15 April 2011 | Bunuel1976
BARBARIAN MASTER (Michele Massimo Tarantini, 1982) **
Having basically grown up with them, I admit to being a sucker for the cheesy sword-and-sorcery flicks of the early 1980s. However, this was one I had never heard of before coming across it – nor am I familiar with the work of its director, since he mostly dabbled in vulgar comedies
though I am sure some have nevertheless tried to build a cult around his resume' in view of his surname being similar to that of a certain American film-maker!
Anyway, this (originally intended as a sequel to Franco Prosperi's GUNAN, KING OF THE BARBARIAN released earlier that same year) is pretty much standard fare though marked by a couple of excesses that make it unintentionally hilarious. Upfront is the intermittent narration, which is so utterly downbeat and gravely-spoken to boot that I swear the speaker was on the verge of tears at times! The other is the sheer display of histrionics by the villain who frequently – and not always with good reason – takes to shouting out the hero's name at the top of his lungs; incidentally, his beef with him is merely because the latter has killed a number of his priests-cum-minions, thus thwarting an onslaught on a neighboring village
so I wanted to yell back at him: "Get over it already"! As usual, the protagonist is muscle-bound yet thoroughly bland: at the beginning of the film, he survives the obligatory extermination of a peaceful tribe; eventually, he leads the remaining members of the clan to a promised land (along the way to which, some have begun to despair and almost turn against him – sounds familiar?!); as if that were not sufficiently Biblical, the hero is named Sangraal which, literally, means "Holy Grail"!
He has a blonde girlfriend but soon also sets his sights on the daughter of the people he defended; conveniently, another assault sees the former killed
which the hero is forced to watch from afar while strung up (crucified, get it?). Rather than start life anew with his other girl and make life easier for all of us, he determines to bring the dead woman back to life (yep, they keep coming!) and seeks out a hermit-like sage with the help of an Oriental archer who comes out of nowhere but subsequently breaks our balls by incessantly spouting Charlie Chan-type aphorisms! Pilfering yet another fashionable mystic source, the villain and his men worship a topless goddess who lives inside a fire a' la SHE (just as bloodthirsty and constantly threatening her disciple when his every ruse to dispatch the hero inevitably fails!).
Later on, the protagonist and his two companions are attacked by blind creatures that live in caves and sport webbed fingers – maybe their tatty 'costumes' were borrowed from Sergio Martino's ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN (1979)? – before stumbling upon a secret weapon, an unwieldy arrow-shooting contraption that barely sees service thereafter! Eventually, hero and villain engage in a one-on-one by the sea, with the latter ending up impaled on his own dagger! Mind you, in spite of my disparaging remarks, one cannot really hate this type of juvenile (nudity and gore notwithstanding) fare too much – in fact, on the strength of this, I acquired two other minor efforts (albeit from American exponents) in this vein i.e. Jack Hill's SORCERESS (1982) and THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS (1984), though I probably will not be getting to them just now...