Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Clonin' the Barbarian: BARBARIAN QUEEN (1985)

One of the great things about Roger Corman is never really sought to exploit any successes his various studios brought him.  Haha, are you kidding me?  Dude loved himself some money so if anything made him more than $10 you know he was all over trying to figure out how to make some more.  When the CONAN rip-off DEATHSTALKER proved to be a surprise box office success, Corman made sure to get no less than 3 sequels out (we will be hitting those in a bit).  But even before that he sought to cash in on certain elements of that film’s charm (including but not limited to Lana Clarkson’s breasts) by getting BARBARIAN QUEEN rolling on the same sets down in Argentina (hey, these things ain’t gonna use themselves).

BARBARIAN QUEEN opens with a peaceful village preparing for the wedding of Amethea (Clarkson) to town studmuffin Prince Argan (Frank Zagarino, PROJECT: SHADOWCHASER deity).  Wouldn’t that make her Barbarian Princess?  Oh crap…peaceful village…wedding day…damn, this place is fixing to get attacked any second now.  Indeed, the henchmen of evil Lord Arrakur (Armando Capo) arrive on cue and start messing folks up.  The village is torched and Argan watches as Amethea is burned alive in a hut before he and all the village men are taken away as a slaves.  Honestly, he looks like he could care less and is probably angrier he is losing the catering deposit.

Hey, the flick only lasts 71 minutes so they gotta get moving.  Of course, we can’t go offing our heroine right away so she survives and bands together with Tiniara (Susana Traverso) and Estrild (Katt Shea) to quickly save her (shell-shocked after being raped) sister Taramis (Dawn Dunlap). These four women warriors head off to Arrakur’s city in order to free the men. Wait a sec, that Boris Vallejo poster has 5 women warriors on it.  I’ve been duped…let me speak to the manager!

Along the way the ladies encounter a young girl whose one-armed father is leading a rather resistant resistance (he is always saying stuff like, “Now is not the time.”).  She sneaks the female crew into the city where they find out that Arrakur is training the captured men to fight in some gladiator-type games.  Hey, that ain’t so bad.  Free room and board and all the exercise you can handle.  Oh, it’s to the death?  Okay, that sucks.  The women make their plan to help the men escape, but Taramis ruins it by getting all batty and everyone gets captured.  Estrild is forced into a brothel while Amethea is held by deranged scientist Zohar (Tony Middleton) for some kinky “experiments.”  These involve chaining her to a rack and tickling her nipple with suspended metal hand.  Hmmm, I think I saw that website online. Meanwhile, Taramis has become Arrakur’s top candidate for his Courtesan of the Month club. Of course, how can you refuse a girl who, when asked what she wants, replies, “Will you get me a dog to play with? No, a cat. I should love to have a cat.”  Uh, you really think she is worth saving, Amethea?

You can’t keep Amethea tied down though as she has a few tricks up her, uh, panties.  No joke, she escapes from Zohar when he rapes her and she squeezes his penis with her vagina with so much pressure that he is forced to release her.  Damn, I think I dated her. Anyway, the three ladies finally team back up and get their plan back in motion.  This time the resistance even offers to help (begrudgingly, no doubt).  Hiding in shrouds, the ladies get ready to strike the day of the gladiator fights.  Arrakur greets his people and tells them he planned this to-the-death event to help celebrate the town’s 20th anniversary.  Wait, what?  Dude commemorates anniversaries with multiple deaths?  Oh, that’s right – 50th anniversary is gold, 25th is silver and 20th is blood.  No wonder he is single.  Somehow I think this party isn’t going to go his way this year though.

Clocking in at a scant 71 minutes, BARBARIAN QUEEN is all business from the opening scene.  I’m sure Corman got the wheels rolling on this the second he heard RED SONJA was getting made. And I actually prefer BQ to SONJA.  I mean, this at least has nudity. Screenwriter Howard Cohen did nearly all of Corman’s b-movie barbarian flicks and they all seem to have pretty much the same plot (apparently lots of tournaments going on back in the day).  Director Hector Olivera was a producer on DEATHSTALKER and he does a decent enough job here.  The locations in Argentina definitely benefit the production as well.  No, the attacks aren’t going to be on CONAN’s level and you won’t get any expertly choreographed battles.  But it works for me as it is cheesy, sleazy and quick.  Word of warning – the recent Shout Factory DVD (coupled with THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS) offers a version that is ten minutes shorter and excises a lot of the violence and nudity.  Uh, what’s the point?

The film’s biggest asset is obviously the alluring Clarkson.  Not only is she easy on the eyes, but she has the acting chops to carry the film.  Corman definitely knew what audiences liked from DEATHSTALKER and the Vestron VHS cover proudly declares “the blonde beauty of DEATHSTALKER is back!” (hey, how do audiences know they aren’t talking about Rick Hill?).  She gives it her all, best showcased by her sword swinging skills during the fight scenes.  Clarkson would return a few years later in the in-name-only sequel BARBARIAN QUEEN II (1992).  In a perfect world, these films would be her legacy but that is, sadly, not the case. Clarkson is now more famous for being the shooting victim of asshole record producer Phil Spector.  RIP Barbarian Queen.

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