The Ragnaks are a group of artists and entertainers who possess a magical ruby which has the power to bring pleasure and happiness to people. Or well, that’s what I learned from the narration at the beginning of the movie. My guess is that, in the wrong hands, it can also do great evil. And that’s obviously why Richard Lynch wants it. This is going to be good.
The opening sequence, where the caravan of Ragnaks is being pursued by Kadar’s (Richard Lynch) evil henchman, plays out like something along the lines of a ‘Mad Max’ road chase as if it took place in a Spaghetti Western universe. In the end our peaceful band of artists is captured, but not before one of them manages to escape with the ruby, for it to be hidden in a safe and faraway place (a dark and eerie swamp, that is). Upon figuring out he is conned, Kadar immediately establishes himself as a maniacal overlord, displaying his sadistic ways by randomly killing one of the artists while laughing like a maniac. I love it when Richard Lynch plays the villain. Come to think of it, has he ever played anything else?
Anyway, then two twin kiddies pop out of a caravan and one of them bites Kadar’s fingers off. The queen of the Ragnaks, Canary (Virginia Bryant), begs Kadar to spare their lives, offering to do anything he wants in return. An offer that pleases him, naturally, so off the kids go to the slave camp… Years later, they’ve suddenly grown into the matured Barbarian Brothers, Gore & Kutcher (Paul & David Weston). And at this point, the movie actually starts and the story takes off. The adventure is fairly simple: Gore & Kutcher escape the slave camp, go on a quest to find the magical ruby and will ultimately have to try and free Canary (still held captive by evil Kadar). Why one of the brothers is called Gore and the other Kutcher, is actually a bit beyond me. I mean, wouldn’t Gore and Vile have sounded much more kick-ass? Nevermind.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that Ruggero Deodato’s ‘The Barbarians’ is a blatant ‘Conan The Barbarian’ rip-off. It’s one of the many swords & sorcery outings that the success of those first two early Schwarzenegger vehicles – the second one being ‘Conan The Destroyer’ (1986) – spawned forth during the ‘80s. And as it happens to turn out, you could do a lot worse in this by now virtually extinct subgenre of fantasy. ‘The Barbarians’ remains one of the more entertaining and spirited swords & sorcery efforts to date (at least in the lower budget regions), and this is partially due to a lot of scenes handling a comedic approach because, frankly put, the twins David & Paul Weston come across more like two comedians with muscles than actual barbaric brutes. While producers Menahem Golan & Yoram Globus initially instructed Deodato to make a mean-spirited ‘Conan’ cash-in, Deodato soon realized it would be impossible to have the twins play brutal characters, since all they did on the set was joke around. Deodato then decided to change some things around and so it came to be that ‘The Barbarians’ has quite a bit of comedy touches to it, albeit not exactly of the refined & subtle kind.
But the film brings along other things too, adding to the overall enjoyment. Such as the vividly imaginative score by Pino Donaggio and some outrageous creature effects. Highlight of the latter is definitely that full-sized swamp dragon that oddly enough looks like a giant erected phallus when it rises out of the water. Or was that just my perverted imagination playing tricks on me? Either way, the production design department did a great job building some cool sets (the swamp, the graveyard, Kadar’s lair) and Deodato kept a swift pace to the events in a script by far not wrapped too tight. And if you manage to not get distracted too much by the plenty of luscious, scantily clothed woman in this film, you’ll be sure to spot cult actor Michael Berryman and crazy Italian genre favorite George Eastman in supporting roles. So in short: if you’re a male viewer and you still have that 10-year-old kid hidden inside of you (and you’ve never been raised strictly on a diet consisting of the collected works of Sartre, Kant and whatever may lie in between), you’ll be having a blast with ‘The Barbarians’ (regardless even of how gay oil-greased body-builders may look on screen through adult eyes).
Watch the whole thing cut into parts on YouTube.