Film Review: Barbarian Queen (1985)

Also known as: Queen of the Naked Steel (alternative title)
Release Date: April 26th, 1985
Directed by: Hector Olivera
Written by: Howard R. Cohen
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Lana Clarkson, Katt Shea, Frank Zagarino, Dawn Dunlap, Victor Bo, Andrea Barbieri

Rodeo Productions, Aries Cinematografica Argentina, 74 Minutes

Review:

“You are much too beautiful a girl to let yourself be broken into food for the royal dogs.” – Arrakur

This is one of those super low budget, low quality Argentinian sword and sorcery flicks from the ’80s that was trying to capitalize off of the craze. However, this isn’t one of the Roger Corman ones, so its quality is even worse.

Probably knowing that this was going to be a shit movie, the filmmakers leaned heavily into making this as sexy as possible with bringing in a whole crew of beauties that spent portions of the film wearing as little clothes as possible.

I wouldn’t quite call this full-on sexploitation, as it’s all pretty softcore stuff but being a kid in the ’80s, this was certainly a film I didn’t mind watching in an effort to appreciate the anatomy of the female form. I was an aspiring comic book artist, so stuff like this was just educational… really.

Anyway, this featured Lana Clarkson and Dawn Dunlap in it and those women had my heart when I was just a wee li’l lad.

Sadly, beyond the beautiful women, there just isn’t much here that’s worthwhile. It’s a pretty generic and paint-by-number sword and sorcery plot. Bad guy, magic shit, warriors clashing steel but strangely this was really lacking in the monster and beast department. And frankly, a lack of monsters and beasts should always be a no-no in a flick like this.

In the end, I’d call this a pointless and wretched film. However, I can’t label something as wretched when it is full of so much unrestrained beauty.

Rating: 2/10

Film Review: Deathstalker (1983)

Also known as: Warrior King (Philippines), Stalker – The Warrior King (Norway), El cazador de la muerte (Argentina)
Release Date: September 2nd, 1983 (limited)
Directed by: James Sbardellati (as John Watson)
Written by: Howard R. Cohen
Music by: Oscar Cardozo Ocampo
Cast: Richard Hill, Barbi Benton, Richard Brooker, Lana Clarkson, Victor Bo

Aries Cinematográfica Argentina, Palo Alto, New World Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

“All the power comes to me.” – Munkar

The only Deathstalker I remember seeing in its entirety is the third one and that’s because it was on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. That one was atrocious, so at least this one is better than that turd.

However, this is still a pretty shitty film even if it has the magic touch of Roger Corman. He helped put it out through New World Pictures when he was still running that studio and it was the first of ten pictures that he did from Argentina.

Anyway, the film is boring in just about every way. The script is abysmal, the plot is paper thin and not much of anything interesting happens onscreen.

Now I do like some of the practical effects but some monsters and creatures look good for the time, while others look like total crap. It’s as if some of the budget was pushed into certain characters or creatures while the other effects suffered from a lack of funds. It’s pretty inconsistent even though the film already looks cheap, regardless.

Rick Hill was decent as Deathstalker but he didn’t have much to work with and the direction he was given was poor. The real highlight though is Lana Clarkson, who simply wore a G-string and a black cloak. Her tippies were hanging out all over the place, which had I seen this when I was a kid, I probably would’ve rented this all the time.

The evil wizard is weak, not impressive and struck no terror in me whatsoever. I mean, if you’re going to do a sword and sorcery picture at the height of the sword and sorcery genre, you need to have a cool and menacing villain. This guy just looked like the doorman at The Pickled Bear, an underground gay bar in Palatka, Florida.

Weirdly, it looks like the second Deathstalker has a higher rating on IMDb than this one or the third one. Maybe I’ll check it out but I watched enough paint dry after my cousin re-did his foyer last weekend.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: the Deathstalker sequels and other very low budget barbarian movies.

Film Review: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Also known as: Fast Times (working title, informal title)
Release Date: August 13th, 1982
Directed by: Amy Heckerling
Written by: Cameron Crowe
Based on: Fast Times at Ridgemont High: A True Story by Cameron Crowe
Music by: various pop bands
Cast: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Brian Backer, Robert Romanus, Ray Walston, Amanda Wyss, Forest Whitaker, Vincent Schiavelli, Lana Clarkson, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Nicolas Cage, Kelli Maroney, Scott Thomson, Taylor Negron, Lana Clarkson, James Russo, Pamela Springsteen

Refugee Films, Universal Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Why don’t you get a job, Spicoli?” – Brad Hamilton, “What for?” – Jeff Spicoli, “You need money.” – Brad Hamilton, “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz and I’m fine.” – Jeff Spicoli

Teen sex comedies were all the rage in the early 1980s. However, unlike all the others, Fast Times at Ridgemont High was much more than just a teen sex comedy. It was a film with purpose, heart and characters that you actually cared for and felt connected to. It had high drama, human emotion but it was still true to the spirit of the genre it was actually better than.

There were several factors that contributed to this movie being better than one would expect at first glance.

First, the story came from a book written by Cameron Crowe, who spent some time undercover in high school to capture the real lives of the teenagers around him. The book was full of true stories, which got adapted into this fictional movie tale. Crowe’s work gave this film a sense of realism and human emotion that other films like it were lacking.

Also, this was directed by Amy Heckerling and even though it was her first feature film, she was young, hip and connected to a lot of cool people at the time. She gave this picture a sort of life and energy that it wouldn’t have had otherwise. She also pulls off similar magic with 1995’s beloved teen comedy Clueless.

Additionally, this film benefits from having an incredible cast for its time. It has Sean Penn, just before he became a superstar, as well as Jennifer Jason Leigh, one of the best actresses of her generation. The shy kind of nerdy character was played by Brian Backer, who had already won a Tony Award the year before for his leading role in Woody Allen’s The Floating Light Bulb on Broadway. You’ve also got quintessential ’80s cool guy Judge Reinhold, the always lovable Phoebe Cates, Robert Romanus, future Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, Nicolas Cage, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Amanda Wyss, Kelli Maroney, Scott Thomson, as well as veterans Ray Walston and Vincent Schiavelli. How many other ’80s teen sex comedies can boast a lineup that impressive? And this didn’t even have a single person from the Brat Pack in it.

The film is well balanced between all of its main characters. It also doesn’t showcase the token stoner as just a token stoner. The chemistry between Penn’s Spicoli and Walston’s Mr. Hand is fabulous and makes for some of the best moments in the film. Seeing Walston go that extra step for a student that most teachers would just roll their eyes at is both sweet and refreshing. I could’ve watched a spinoff movie of just Spicoli and Mr. Hand and been happy, even if it had a lackluster script.

I also loved the chemistry between best buds Mark Ratner (Backer) and Mike Damone (Romanus). The shy Ratner needs Damone’s help in getting with the ladies and their exchanges are hilarious and entertaining. Life throws these best buds a curveball though but it was great seeing real friendship conquer all.

There are several good stories sprinkled throughout this ensemble piece. And it is sort of timeless in that the jokes still work, the characters are amusing and even though this gets very serious at points, it is never short on laughs and keeps things generally lighthearted.

It also has one of the best soundtracks of its decade.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is a perfect template on how to create a teen coming of age movie. Sure, it is sex heavy, as it was the ’80s, but it’s light-years more mature than similar films like Private School and The Last American Virgin.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Dazed and ConfusedThe Last American Virgin and Private School. Also, Gremlins, as that features both Phoebe Cates and Judge Reinhold. Plus, Clueless, another teen coming of age comedy directed by Heckerling.

Film Review: Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II (1989)

Release Date: March 1989
Directed by: Charles B. Griffith
Written by: Charles B. Griffith, Lane Smith
Music by: David M. Rubin
Cast: Mel Welles, Robert Jayne, David Carradine, Lana Clarkson, Sid Haig

Concorde Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

After the experience of the first Wizards of the Lost Kingdom, which came to me via the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, I had to also sit through the second film because for some reason, someone thought it deserved a sequel.

Both films are very similar and also pretty different, Mainly, the first movie feels a bit more creative. The second film feels better directed and more coherent but also kind of lazy. The main difference between the productions of the two films is that this one was done solely by America where the first film was a co-production between the US and Argentina.

The cast is a bit better in this one too. Well, mainly just because David Carradine and Sid Haig are in it. Carradine fills in for the Bo Svenson role but he does seem bored. Sid Haig is decent as the villain but at least he commits to his roles despite how bad the production is.

Overall, even though I trashed the first movie quite a bit, it gets the edge when you compare these two duds. Sure, the special effects and costumes were laughably bad but it still had more creativity and was just more imaginative, even if the script was a mess.

On a positive note, there isn’t a third sequel… that I know of.

Rating: 1/10