Full Moon Features: The Barbarians (1987)

[Note: Inspired by Dobes’s comprehensive list of Werewolves of the 80s and its attendant screencaps repository, I’m covering movies I previously passed over because they don’t feature werewolves, per se. As long as they have wolfish enough beast men, though, I’m considering them fair game…]

Following in the furry footsteps of last month’s Full Moon Feature, I’m continuing my survey of ’80s sword-and-sorcery flicks with cameos by fellows in fuzzy makeup with 1987’s The Barbarians. This late-arriving entry in the cycle came courtesy of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus’s Cannon Group and was the first starring vehicle for twin bodybuilders Peter and David Paul, billed as “The Barbarian Brothers.” A quarter of the film elapses before they make their first appearance, though, and their backstory is straight out of the Conan playbook.

In short, the Ragniks — a tribe of jugglers, musicians, and storytellers is possession of a magic ruby — are ambushed by the forces of the evil Kadar (second-billed Richard Lynch), who wants the jewel for his own nefarious purposes. After exhausting their knife-throwing and fire-breathing skills, Kadar takes Ragnik leader Canary hostage and enslaves orphan boys Kutcheck and Gore in response to one of them biting off two of his fingers. (That Canary is able to extract his promise not to kill them in the heat of the moment is one of those premises one must accept or the movie would be over before the first reel change.)

Entrusted to the Dirtmaster (Michael Berryman, who gets the “and [insert name here] as” credit), the boys are split up and put to the work in The Pit, where they’re goaded into hating men in helmets. This is because Kadar’s convoluted plan is to have them kill each other in said helmets when they come of age. This happens at the 21-minute mark, when we also discover Kadar literally keeps Canary in a cage in his harem, but she’s allowed out to watch the spectacle when the now-bulked-up Kutchek and Gore are pitted against each other. It doesn’t take long for them to realize they’ve been had — although it takes Gore a little longer since the dim one — and escape on horseback, but the Ragniks they encounter in the woods don’t recognize them and nearly hang them alongside thief Ismene (Eva LaRue). Naturally, she turns out to know how to find a way to sneak into the harem so they can rescue Canary, but that only leads to a side quest.

Wolf Man about to lose his head.

Said side quest is where the film’s first creature comes in since Canary sends Kutchek and Gore to the Tomb of the Ancient King to retrieve the Sacred Weapons required to defeat the Dragon guarding the Belly Stone in the Lime Tree in the Forbidden Lands. Canary doesn’t mention that the Tomb is watched over by a Guard Wolf Man, but he’s definitely lurking around when they show up. As impressive as he looks, he hangs back, letting two hairy, disembodied arms try to prevent Ismene and the boys from gaining entrance. The twins make short work of them, ripping the arms out of the ground, and immediately use the Sacred Weapons to behead the Wolf Man when he confronts them directly. (To add to the indignity, one picks up the severed head and waves it around while they bark and howl in triumph.)

From there, it’s off to the Forbidden Lands where Kutchek and Gore easily shake off of a couple of gill men, stab the dragon to death and get showered in its green blood, recover the ruby from its innards, and bide their time until their requisite showdown with Kadar. Considering there are two of them, it might have made dramatic sense for Kutchek to sacrifice himself to save Gore (or vice versa), but The Barbarians isn’t interested in that kind of drama. Rather, it’s about two lunkheads who look good in loincloths and furry boots, kicking the asses of everyone who goes up against them. “Look at us,” one boasts. “We’re huge!” He is not wrong.