18 April 2009

Barbarian Queen

It’s been over six years as of this writing, but not until this week did I find out that actress Lana Clarkson was murdered. When I heard about her murderers conviction I made a quick internet search and discovered that it was in fact the same Lana Clarkson I thought. Perhaps it’s Lana’s apparent modesty; she was working in a restaurant when she was killed. Or the fact that she was even more attractive at 40 and just looked like a nice person. For some reason I find this whole thing quite depressing.

One of Lana’s first major roles was in 1983’s unforgettable Roger Corman produced Deathstalker, but probably her best known were in Barbarian Queen and Barbarian Queen II (also from Corman). In celebration of her killer’s conviction, I’m posting my older (but slightly re-worked) reviews of the latter two classic barbariansploitation films.

Barbarian Queen
United States/Argentina-1985
Director – Hector Olivera
New Concorde, 2003, DVD

In a happy grass hut village, a bunch of happy forest people are celebrating the wedding of the prince, Argan (B-movie fireplug Frank Zagarino) and Princess Amathea (Lana Clarkson). While the princess’s sister is off gathering flowers, she is kidnapped and the village is raided by leather hat wearing thugs who kill a bunch of them and take the rest prisoner. What they don’t do is take care of Amathea, who struggling to raise her overly heavy visibly dull sword above her head, vows revenge.

She soon discovers several other refugees from the hairspray tribe of Hollywood. They team up, leap in some convenient canoes and paddle to a nearby outpost. There they clumsily knock a bunch of the badguys on the head and rescue Amathea’s sister. From there the journey toward anti-climax continues.
Soon, they run into a group of rebels led by a one-eyed, one-armed purple-clad rebel leader, and a poorly dubbed daughter. (filmed in Argentina with local actors) The rebel gang maintains a hideout underneath the very spray-foam and chickenwire castle village from which the evil leather hat guys oppress their empire. Enforcing a cruel pastel-fabrics only law, the evil king intends to hold the empire in a perpetual state of commercialized Easter. Bucking the advice of the on-site expert villagers, Amathea spontaneously decides to free Argan. She is caught of course, and strapped topless to a torture rack by the nerdy weasely dungeon master. The demographic has been secured sire.

She escapes and rejoins the rebels, now allied with enslaved gladiators led by Argan. Just as they are about to begin their revolt a bunch of the gladiators betray them, but no sweat, Argan and Amathea manage to pull it off anyway, and in a one minute battle, free the entire kingdom by killing all 10 soldiers who garrison the flimsy castle.

Barbarian Queen only serves as a vehicle for Clarkson’s assets, but manages to heap enough low budget ineptitude around that premise to keep it propped up and entertaining. Despite a façade of feminism, knowing Roger Corman, it’s incidental to making a film starring women. But he did make a sequel.

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