Two for the Price of Fun with The Barbarian Brothers!
With the success of 1982’s Sword and Sorcery epic, Conan the Barbarian, there would come a handful of films that studios quickly pumped out with the hopes that they too could get in on the barbarian action. Conan was announced in 1978, so even before the John Milius directed film saw its release, studios foresaw the potential and immediately went into production on a number of movies. Most notably would be The Sword and the Sorcerer and, one of my childhood favorites, The Beastmaster. Despite essentially being rip-offs of Conan the Barbarian at heart, both of those films very much contributed to the coming trend and popularity of the Sword and Sorcery genre in the ’80s. It was a new wave that could not go ignored, and soon a slew of imitators would flex their way into theaters.
When it comes to genre rip-offs, one country did it better – well, more often – than any other, and that would of course be Italy. Italian filmmakers were notorious for jacking everything and anything they could to make a quick buck. With films like Jaws, Mad Max, Star Wars, Rambo, and The Terminator, the Italians reveled in taking popular cinematic trends and reselling them back to moviegoers. They knew no bounds and ripped off everything and everyone, including even themselves as seen with genres like Spaghetti Westerns, Cannibal Films, Gialli, Nazisploitation, and so on and so forth. Of course, the Eye-talins would take no issue with tackling the Sword and Sorcery genre after the success of Conan (which proved to be very popular in their country). Antonio Margheriti’s Yor, the Hunter from the Future, Umberto Lenzi’s Ironmaster and horror icon Lucio Fulci’s fog-filled Conquest are but a few Barbarian films that came from the loins of Conan.
One other notable Italian director who jumped into the Barbarian mix was Ruggero Deodato. Best known for a certain little cannibal film and the turtle fueled controversy that (still) surrounds it, Deodato helmed one of cinemas true highlights when he decided to tackle the Sword and Sorcery genre with 1987’s Italian/American co-production, The Barbarians.
The Barbarians is, at heart, a basic cheap Barbarian film. The plot is about as thin as your average girly-man, focusing on a set of young twins that are enslaved by the evil Kadar (Richard Lynch) after he and his posse attack a group of performers that the twins had been traveling with. The twins, Kutchek and Gore, are separated from each other and participate in what I like to call ‘The Conan Workout’. They do a bunch of half-naked slave like crap like lifting things and pushing stuff, eventually growing from little twins to big twins. And when I say big twins, I mean BIG twins, with bewbs so large and well rounded even Dolly and Elvira couldn’t help but get a little jealous.
Throughout their lives, Kutchek and Gore are trained to become powerful gladiators who eventually, and unknowingly, face-off against one another in battle. They aren’t aware of who they are each fighting at first as both are wearing helmets, but it isn’t long before one of the helmets comes off, and the Barbarian Brothers are reunited. Naturally, two meatheads are better than one, and Kutchek and Gore escape and carry out an adventure that is sure to have the entire family clapping with joy! Or, most men flexing in embarrassment.
As a Barbarian/Sword and Sorcery film, The Barbarians is cheap and mostly mediocre. As a piece of entertainment, though, it is nothing short of great. Deodato has made a few good to great films in his time, though, I wouldn’t say The Barbarians is as wonderful (and boy is it wonderful) as it is due to him so much as the film’s two leads, Peter and David Paul aka The Barbarian Bothers! The entertainment that comes from The Barbarians is certainly less than it being a Barbarian flick and more about it being a vehicle for the Paul brothers to entertain the shit out of the right type of appreciative audience member. And I am most definitely that type of audience member.
While the uneducated (in the ways of the Barbarian Bros.) viewer would glance at something like The Barbarians and think it worth no more than a laugh due to those two silly looking, mullet wearing, muscle bound twinsies, they would only be half right. The Barbarians is indeed silly due to the Paul brothers, that’s just how it is, plain and simple; however, they are not solely the type of performers that one can simply laugh at. Now, you can definitely laugh at them for how insane they appear (but they’ll hit your face), but the Paul brothers entertain well beyond their looks and style and deserve some serious credit for their comedic sensibilities.
Peter and David Paul have an incredible sense of humor and know how to play off one another in a way that is quite simply a joy to watch. The pair have great comedic timing, they don’t take themselves too seriously and, say it I will, are extremely underappreciated as a comedy duo. They know how to use their specific and very unusual looks to their advantage as on-screen personalities, and you would be hard (bench) pressed to find a cinematic duo quite like them. Their collective physical presence is only outmatched by their charisma, charm and personality on screen.
Outside of the big titted and so sweaty they make Vaseline look dry Barbarian Brothers, The Barbarians has a few other things to enjoy. There are a handful of nice looking barbarian babes to gawk at, specifically an animal hide wearing and infectiously adorable Kara (Eva LaRue), who would double as a nice female sidekick to Kutchek and Gore. There are also a handful of recognizable actors that most any genre fan should get a kick out of seeing. Of course there is the before mentioned Richard Lynch as Kadar. Michael Berryman shows up, playing an unattractive slave master to Kadar named, now get this, Dirtmaster! The most notable appearance comes from that of George Eastman, who once again plays an arm wrestling tough guy (a character similar in theory to that of one he played oh so brilliantly in Sergio Martino’s Hands of Steel) who faces off against one of the bothers. It should be noted that Eastman also starred in Lenzi’s Ironmaster, which, as I mentioned, is an Italian made Conan rip-off.
The Barbarians is a movie that would surprise many who would expect it to be so bad it’s good. In all reality, the film is so fun it’s good, and that is attributed to two guys and the humor they bring to the screen. The Paul Brothers have two tons of personality and the bods to match, and I think that their humor and personality are summed up in what is by far my favorite scene in the film…