Directed by Ruggero Deodato
Starring The Barbarian Brothers (Peter & David Paul), Michael Berryman, Eva La Rue
Available on VHS
I’ve gotten into a bit of a barbarian movie kick lately, so I thought I would revisit this movie from my youth. If you’ve never heard of the Barbarians, then consider yourself lucky. The Barbarians was a vehicle for the “Barbarian Brothers”, released in 1987 by Cannon films. Peter and David Paul, a couple of bodybuilders, were dubbed by someone as the “Barbarian Brothers” and somebody, somewhere thought they were going to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger multiplied by two. One would imagine that this was an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the Conan films, but barbarians in general were popular during the 1980’s, so it’s hard to say for sure.
If you grew up in the 80’s-90’s you probably remember seeing the Barbarian brothers show up in a variety of low budget movies. Although they were officially billed as the Barbarian brothers, this is to my knowledge, the only movie they ever did that was about Barbarians. The rest of their films were basically the type of stuff that even Hulk Hogan’s agents would turn down. I have no idea why these guys were famous, aside from the fact that they were muscular twins. I guess that’s a thing. Stick around until the end of the review and I’ll tell you what the Barbarian Brothers are up to now. Also, this contains spoilers to a 26 year old movie… So you know, be warned!
The movie starts off with some narration setting the scene that this is in fact, a time before time. It was a dangerous era, but one tribe of people were protected. They were known as the Ragnicks and they are for all intents and purposes a traveling circus. Why is a traveling circus protected? Best we not worry about that. Just know that they have an ancient ruby that only their queen can possess, which protects them.
This magic ruby sure sounds neat, so naturally the evil warlord Kadar wants it. He ambushes the circus (so much for that whole “protected” thing) and kills a bunch of them. This sequence is actually REALLY long and not needed for the movie. The entire thing could have been accomplished in half the time, but I digress. This whole movie is basically a lot of time wasting. Somewhere in here is a story and I’ll explain it in my review, but please realize that the actual movie does a poor job of explaining anyone’s motivations or the basic plot.
Kagar wants the ruby, but the circus queen, Canary refuses to give it to him. In fact, during the battle she sent one of her men off with the ruby to hide it. Unbeknownst to Kagar, of course. He insists that she give him the ruby, but you know how carnies are. It’s like when you win at the bottle toss and they try to claim you stepped over the line. As my Momma always said, “don’t trust people from the circus or the carnival”.
Two of the smaller Ragnicks, a pair of twins named Kutchek and Gore, attack Kagar and bite off his fingers! This whole first sequence, long as it is, is surprisingly violent. People are maimed, mangled and murdered in wanton fashion. It certainly makes you think that this film is going to be a rated R movie in the style of Conan. Oh I guess I should mention at this point that the twin boys aren’t true Ragnicks, but rather, orphans that they found on the side of the road alongside another orphan girl named Cara. This is important to the plot… But not really. Anyway, Canary begs for the lives of the twins (she doesn’t seem to care that everyone else is getting murdered and raped, but let’s keep those two orphan boys safe!) and Kagar agrees so long as she agrees to be with him forever.
Back at Kagar’s palace, his evil sorceress warns against keeping the boys alive while Michael Berryman makes faces. Thankfully everyone has forgotten about the ruby. Yeah, that’s right, they just stop talking about that. Not to mention, while Canary has managed to save the twins, she didn’t do anything to help the other orphan, the girl named Cara. Oh well, she’s not important either, I guess.
The Sorceress also pulls a Mothra and wraps the boys up in a web. I literally have no idea what that was about. But it’s totally like that time the two Larva Mothras wrapped up Godzilla. Kagar says that while he promised that neither he nor his men would kill the twins, he says they must pay for biting off his fingers so they will kill each other!
So he ships them off to Michael Berryman, known as the Dirtmaster, who turns them into slaves. This is actually the only interesting concept in the entire film. Not just because it involves thespian Michael Berryman, but just because it’s fairly creative. The twins are beaten and turned into slaves. Yes, this movie is basically Conan, but with TWINS! And clowns.
Both are separated and told the other is dead. As the years pass, they are trained to kill and constantly get whipped by a guy in a helmet. Each twin has an oppressor in a different colored helmet. Unfortunately the movie doesn’t really spell this out as clearly as it should, but essentially they’re training the twins to hate the masks. Of course, the movie sort of craps on this idea by pointing out that the twins resist this the entire time. The concept is good, but they definitely should have played it up a bit more.
Anywho, years go by and the twins are eventually forced into battle against one another for Kagar’s amusement. Apparently no one has aged but the twins, as everyone looks the same, but Conan more or less had that same continuity issue as well. As you might have guessed, each one is wearing the helmet of the other one’s abuser. So they start trying to kill one another. I should also mention that up to this point, neither of the Barbarian brothers (the actors, not the characters) have spoken a word. The movie, while flawed, has been passable to this point.
I should also mention that while this movie is totally about to jump the shark, it does have a hilarious little spot where during the battle a spectator gets his hand cut off. It’s one of those blink and you miss it kind of moments, but it’s gnarly none the less.
During the battle, one of the helmets breaks and the brothers realize that they are fighting one another. It’s kind of odd because the movie tries to play it up that at first they don’t understand and can’t figure out why they see their own face. I have a lot of logic problems with this. I can’t imagine in ancient times that people had access to a lot of mirrors, particularly slaves. So how often would they have really seen their own reflection? Hell, I barely know what MY own face looks like and if I ran into a clone I might not immediately realize it. But I guess I’m just splitting hairs at this point.
The brothers escape and yes, then they begin talking. And the entire movie falls apart. You see, both brothers talk like 1980’s surfers and make bad jokes along the way. Instead of acting like two guys who had been slaves and beaten for over a decade, they act like they’re just radical dudes out to have a good time. Although this isn’t the most realistic barbarian movie around, some money was spent and up until these two guys start talking it works as a movie. But their talking absolutely kills it. Both guys LOOK the part however. These dudes are huge, massive mounds of muscle.
Which is another problem… They’re constantly oiled up. I mean these guys look like two wrestlers prematch, the whole movie. It’s one oiled up scene after the other. And the twin thing doesn’t really work, because I can’t tell them apart. Their personalities appear to be the “dumb jokey one” and the other “slightly less dumb jokey one”. I can’t tell one from the other and the lack of distinct characteristics just compounds the problem. This is why the Ninja Turtles wear different colored bandannas!
Anyway, a lot of time is wasted and they meet up with some random thief girl named Ismena. They reunite with the remaining Ragnicks as well, but the Ragnicks are jaded and mean now and the Barbarians and Ismena eventually escape and vow to save Canary and restore balance to the force or whatnot. Soon enough they find a secret passage to where Canary has been taken prisoner. It was SUPER easy to find her. But rather than be rescued, she tells them that they should go and find the ruby.
Wait… WHAT? WHAT?! WHAT?!?!
She sends them on a quest to find the ruby instead of being saved. Because she doesn’t want the magic ruby to fall into Kagar’s hands… But it’s been 10-15 years at the very least in the movie’s timeline! If Kagar hasn’t found it by now, he’s not going to find it! Hell, it’s been a good 45 minutes in my timeline since anyone’s even mentioned this damned ruby and now it’s the focal point again?!
Whatever man. The Barbarians are off to find the ruby and then rescue Canary. I don’t really know why she couldn’t have just left with them. She claims she couldn’t leave because it would anger Kagar and put him on their trail, but he was already on their trail AND he immediately finds out that the Barbarians are after the ruby and goes on their trail anyway. So basically, Canary is a dumb bitch. Then again, she’s queen of the circus clowns, so I guess I shouldn’t expect much less.
Oh, by the way, Canary told them that in order to get the ruby they’d need the old king’s sacred weapons so they could kill the dragon that protects the ruby. If that sounds shoehorned in to you, it’s because it is. It comes out of nowhere and serves no real point.
The Sorceress turns on Kagar believing that he’s gone soft. This actually seems true. Kagar clearly loves Canary, but she doesn’t love him. She’s kind of a jerk. Anyway, the Sorceress is off to get the ruby herself. Because apparently this ruby holds great power… But we have no idea what the power is, because all we’ve ever been told is that the circus people use it to avoid being attacked. Except of course, from when they were attacked.
Ah, whatever, who cares. So then the dragon eats the Sorceress and the Dirtmaster because they don’t have the old king’s weapons or something. You’d think that a big plot point of this film would be for the Barbarians to get revenge on the Dirtmaster and the evil witch, but nope, they just get fed to the dragon instead.
The Barbarians and Ismena defeat the dragon and get the ruby. Ugh and they keep talking. This movie would be so much better if they stopped talking. Even though this is only the second movie Eva La Rue had ever been in and her first time doing any real acting, she’s great. I kind of wish this movie was about how she had two mute barbarians who help her in her quest. But instead they keep talking… STOP TALKING YOU IDIOTS! One of them makes this horrible grunting noise that’s like his signature thing… But again, I have no idea which one.
Part of the problem is their names. Kutchek and Gore? You can barely understand anytime they say their names, so it’s very hard to discern who is who. But again, one grunts and is stupid and the other is slightly less stupid and doesn’t grunt. One of them, I assume the slightly less grunty and stupid one, gives the ruby to Ismena and randomly says to her that she’s Cara. Yeah, that makes no sense and much like the ruby, Cara has been unimportant for an hour now, but let’s just roll with it.
Kagar goes to where the ruby is, just missing the Barbarians, but the ruby is gone. You know, cause those other guys just stole it. And then in a strange scene, he accidentally murders Canary. Apparently the ruby’s magic made him do it. Man, that ruby kind of sucks. He’s pretty upset that he just killed that lady he kidnapped and who never loved him, so he’s off after the Barbarian twins again!
Cara takes the ruby back to the Ragnicks, who promptly decide that they need a new queen. In order to become queen, they must stick the ruby into the belly button of a woman. Whomever’s belly that it stays in, becomes the new queen of the circus! Okay, sure, that makes total sense.
It’s a perfect fit in Ismena’s belly button! But then the Ragnicks freak out because she’s not one of them! But then she reveals, SHE IS CARA! And god, why did I watch this movie? None of this makes any sense.
Finally Kagar has tracked down the Barbarians and either he wants to kill them because they are responsible for Canary’s death or the other way around. It’s hard to figure out anyone’s motivations anymore. So two gigantic beefy bodybuilders have an epic battle with some old slightly homosexual looking dude on a horse. That seems a bit one sided.
Kagar actually manages to get the best of them when he pulls out his crossbow. But then as he tries to pull the trigger, he realizes he doesn’t have the fingers needed to pull the trigger! OH MAN! What an amazing callback to the beginning of the film! I mean, it’s not like this guy wouldn’t already know that he doesn’t have those fingers, but yeah, that’s the payoff. So they promptly kill him since he can’t pull the trigger.
Never watch this movie. If any of this sounded even remotely funny, awesome, entertaining or good, I assure you… It wasn’t. Unfortunately, while the sets and some of the concepts in this movie aren’t that bad, the execution is so putrid that any potential this movie could have had is squandered. Beyond all the plot, script and general film making problems, the biggest issue is the Barbarian Brothers themselves. They never once try and act like they’re in this world of sword and sorcery, instead they come off as two idiot teens and even their mannerisms are like two dumb jocks and not violent barbarians.
So whatever happened to these guys? Well, after they made a few more terrible movies, they disappeared in the early 90’s. I assume they were hard to deal with, as they seem really obnoxious in the movies they were in and because they never had any real blockbusters the market for crappy movies with twin bodybuilders is only so deep. Although both men were beasts in their day, they are much smaller in size these days. One of the brothers has become a photographer and does photos for some muscle magazines.
But the other brother, Peter Paul, apparently hangs out/goes to the University of Rhode Island. There he runs around wearing old rags and ripped up belly shirts, proclaiming himself to be the “Knight of the Light”, which may or may not be Jesus. Yes, he’s gone batshit insane.
I assume he was the one in this movie who was the “dumber” one and made the annoying noises. Some people say he’s not really crazy and that it’s all just an act. So either he’s a crazy bum or he just acts like one. Either way, doesn’t that more or less make you nuts? I tend to think this guy is just a genuine crazy bum. I mean, I’ve seen him act. If he was acting, I could tell!
And now for your viewing pleasure…. THE BUMBARIAN!