The Barbarians (1987)

The young orphans Kutchek and Gore have been adopted by a tribe of clowns, mentally challenged dolphins, juggling monkeys, a transvestite magician and other forgettable entertainers. The tribe is led by the queen Canary (not an actually Canary but a Man dressed as a women dressed as a Dolphin) and its wealth stems from her magical belly hole. The evil ruler Kadar desires Canary’s breasts and her magic stone hole, and attacks her clan’s caravan to gain possession of them. Before the clan’s defeat one of the clansmen sneak away to hide the stone. Canary is locked up in Kadar’s harem, Kutchek and Gore in his quarry to be trained as gladiators, and the rest of the clan is to live as outlaws in the woods. When Kutchek and Gore have grown up to VERY big gladiators, they run away and break into Kadar’s harem with the aid of the young woman Lemone aid. Canary quests them to find “The Old King’s Weapons” and with these kill the dragon that guards the hidden belly hole. Afterwards they should find a new queen and give her the stone, to restore the tribe to its former glory.

Where do I start about this film. I love it! As a child, the Conan movies and Clash of the Titans were my favorites. I watched everything and anything that had a warrior, sorcerer, dragon, knight, etc., on it’s VHS cover. Back when video stores rained supreme and there was no internet to watch trailers, no movie review sites, and no IMDb (the horror!), the cover of the VHS was what made you pick it up and read the 2 or 3 paragraph synopsis of the film (and look at a picture or 3 if you were lucky), or just walk right by it and keep browsing until something caught your eye. The “Sword and Sandal” genre was my favorite (along with sci-fi) but was also probably the most plagued with awesome cover art that mislead you on the often crappy, low quality movies (which I still loved). And one day, I picked up the movie The Barbarians…

The Barbarians is directed by Italian director Ruggero Deodato (most famous for his 1980 cult horror Cannibal Holocaust), and he makes an adventure comedy that is one of the “best worst movies” ever made. The film opens in a serious tone, complete with narration explaining who the Ragneks are, essentially free spirited traveling entertainers. As we see the caravan of colorfully clad Ragneks traversing a lush landscape (the film is filled with beautiful scenic landscapes and locations), a band of horsemen is suddenly upon them and starts killing off the peaceful entertainers. After a long, entertaining chase scene (with a decent amount of blood and death!), we meet our film’s main villain, Kadar (Richard Lynch, The Sword and the Sorcerer). He wants a magical gem the Ragneks are known to have, and the Ragnek Queen Canary (the stunning Virginia Bryant in one of her 6 film roles) as his companion. During this scene, which is 15 minutes into the movie at this point, we meet two young twin boys and a young girl (who become our heroes later). After more killing, Queen Canary promises to go with Kadar (Lynch) if he and his men promise to never hurt the 3 children…

Now fast forward 17 years, we finally meet the title characters, twins Gore and Kutchek, aka the Barbarian Brothers. For better or worse, these two muscle bound knuckle heads turn an otherwise serious movie into an all out fantasy comedy. The brothers, kept separated and told the other was killed, have been tortured and trained as gladiators, each tormented by a man in a mask (one brother by an iron mask, the other brother a brass mask). The brother’s, each now the size of Arnold in Conan, are made to wear the other brothers’ tormentor’s mask (still with me?) and put in a cage to fight each other to the death! Of course the masks come off after a few swift blows and the brother’s realize they have been lied to and decide they have to team up to break out. Now free, they decide they must rescue Queen Canary and kill the evil Kadar who killed their people and imprisoned them all those years. They soon team up with young, lovely Kara (Eva La Rue, CSI Miami), who just so happened to be that young girl from the beginning! The trio ventures forth in search of weapons and the aforementioned magical jewel, getting into bar fights (there is a great scene with Italian cult actor George Eastman), battling a werewolf creature, zombies and even a giant dragon (which is one of the most laughably mechanical dragons ever put on film!).

The Barbarians is a bad movie no doubt about it, but it knows exactly what it is and goes for it. It is one of those films that is so bad that it is great. The Paul brothers are so over the top, they are clearly not actor’s (one of them has the worst over the top laugh ever heard on film). They obviously are not even trying to act and instead use their charisma and charm (if you can call it that) to make an entertaining, fun, fantasy adventure comedy. The movie is full of brawn, babes, swords, sorcerers, monsters, action and laughs. If you like bad movies, sword and sandal flicks, or Italian exploitation films, then The Barbarians is definitely for you and could quit possibly be a new favorite! I just hope that this film get’s a DVD/blu ray release soon, because unless you want to spend $50 – $100 on an old VHS on eBay, the only way you can currently (2012) see this fantastic piece of trash cinema is on YouTube, cut up in 10 minute increments, in low resolution. This cult classic is remembered by a select few, but most that remember it, remember it fondly. And some, like myself, will treasure this movie for decades to come..