Barbarian Queen (1985)

After co-starring in the first Deathstalker film, Lana Clarkson would return to star in this Roger Corman produced schlockfest. Sadly, despite comedic turns in films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High (she’s Vincent Schiavelli’s wife in a quick scene) and Amazon Women on the Moon (I really need to get to that movie soon), as well as other action films Vice Girls, her career stalled by the early 2000’s. Sure, she did comic conventions and sold autographed memorabilia on her web site, but she was subsidizing her nascent stand-up career — her dream was to be a comedic actress — with a part-time job at the West Hollywood House of Blues.

A month later, she followed famous music producer and noted lunatic Phil Spector back to his mansion and “kissed his gun” in his words. A major trial ended with 19 years of jail time for the creator of the Wall of Sound. But let’s not dwell on the sadness of Clarkson’s end. Let’s celebrate her starring role in a movie that somehow is at once a feminist adventure epic and a misogynistic wallow in the muck.

A peaceful barbarian village — is there any other kind — is all in a tizzy about the wedding of Queen Amethea (Clarkson) to Prince Argan (Frank Zagarino, Tan Zan: The Ultimate Mission). But look out! Lord Aarkur and his men attack, taking Argan and Taramis (Dawn Dunlap, Forbidden World) captive.

You may be thinking — oh cool, this movie is woke and the man is the captive in peril, not the woman, who is the hero — but this is a Roger Corman sword and sorcery movie. So even through Amethea, Estrild (Katt Shea, who went on to direct Stripped to KillPoison Ivy and The Rage: Carrie 2) and Tiniara are going to fight and kill lots of evil creatures and baddies, they’re also going to get naked, tortured and me too’d for pretty much the entire film.

I was going to write, “I don’t know the audience for a movie that wants to see barbarian women get raped,” but I totally know the audience.

Let’s try and get past it. Actually, you can’t get past it. But maybe you can get revenge.

By the end of the movie, Estrild is a harem girl, Tiniara has been killed, Taramis becomes Arrakur’s concubine and our main heroine, Amethea, has been tortured repeatedly but comes out on top, tossing the interrogator into a pit of acid after using “her feminine strength to squeeze his manhood painfully” as per Wikipedia. Yes, this is a woman where a woman literally kills with her vagina.

So there’s that, I guess.

Amethea, Argan and the rebels join with a bunch of gladiators in the attack to fight Arrakur’s army. Man, that’s a lot of alliteration. Anyways, our hero fights the big bad and is disarmed and nearly killed before Taramis stabs him in the back and kills him. So even in her moment of triumph, a Corman film reveals that women need treachery to win, not outright skill.

The first film from Corman’s Concorde company, Barbarian Queen was directed by Héctor Olivera as part of a nine-picture deal. Corman wanted low-budget sword-and-sorcery films. Olivera wanted to create more personal film projects. This union led to this film, as well as Cocaine WarsWizards of the Lost KingdomTwo to Tango and Play Murder for Me.  I think Corman’s vision won out, sadly.

There’s an in-name-only sequel and Clarkson played a character called Amethea in Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II who has nothing to do with this character. There was also a third film planned.

In later years, Corman has claimed that this movie inspired Xena: Warrior Princess. I must have missed all those episodes where Xena was tied up for most of the story and repeatedly diddled. Seriously, Corman’s movies are more and more troublesome the further we get away from them. I’m all for sleaze and shock, but not when they’re presented to me as empowerment.

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