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Directed by Héctor Olivera
Written by Howard R. Cohen
Music by Christopher Young and James Horner
Distributed by Concorde Pictures
Barbarian Queen (also known as Queen of the Naked Steel) is a 1985 American-Argentine fantasy film starring Lana Clarkson, directed by Héctor Olivera and written by Howard R. Cohen. The film premiered in April 1985 in the United States. It was executive produced by Roger Corman and the third in a series of ten movies that Corman produced in Argentina during the 1980s.
A peaceful barbarian village prepares to celebrate the wedding of Queen Amethea (Lana Clarkson) to Prince Argan (Frank Zagarino). During preparations for the wedding ceremony, Lord Arrakur (Arman Chapman) forces attack the village. After gang-raping Amethea’s younger sister, Taramis (Dawn Dunlap), the attackers take Prince Argan and Taramis as prisoners, along with several others. The remaining villagers are slaughtered. Queen Amethea, her handmaiden Estrild (Katt Shea), and the female warrior Tiniara (Susana Traverso) survive the attack and set out for Arrakur’s city to rescue the prisoners and seek revenge for the destruction of their village.
Along the way, the three women come across a small encampment of Arrakur’s forces. Amethea and Tiniara ambush and kill the men, discovering Taramis captive inside the camp, who has seemingly been traumatized by her experience and acts withdrawn and delusional.
On the outskirts of Arrakur’s realm, the women meet members of an underground resistance force who agree to help smuggle Amethea’s party into the city but refuse to take up arms with them against the tyrannical Arrakur. Inside the city gates, Amethea discovers Argan and the other men taken from her village are being forced to fight as gladiators in the arena at the centre of town. Meanwhile, Taramis notices Arrakur leading a procession of troops into his palace and approaches him. Arrakur recognizes Taramis from the camp and allows her to accompany him inside, while in another part of town, Estrild is attacked and raped by two of Arrakur’s guards. Amethea and Tiniara defend her, but the women are overpowered and taken prisoner.
Estrild is made into one of the harem girls who serve the desires of the gladiators, where she is reunited with Argan, telling him of their failed rescue attempt. Amethea and Tiniara are interrogated separately; Tiniara dies in an escape attempt, while Amethea is sent to the dungeon to be tortured.
Arrakur and his new concubine Taramis visit Amethea in the dungeon, where she has been stripped naked save for a leather collar and thong, to find her being stretched on the rack by the chief torturer (Tony Middleton). Taramis pretends not to know Amethea, while Arrakur demands information about the rebels who helped Amethea into the city. Amethea refuses to speak, and Arrakur demands answers by the morning, taking his leave. Meanwhile, Argan, the other gladiators, and Estrild plot an uprising against Arrakur.
The torturer later rapes Amethea, but she uses her feminine strength to squeeze his manhood painfully during the assault, forcing him to release her from the rack. Amethea hurls him into a pool of acid and escapes the dungeon.
Finding Estrild, the two women flee the castle and regroup with the rebels, who agree to help in the planned overthrow of Arrakur’s forces led by Argan during the gladiatorial games. Amethea and the rebels join the gladiators in the attack. Amethea fights Arrakur in one-on-one combat during the melee but is defeated and disarmed by him. Before Arrakur can deliver the killing blow, however, Taramis stabs him in the back, killing him. Amethea and Argan are reunited and celebrate the city’s liberation from Arrakur’s tyranny.
Lana Clarkson as Amethea
Katt Shea as Estrild
Frank Zagarino as Argan
Dawn Dunlap as Taramis
Susana Traverso as Tiniara
Víctor Bó as Strymon
Arman Chapman as Arrakur
Andrea Barbieri as Zoraida (as Andrea Barbizon)
Tony Middleton as Zohar
Andrea Scriven as Dariac
Robert Carson as Shibdiz
Matilde Mur as Eunuco
Eddie Pequenino as Vendedor (as Eddie Little)
Patrick Duggan as Shaman
Lucy Tiller as Orellia
Ivan Green as Karax
Theodore McNabney as Cerus (as Theo McNabney)
Richard R. Jordan as Vanir
John Head as Alfana
Daniel Seville as Kantaka
Eva Donnelly as Ciega
The film was one of the first from Corman’s new company, Concorde.
Barbarian Queen was filmed in Don Torcuato, Argentina, by director Héctor Olivera as part of a nine-picture deal between Olivera’s Aires Productions and Roger Corman’s U.S.-based Concorde-New Horizons. Corman was looking to produce low-budget sword-and-sorcery films to capitalize on the success of Conan the Barbarian (1982), while Olivera sought to fund more personal film projects via the profits from his deal with Corman. Lana Clarkson, who had appeared in a supporting role as an Amazonian warrior in the previous Aires-Concorde coproduction Deathstalker, was cast in the lead as Amethea. Clarkson performed all of her stunts in the picture.
Barbarian Queen had a limited theatrical release on April 26, 1985. Vestron Video originally released two versions of the film on VHS: the R-rated theatrical cut and an unrated edition that contained an extended version of the dungeon sequence. All subsequent DVD releases only contained the R-rated cut. The Shout! Factory DVD release contains unrated material as a bonus feature.
B-movie critic Joe Bob Briggs gave the film a tongue-in-cheek positive review, writing, “It’s no Conan the Barbarian II, but it’s got what it takes, namely: Forty-six breasts, including two on the male lead. Thirty-one dead bodies. Heads roll. Head spills. Three gang rapes. Women in chains. Orgy. Slave-girl sharing. One bird’s-nest bra. The diabolical garbonza torture. Sword fu. Torch fu. Thigh fu (you have to see it to believe it).”
Roman Martel of DVD Verdict wrote that the film is enjoyable but problematic for its misogyny. R. L. Shaffer of IGN called it an unintentionally funny Conan the Barbarian ripoff.
TV Guide rated it 2/5 stars and wrote that despite the film’s exploitative content, Olivera “inject[s] some style and pace to the rather silly goings-on”.
Stuart Galbraith IV of DVD Talk wrote that the film “isn’t all that terrible” and appeals to its target audience.
Several critics have commented upon the ambiguity of the film’s seemingly feminist narrative and the exploitative nature of its many scenes of female rape, nudity, and bondage. Variety’s review of the film suggested the “Concept of female warriors besting male opponents on the battlefield is unconvincing as presented, with the gals more effective as sex objects…Emphasis on rape and torture is overdone.” In The Modern Amazons: Warrior Women On-Screen, Dominique Mainon and James Ursini note the film follows a “pseudo-feminine empowerment storyline…In the course of the quest, however, Amethea is caught, stripped down to a pair of thong panties, and bound to a torture device for an unusually long portion of the movie.” the movie’s centrepiece is the extended sequence of the supposedly empowered Amethea’s topless, BDSM-inflected torture/interrogation has prompted readings of the film as “a delicate postfeminist balance of three discordant elements: a timid rape-and-bondage spectacle, an incoherent feminism, and a very patriarchal plot structure…a feminist narrative arc ostensibly motivates rape imagery.”
Rikke Schubart suggests the culmination of the dungeon sequence – in which Amethea crushes the torturer’s penis with her pelvic muscles – represents a genuine “feminist dislocation” of gender codes, which takes images “of the female rape victim as weak and helpless and relocates them…as rape-victim being dangerous and lethal.” However, Schubart’s discussion also implies that the feminism is at least partially mitigated by the sequence’s eroticized use of bondage imagery and the objectified presentation of Clarkson’s nudity: “Men have no problem identifying with men as victims and women as castrators if this happens in an erotic context where it is obvious that the woman is there to be looked at.”