Barbarian Queen – Sword, Sandal and Sexploitation

The Warrior And The Sorceress / Barbarian Queen – Double Feature (Shout! Factory)

David Carradine, deep in his B-movie slide into the eighties, stars in the crude post-Conan sword, sandal and sex fantasy The Warrior And The Sorceress (1984), but it’s the second film on this Corman double bill, Barbarian Queen (1985), that fascinates me. Not because it’s any good (it’s not, by any definition), but because it’s an exploitation cheapie that is genuinely exploitative from a director who, in another life, made provocative, intelligent and politically savvy films. Argentinean director Hector Olivera made the superb Funny Dirty Little War (1983), a savagely funny satire of a brutal period of civil war, and the heady, at times pretentious A Shadow You Soon Will Be (1994), two significant art house exports, but the ten years between he spent churning out cheap genre films for the international market, with titles like Cocaine Wars (1985, with John Schneider), Wizards of the Lost Kingdom (1985, with Bo Svenson) and Play Murder For Me (1990, with direct-to-video veteran Tracy Scoggins).

Lana Clarkson gives the Barbarian Queen call to arms

I can’t say with any authority that Barbarian Queen is the nadir of this period (I really haven’t investigated these films in any depth) but it is a wretched little film that announces its intentions in the first two minutes, when an idyllic riverside scene becomes the setting for a tribal maiden being raped by marauding warriors. The thugs attack the local village and enslave everyone who isn’t dead, but three warrior women survive and team up to rescue their people (the men from the gladiator arenas, the women from the harems). Not content with simply parading topless actresses, Olivera resorts to scenes of bondage, torture and rape for his exploitation spectacle and only then gives the women their revenge (including the strangest, most perverse escape I’ve ever seen, one that might have been genuinely compelling with even a modicum of creativity in the direction).

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