I have Phil Spector to thank for bringing me back to Barbarian Queen. In 1989, my family was still five years away from a cable subscription. That left me and my brother (we’ll call him “Cindy”) with five television options: NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and UPN. As a result, I’ve seen more episodes of Amen, Unsolved Mysteries, and The Golden Girls than any man I know.
The UPN signal was especially weak and “snowy.” One had to be dedicated to gain any viewing satisfaction from UPN. But UPN made up for poor reception with intriguing late-night programming, which generally featured Hollywood heavyweights like Charles Bronson, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, and Nick Cassavettes.
One evening, while leafing through the television guide, I came upon a thought provoking listing for UPN: Barbarian Queen. I didn’t even have to read the plot description to know that this was the kind of highbrow programming suited for an intellectual like me. I cast a knowing glance to Cindy, and our evening was set.
About a minute before 10:00 pm, we snapped on our black & white Magnavox and breathlessly awaited cinema magic. Though Cindy and I had to squint through the digital snow, it was plain to see that Barbarian Queen was a film tragically overlooked by the Academy.
Barbarian Queen is the story of Amethea, a woman of peace who happens to be shacking up with her tribe’s head honcho, the beefy Argan (played by the immortally beefy Frank Zagarino). Everything is just giggles and foreplay until a rowdy pack of sword-wielding hooligans plows through the village plundering and raping.
Despite puncturing several marauders with a very big sword, Amethea fails to save her village or prevent Argan from being shipped off to gladiator school. Determined to regain both her honor and her man, she recruits a couple of female cronies and launches a rescue mission.
After crossing swords with a number of less-than-worthy adversaries, Amethea and her crew hook up with The Rebellion, which is led by a guy who is supposed to have only one arm, even though it’s painfully obvious that he’s just tucking his arm beneath his shirt.
Naturally, the Rebel Leader takes a dim view of abandoning his well laid plan just to rescue Amethea’s choice beef. So Amethea goes it alone and immediately gets captured.
This is the first time Amethea is introduced to the sinister villain of the story, Arrakur (played by the sinister Arman Chapman). Arrakur tries to reason with Amethea, offering freedom in return for…pleasure. Amethea ruins her chance to become Arrakur’s girlfriend by announcing that, “I’ll be no man’s slave and no man’s whore!” Indeed.
Off to the torture dungeon Amethea goes, where she is stripped topless (she’s allowed to keep her leather panties) and tied to a torture rack. The City Torturer gets all the best lines, including, “Do you want something…to drink?” and “Aw, don’t you want to contribute to science?”
How does Amethea escape? I have one word for you ladies who are at high risk of being captured by Arman Chapman and then strapped to a torture rack: Kegels! If you’re pretending not to know what the hell I’m talking about, keep in mind that the City Torturer’s last words are, “Too tight! Too tight!”
No longer menaced by civic employees, Amethea begins an unstoppable rampage that arrives to a stirring climax when she finds Argan in the gladiator pit, steps onto a balcony, and announces, “There’s enough freedom for everybody!” She underscores her patriotism by stabbing Arrakur in the guts. The end.
As you probably already deduced, Amethea is played by Lana Clarkson, who recently died beneath a cloud of mystery at Phil Spector’s mansion. (Phil has a problem shared by many homeowners, and that is inconsiderate houseguests shooting themselves in the head.)
I became a big fan of Lana Clarkson after Barbarian Queen. You could tell that she put her entire heart into the role. She wasn’t exactly Zorro, but she put plenty of effort into her swordplay. And even if the dialogue was horrendous, Lana delivered it to full effect, even as her co-stars were laboring mightily through their cue cards.
Lana was a B-Movie Tittie Starlet before B-Movie Tittie Starlets featured rock-hard abs and even harder fake breasts. Lana was real, even underneath the loincloth. That’s why you had to like Lana Clarkson. She was in a movie in which every woman revealed her breasts, and Lana’s breasts were best. That made her a winner.
Phil Spector may have stolen Lana Clarkson from us, but Barbarian Queen lives forever. I advise that you rent it, and the excellent sequel (Barbarian Queen II: The Empress Strikes Back). Even better, purchase the fantastic DVD that features both films.
There’s enough freedom for everybody.