In a world featuring neither a queen, nor any real barbarians….
A world where rape is not really that big of a deal and can be easily gotten over….
A world where even unwashed tribespeople have bitchin’ 80’s perms….
A world where actually having muscle definition makes you the world’s greatest warri– ah screw it. This heap of exploitative drek is Barbarian Queen.
Also known as Queens of the Naked Steel, which is even more inaccurate.
Yeah, I figured it was high time that I did some schlocky 1980’s sword-and-sorcery since I had respectfully neglected to do so up until now. I wish I’d continued to neglect it – my journey down the rabbit hole searching for the Michael O’Hearn vessel Barbarian eventually led to me failing to find it and finding this instead.
Made in 1985, this “American-Argentinian” sexploitation flick is a glaring example of everything that was wrong (and a little of what was right) about 80’s fantasy. The question is, should I start with the good, the bad, or the ugly (the ugly in this case being the actual plot)?
Let’s start with the ugly. Don’t worry, I’ll try to be brief.
In the faraway and ancient lands of bushy 80’s perms and Hulk Hogan mustaches, a totally random crappy village prepares for the wedding of their future king and queen. The village is sacked all to hell by the damn dirty Romans, of course, before the wedding – which, I’m not gonna lie, really means that the king and queen in question are not actually royalty. At the very least, the queen isn’t. Not that I’m gonna pretend I know anything about Ancient Rome-era tribal politics (though honestly, shouldn’t the king be a chieftain instead? It’s not like there is actually a kingdom to rule over, just a piss-poor little tribe in the woods).
So, in a flurry of exposed breasts and hilariously awkward swordfights, the tribe is reduced to a scrap-pile. The men who aren’t killed are taken away to be gladiators, the women who aren’t killed are taken away to be concubines, and the children… well, let’s be honest, who cares about those little bastards anyway? The fate of the tribe’s children is not really gone into. Let’s assume it was something awful.
A pair of barbarian women (the “queen” included), mysteriously surviving the assault, decide that revenge is probably the way to go on this one and they set out to kick some righteous ass, finding the “queen’s” (no I’m never gonna say it without quotations) sister along the way. Oh, and a secret resistance of people oppressed by the Roman Empire. Convenient.
The girls infiltrate by pretending to be concubines (which is really easy, since that’s what they were supposed to be in the first place) which doesn’t work out as well for some as it does for others. For most of them, they’re treated pretty well (one of them even gets a kitten), but for the “queen,” well, she gets tortured with what appears to be a gauntlet on a string by a weird little obviously-Jewish guy that looks like a cross between Steven Spielberg and the dwarf from Curse of the Dragon Slayer.
I couldn’t find a decent image of him, so I made you this. Enjoy and sleep tight.
After the “queen” literally uses her vagina to escape (and I don’t mean she seduced anyone, I mean she physically used the muscles of her vagina), she and the other tribeswomen use their adroit positioning to communicate with the gladiators (which includes the “king,” who is the world’s greatest warrior apparently). Thus, they formulate a plan.
The best battle plan of all time.
The plan amounts to “wait for things to look really bad, then everyone attack at once.” Three guesses as to whether or not it works.
Aaaaand that’s the plot of Barbarian Queen in a nutshell. Sounds fun right? Now if you’ll excuse me, my skull has an appointment with that rock over there….
Wait, what do you mean I’m not finished with the review? That was good enough, right? Okay, fine, fine – I’ll keep making fun of it for a while. After all, I wasted seventy minutes of my life watching it, I might as well waste seventy more mocking it. Besides, I promised you the good and the bad.
Ugh, what good? This movie has two things, and two things alone, that make it watchable.
The first is that, well, it has a lot of nudity in it. That’s usually at least enough to hold the attention while the movie itself melts your brains from the inside out. Not just sustained from a few characters either – they brought in a whole army of naked people. Not to be outdone, I suppose.
The second is that it has a limited “so bad it’s good” effect, mostly stemming from the outrageous dialogue and acting, but not excluding other such glitches like the fact that the random guards in this are about as attentive and savvy as Skyrim bandits (“Hey, did you see Mook #1 come back? You should probably go alone and look for him, the rest of us will stay here.”). This doesn’t really save what is primarily an awful film, but it does do its best.
As a final note on “the good,” this manages to actually do decently on the sliding scale of Exploitation to Empowerment. Yes, the women do end up needing men to save them – but, they get a lot done on their own, and the barbarian queen herself manages to kick a few asses and even take out the big bad. So while it may not have been amazing in that regard, it’s a lot better than it could have been.
Everything. The acting. The dialogue. The plot. Just everything.
The setting looks like it was put up in a couple days and I’m pretty sure I could get through the city walls using only my wits and a relatively-resilient vibrator. The swords are scarred-up pieces of what appears to be aluminum, and both they and the fight scenes involving them keenly resemble what we had in my high school performance of Julius Caesar (I played Portia). The fact that a small, ragtag band of gladiators and tribeswomen manage to liberate a Roman city in a matter of about three minutes is unrealistic in the extreme (or at least before its time – technically it did work inSpartacus).
Also, did you catch that “American-Argentinian” thing I mentioned at the beginning? Yeahhhhh. That ends up actually being pretty valid, since about 60% of the actors don’t speak any English. This leads to a very awkward combination of dubbed and non-dubbed lines, making the overall audio seem really confused and frenetic (not to mention that most of the dubs are comically awful and, of course, they rarely line up with the characters’ lips).
So yeah, Barbarian Queen was pretty legitimately horrible. While it may have been better in ’85, watching it for the first time in 2014 leaves something to be desired. Even if you’re looking for something specifically like this, I’d suggest that you shop around a bit first and find something better. It shouldn’t take much effort.
It also has this guy.