Barbarian Queen

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Barbarian Queen
Barbarian queen.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Boris Vallejo[1]
Directed by Héctor Olivera
Produced by
  • Frank Isaac
  • Alejandro Sessa
Written by Howard R. Cohen
Starring
Music by Christopher Young
Cinematography
  • Rodolfo Denevi
  • Rudi Donovan
Edited by
  • Silvia Ripoll
  • Leslie Rosenthal
Distributed by Concorde Pictures
Release dates
  • April 1985 (1985-04)
Running time
70 minutes
Country
  • Argentina
  • United States
Language English
Spanish

Barbarian Queen (also known as Queen of the Naked Steel) is a 1985 American-Argentine fantasy film starring Lana Clarkson, directed by Héctor Olivera and written by Howard R. Cohen. The film premiered in April 1985 in the United States.[2] It was executive produced by Roger Corman.[3]

Plot[edit]

A peaceful barbarian village prepares to celebrate the wedding of Queen Amethea (Lana Clarkson) to Prince Argan (Frank Zagarino). During preparations for the wedding ceremony, the forces of Lord Arrakur (Arman Chapman) attack the village, taking Argan and Amethea's younger sister Taramis (Dawn Dunlap) along with several others prisoner and slaughtering the remaining villagers. Amethea, her handmaiden Estrild (Katt Shea) and the female warrior Tiniara (Susana Traverso) survive the attack and set out for Arrakur's city to rescue the others and seek revenge for the destruction of their village.

Along the way the three women come across a small encampment of Arrakur's forces. Amethea and Tiniara ambush and kill the men, discovering Taramis captive inside the camp, who has seemingly been traumatized by her experience and acts withdrawn.

On the outskirts of Arrakur's realm the women meet members of an underground resistance force who agree to help smuggle Amethea's party into the city, but refuse to take up arms with them against the tyrannical Arrakur. Inside the city gates, Amethea discovers Argan and the other men taken from her village are being forced to fight as gladiators in the arena at the center of town. Meanwhile, Taramis notices Arrakur leading a procession of troops into his palace and approaches him. Arrakur recognizes Taramis from the camp and allows her to accompany him inside, while in another part of town Estrild is attacked and raped by two of Arrakur's guards. Amethea and Tiniara come to her defense, but the women are overpowered and taken prisoner.

Estrild is made into one of the harem girls who serve the desires of the gladiators, where she is reunited with Argan, telling him of their failed rescue attempt. Amethea and Tiniara are interrogated separately; Tiniara dies in an escape attempt, while Amethea is sent to the dungeon to be tortured. Arrakur and his new concubine Taramis visit Amethea in the dungeon, where she has been stripped naked save for a leather collar and thong, to find her being stretched on the rack by the chief torturer (Tony Middleton). Taramis pretends to not know Amethea, while Arrakur demands information about the rebels who helped Amethea into the city. Amethea refuses to speak, and Arrakur demands answers by the morning, taking his leave. Meanwhile, Argan, the other gladiators, and Estrild plot an uprising against Arrakur.

The torturer later rapes Amethea, but she uses her feminine strength to squeeze his manhood painfully during the assault, forcing him to release her from the rack, whereupon Amethea hurls him into a pool of acid and escapes the dungeon. Finding Estrild, the two women flee the castle and regroup with the rebels, who agree to help in the planned overthrow of Arrakur's forces led by Argan during the gladatorial games. Amethea and the rebels join with the gladiators in the attack. Amethea fights Arrakur in one-on-one combat during the melee, but is defeated and disarmed by him. Before Arrakur can deliver the killing blow, however, Taramis stabs him in the back, killing him. Amethea and Argan are reunited and celebrate the liberation of the city from Arrakur's tyranny.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Barbarian Queen was filmed in Don Torcuato, Argentina by director Héctor Olivera as part of a nine-picture deal between Olivera’s Aires Productions and Roger Corman’s U.S.-based Concorde-New Horizons. Corman was looking to produce low-budget sword-and-sorcery films to capitalize on the success of Conan the Barbarian, while Olivera sought to fund more personal film projects via the profits from his deal with Corman.[4] Lana Clarkson, who had appeared in a supporting role as an amazonian warrior in the previous Aires-Concorde coproduction Deathstalker, was cast in the lead as Amethea. Clarkson performed all of her own stunts in the picture.[5]

Release[edit]

Barbarian Queen had a limited theatrical release on April 26, 1985.[6] Vestron Video originally released two versions of the film on VHS: the R-rated theatrical cut, and an unrated edition that contained an extended version of the dungeon sequence. All subsequent DVD releases only contained the R-rated cut.[7] The Shout!Factory DVD release contains the unrated material as a bonus feature.

Reception[edit]

B-movie critic Joe Bob Briggs gave the film a tongue-in-cheek positive review, writing, "It's no Conan the Barbarian II, but it's got what it takes, namely: Forty-six breasts, including two on the male lead. Thirty-one dead bodies. Heads roll. Head spills. Three gang rapes. Women in chains. Orgy. Slave-girl sharing. One bird's-nest bra. The diabolical garbonza torture. Sword fu. Torch fu. Thigh fu (you have to see it to believe it)."[8] Roman Martel of DVD Verdict wrote that the film is enjoyable but problematic for its misogyny.[9] R. L. Shaffer of IGN called it an unintentionally funny Conan the Barbarian ripoff.[10] TV Guide rated it 2/5 stars and wrote that despite the film's exploitative content, Olivera "inject[s] some style and pace to the rather silly goings-on".[11] Stuart Galbraith IV of DVD Talk wrote that the film "isn't all that terrible" and appeals to its target audience.[12]

Several critics have commented upon the ambiguity of the film’s seemingly feminist narrative and the exploitative nature of its many scenes of female rape, nudity, and bondage. Variety’s review of the film suggested the “Concept of female warriors besting male opponents on the battlefield is unconvincing as presented, with the gals more effective as sex objects…Emphasis on rape and torture is overdone.”[13] In The Modern Amazons: Warrior Women On-Screen, Dominique Mainon and James Ursini note the film follows a “pseudo-feminine empowerment storyline…In the course of the quest, however, Amethea is caught, stripped down to a pair of thong panties, and bound to a torture device for an unusually long portion of the movie.”[14] That the movie’s centerpiece is the extended sequence of the supposedly empowered Amethea’s topless, BDSM-inflected torture/interrogation has prompted readings of the film as “a delicate postfeminist balance of three discordant elements: a timid rape-and-bondage spectacle, an incoherent feminism, and a very patriarchal plot structure...a feminist narrative arc ostensibly motivates rape imagery.”[15]

Rikke Schubart suggests the culmination of the dungeon sequence – in which Amethea literally crushes the torturer’s penis with her pelvic muscles – represents a genuine “feminist dislocation” of gender codes, which takes images “of the female rape-victim as weak and helpless and relocates them…as rape-victim being dangerous and lethal.” However, Schubart also remarks that the feminism is mitigated by the sequence's deployment of bondage fantasy tropes and the objectified presentation of Clarkson’s nudity: “Men have no problem identifying with men as victims and women as castrators if this happens in an erotic context where it is obvious that the woman is there to be looked at.”[16]

Legacy[edit]

Roger Corman reportedly claimed in later years that the title character was an inspiration for Xena: Warrior Princess.[17]

Sequels[edit]

A follow-up film, Barbarian Queen II: The Empress Strikes Back was billed as a sequel, when in actuality neither the plot nor the characters had anything to do with the original Barbarian Queen film apart from featuring Lana Clarkson in the title role, and including a protracted sequence where her character is captured, stripped, and tortured on a rack. Principal photography took place in Mexico in 1988; however the film was not released in the U.S. until 1992, when it went straight-to-video.[18][19]

Lana Clarkson reprised the role of Amethea as a supporting character in the PG-rated Wizards of the Lost Kingdom 2 (1989), which features recycled footage from Barbarian Queen. Despite this, there is no apparent connection to the plot of Barbarian Queen, and the Amethea that appears in Wizards of the Lost Kingdom 2 is arguably not the same character that Clarkson played in Barbarian Queen.

In 1990 it was announced that Barbarian Queen III: Revenge of the She-King would film in Bulgaria; however the project was never completed.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Screen Beauty LANA CLARKSON has been taken from us...". Ain't It Cool News. February 4, 2003. Retrieved January 22, 2016. 
  2. ^ New York Times
  3. ^ Bernstein, Emma (August 16, 2013). "Stream This: 'Arbitrage,' 'And While We Were Here,' Gary Oldman In 'State Of Grace' & More On VOD This Week". Indiewire. Retrieved January 18, 2016. 
  4. ^ Falicov, Tamara L. "U.S.-Argentine Co-productions, 1982-1990: Roger Corman, Aries Productions, 'Schlockbuster' Movies, and the International Market" Film & History 2004 Vol.34, Iss. 1; pg. 31-38.
  5. ^ Report: Spector Spoke of Shooting. CBS News, May 7, 2004.
  6. ^ Variety, Wednesday, April 3, 1985, pg. 7.
  7. ^ Manion, Dominique and James Ursini. The Modern Amazons: Warrior Women On-Screen. Pompton Plains: Amadeus Press, 2006, pg. 342.
  8. ^ 'Barbarian Queen' B.q. Is No Conan, But She's About As Good As Argentina Gets. Orlando Sentinel May 5, 1985
  9. ^ DVD Verdict
  10. ^ Shaffer, R. L. (October 21, 2010). "The Warrior and the Sorceress/Barbarian Queen DVD Review". IGN. Retrieved January 18, 2016. 
  11. ^ "Barbarian Queen". TV Guide. Retrieved January 18, 2016. 
  12. ^ Galbraith, Stuart (November 9, 2010). "Roger Corman's Cult Classics Double Feature: The Warrior and the Sorceress/Barbarian Queen". DVD Talk. Retrieved January 18, 2016. 
  13. ^ Film Review: Barbarian Queen. Variety, Wednesday, December 18, 1985, pg. 16.
  14. ^ Mainon and Ursini, pg. 342
  15. ^ Andrews, David. Soft in the Middle: The Contemporary Softcore Feature in its Contexts. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2006, pg. 101.
  16. ^ Schubart, Rikke. Super Bitches and Action Babes: The Female Hero in Popular Cinema, 1970-2006. Jefferson: McFarland, 2007, pg. 228-229.
  17. ^ “Woman found dead in home of Phil Spector identified as B-movie actress.” Associated Press, Feb. 5, 2003.
  18. ^ "Focus on Latin America: Films Shot in Mexico in 1988." Variety May 10, 1989, pg. 476.
  19. ^ "1992 U.S. Film Releases." Variety Feb. 24, 1992, pg. 16
  20. ^ "East Bloc Film Makers Have Liberty to Say What They Truly Mean." New York Times, April 30, 1990.

External links[edit]