2020 Texas Gladiators (1983) poster

2020: Texas Gladiators (1983)


(Anno 2020 – I Gladiatori del Futuro)

Italy. 1983.


Director – Kevin Mancuso [Joe D’Amato], Screenplay – Alex Carver [George Eastman], Photography – John Larson [Joe D’Amato], Music – Francis Taylor [Carla Maria Cordio], Special Effects – James Davies, Robert Gold & Peter Gray, Production Design – Robert Jenkins. Production Company – The Continental Motion Pictures Inc.


Al Cliver (Nisus), Peter Hooten (Halakron), Sabrina Siani (Maida), Daniel Stephen (Catch Dog), Harrison Muller (Jab), Al Yamanouchi (Red Wolfe), Donald O’Brien (Black One)


Texas in the year 2020 after the world has collapsed following nuclear war. Nisius heads a small community of free people where he and a select team of fighters go into action to protect the innocent from raids by marauders. During one such sortie, Nisius has to banish one of his men Catch Dog after he is found trying to rape Maida. Nisius promises to protect Maida. Several years later, they have a daughter. However, Catch Dog has gone over to the side of Black One, the tyrannical leader who wants to establish rule over all the communities in the area. Catch Dog leads an attack on the community, during which Nisuis is killed and Maida captured. Nisuis’s former lieutenant Halakron determines to gather the rest of the men to rescue Maida and bring down Black One.

Mad Max 2 (1981) was a huge hit when it came out, a massively adrenalised action ride set among the ruins of society. It created a wave of copycat films, all featuring crazies engaged in car chases in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and emulating the same junkyard chic. (For greater detail see After the Holocaust Films). Nobody latched onto making low-budget Mad Max copies like the Italians who in quick succession made the likes of The Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983), The New Barbarians (1983), Rush (1983), 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983), The Final Executioner (1984), Rage (1984) and Rome 2072 A.D. (1984).

Hiding behind the Anglicised name of Kevin Mancuso here is director Joe D’Amato (1936-99). D’Amato is regarded as the most prolific Italian film director of all time, having made nearly 200 films between the 1970s and 1999. Throughout his three decade career, D’Amato hid behind over a dozen pseudonyms and worked in many genres, although is best known for his extensive output of erotic/pornographic films. (See below for a listing of Joe D’Amato’s other genre films). Around the same time that he made 2020: Texas Gladiators, D’Amato made one other Mad Max copy with Endgame (1983) – the two films are frequently confused and thought to be alternate titles but are separate works.

The IMDB credits the director of the film as the writer George Eastman and says that D’Amato only directed the action scenes. However, in that D’Amato’s pseudonym of Kevin Mancuso is the only one credited on the film, I will accept him as being the listed director of the film until the appearance of any reliable evidence to the contrary.

I do have to issue a qualifier in that the only available copy of the film I was able to watch was one downloaded from YouTube where it was listed as the uncut version. Uncut in this sense means a fan edit of material that comes from several different copies of the film. Moreover, the cut material has been taken from various non-English language prints, notably some of the violence and the rape scenes at the start of the film, which appear to come from a German print. This also means a drop-off in quality between some sections, while other scenes abruptly switch between standard American dubbing and very British voices. This is one film that is surely due a worthwhile dvd restoration.

Sabriana Siani and Donald Stephen in 2020 Texas Gladiators (1983)
Gladiators in post-apocalyptic Texas – Sabriana Siani and Donald Stephen

In all regards, 2020: Texas Gladiators is typical of the Italian Mad Max copy of the era. Joe D’Amato directs some vigorous action sequences with bandits attacking the camp and so on. Certainly, D’Amato pushes these somewhat further than most of the other films of the era in terms of sex and violence – hence the abovementioned cuts to the film. There are all the motorcycle and dune buggy action sequences of these films; and more muscular bare-chested men wandering around than you could find in any gay leather club. There’s an improbably strange Russian Roulette game in the middle of the show that feels as though it has wandered in from another film.

Most of the cast are actors that were working in Italian exploitation cinema of the era – Al Cliver, Sabrina Siani, Harrison Muller, Donald O’Brien, Haruhiko/Al Yamanouchi. The sole exception is American actor Peter Hooten, probably best known as the original Dr. Strange (1978) and several other roles in Italian exploitation films of the period, including the original The Inglorious Bastards (1978), who plays one of the good guy gladiators.

I am not sure if it is a result of the dubbing or what, but the film also comes with the most minimal in the way of plot. Every basic thing you want to know about the scenario – who the good guys led by Al Cliver are (they presumably being the gladiators of the title), why they act by a code, who the bad guys are and how they have established a dominion over other communities, what has happened to the world – has been stripped out. Sabrina Siani does get one piece of dialogue about survival after the apocalypse but otherwise it feels as though everything else has been tossed out to focus on the action element.

Joe D’Amato (1936-99) was a prolific director in the Italian exploitation industry whose career was predominantly in pornographic films. He made over 200 films and is known under a variety of different pseudonyms. His other genre films include:- the giallo Death Smiles on a Murderer (1973), the erotic/cannibal films Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals (1977) and Papaya, Love Goddess of the Cannibals (1978), the necrophilia film Blue Holocaust (1979), Anthropophagus/The Grim Reaper (1980), the erotic/zombie film Erotic Night of the Living Dead (1980), the erotic/voodoo/cannibal film Sex and Black Magic (1980), Absurd (1981), the erotic/zombie film Porno Holocaust (1981), the sword and sorcery films Ator the Invincible (1982) and Ator the Blade Master (1984), the post-holocaust film Endgame (1983), the Ator film Quest for the Mighty Sword (1989), Frankenstein 2000 (1992), Contamination .7/Creepers/Troll 3 (1993), the pornographic reincarnation film Chinese Kamasutra (1993), the pornographic Ghosts in the Castle (1994), the pornographic Marquis de Sade (1994), the pornographic Tarzan X (1994) and its sequel Tarzhard: The Return (1998), the pornographic ghost film Erotic Bluff (1995), the pornographic caveman film Homo Erectus (1996), the pornographic psycho-thriller Primal Instinct (1996), Hell’s Angels/Demons of Lust (1997), Hell’s Angels 2/The Seven Sexy Sins (1997) and Hell’s Angels 3/The Devil’s Lair (1998), a series of pornographic vignettes set in Hell, the pornographic Greek myth films Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (1997), Hercules: A Sex Adventure (1997), Olympus, Refuge of Gods (1997), Samson in Amazon’s Land (1997), The Sexual Adventures of Ulysses (1998) and Love and Psyche (2000), Kamasutra (1997), a pornographic film with fantasy elements, the pornographic Queen of Elephants (1997) about a female Tarzan, a pornographic version of the story of the Phantom of the Opera with Phantom (1998), Elixir (1998), a pornographic film involving a youth serum, Eternal Desire (1996), a pornographic version of Highlander (1986), and Experiences (1999) and Experiences 2 (1999) about a woman sucked through her computer to participate in a series of erotic interludes across time.

Trailer here

Full uncut film here

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