Tyson listed this among his top 10 favorite science fiction films .
14. Hell Comes to Frogtown (1988)
“A new breed of enemy has taken over the world… Sam Hell has come to take it back.” . Its Mad Max meets Planet of the Apes, as a nuclear war has ravaged the world and there are mutated frog men running a city called Frogtown.
The human race is in danger of becoming extinct because most of the women are infertile, except for a group that’s being held captive in Frogtown. Two women force Sam (Roddy Piper) to go with them to rescue the girls and impregnate them, since he is the most fertile male they have ever seen.
This film is total low budget B grade cheesy movie fare that used to regularly play on the USA Network in the 1980’s, when they used to show cool movies on USA Up All Night from 1989 to 1998. Sure its cheep and silly, but who cares.
It stars professional wrestler “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and that’s the only reason needed to want to watch this one. This may not be as great as They Live, but it’s still light and entertaining and Piper is funny in it.
15. Raiders of the Sun (1992)
After a biological disaster, a war rages between a Democratic society and a faction of outlaws looking to rule. Each needs to find more gunpowder in order to keep fighting and win the war.
The good guys send their best warrior Brodie (Richard Norton) to find a suspected mine deep in the jungle. There he finds a little bit of love and a tribe that worships the gunpowder, but can he save them and get the gunpowder back in time before his group is defeated by the outlaws.
This is classic low budget action schlock from producer Roger Corman and directed by Corman regular Cirio H. Santiago. It features all of the standard fare including some sneering bad guys, a couple of attractive females, tons of action and explosions, a high body count, wacky outfits, tricked out cars, and cheesy 90’s music that almost sounds like it belongs on Miami Vice.
It also includes a very unusual battle involving two men swinging on ropes jousting to the death. The main reason this is notable is because it stars Australian kickboxer Norton, who is best known for appearing in China O’Brien and several other productions with Cynthia Rothrock in both the U.S. and Hong Kong. While this doesn’t contain a ton of martial arts, there are a couple of decent action sequences with Norton.
All the works cited can be found here.
Author Bio: Raul J. Vantassle is a jazz musician whose key strokes move about the page creating an explosion of formlessness to form, or just total bullshit. His heroes include John Waters, Robert Crumb, Charles Bukowski, and the Cobra Commander. His Knowledge of film goes across the board but he specializes in Asian and cult cinema. He may be the filthiest person alive. You can visit his blog here.