2020 Texas Gladiators

When earth becomes an arena... murder becomes a way of life.

Year of Release: 1983
Also Known As: Anno 2020 - I gladiatori del futuro, 2020 Freedom Fighters
Genre: Action/Science Fiction
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 91 minutes (1:31)
Director: Joe D'Amato, George Eastman


Sabrina Siani ... Maida
Al Cliver ... Nisus
Peter Hooten ... Halakron
Harrison Muller ... Jab
Hal Yamanouchi ... Red Wolfe
Daniel Stephen ... Catch Dog
Donald O'Brien ... Black One


The year is 2020. The earth is a skeletal wasteland, born from the hell-fire of nuclear holocaust. A barbaric army of road warriors, lead by a power-twisted tyrant, battles for total dominion over our shattered world. Their ultimate target - a towering, super-fuel refinery, bristling with enough precious power to enslave an energy depleted planet!

But out from the atomic wreckage, ride the last champions of civilization to stand against them. Three invincible gladiators who have come to challenge their evil regime. To fight for the day their dark, imperial order will end and a triumphant, new age begins!


2020 Texas Gladiators, remindin' us that if it's okay to cast James Carville's international equivalent in the role of "Black One," we prolly oughta think about cuttin' Rachel Dolezal a little slack.

An speakin' of things I'd just as soon forget, I guess that's it for the 2010s. They're outta here, history; next stop, the Walmart clearance aisle, an I say - good riddance. I mean, what're we really out here? We elected a reality TV star to the presidency, O.J. got parole, Justin Bieber is still allowed to sing in public, the Church of Scientology somehow keeps getin' John Travolta work, an most sickening of all - Jerry Springer got cancelled. I'll tell ya somethin' else too - if Moses hadda face a test like the one we just went through he'da gone plum scooters an the leaderless Jews woulda ended up like the Donner Party.

Lately people've been comin' up to me, usually after hearin' Survivor was just renewed for its 112th season; eyes bloodshot, nails chewed down to the second knuckle, askin' what we have left to look forward to. But the thing is, they're askin' the wrong question, cause what they ought be askin' is what we have to look *back* to. Least that's what I tell myself to keep from drivin' the Topaz into Lake Gunkamucka with a suicide note stashed in a sandwich bag inside the glove compartment.

My inner circle on the other hand - they're all gullible optimists, an every New Year's Eve they like to get together an pound 50 - 60 gallons of Pole Cat beer an make resolutions they won't remember the next day. It's kind of a tradition around here, some folks go to the park an watch Ethel Bockwinkel's tin foil ball drop; we get drunk an lie to ourselves.

The only good part is this year Edgar an Bambi Mastrude drove down to Cactus Pete's in Jackpot to gamble Edgar's savins away, an so I closed up the Videodome early, collected enough deep fried junk food to stop the hearts of the entire Louisiana State Legislature, an plucked every Italian Nuclear Doomsday flick I could find off the shelves to screen for educational purposes.

We made it about 45 minutes into Warriors of the Wasteland before Mrs. Sadie's second drink loosened 'er tongue enough to send the party circlin' the ole crapper.

"I've been thinking a lot lately about contributing more than just a loving home to Sadie and I's lives; what do you all think about me starting a Youtube blog?" she asked sheepishly.

Course nobody was anywhere near drunk enough to take the bait, so Sadie casually elbowed me in the arm while I was takin' a bite off my corn dog an purt'near impaled my uvula with the stick as her way of suggestin' I engage the conversation.

"Uck! What the fu..." I choked.

"I was thinking maybe unboxing videos - they're very popular these days," she continued as though anybody gave a damn.

"Sounds retarded," Duke chimed with callous accuracy between bites of his Slim Jim.

"Oh... well... maybe you're..." she whimpered on the brink of tears.

"Actually," Tetnis corrected, glarin' a hole through Duke. "You pop open three or four of them buttons on your blouse and people won't care if you're crocheting scarves for stray cats; they'll watch."

Tetnis of all people has always been the one person who feels sorry for Mrs. Sadie, damned if I know why.

"You... you really think so?" she asked, her eyes lighting back up.

"Danged right hon, don'tchu go listenin' to Duke - he's just been in a bad mood ever since Bertram Winfield asked him to autograph his Harry and the Hendersons DVD at the pumpkin carving contest," Tetnis reassured her.

Even with Billy Hilliard on our side there was basically no way the remainin' six of us coulda broken up a fight between Tetnis an Duke, so before they destroyed the hallowed Videodome in a grudge match for the ages, I reluctantly kept the stupid tradition moving.

"So what's your plan for next year Duke?" I interjected while everyone's fists were still safely concealed within their respective Dorito bags.

"Well," Duke mused, temporarily distracted from Tetnis' low blow. "You 'member that bear you and Furguson blew up in his RV a couple years back?"

"Uh, maybe we shouldn't go into that..." I suggested, tryin' not to look at Cleave.

"You mean my mint condition '87 Prowler? The magnificent timber goddess on her maiden voyage that this IDIOT destroyed?" Cleave growled in my general direction.

"Yeap, that's the one," Duke continued with disinterest. "Reckon I might buy me a tag and see what that ole boy's really made of," he shrugged between chews.

If it were anybody else I'da warned 'em about Searano de Beargerac given how he nearly ate Cleave an me on two separate occasions, but honestly, I almost felt sorry for the bear knowin' Duke had his sights on 'im.

"How 'boutchu Roxanne? You gonna make Cleave here an honest man anytime soon?" Duke asked, still mulling over the idea of spearin' Tetnis through the free-standing rack of Foreign Dramas.

Thank cripes for Duke an his profoundly awkward question - took all that rekindled RV heat right offa me an laid it squarely at the feet of Roxanne Bigelow.

"Um... we haven't really discussed marriage at all, but I've been thinking about maybe trying out at Walleye's Topless Dancing," she offered. "I'd like to get into something where I don't have to feel ashamed at Parent/Teacher conferences."

"Wah wuv yeow job agih?" Billy asked, more than a little confused.

"I'm a legal secretary at Cletus Rubenstein's office," she clarified.

"Well you've got our support," Sadie winked out the side of 'er face farthest from Mrs. Sadie's jealously insecure line of vision.

"Your friends are all so nice," Roxanne said, half-P.O.'d at Cleave. "Why did you think they wouldn't like me?" she demanded.

"I... uh... it's... well..." he stammered, sweatin' like the Hamburglar at a security checkpoint.

"We found a Redbox receipt he'd dropped a while back," I explained. "He prolly thinks we hold *everyone* to the high cinematic standards we have for ourselves," I said, pointin' to the TV set from which Conquest was washing out over us majestically.

"You mean Paddington 2?" she asked.

"Right," Sadie affirmed.

"I only watched that cause he wouldn't stop raving about how great the first one was," she shrugged.

You coulda heard a mouse fart in the Videodome for the next 15 seconds until finally I was able to recover myself.

"So you threw your girlfriend under the bus to conceal your own sickness?" I asked, a combination of profound disappointment and nausea beginning to creep into me.

"It was just the one time!" Cleave wailed.

"Two by my count," Tetnis corrected.

"Assuming you ain't lyin' about *that* too," Duke piled on.

"Two times! But they're a series! And..."

"Cleave, I think you know what we're gonna hafta do now - I hope you understand," I said numbly. "You guys wanna get him in the trunk?"

"They're not gonna hurt him, are they?" Roxanne asked nervously over Cleave's muffled screams.

"Nah, but you might wanna keep him outta your house for a few days," Sadie suggested.

Cleave was sentenced to a night in the Gutter Bowl bathroom to atone for paintin' that nice gal Roxanne as a treasonous bimbo, an I made sure to wait until Skunky Hernandez had been in there after a few trips through the "Flatch-in-the-Pants" Five Alarm Carne de Burro chili line to be certain the punishment stuck this time.

Tetnis says Cleave's hair should grow back in a coupla months, but Mrs. Sadie promised to knit him a hat during her first Youtube video, so there's no reason to go losin' any sleep over it.

After we boarded Cleave up in the ole gas chamber I went back to lock up the Videodome an decided to stick around awhile an watch 2020 Texas Gladiators to commemorate the occasion, although I gotta admit that unless you're livin' in Aleppo, Syria, they got a few things wrong about the future. Like, for instance, in Joe D'Amato's version of 2020 you can still play Atari cabinets at the bar and Sabrina Siani'll go home with ya if you can show 'er proof of ownership, so when you think about it, D'Amato's dystopian future turned out better'n the one we got. I'm tryna think positive about this new decade though so we won't dwell on that; instead, let's touch on a few of the more important points this flick brought into focus so that we'll all be prepared for the day when we inevitably blow ourselves into people pot pie. First, suicide is generally considered a sin, but God'll usually give ya a pass if you're only doin' it to escape a roving band of goobonic plague carryin' future mutants. Second, when your new girlfriend tells ya not to bother avengin' her honor cause it'll take too long, you may wanna consider the health benefits of a blow up doll. An third, when an object's velocity determines its ability to pass through a force field, what you've actually got is a farce field.

The movie begins in the ruins of Milan, Texas, where an elite team of well-oiled, ex-chippendale dancer mercenaries is murderin' its way into a dilapidated buildin' beset by heretic zombies who're rapin' The Sisters of the Divine Sound Stage an nailin' Father Christmas to some loose 2x6's, til finally the Filthy Five (Nisus, Halakron, Jab, Red Wolfe, an Catch Dog) launch tear gas into the pseudo church's pulpit an chop all the atomic mutants into leper loaf. From there it seems like everything's under control, only pretty quick Catch Dog starts gettin' grabby with this babe who's been usin' up the world's remainin' supply of peroxide for cosmetic purposes (Maida), an the rest of the squad gets so P.O.'d that they kick 'im outta the club for bein' a poon goon. Then Nisus an Maida speed date an have a philosophical discussion about post-holocaust chivalry, until she decides to take 'im home with 'er so she can make 'im dress up like Chuck Connors in Tourist Trap an settle down to a normal life as an engineer at a hydroelectric plant. Things go pretty smooth for a while, but eventually these dirt bike desperadoes led by Catch Dog show up outside the compound an demand the village pay a ransom of 10,000 cans of Copenhagen an a truckload of Shiner beer or else they'll bust in an track cow shit all over the new carpet. Course Nisus don't negotiate with Italian redneck terrorists, so he drafts the entire workforce into the Gangrene Berets an orders 'em to open fire til both sides've pretty well blown the stuffins outta each other an Catch Dog hasta sound the retreat so they can regroup at the Cracker Barrel. Only about that time this Neo Nazi James Carville rolls up in an armored postal vehicle an dumps out a battalion of riot cops with cardboard force field shield technology an the plant employees hafta hightail it outta there to file for hazard pay with their union reps.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the He Wolf of the UPSS commands the driver of the mail rig to lay down a coupla ramps so the Vernon Wells Angels can jump the perimeter fence, an next thing you know the refinery's overrun by hairy post-apocalyptic strike breakers. Then Colonel Cleank gathers everyone together an explains that they're officially Poland an that the mark stops here, til Nisus charges the guards an gets 1200 rounds of semi-automatic gunfire pumped into his overalls. Next thing, it's a ways down the road an the town's rec-center's been turned into a post apocalyptic Dave and Buster's an a coupla Nisus' old Ranger buddies come rollin' into town an find Nisus' dog tags on this sleazy Charles Bronson look-alike. Halakron is P.O.'d, so he agrees to play Russian Roulette with the guy til Charlie's braingels get plastered all over the wall an Halakron an Jab hafta beat the crap outta the cast of Tombstone til they get busted by the sheriff an put to work in the uranium mine located directly beneath the saloon. Then the slimeball warden explains the Texas "right to work" retirement package an how in a free society anybody who doesn't wanna crack rocks 18 hours a day has the right to die of dehydration, only Jab gets torqued off when the water boy won't give this broken down old white hair his ration an ends up gettin' tied up in the warden's office for creatin' a hostile work environment. Unfortunately the warden gets a little too cocky for his own good an offers Jab a water ration that's been... uh... artificially flavored, an when he offers Jab a sip he puts the warden in the head-scissors an Thighmasters the bastard to death. Then Red Wolfe assassinates three prison guards who only got the job cause they were some middle-management warlord's useless brother-in-law an he rescues Halakron, Jab, an Maida an the four of 'em steal a machinegun-mounted dune buggy an start doin' celebratory donuts in Colonel Cleank's parkin' lot.

Cleank is P.O.'d, so he sends Catch Dog an the Pound to wipe out the well-oiled marines an they all end up down at the Slate Rock & Gravel quarry where Catch Dog sends a coupla chunkheads up onto the hillside with dynamite to bring a landslide down on toppa the Toned Rangers, only the guys get wise to 'em an kill a coupla geeks wearin' Divine makeup an toss their bodies in the pit so it'll look like the good guys were smothered beneath a pile of styrofoam boulders. Course now the G.I. Bros have no place to go, so they walk their little orphaned fannies through the nearby virgin forest an get jumped by a tribe of Italian Apaches an taken to their village where they finally discover where the bongo drum soundtrack's been comin' from for the last hour. This's the first time a Rangers/Indians affair has mattered since... well, ever really, an Halakron wants the Indians to help 'im take out Colonel Cleank, only the Indians're lovers not fighters, and besides that the last time they had any dealins with whitey they were promised Fall Out Boy tickets an got plain ole fallout instead. So the chief tells Halakron to go blow smoke signals up someone else's ass, only about that time Jab starts makin' clucking noises an goads one of the warriors into a Vulcan Death Match an just about gets his pecs castrated with a Buck knife, until he's finally able to make the brave tap out an the chief agrees to ride into battle with Halakrond an his Magilla guerillas. I'm not gonna spoil the big climactic war to settle the score, but if you've made it this far you'll prolly wanna check this one out just to see how overpowered the Indians are - I'm tellin' ya, Colonel Cleank never knew what hit 'im.

Alrighty, so there ya have it, 2020 Texas Gladiators. Not quite as good as 2019: After the Fall of New York, but that's what happens when you leave things layin' around to rot in the dystopian heat for a year. Of course, if you don't like this one you can always check out Endgame - Bronx lotta finale, or Warriors of the Wasteland, or 1990: The Bronx Warriors, or any of a dozen other titles for your Italian post-apocalyptic Road Warrior clone fix, cause in the '80s Italy was second only to *maybe* Roger Corman when it came to pumping out low budget imitations of big budget blockbusters. It's true that there were a few in the '70s, like Deathrace 2000, and Damnation Alley, but the subgenre really exploded in popularity after Mad Max, and particularly The Road Warrior. Still, there's a reason lower budget studios latched onto this particular idea - after all, there were hit movies every year that could also be aped if one were so inclined. The difference was, not surprisingly, that this type of movie could be made very cheaply in out-of-the-way places, and as long as you had barbarians with machine guns battling fascist tyrants and/or radioactive mutants, these flicks always made money, provided you were able to get them shown on the drive-in circuit (2020 Texas Gladiators, sadly, went direct-to-video). The template is largely the same from movie to movie, and this uniformity even transcends a film's origin, cause there's hardly any difference between, say, Stryker, which was filmed in The Philippines, and 2020 Texas Gladiators from Italy. There's always either a siege orchestrated by a gang of baddies against a peaceful group to raid its resources, or an infiltration/rescue mission at the behest of a benevolent group into creepola territory, with only minor differences occurring in terms of precisely how each plan is carried out. I'm not knocking the formula mind you, after all, Slasher films are all essentially the same at their core too - all I'm saying is that you've really gotta be into the subgenre before you can acquire any real appreciation for a particular title, and Texas Gladiators is one that you'll probably want to hold off on until you've exhausted the better options. Unless your only other option is The Aftermath, in which case you should absolutely watch 2020 Texas Gladiators.

I guess with 197 titles to his name even the late great Joe D'Amato couldn't turn *everything* he touched into gold, but he really shoulda known that we need George Eastman *in* these flicks and not just writin' 'em, otherwise the cardboard force field shield technology just starts to feel cheap and hollow if there's nobody around to pull off that big goofy "I'm gonna squeeze your head like a zit" grin we all know and love. In any event, these flicks all live and die by their action sequences, so let's see what Joe and George were able to put together with the change they were able to collect from a poorly guarded parkin' meter. The plot follows The Road Warrior formula closer than many of the Italian post-apocalypse titles, complete with desert-dwelling maniacs attacking a refinery to capture a power source, and the second-in-command's significant other bein' blown outta the saddle early on, before later transitioning into a Spaghetti Western. You never really know how much time has elapsed from one sequence to the next, there's some seriously questionable logic behind the way the technology works, and many scenes intended to come off as dramatic fall flat, but the pacing is steady enough to hold your attention and prevent you from dwelling on the last ridiculous thing that occurred for too long.

The acting's not completely terrible, and the dubbing isn't as jarring as it is in a lot of low budget Italian flicks, but at the end of the day the entire supporting cast, including the tribe of Native Americans, are so obviously Italian that it becomes pretty cheesy. To their credit, the majority of the principal actors are American, but trying to make these films look American with Italian architecture dotting the landscape and a supporting cast made up entirely of Europeans never stops being funny. Honestly, I've come to find these attempted deceptions endearing, but the movie would definitely get more points for its acting had they just called the flick: 2020 Venice Gladiators. Some of the silliest moments tend to come when someone dies, as there were some serious Shakespearean theatrics goin' on every time the bullets started to fly, but it's actually the dialog (or at least the English translation thereof) that produces what hasta be the funniest scene in the film. It takes place while the mercenaries are holed up in the quarry, where Halakron is telling Maida that she's his now and how he's gonna make the sleazebags who roughed her up pay for what they did, to which she responds: "You must be realistic, there are dozens." The second runner-up prize goes to the scene where Halakron is trying to convince the Natives to fight with him, to which the chief responds: "We don't have to prove our courage, it is well known. But that does not mean we Indians are stupid." It's a little known fact that Natives often refer to themselves as "Indians." So yeah, the acting isn't *completely* without merit, but the translator oughta be flogged.

Here's who matters and why: Al Cliver (Zombi 2, Endgame - Bronx lotta finale, Demonia, Il fantasma di Sadoma, Touch of Death, Murder-Rock: Dancing Death, The New Gladiators, 2020 Texas Gladiators, The Black Cat 1981, Devil Hunter, White Cannibal Queen), Harrison Muller (She 1984, The Throne of Fire), Daniel Stephen (Warrior of the Lost World, The Inheritor), Peter Hooten (Souleater, House of Blood, Dr. Strange, Orca), Hal Yamanouchi (The Wolverine, The Fishmen and Their Queen, House of Lost Souls, Robot Jox, Phantom of Death, Sinbad of the Seven Seas, Endgame - Bronx lotta finale, 2019: After the Fall of New York, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals), Sabrina Siani (The Throne of Fire, Conquest, Ator the Fighting Eagle, Gunan King of the Barbarians, Cannibal Terror, White Cannibal Queen), Isabella Rocchietta (Frankenstein Unbound, The Church), Geretta Geretta (Skid Row, Bloody Christmas, The Becoming 1 & 2, Shocking Dark, Demons, Rats: Night of Terror, Murder Rock: Dancing Death, Warrior of the Lost World), Donald O'Brien (I guerrieri dell'anno 2072, Frankenstein 2000, The Sect, Quest for the Mighty Sword, Ghosthouse, Hands of Steel, Zombie Holocaust, Giant of the 20th Century, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, Sex of the Witch), Mohamed Badrsalem (Meridian, The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen), Angelo Boscariol (Dottor Jekyll e gentile signora, Messalina vs. The Son of Hercules), Angelo Casadei (Catacombs, The Curse, Endgame - Bronx lotta finale, Io zombo tu zombo lei zombo, Il bacio di una morta, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Messalina vs. The Son of Hercules, Rolando De Santis (Urban Animal, The Throne of Fire), Settimio Scacco (Urban Animals), Maurizio Streccioni (The Exterminators of the Year 3000, Nightmare City), Franco Ukmar (Endgame - Bronx lotta finale, The Blade Master, Zombie Holocaust, Battle of the Amazons, The Cat o' Nine Tails, Messalina vs. The Son of Hercules), Sergio Ukmar (2019: After the Fall of New York, Massolina vs. the Son of Hercules, Samson and the 7 Miracles of the World).

The special effects aren't all that elaborate, and consist mainly of blood splattered about on the bodies of numerous deceased extras. I suppose you've also got the half-assed face makeup on the weirdos in the opening scene that's supposed to represent some sort of exposure to radiation, but which looks more like the makeup lady just rubbed Play-Doh on their faces and told 'em to go lay in the sun for an hour. Beyond that, it's just the little electrical effects that were added in to show the bullets bouncing off the force field shields, so yeah, not really much to talk about in an area where the movie really needed to bring its A-game. The shooting locations, like the acting, are not bad in and of themselves, but again, trying to pass these European structures off as American is pretty ridiculous even before they tacked little signs up over the doorways that say "Dallas, Texas." The gravel pit, making its triumphant return to the big screen after having appeared in Warrior of the Lost World, is about the only location that feels even remotely dystopian in nature, as the rest of the exteriors are still lush with green grass and healthy forests; the less said about the K-Mart teepees and the Indian village, the better. The saloon is pretty good though, and the factory/plant they were able to secure for the interior shots of the refinery is decent as well (although those shots are kinda funny too because the cast is wearing hardhats required by the facility), but it's clear there was no money to attempt making anything look like a nuclear war has taken place and, consequently, the shooting locations add exactly squat in the way of atmosphere.

The soundtrack is without question the high point of the movie, and features a catchy, pseudo-futuristic synthesizer score by genre favorite Carlo Maria Cordio of Pieces, and Absurd fame. It's nothing spectacular, but it's lively, enjoyable, and instills brief flashes of atmosphere and the hope that *maybe* the movie will get better. It doesn't, but those fleeting moments of cheesy synthesized Italian goodness make the film a bit more digestible. Overall, 2020 Texas Gladiators is a pretty shoddy production, but you've gotta give it credit for never bogging down. There's just enough action to hold your attention, but very little in the way of post-apocalyptic atmosphere, and that brings everything to a grinding halt before it ever gets going. I'd only recommend this one to hardcore fans of the post-nuke subgenre, and even then, you might consider the reason it hasn't made it to DVD by the year 2020, when nearly all of its contemporaries have.

Rating: 33%