TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BARBARIAN QUEEN (1985)

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BARBARIAN QUEEN (1985)

Unless this is the first time here at The Movie Madhouse, you know I am a fan of exploitation flicks, especially ones produced by Roger Corman. But even I have to draw a line somewhere…a line Barbarian Queen crosses more than once in my opinion. I am all for some fun T & A. If you want to fill your flick with pretty girls willing to show their boobs or have some naughty R-rated sex, fine. But when things get abusive, I have to say, I find it very distasteful (see my Mother’s Day 1980 review for another example) and while some harmless T & A can be entertaining, rape is not. I can even let one scene pass if it’s part of the story, but Barbarian Queen has at least four and the almost giddy nature in which they are filmed is the most distasteful and uncomfortable part.

The movie has a simple plot with a peaceful village being attacked and pillaged by a band of ruthless soldiers, lead by the vicious Strymon (Victor Bo), and a group of three women warriors escape, including their queen Amathea (Lana Clarkson). Amathea sets out to rescue her sister Tamaris (Dawn Dunlap), her husband-to-be Argan (Frank Zagarino) and to free those captured and avenge the destruction of her village. Simple.

But don’t let the fact that Barbarian Queen is about a warrior woman coming to the rescue of her loved ones and her people fool you, as this is an exploitation flick and director Héctor Olivera has populated his film with plenty of nubile young babes, including Corman vets Clarkson, Dunlap and Katt Shea (who went on to direct some good flicks for Corman). And I have no problem with that, or would have no problem with it, if the film didn’t have not one, but four (and that’s if I counted right) rape scenes and while I understand the villains are despicable, do three out of the four leading ladies have to be assaulted to make that point? In fact Dunlap’s Tamaris is violated before the opening credits even roll. We don’t even get to know the character, or who she is, before she’s attacked. And if the film left it at that, then you would chalk it up as an example of how rotten these guys are, but does Clarkson and Shea have to suffer the indignity, too, as well as, some supporting players? We already got the idea by the second incident that these guys are filth, they’re barbaric and have no respect for women, so did we need the repetition? To me…and I’m not a guy easily offended…it crosses the line from exploitation into just plain bad taste. Olivera wants to have it both ways by portraying his female characters as strong warriors, but also be the subject of torture, beating and sexual abuse…and that’s what makes this distasteful. Nudity can be fun, depending on it’s use, abuse is not and this film clearly is using the more abusive scenes as entertainment and in my opinion, it isn’t. I know they are barbarians, but the gleeful manner in which the assailants act and their gloating dialogue makes one cringe as does the repetitive use of this particular violent action. Perfect example of the difference is Corman’s Forbidden World. One of my favorite Corman exploitation flicks and also stars the beautiful Miss Dunlap. In that flick the two female scientists parade around in tight outfits, skimpy robes or naked the entire movie. It’s sexy, it’s titillating and it’s fun. Why?… because director Allan Holzman filmed his leading ladies in a flattering manner to make them as beautiful as possible in each shot. When June Chadwick’s scientist has an unfortunate and deadly sexual encounter with the film’s creature, it is filmed in a manner to convey the horror of what is happening. You are not supposed to enjoy it, you are supposed to be horrified. Olivera films his ladies like pieces of meat in a butcher store window and Howard R. Cohen’s script doesn’t treat them much better. It’s not sexy at all, it’s degrading and uncomfortable to watch. Ironically Cohen also wrote the far more fun sword and sorcery flick Deathstalker which knew when enough was enough with the exploitative material. I repeat, I am not easily offended, but to me the misogynistic tone in Queen is obvious.

Of course all this may be mute as it’s a terrible film even without being misogynist. The action is poorly choreographed, the sets and costumes look really cheap and most of the dialogue and acting is terrible…and not in a good way. Clarkson…who in a tragic and sad irony was killed in a shooting incident by Phil Spector in 2003…made a career for Corman playing these strong warrior women types and somehow retains her dignity. Girl-next-door Dunlap isn’t so lucky, as she looks really uncomfortable during the whole film and after this flick, she quit acting and went back home to her native Texas. I would not find it hard to believe at all that the humiliation of being in this film was a big part of it. So, all in all, whether it’s misogynistic tone and the exploitative way it portrays it’s rape sequences offends you or not, is up to you. My personal views aside, it’s still a crappy movie and even fails as exploitation. There’s very little bloodshed and the non-violent nude scenes are shot in the most unflattering ways. Barbarian Queen has a cult reputation and if it’s fans and viewers out there are entertained by it, that is your right and maybe you view the film differently, but it makes me cringe. And a good exploitation flick should make you giggle mischievously not feel uncomfortable.

1 and 1/2 swords

barbarian queen rating

WARNING: TRAILER IS GRAPHIC… and kinda proves my point…

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: DEATHSTALKER and THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER

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Having  just seen and been a bit disappointed with the latest installment of The Hobbit trilogy, I thought back to another time when sword and sorcery films were popular, in the early 80s. While not having the 100+ million dollar budgets of the fantasy epics of today or the abundant CGI to make these fantasy realms come to life, these films had to make do with the talent and creativity of their makers. The two biggest and most popular were Conan The Barbarian and Excalibur which I already covered in a previous double feature (here). For this double feature I am going to go with two B-movie fantasy films that didn’t have anywhere near the budget of those two flicks but, they made up for it with boobs, blood and lots of heart… and in some ways were just as entertaining or more so than the films they were trying to compete with…

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DEATHSTALKER (1983)

Deathstalker is another film that has sentimental value to me as friends and I saw it at the now long gone Loews Harmon Cove in Secaucus NJ. I saw a lot of fun B-movies there such as the laughably bad Luigi Cozzi Hercules with Lou Ferrigno and the Chuck Norris ‘classics’ Missing in Action 1 & 2 and Forced Vengeance. Produced by B-movie legend Roger Corman, Deathstalker is a fun little movie that knows it can’t compete with the big budget fantasy flicks and instead gives us a campy and fun tale filled with spurting blood and bared breasts. This B-movie cult classic has cynical warrior Deathstalker (Rick Hill) hunting 3 powerful objects, a sword, a chalice and an amulet that when combined, will give the barer great power. The amulet and chalice are in the clutches of the evil wizard Munkar (Bernard Erhard) while Deathstalker has possession of the sword. Using a tournament of strength and skill open to all the warriors of the land as a cover to enter Munkar’s castle and retrieve the objects, Deathstalker and travel companions Oghris (the late Richard Brooker) and the warrior woman Kaira (Lana Clarkson) enter the lion’s den. Now Deathstalker must not only battle a slew of fierce warriors, he must also rescue the rightful ruler, the beautiful Princess Codille (Playboy Playmate Barbi Benton) and also battle a traitor in his midst. And if he survives that, there is still the powerful magician Munkar to contend with, who has what Deathstalker wants and wants what Deathstalker has.

This is a fun flick as directed by James Sbardellati, under the pseudonym James Watson. Sbardellati knows he doesn’t have anywhere near Conan’s budget, but has a blast with the material making a far cheaper, but also a far less somber and more campy film. There is little provocation for warriors to clash resulting in spurting blood and lost limbs…and one such limb is hilariously used as a weapon by one warrior creature…or a lusty maiden to drop her clothes and reward the heroic victors. None of the cast are strong actors… though Clarkson gives her warrior woman a nice nobility and fiery sexuality… but it is obvious they are having a good time and it helps us forgive badly recited dialog and the sub-standard fight choreography. The FX are cheesy as are the 60s TV show level sets and the film knows it and takes what little it has and runs with it.

There’s no pretension here, it’s a Corman B-movie in every sense of the word and if you can look past the cheesy production value and just have a good time watching all the rolling heads and jiggling boobs, then this is a fun Saturday night flick that will go quite well with a six pack of your favorite poison. A really fun and delightfully campy B-movie the likes of which they don’t make anymore!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 battle axes!

13th warrior rating

plus

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THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER (1982)

This modestly budgeted sword and sorcery flick beat Arnie’s Conan movie to theaters by about 2 months and is regarded by some as a lot more entertaining. While I’m not sure I’d go that far, I do enjoy Sword and will admit this flick is certainly lighter in tone and far less somber then the Schwarzenegger classic.

The tale starts out with evil King Titus Cromwell (B-movie bad guy Richard Lynch) reviving the powerful sorcerer Xusia (Richard Moll) to aid him in conquering Ehdan, the kingdom of the good and wise King Richard (Christopher Cary). Cromwell takes the kingdom, betrays the sorcerer and slaughters most of Richard’s family save for his young daughter, who he takes for himself, and Prince Talon who escapes, but is maimed in battle with Cromwell’s men. The film picks up over a decade later with Talon (Lee Horsley) now a famed pirate and mercenary with a gauntlet on one hand and a three bladed sword at his side, returning to Ehdan. Upon his arrival, Talon is hired by the beautiful rebel Princess Alana (Kathleen Beller), who is unaware of who he really is, to rescue her brother Prince Mikah (Simon MacCorkindale) who is now believed to be the rightful heir to Ehdan’s thrown and is in Cromwell’s dungeon for heading the rebellion. Joining the rebels to rescue the Prince and get revenge on the man who murdered his family proves no easy task as there is betrayal and treachery in Cromwell’s favor and if the vile King isn’t opponent enough, there is a vengeful sorcerer who would bring death to anyone who would stand in the way of his revenge.

Directed by prolific B-movie director Albert Pyun, Sword And The Sorcerer was a hit in it’s own right grossing back nearly 10x it’s original $4 million budget. Pyun injects a lot of fun in his fantasy flick giving it the tone of an Errol Flynn movie with added scantily clad babes and gore. He never takes his tale too seriously, but never makes a joke out of it either. There are some fun and bloody brawls and battles to punctuate the derring do and heroics and the scenes featuring the sorcerer Xusia have an almost horror flick look and feel. The FX are decent for this kind of flick with gore and make-up by Allan A. Apone and FX legend Greg Cannom. The sets and costumes are more on a TV show level, but Pyun makes up for it by giving us a quick pace and a lot of action to take our attention away from the budgetary shortcomings.

The cast are all having a good time with Lynch giving us a strong slimy villain in Cromwell, Lee Horsley giving us a charming rogue in the person of the exiled Talon and Beller making a feisty and beautiful heroine of her rebel princess. As with the tone of the film, the actors, who also include George Maharis, Joe Regalbuto and Robert Tessier, never take themselves too seriously, but never fall into camp either…although wrestler/body builder Earl Maynard’s Rasta pirate Captain Morgan is quite a scene stealer. Pyun brings all his colorful characters together for a climactic battle within Cromwell’s castle where swords and sorcery are brought to bare in an effort to settle scores and exact revenge. And it’s a fun showdown between heros, tyrants and scorned sorcerers.

The modestly budgeted Sword And The Sorcerer may be a B-movie at heart, but heart is something this movie has a lot of and fun is a lot of what you’ll have, as long as you go in understanding that despite it’s exploitation film trappings, there is an old fashioned swashbuckler under all the blood and boobs. Sadly, despite showing potential here and enjoying a long career, Albert Pyun would never find the stride he hit with this movie or the success it enjoyed, again, though his Cyborg with Van Damme and Nemesis were enjoyable enough sci-fi/ action B-movies. A fun flick and a good time.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 battle axes!

13th warrior rating

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