Clumsily filmed ‘chariot’ races and all-too-brief moments of bloody violence await those who make it to the anti-climatic finale of Lucio Fulci’s sole foray into sci-fi territory. This futuristic actioner (from a typically scant screenplay by Sacchetti and company) starts out quite briskly but soon overwhelms with insistent whip-pans and stroboscopic effects while the director’s patented zoom shots seem to have lost their punch somewhat. Whether he took on the project due to contractural obligations, to pay off debts or further prove his professional versatility, Fulci hadn’t succeeded in imbuing New Gladiators with his trademark brooding atmosphere. No amount of mobile camera and colour gels could enliven this hastily written story of evil TV execs pitting death row inmates against each other on live television in a bid to raise thair channels´ ratings. Fulci mascot Al Cliver is at hand as one of the eponymous gladiators, led by Jared Martin (Aenigma) on the run through sets furnished with props seen in earlier Italo sci-fi epics such as Rats: Nights of Terror and Contamination. The cast yell most of their lines (some actors in Fulci’s last watchable film, Voices from Beyond display similarly unrestrained behaviour) and often appear on the cusp of having spasms.
Analog cinema enthusiasts will have their share of fun with the charming miniature shots representing the futuristic Rome. Awful costume design and general lack of coherence shouldn’t put the adventurous viewer off exploring this uneven but occasionally stylish and charmingly lo-tech film from the Godfather of Gore.