What I'm Watching: Barbarian Queen

From the SHOUTFactory Sword and Sorcery Collection. Remember DVDs? You stick it in a slot and your movie just starts playing!

First, trailers!

  • Streets (1990): "The most brutal, sadistic killer on the streets… is a cop!" Yeah, no shit! That was true even in the '80s. Christina Applegate (age 19) is cute as a teenage hooker (age 16). Eb Lottimer made a half-assed career of dirty cops and evil soldiers. This looks better than average for exploitation flicks by Roger Corman.

  • Angel in Red aka Uncaged (1991): Whores and a psycho pimp and brother. Looks dire. Apparently a remake of Streetwalkin' (1984) by the same writers, and the director Lisa Hunt took her name off it. Nope.

Huh. I guess they know their audience. And now our feature presentation. Note: R-rated and then some.

  • Barbarian Queen (1985): Instantly starts with a blonde girl (Dawn Dunlap) gathering flowers captured, tits exposed, and raped by two heavy metal dudes (long hair, black clothes, medieval, work with me here). Sets the tone for the film; if you can't handle this, don't go on.

Wedding day for the girl's sister, Amathea (Lana Clarkson)—previously seen in Deathstalker—is rudely interrupted by a whole bunch of these heavy metal dudes who didn't RSVP. Mass fight choreography is… not an exact science. Mostly you see dudes taking turns holding up a sword or staff, enemy attacks, then they switch roles, very D&D initiative sequence, not much like real swordsmanship.

All the village men are defeated, but the women can bare-handed (sometimes bare-breasted) kick the ass of any man. Mostly because the heavy metal dudes stop mid-fight to try to rape, which turns out to be a tactical mistake.

The barbarians have fabulous '80s hair & makeup, and wear preposterous linen bikinis and reed bundle pushup bras/legwarmers, uh, and unlabelled Keds tennis shoes. The people live in reed & grass huts, but then bundle up in furs. This was filmed in Argentina, like so many of Roger Corman's wilderness flicks. The wilderness cinematography is quite good; they try to avoid showing skylines and obvious clues as to the location.

The "city" (barely a village) isn't bad but anachronistic; low stone/adobe walls, topped by wood pallisades. The "arena" is a solid wood pen, because of course they have a gladiator arena. A few hundred extras, wearing a weird mish-mash of clothing, muu-muus, hoodie robes, tunics & pants, half middle-eastern. It's like any bad D&D campaign, the Referee just threw random stuff together until it was full. The rebels of course hide in the dungeon tunnels under the city. There's always a dungeon.

The props deserve a call-out, and not in a good way. Weapons range from clubs, sharp sticks, and stone axes, to a few pole-axes, to many crappy mass-produced shiny swords with bad brass/gold pommels, and stage swords made of pig iron. Shields are a layer of hammered tin(?) over wood, very awkward. Armor is mostly black linen with big chunky chains sewn on top, it looks ridiculous and offers no protection. One or two people have brigandine which doesn't look awful. None of this fits any consistent period.

Katt Shea, Susana Traverso, and a little tomboy girl soon join Lana as an adventuring party, hunting heavy metal dudes. They never lose HP to these dudes. Dawn goes looney tunes, because that's what happens when you're tied to a tree. Middle girl is constantly eating, thru the entire film, it's kind of remarkable, giant lump of bread, unidentified "meat", craft table in the harem, she's horny for food.

"I'll be no man's slave and no man's whore, and if I can't kill them all, by the gods they'll know I've tried." —Amathea will kick your ass.

Armando Capo as Lord Arrakur is very businesslike. I can't tell if he's supposed to be stoic, doesn't know his lines all that well, or thinks he's doing taxes instead of torturing, raping, and killing. He's much too fat, useless, and square to lead the heavy metal dudes, I don't know how he got cast here. When I think of all the roles Jack Palance chewed scenery in, and compare him to this dork, ugh.

"20 years that THIS KINGDOM has ruled THE LAND. And we gather for your entertainment, the greatest warriors of ALL TIME, willing to sacrifice their lives for the glory of THIS KINGDOM." —Arrakur has no idea when or where he is, either.

The torture room, and glasses-wearing Jewish nerd torturer are amazing. Hanging metal claw hands, swinging stabby gadgets, acid bath, and an automated rack. Lana's tits spend a lot of time exposed and upthrust. Her '80s-style G-string bikini bottom is a little out of time. Her way of getting off the rack is amazing, only ever matched by Kathleen Turner in The War of the Roses.

The gladiators don't get much better at fighting, and they end every fight in a KO or kill, which is not how you keep a gladiator population; they were highly-valued entertainers, like pro wrestlers. Here, apparently the reward for the surviving gladiators is the harem, which rather misses the point of harems; but there is a fat eunuch harem guard in pseudo-Turkish outfit completely out of place with everyone else.

Maybe this whole thing's post-apocalypse. No artifacts or mention of the olden days, but there's also no churches, the entire operation's such a mess of periods it's just nonsense as history, but perfectly reasonable as post-apocalypse Argentina. I've had the same hypothesis about Deathstalker, but it has Orcs and magic, more likely a secondary world.

Some great shots. Guards go running past, Lana slips out sword ready and runs like a panther. She looks great and kills like an experience-crazed D&D murderhobo PC. The final fight is still badly fight choreographed, but well-paced.

Title is a lie, she's not the queen of her barbarian tribe, nor of the city (I presume the rebels take over, but the ending just freeze-frames).

The deleted scenes on this DVD are a mix of longer kills, even more T&A, and some backstory for the traitor and rebels.

A classic of swords-and-no-sorcery, heavy on the exploitation, half-assed (if that) at production as usual for Corman, but mostly saved by the story, and focus on Lana Clarkson and the girls.

★★½☆☆

(A reminder about my star ratings. Full ★ is for quality filmmaking. The extra ½ is earned by being fun, regardless of quality. I'd rather watch a ★★½☆☆ than a ★★★★☆!)

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