In the days of my youth, my sister and I would rent videos every weekend. Some of our favorites were action/adventure movies, and particularly those that existed in the realm of fantasy – like Red Sonja, Conan the Barbarian or Beastmaster. We always scoped out which ones looked the worst, and thanks to just about everything being released on VHS those days, there were a lot of movies to go around. One movie I never got to see was 1987’s The Barbarians, starring the ridiculously well built Paul Brothers (David Paul and Peter Paul), aka The Barbarian Brothers, where they play the titular (I always wanted to use that word… Titular…) Barbarians.
The Paul brothers play two orphans, Gore and Kutchek who are picked up by the Radnik tribe, a tribe of travelling entertainers who possess a magical ruby that grants them their talents as performers. Because of this status as entertainers, they have been given free passage around the land, and are not to be interfered with. If that was observed, however, this would be the end of the movie and my review. As you can guess, a power hungry dicator named Kadar (played by Richard Lynch) decides that he wants this ruby, and he and his men ambush the tribe. After putting up a good fight, Kadar and his gang eventually overpower the tribe and take their leader Canary (Virginia Bryant) and capture the twins pledging not to kill them, even after they bite off of his fingers.
Kadar decides to make Canary part of his harem, and he seperates the boys and puts them to work. During their work, they’re also trained to fight by the Dirtmaster (played by the handsome Michael Berryman), and are also beaten daily. During these beatings, one is beaten by a guy in a black helmet, and the other beaten buy a guy in a brass helmet. When the time is right, Kadar calls for them to be killed. He pledged that they wouldn’t be killed by him or his men, so they’ll end up killing each other, as one is to wear a black helmet, and another wears a brass helmet. Once they begin fighting, they knock the helmets off of each other and realize that they are the brother that the other one thought was dead. They make their daring escape through brute force, and head back to the camp of their tribe.
When they make it back to the camp, they find that the tribe has changed, they’re fearful, and haven’t made a transition to a warrior tribe very well. Gore and Kutchek tell them they’ll free Canary and get the ruby back in one piece, with the help of one the tribe’s prisoners, Cara (Eva La Rue). To do that though, they’ll have to make their way back into Kadar’s castle, then get some magic weapons so they can defeat a dragon that’s guarding the ruby. Now the question is, are they smart enough to do all of that, or will their thick heads and infighting stop them before they achieve that, or maybe someone that they thought was a friend will betray them.
I can see why the Paul brothers didn’t make too many movies. They’re not really all that charismatic, in fact I think they’re probably better regarded as some sort of oddity – two freakishly large twins that have to carry an entire film on their backs. That being said, while they might not be the best stars to headline your movie, it’s still an entertaining film to watch. You get to see some decent fights, and some noticible scenes like when they’re fighting each other, or this crazy ratman, and even a dragon. The dragon is really underwhelming, but hey, it’s still a dragon, right?
They also use the Paul brothers as the comedic relief for this film, which is something that they’re known for. A lot of the humor is unfortunately hit or miss. You’ll probably either chuckle to yourself or groan… a lot. One thing that got a little old after a while was this sound they make with their throat. It’s starts off as like a laughing thing, and by the end of the movie, it’s actually a warcry or a battle call of sorts.
This is a pretty low budget presentation, but they do a decent job with most of the sets and the location shots. It doesn’t look particularly great, but it gets the job done and you’re not taken out of the fantasy setting. The special effects seem to take a hit though, probably because it was easier to save some costs there, and there aren’t a whole lot of makeup or effects.
I was also surprised to see George Eastman, my main man, with a small role in this movie. It is an Italian cinematic production, so I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised. He plays Jacko, some kind of arms dealer and overall pimp. So, what would you do if you could get George Eastman to make an appearance in your movie? I know the first thing I would do is get him to film an arm wrestling scene, and that’s exactly what director Ruggero Deodato gets him to do… he takes a page out of Sergio Martino‘s Hands of Steel book and has him do a little arm wrestling tough guy scene, and then he’s gone.
So, in closing, the Paul brothers do a good job in carrying the picture, although the ending is pretty short and weak. They build up to this grand finale against the main baddy, and poof, it’s over pretty quick, with little to no resolution. For being a fantasy movie, it’s pretty average – it’s not the best I’ve seen, and it’s not the worst. If you’re in the mood for a barbarian movie, this will probably fit the bill and not leave you wanting a whole lot more. If you don’t mind staring at these two dudes oiled up chests and asses, your rating may vary. The Barbarians gets an even 3 g-string loincloths out of 5.
The Barbarians is available on VHS from Amazon.com
(the voice in the trailer is OPTIMUS PRIME!!!!)