The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
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THE BARBARIANS (1987) *** ½

I know it’s a bold statement but The Barbarians is probably the third best sword and sorcery movie of the 80’s; right behind Conan the Barbarian and Deathstalker. This movie is just plain awesome. How awesome is it? Let me count the ways.

First off, let me just clue you into the pedigree of talent it took to make this flick. Let’s start with behind the camera. The Barbarians was directed by none other than Ruggero Deodato, the man that gave the world Cannibal Holocaust. It was written by the man who wrote Revenge of the Ninja; James R. Silke. And producing the flick is none other than our boys from Cannon Films; Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Are we excited yet? Good, thought so.

Now let’s talk villains for a second. This movie has two of the best in the business. How about Invasion USA’s Richard Lynch, dressed up like Stevie Nicks running around ransacking villages and enslaving hot women? If that wasn’t enough for ya we’ve got Mr. Hills Have Eyes himself, Mr. Berryman as Lynch’s sidekick; The Dirtmaster. Still craving villainous scum? Well, there’s George (The Grim Reaper) Eastman as an arm-wrestling arms dealer.

But what you really need to make your sword and sorcery movie memorable is a badass hero. Well… The Barbarians has two. And they are played by The Barbarian Brothers. Yes… the same Barbarian Brothers from Double Trouble and Twin Sitters. If you can’t already tell; this movie is something special.

Basically, Richard Lynch attacks a tribe of carnies; even though they have “safe passage”. You see, he’s looking for the “Belly Stone”; a magic ruby. This Belly Stone is a pretty good gimmick. It’s kinda like the glass slipper from Cinderella; whoever wears it will become royalty. And yes, there is a scene later in the picture when a bunch of women line up to unsuccessfully shove that jewel inside their navel to become a princess.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyway Richard thinks taking this stone from a bunch of carnies is going to be easy as pie. But he doesn’t count on them being KILLER CARNIES. That’s right; these guys defend their caravan like guerilla mercenaries. The fire breather blows flames at dudes on horseback and the juggler throws bowling pins with deadly accuracy. Message to Dick: Don’t fuck with carnies.

Lynch eventually gets the upper hand and enslaves the caravan. When he goes to kill two upstart twin boys, a woman offers to be his personal slave as long as he doesn’t kill them. Lynch keeps his word but then announces that the boys will have to fight each other to the death when they’re fully grown.

Naturally, the boys grow up to be the Barbarian Brothers and here’s where the movie REALLY takes off.

The brothers are separated and forced to work as slaves. Then they are trained as gladiators and whenever they slack on their training; they are whipped by guys wearing funny masks. Over time, the brothers learn to hate the dudes in the masks and are trained to kill them. Naturally, when the Barbarians are placed in the gladiatorial arena, they’re forced to wear the masks; which is Dick’s insurance policy that they’ll kill each other. If you haven’t already guessed, the masks wind up falling off, the Barbarians recognize each other (“Why do you have my face?”) and the patented Barbarian Brothers hilarity ensues.

And by “patented Barbarian Brothers hilarity”, I mean they crack bad jokes, childishly call each other names (ranging from “meathead” to “moosehead”), and fight over who gets to hold a sword.

What I like about this movie is that it starts out as a fairly serious and pretty decent sword and sorcery flick and then it turns on a dime and becomes a rather hilarious Barbarian Brothers comedy. There are moments in this flick that had my sides hurting. This is definitely the Barbarian Brothers’ Duck Soup.

What I like about The Barbarians is that it works on just about every level one could hope for. If you came to the party looking for a Barbarian Brothers movie; you won’t be disappointed. They do all their reliable shtick, but it’s not just gratuitous jokes because their hijinks are actually propelled by the plot. I think my favorite moment was when one of them (I don’t know which one; I can’t tell them apart for the life of me) is about to be hung and he’s able to break out of the noose just by flexing his neck muscles! Brilliant!

If you’re watching the film for some serious sword and sorcery action; you’re gonna dig it too. This flick is loaded with cool atmosphere, well-oiled dudes in loincloths brandishing broadswords, and goofy monsters. There’s this one scene where the Barbarians fight a dragon that looks like a giant uncircumcised penis with Cujo’s face. And because the flick was directed by Ruggero Deodato, you know it’s gonna be gory. When the Brothers stab the Penis monster, gallons of slime falls on them, then they have to climb inside the monster’s guts and pull out the Belly Stone from his innards.

Did I mention I love this movie?

What I love best about The Barbarians is how it plays with our expectations. I’ve already talked about how the movie starts out like Conan and ends like Twin Sitters but there are specific scenes that toy with the audience’s expectations that work very well too. Like the scene where the Barbarians and their chick friend find a cache of weapons that is guarded by a werewolf. This monster creeps on them for a bit and hides in the shadows biding his time for the perfect opportunity to strike. Then, when the Barbarians’ guard is down, the creature pounces on them but they readily chop the thing’s head off!

Now why would Deodato build up the monster’s attack for such a quick payoff you ask? Because that means the screen time that could’ve been spent on the Barbarians fighting the werewolf is devoted to one of the Brothers (again, I can’t tell ‘em apart) holding up the beast’s decapitated head in the gal’s face and making obnoxious barking and howling sounds; much to her displeasure.

I do have to get on this movie because some of the jokes ARE bad and not all of them hit the mark. The flick also probably could’ve been tightened up in the editing room a bit more too. Warts and all; one thing is for sure, and that’s I’m already itching to watch it again soon. This is a perfect Movie Night flick to watch with friends. Throw in some pizza and a couple of beers and it might even be Greatest Movies in the History of the Human Race material.

AKA: The Barbarian Brothers. AKA: The Barbarians and Co.

Tags: action, b, cannon, comedy
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