The Barbarians (1987)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally wrote about this movie on January 30, 2019. However, with a new blu ray coming from Kino Lorber, we felt it’d be a good idea to bring this movie back to our readers’ attention.

Ruggero Deodato has been celebrated on this site, not just for Cannibal Holocaust, but for movies like Live Like a Cop, Die Like a ManConcorde Affaire ’79House On the End of the ParkRaiders of AtlantisCut and RunBody CountThe Washing Machine and Dial Help. From those movies, you can tell that Deodato has hit nearly every genre. Now, with this one, he returns to his peblum roots — Hercules, Prisoner of Evil was the first movie he directed — and enters the post-Arnold Italian barbarian boom with not one but two American swordsmen who look like living and breathing He-Man toys, David and Peter Paul, better known as The Barbarian Brothers.

I honestly can’t be impartial about this movie, as it’s packed with so much that I love. I mean, just from the voiced over credits, when the names Golan, Globus and Deodato come up, I can’t help but cheer. This is the kind of feel good junk food movie that I love, a film that completely rips off Conan the Barbarian in all the best of ways — times two.

Instead of reciting the script over again — the old review does a decent enough job of that — let me extol the reasons why I love this movie so much.

It’s got an amazing cast. And the Barbarian Brothers. Perhaps realizing that the Brothers may look like a 1983 first wave Masters of the Universe figure but have the acting skills of, well, a 1983 first wave Masters of the Universe figure, Deodato wisely fills the film with all manner of amazing people. There’s Michael Berryman as the Dirtmaster, the henchman tasked with running The Pit, or the place where slaves do manual labor. George Eastman shows up for a few seconds to arm wrestle in a cantina scene. Eva LaRue — who somehow is both of the third installments of RoboCop and Ghoulies — as the long-lost adopted sister of the brothers. And perhaps, most importantly, Richard Lynch, who as always turns in a game performance despite the absolute silliness of the proceedings. I mean, the dude has hair extensions and fake fingers after the young brothers bite his fingers off.

It’s got the Barbarian Brothers. For two guys who look like they should be serious warriors — or barbarians, if the title has anything to say about it — they spend much of the movie making fun of one another. They seem to screw up everything they touch and mostly only escape from situations by being bulls in a proverbial China shop. You have to love that despite the movie being set in what seems to be the distant past — unless Deodato is pulling a Yor Hunter from the Future fakeout on us — they speak as if it were 1987, calling one another bonehead repeatedly.

It’s got a great score. Pino Donaggio has written music for everything from Don’t Look Now and Tourist Trap to Dressed to KillThe Howling and Body Double (and yes, Giallo In Venice and Gor II), so you know that when you hear his music, it’s going to elevate anything it plays behind.

It’s got fun effects and sets. One of the craziest thing about the new blu ray of this is that it’s so crystal clear that you can see the strings moving a dragon’s mouth up and down, which is rather disconcerting. That said, the swamp set — where most of the film takes place — looks awesome otherwise. This is also a movie with magical belly button jewelry, which is a sentence I’ve never written before.

It’s got Mad Max wrapped up in its sword and sorcery. Despite — again — being set in the past, most of Kadar’s warriors look like they should be in the employ of Immorten Joe. Also, Kutchek and Gore — our heroes — live with a band of traveling circus performers who use their skills to throw knives and blow fire at their attackers. It’s like the hard-driving armanda of — again! — Immorten Joe, but only 28 years earlier.

If you ever want to sit down and have me talk over a movie and extol its virtues — of which many would say there are none — then let it be this movie. I even have the great new blu ray from Kino Lorber, so it looks fabulous!

You can get a copy of your own right here. This has my highest recommendation.

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