Barbarian Queen (1985)
Directed by Héctor Olivera

Artistic Value: * ½
Entertainment Value: * * ½

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On the day Amethea (Lana Clarkson) is to be married, a group of raiders from a nearby city destroy her village, rape the attractive women, and kidnap every person they did not kill, in order to enslave them. Although Amethea herself escapes, her fiancé, Argan (Frank Zagarino), is captured. Determined to free him, Amethea, together with a couple of other women who survived the attack, journey to the city where the prisoners were taken. There, the women become involved with a group of rebels, discover that Argan is being trained as a gladiator, and fight against Arrakur (Arman Chapman), the evil tyrant ruling the city.

Héctor Olivera's Barbarian Queen is a dreadful movie. It is not boring - actually, it can be fun to watch - but it is bad.


For one thing, the film is visually uninspired. The costumes, for instance, consist of leather halter-tops and minimal skirts for the younger women, armor or loincloths for the younger men, and tunics or robes for everyone else. All of these look like outfits that can be seen in countless other low-budget fantasy movies. That said, there are a few touches to the costumes that are amusing. For example, the leader of the rebels is apparently meant to have lost one of his arms, but its shape is clearly visible under his tunic. All of the women have great, voluminous 1980s style coiffures, and every attractive woman seems incapable of keeping her clothing on her body.


The sets are just as atrocious. A large part of the movie takes place in some forest, wherein the occasional bamboo hut has been built. As cheap as this location is, the city at which the heroines eventually arrive does not look like it would have cost much more to build than driving them out to the forest would have. This great metropolis consists, as far as I was able to tell, of a square surrounded by a few crude adobe structures. All of these are, apparently, honeycombed with gloomy, nondescript passages with painfully fake stone walls that lead to generic crudely built "medieval" rooms with large hearths, burning torches, and the like.


As bad as the costumes and sets are, the acting in the film is even worse. I do not believe that there is a single person who appears in Barbarian Queen who displays even the slightest acting ability. I truly cannot begin to say how bad everyone is. Admittedly, the lines they are forced to speak, and the details of the narrative to which they give life are so awful that, even if any of them did have any talent, it would have been utterly wasted.


The story truly is contrived, uninteresting, and predictable. The script even fails to give any of its characters more than a hint of personality. All of the villains are leering, violent rapists, and the heroines are all brave, kind, and self-sacrificing. There are a few minor characters who are a little different, but even they are still predictable. The protagonist's sister, for instance, is not a deadly fighter. Having been raped, in the movie's first scene, she loses her mind, and her subsequent mental state does make her into someone the viewer can pity. There are also a few attempts to use her lunacy, and the behavior it prompts, to create a sense of tension. The rebel leader too has a modicum of personality. He waffles and refuses to act, but he is a decent man. Moreover, his initial refusal to act does give his young daughter a chance to convince him to fight and so show everyone how idealistic she is. Happily, all of these characters are given such deliciously atrocious dialogue that the absurdity of the movie is greatly enhanced. Absolutely everyone sounds like someone living in the 1980s who has been made to spout mystical, heroic, or portentous lines about slavery, freedom, swords, and other things pertaining to a faux primitive setting.


All of this said, Barbarian Queen was not made to show off lavish sets, beautiful costumes, skilled performances, or a clever story. The movie clearly has two goals: to display the physical charms of its female players and to provide some action sequences. It is reasonably successful in accomplishing both of these ends. There is not a young woman in the film who does not at some point lose her top, either to show off her breasts or to let these jiggle about for the viewer's amusement. Several of the supporting actresses even strip completely nude. It is all pretty juvenile, but I think that was the point. The action sequences, sadly, are nothing special, but they are reasonably entertaining. I doubt if anyone will be impressed with them, but most will not be bored either.


There really is not much to say about Barbarian Queen. It is a poorly made, uninspired B-movie, but, at the least, it is not a tedious one.


Review by Keith Allen

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