Thursday, October 14, 2010

No Man's Slave And No Man's Whore

Shout Factory is really cranking out the Roger Corman Cult Classics DVDs now. The latest, which is available only from the Shout Factory website, teams a pair of sword-and-sandal programmers that Corman produced in Argentina in the 1980s. The first was the final Corman film to go out under the New World Pictures banner, while the other feature was released by his Concorde Pictures.

THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS was intended to star Chuck Norris as KAIN OF DARK PLANET, but ended up being shot back-to-back with DEATHSTALKER, with which it shares sets. On a strange desert planet orbiting twin suns, a warrior named Kain (David Carradine, who played a warrior named Caine on TV’s KUNG FU) enters a tiny village ruled by two opposing tyrants: Zeg (Luke Askew) and Balcaz (William Marin). Both claim ownership of the town’s only well.

The village peasants live only for the few drops of water provided them by whichever ruler controls the water that day. Kain, thinking this process is not very fair, decides to pit both sides against each other, hiring out his sword to both surreptitiously and plotting against them until all the bad guys are dead.

The other half of the title is a bit of a cheat. The alleged sorceress is actually a princess, Naja (Maria Socas), who does precious little sorceressing. Actually none, but she does walk around naked a lot. A lot. As in always. Maybe Corman filmed in Argentina because it was easier to find actresses there willing to perform nudity. Socas, who was also in DEATHSTALKER II, is gorgeous, a good sport, and even willing to do stuntwork while nude. You can’t find actresses like that in Malibu.

THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS runs only 81 minutes, which is what it has going for it the most. Besides the laughable rubber monsters, the constant nudity, and the clumsy swordfighting, that is. Carradine isn’t trying very hard, but he is having a good time. Of course, I imagine it’s hard to be miserable when you’re pretending to mow down 200 Argentinean extras and staring at Maria Socas’ breasts all day.

Released to subpar box office in the spring of 1984, THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS was the last Corman production to be distributed by New World Pictures, which Corman had recently sold.

A year later, Corman created Concorde to release more junky films that were even cheaper than his New World output. One of those was BARBARIAN QUEEN, which is most notable for its statuesque star.

Anyone curious about the career of ‘80s B-movie queen Lana Clarkson, who was shot to death by pop music impresario Phil Spector in his Hollywood mansion in 2003, should start with BARBARIAN QUEEN.

As with CONAN THE BARBARIAN and a million other sword-and-sorcery movies, the titular Amethea (Clarkson) swears vengeance against the pillagers who wiped out her village and snatched her fiancé (Frank Zagarino). What else to do but grab a few warrior hotties, including Katt Shea (HOLLYWOOD HOT TUBS) and Dawn Dunlap (FORBIDDEN WORLD), and storm the palace of the tyrannical king?

Aside from the sword-swinging violence and sweaty nude bodies, including Clarkson’s quite impressive one, there’s not much here, but with a running time of a mere 71 minutes (!), you don’t need much more. The highlight is definitely a bizarre torture sequence staged by director Hector Olivera (WIZARDS OF THE LOST KINGDOM) that straps a nude Clarkson to a rack with a dangling metal glove tickling her left nipple.

The 5’11” Clarkson was only about 22 years old when she made BARBARIAN QUEEN, and was such a stunning on-screen presence that she was asked to return in BARBARIAN QUEEN II. She’s quite likeable and good—beautiful, of course—handling the action scenes like a pro. Shea, who’s cute as the film’s comic sidekick, surprisingly became a prolific director, starting with Corman fare like STRIPPED TO KILL and advancing to studio features like THE RAGE: CARRIE 2.

Shout Factory did a bang-up job cleaning these two films up. Little care went into photographing them originally, but the anamorphic prints look terrific. Purists may have a problem with BARBARIAN QUEEN, which is shorn of about ten minutes of material, including gore and extra footage from the Clarkson torture sequences, that was visible in Vestron Video's long out-of-print VHS tape. However, the material is on the disc as a supplement.

No commentaries or documentaries, but trailers for several Corman productions are here, including those for THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS and BARBARIAN QUEEN. Might we see a BARBARIAN QUEEN II disc soon?

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Thanks for the great reviews. I love those late 70s / early 80s Roger Corman productions. Humanoids From the Deep might be my favorite--it manages to balance the cheesiness with actual suspense. These two movies sound like they might tip over in the favor of cheesiness. You mentioned Deathstalker. Have you seen the Deathstalker episode of Mysery Science Theater?