(Italy - 1983; US release 1984)
Directed by Kevin Mancuso (Aristide Massaccesi and Luigi Montefiori). Written by Alex Carver (Luigi Montefiori). Cast: Harrison Muller, Al Cliver, Daniel Stephen, Peter Hooten, Al Yamanouchi, Sabrina Siani, Donald O'Brien, Geretta Geretta. (Unrated, 86 mins)
The credits of the Italian post-nuke ROAD WARRIOR ripoff 2020: TEXAS GLADIATORS take great pains to make the movie look American. All of the technical credits are pseudonymous, starting with score composer Carlo Maria Cordio going by "Francis Taylor" and production manager Donatella Donati as "Helen Handris," all the way to the end with assistant director and future Italian horror auteur Michele Soavi (CEMETERY MAN) hiding incognito as "Mike Soft." But all of that effort is for naught early on with the repeated sightings of signs reading "DANGER: EXSPLOSIVE," the tell-tale, "Do Not Entry" sign from THE BEYOND that, despite the Herculean efforts of everyone involved, the ruse collapses thanks to the Italian prop guy. And if you watch enough of these, you'll start recognizing not only the same actors being dubbed by the same voices, but also the same Italian locations, as 2020's action mostly has the actors running around the same abandoned factory and the stunt drivers careening around the same gravel pit and dirt mounds that can be spotted in most entries in the subgenre.
opening credits are even finished. There's no shortage of bloodshed and the near-constant action keeps things moving briskly, but 2020: TEXAS GLADIATORS doesn't really try to take advantage of its setting. Other than a hand-painted "Texas" sign, and Halakron challenging Maida's cowboy pimp to some DEER HUNTER-inspired Russian Roulette in an old west saloon, no effort is made to create the illusion of "Texas," unlike the many post-nukes set in NYC, like 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK, where even a half-melted model of the Statue of Liberty went a little way toward creating some NYC atmosphere. 2020 does an OK job of being a post-nuke western of sorts--an idea more successfully explored in Giuliano Carnimeo's EXTERMINATORS OF THE YEAR 3000--but it mainly resorts to cliches and cringe-worthy stereotypes that would've been antiquated in the 1940s, like the late-film introduction of some constantly war-whooping "Indians" who stop just short of saying "How!" and "We smokum peace pipe" when they reach a tentative truce with Halakron and the Rangers and join their fight against The Black One.
|Aristide Massaccesi (1936-1999),|
aka "Joe D'Amato," "David Hills,"
and at least 50 other pseudonyms
|Luigi Montefiori, aka "George Eastman"|
DR. STRANGE, it appeared as if he was about to break out, but DR. STRANGE wasn't picked up for series and Hooten quickly became a Next Big Thing instantly forgotten. By the end of 1978, he made his way to Europe where he would work almost exclusively starting with Enzo G. Castellari's THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS. Already showing signs of disinterest in the projects he was being offered--his only Hollywood gig during this time came in a supporting role as one of Ken Wahl's commando unit in James Glickenhaus' 1982 actioner THE SOLDIER, and he didn't even stick around to dub himself for 2020, leaving it to voice actor Frank von Kuegelgen--Hooten only worked sporadically as the '80s went on. He eventually retired from acting in 1990 after starring in TROLL 2 director Claudio Fragasso's completely obscure NIGHT KILLER. It was shortly after shooting 2020 that the openly gay Hooten met Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill, and the two were together until Merrill's 1995 death from AIDS. Now 64, Hooten currently lives in Florida and came out of retirement in 2013 to appear in a pair of extremely low-budget Sarasota-shot regional horror movies, HOUSE OF BLOOD and SOULEATER.
era-enders such as Lucio Fulci's FOUR OF THE APOCALYPSE (1975), Enzo G. Castellari's KEOMA (1976), and Sergio Martino's MANNAJA (1977). He also played a Nazi general in THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS and an exorcist in Massaccesi's sleazy nunsploitation classic IMAGES IN A CONVENT (1979). O'Brien is best known to Eurotrash audiences for Marino Girolami's ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST (1980), where his zombie-creating mad doctor was granted the title role when the film was rechristened DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. for its 1982 American release. Vacationing in Paris in 1980, shortly after completing his work on ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST, O'Brien suffered a serious head injury when he slipped and fell in the bathroom of his hotel room. After spending several days in a coma, he awoke to find he was partially paralyzed. 2020: TEXAS GLADIATORS was his first film after the accident and its effects are obvious: he has a halting limp and is often dragging his left leg, and the right side of his face demonstrates frequent, involuntary twitching very similar to that of Japanese actor Takeshi Kitano/Beat Takeshi in the aftermath of his 1994 motorcycle accident. Still, the veteran actor, while dubbed, manages to create a vivid impression with his shaved head, hammy overacting (check out his overdone Dr. Evil cackle at a not-very-funny joke that Catch Dog makes), and memorable death scene. O'Brien continued to act in films, but his paralysis took its toll. He required a cane and as the years went on, in later films like HANDS OF STEEL (1986) and THE NAME OF THE ROSE (1986), he's usually seated or leaning against something. O'Brien would go on to appear in Massaccesi's final ATOR film QUEST FOR THE MIGHTY SWORD (1990) and Michele Soavi's THE SECT, aka THE DEVIL'S DAUGHTER (1991), before retiring from acting in 1994 after severely injuring his hip in another fall. He died in 2003 at the age of 73.