The year is 2019 and the apocalypse that ravaged the world has ended, but that does not mean the nightmare is over. For a group of survivors, there may be hope that some kind of civilisation continues somewhere, and they think they have picked up a radio transmission but as they do, they hear the gunning of engines and realise that they are surrounded. Menacing them are the self-styled Templars, led by One (George Eastman), who have decided to finish off World War Three personally and begin their assault, driving round and around them in their customised vehicles, their firepower overwhelming their victims...
The New Barbarians was director and co-writer Enzo G. Castellari's homage to Mad Max, or more specifically Mad Max 2 with its post-apocalypse wasteland and plentiful action sequences intended to replicate the visceral thrill of the Australian original. However, the film is sabotaged by a difficulty on the audience's part to take it seriously: it's obviously low budget, but staging the mayhem on about three different patches of wasteground doesn't exactly help in the epic stakes, and if it had been any more low rent they might as well have shot it in somebody's back garden.
The story does catch the viewer off guard a few times, on the other hand, with some lunacies that would not have made it into the plot of a more mainstream work. Firstly, not a single one of the survivors we meet at the beginning, well, survives as One's gang blow them all to Kingdom Come, so who is our hero to be? Step forward Giancarlo Prete (here using the pseudonym Timothy Brent) as Scorpion, the Mad Max clone who also owns a customised car which has a big dome on the top for reasons best known to Scorpion.
This protagonist makes up his mind to put a stop to the Templars when he prevents them killing off a woman he saves from fleeing them after they destroy her truck. She is Alma (Anna Kanakis with big hair), and she leads Scorpion to another group, not much different from the one we saw during the introduction, who he becomes the defender of. As if thinking, this guy is not going to be anybody's idea of a saviour without help, Castellari and his writers bring in Fred Williamson as the unfortunately-named Nadir who is quite handy with a bow and arrow which he deploys explosive charges with, the very thing for exploding bad guys, one of whom continues to ride their motorbike sans head - even Fred looks bemused.
But what of the other lunacies that make The New Barbarians, or I Nuovo Barbari in its orginal Italian, stand out? Well, for a start, the other member of Scorpion's team is a little kid who takes care of the technical side of keeping his car on the road (or the wasteground, at any rate). This moppet mechanic also comes up with the impenetrable armour for the finale, armour that looks uncannily like perspex and prompts you to wonder where they get all their finely tailored outfits from. But if only Scorpion had put on his impenetrable armour earlier and he might not suffer the indignity of the film's most notorious scene: captured by the Templars, he is the unlucky recipient of an invitation to their initiation ceremony. It's not explicitly presented, but we're in no doubt that poor old Scorpion has been raped. Exactly who wanted to see that in their sci-fi action movie is a mystery known only to the filmmakers, but it has made the film stick in the mind, if for the wrong reasons. Music by Claudio Simonetti.