Two of them, 1984’s “The Warrior and the Sorceress” and 1985’s “Barbarian Queen,” were paired in a double-feature DVD last year that you now need to sell or pay forward. Here, they’re joined by 1983’s “Deathstalker” and 1987’s “Deathstalker II.” As you may have surmised, barbarian movies were big business in the 1980s, following Arnold Schwarzenegger’s two triumphs as Conan. Corman was responsible for many of the rip-offs.
Corman regular David Carradine stars in “The Warrior and the Sorceress” as the former, Kain — a nod to perhaps his most famous role, on TV’s “Kung Fu.” In a land with dual suns, he slings his sword around at all sorts of armored ruffians and the occasional fake-looking monster. He’s also surrounded by a bevy of unclothed women, including one who’s got to be pushing 300 pounds.
The treatment of women here is unquestionably exploitative, given not just the wall-to-wall nudity, but director John Broderick’s decision of including multiple ‘tween-the-leg shots of a naked beauty trying desperately not to drown after being thrown in a tank for the sheer sport of it.
No one ever accused “Warrior” of having good judgment. And we haven’t even the room to discuss the talking lizard puppet or the belly dancer with four breasts (take that, “Total Recall”!).
“Barbarian Queen” is better, ostensibly, but that may be just because I’d much rather spend time with Lana Clarkson than Carradine. As Amathea, Clarkson also is taken advantage of by helmer Hector Olivera, repeatedly having her top ripped off and being groped and squeezed as she makes her way from slavery to semi-royalty.
Although she was gorgeous (damn you, Phil Spector!) and apparently willing to submit herself to these proceedings, you feel more for Clarkson than for her character. You can enjoy “Queen” as a goof, but you may feel ashamed.
Both films are incompetent enough to border on self-parody. Speaking of, for a dose of intentional laughs, you’ve gotta see “Deathstalker II.” It’s Jim Wynorski’s knowing, winking tribute to the genre, with John Terlesky (“Chopping Mall”) perfectly cast as the tongue-in-cheek himbo to Monique Gabrielle’s two roles, each of them comfortably curvy. It’s genuinely fun, and sometimes genuinely funny. Plus, it opens with the same stock footage of the stormy-night castle that Corman has used ad infinitum since his Poe pictures, and has a man with a pig head.
That pig head is really the only connection “Deathstalker II” has to its in-name-only big brother, the sober “Deathstalker.” Its presumed title hero (Richard Hill, in a role he didn’t get to revisit until 1991s “Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans”) is told by a witch to join an amulet with a sword and a chalice for some dumb reason. Speaking of dumb, he is; his first line in the film — grunts don’t count — is “That’s my horse,” which he can’t deliver with any conviction.
Feeling up a female villager whenever the hell he feels like it, he goes on a journey and meets babe-in-distress Barbi Benton (former Hugh Hefner paramour of the 1970s), who you know was cast just for her willingness to go nude. There’s sooooo much nudity in “Deathstalker,” it’s a good thing I didn’t see this when I was 13. I would’ve worn the hell out of the VHS tape by overuse of that jumpy pause button. Boys today with their crystal-clear Blu-ray technology — they don’t know how good they have it. —Rod Lott