Ruggero Deodato, 1987
Starring: Peter Paul, David Paul, Richard Lynch, Eva La Rue, George Eastman
So far out of every sword and sorcery film I’ve watched and reviewed this month, this is my unexpected favorite. It’s not my ultimate favorite in the genre (Beastmaster), but it’s one of the films I expected to like the least and wound up loving. It’s also another sword and sorcery movie that would make an excellent double feature with Jack Hill’s Sorceress (1982) and in this case both films star twins.
A nomadic tribe of magical circus performers (how could I make this up) is accosted by the evil Kadar, who lusts after a magical ruby in the possession of the tribe’s queen, Canary. She hides the jewel and though many of her people are killed, she pleads for the lives of two young twin boys she has taken in. While Canary is sent to Kadar’s private harem, the twins, Gore and Kutchek, are raised apart to be gladiators. When they are adults, they are set to fight against each other, but recognize one another and escape, with plans to free Canary. They rescue a young woman, who promises to help them find weapons, and set off to free Canary and locate the hidden ruby, which will restore their tribe to power and help defeat Kadar once and for all.
I cannot stress how much I loved this film. Sure, it is utterly ridiculous. It was directed by Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park), which probably doesn’t win it any favors, but he made an entertaining, fast paced movie that embraces genre stereotypes whole heartedly. I can’t pretend that the twins - bodybuilders Peter and David Paul - are good actors, but they have a certain fun rapport that lends a lot to the film’s likability. Richard Lynch basically reprised his diabolical role from The Sword and the Sorcerer and chews scenery with abandon. Television actress Eva La Rue is better than the normal token female co-star as the fiery, clever girl who helps the twins locate the ruby and keeps them from descending into utter stupidity. There are also some welcome appearances from the wonderful (and insanely tall, which is illustrated in this film) George Eastman and Michael Berryman.
Deodato makes the best of the low, low budget and emphasizes the fantasy angle as much as possible. There’s even a sad attempt at a dragon, as well as a lovely, creepy swamp set for the final showdown with some weird aquatic zombie creatures. The creature design is effective overall and the cinematography is decent, even if the film quality is poor. Deodato also contributes a healthy dose of gore, though this film has less sex and nudity than most sword and sorcery movies. The eye candy here is apparently the Paul Brothers. There’s also a fun score from Brian de Palm contributor Pino Donaggio, though I’m not quite sure how he wound up working on this film.
The Barbarians comes with the highest recommendation I could possibly give it. There is no U.S. DVD release of the film, but it is available on the internet for the resourceful. I can't fathom someone watching this film and not having a great time, but if you hate sword and sorcery movies, avoid it.