Blu-ray Review: The Barbarians | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, January 28th, 2021  

The Barbarians

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics / Scorpion Releasing

Jan 05, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

The Ragnicks are a tribe of peaceful, traveling circus folk, and guardians of the sacred “Belly Stone”: a magical ruby that holds the secrets of art, music, and laughter. They’re ambushed by a group of raiders led by the evil Kadar (Invasion USA’s Richard Lynch), who plans to take their queen for his bride, and capture the belly stone for his sorceress ally. Among his captives are Kutchek and Gore, young twins who are sentenced to be raised in his treacherous mines – who grow up to be played by the ever-beefy Barbarian Brothers, and become the saviors of their people.

Peter and David Paul, also known as the Barbarian Brothers, were twin bodybuilders who appeared in a string of entertaining, twin-centric novelty films in the 1980s and early ‘90s. The story goes that the producers at Cannon spotted them in a Playgirl pictorial, saw some potential, and brought them in for a meeting. Presumably figuring that they could get two Lou Ferrignos for the price of one, they went about building a movie specifically around the two, handing screenplay duties to house writer James R. Silke (Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination, King Solomon’s Mines) and directorial control at their Italian division to Ruggero Deodato, the director of Cannibal Holocaust.

The results are cheap and only semi-serious, but entertaining. The movie opens with a genuinely exciting buggy chase, as mutated raiders do battle on horseback with the Ragnicks’ cadre of knife throwers, fireblowers, and acrobats. The first third or so of the film feels like a grim, straight-forward sword-and-sorcery flick, but that all falls away as soon as the orphaned twins grow up and open their mouths: The Barbarian Bros bicker and banter like a couple of modern-day meatheads. (According to the late David Paul, there was a language barrier between the stars and their director, who allowed them to ad-lib many of their goof-off lines.) It transforms into more of a comedy at this point, but that actually plays to its identical stars’ talents.

Scorpion and Kino Lorber have done a nice job bringing this to Blu-ray; I can’t vouch for any DVD editions, but the widescreen image does the movie a lot more justice than the cropped VHS edition I’m used to watching. It’s actually a pretty good-looking movie, especially considering Cannon’s typically tight budgeting; the set design is visually interesting, from Kadar’s castle (Kadar’s Kastle?) to the Hieronymus Bosch-like battlefield we see in the movie’s opening credits. The costume design is… well, different. The body-painted circus people show up well on-camera, but Richard Lynch’s blond, dreadlocked wig makes him look like a persona David Bowie would have abandoned in the dressing room, and the ram horn-like hairdo on the Emo Philips-looking friendly wizard raises more questions than it answers.

The disc comes with some trailers and a nice commentary by Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson, and spends a lot of time exploring the movie’s many ties to the Euro exploitation scene of the 1980s. Cannon-heads will want this release, for sure, and it’s worth a look from anyone else who enjoys cheap, ‘80s fantasy.



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