One must admire a low budget sword and sorcery movie for having the balls to use a subtitle that referenced a certain classic Star Wars sequel but having watched the film that’s about all I can admire of it, and as sequels go this one barely qualifies as such, and the sole purpose for its existence was in the raking in of Blockbuster rental sales from teenagers who were hard up for tits and ass.
Despite the film’s moniker of Barbarian Queen II, there is nothing connecting this and 1985’s Barbarian Queen other than both films starring model turned B-movie queen Lana Clarkson, in this outing the central character is Princess Athalia (Lana Clarkson) who doesn’t want to become a lady, despite her handmaiden’s insistence on her wearing ladylike attire and having proper royal grooming, all so that she can be married off for strategic advantages. So, what we have here is your typical “I don’t want” Disney Princess trope where we have a young woman who wants to escape their old life for “Something more” but in this case, we will definitely be seeing a lot more nudity than what we got with the likes of Ariel or Belle.
After learning of the supposed death of Athalia’s father King Tico, presumable in battle, we are introduced to the film’s primary villain Ankaris (Alejandro Bracho), who was the court’s chief strategist and obviously evil asshat, but has now taken this opportunity to seize the throne and demand that Athalia reveal to him the secret of the sceptre, a bit of royal magic that was entrusted to her and her alone. As there is no proof of her father’s death, she refuses to hand over the sceptre and accuses Ankaris of simply planning to loot the treasury and install his cronies into positions of power, but her protestations simply land her in the palace dungeon. Which begs the question, “Was the entire court already corrupt, so much so that not one person would object to the Princess being imprisoned?” Athalia is aided by Anakari’s daughter Tamis (Cecilia Tijerina) in escaping the dungeon but she’s just as evil as her dad and this was simply a ploy to get access to the sceptre.
This villainous plot is foiled, and the sceptre is once again safe from Ankaris’s lust for power, but Athalia is sentenced to death, despite Tamis’ protestations that she was promised Athalia would be her slave. Lucky for her, the guards that take Athalia to the gallows are all deaf and have no peripheral vision and she is easily able to escape. While fleeing Ankaris’s men Athalia is saved by a passing thief named Zarla (Rebecca Wood) and she is taken to meet her band of forest-dwelling warriors that consist of, surprise surprise, mostly gorgeous women and who are all plotting to overthrow the corrupt kingdom, all they need is a new leader. I wonder who that could be. Lucky for us, all that Athalia has to do to prove her worth is beat their current leader in some impromptu mud wrestling and to be honest, I think most political discussions could be improved with this technique. Faster than you can say “Robin Hood” Athalia and her buxom band of outlaws are thwarting rape and robbery as they move their way up to overthrow Ankaris.
Not only is Barbarian Queen II not a proper sequel it’s more a gender-flipped version of Robin Hood than anything else, with Athalia and her merry band laying ambushes for Ankaris’s soldiers and rescuing peasants from rape and murder, and this film even has a Sherriff of Nottingham equivalent in the form of Ankaris’s primary henchman Hofrax (Roger Cudney) but the actor here is clearly no Alan Rickman and like the rest of the cast no expense was spared in finding the worst actors in the industry and every line delivery is as wooden as their swords – how much of this is due to bad dubbing you be the judge – and the fighting itself is about as convincing as a couple of six-year-olds battling it out on the playground with plastic lightsabres. Sadly, what makes this film a real chore is that even at a meagre 70-minute running time it’s still a chore to get through as the plot unfolds at a lethargic pace and as all the characters are fairly unlikable it’s hard to get emotionally attached to anything, in fact, the only character I found remotely interesting was the evil spoiled brat Tamis who seemed to be the only person having a fun time in this poor excuse for a movie.
We are also forced to suffer through a terrible romance between Athalia and her old suitor Aurion (Greg Wrangler), who is now betrothed to Tamis the bratty teen princess, and if there was ever a perfect example of “negative screen chemistry” this would be it, as every moment on screen with this pair is excruciatingly painful to watch. That the character of Aurion is given some kind of redemptive arc here is just such bullshit as he went along with the villain’s plans simply because Athalia had made it clear in the past that she would never marry him, and that makes him an even worse person in my book than that of the moustache-twirling head villain. But speaking of villainy, at one point in the film Athalia is captured again and Lana Clarkson ends up strapped to a torture rack, topless, just as she was in the original Barbarian Queen movie.
• The king falls in battle and the court’s chief strategist declares “The power is now mine by right, does anyone dispute this?” But what “right” is this exactly? I know this is a fantasy film but when would the crown go to a military advisor and not someone in the royal bloodline? His simply declaring a coupe after the King’s death would have made more sense.
• I was quite impressed to see the woodland rebel gleefully looting a dead soldier of weapons and jewelry, this pragmatic act is often missed when depicting this time period.
• This band of rebels was formed to overthrow the corrupt kingdom but Athalia Ankaris had barely been in charge for a day. Was King Tico corrupt as well, or was he blind to the machinations of his underlings?
• Athalia berates Aurion who wants to be king one day stating, “I was born to power I don’t need it like you do?” Is she saying you can only rule if you were born to it? That’s not a very inspiring comment coming from the supposed leader of a band of rebels.
• The wood-dwelling rebels look more like fur-bikini-clad cave girls from something like One Million B.C. rather than Robin Hood’s Merry Men.
• Athalia and her band of Merry Women sneak into the castle grounds dressed in monk habits much as Errol Fynn and his men did in The Adventures of Robin Hood.
• This is a fantasy world where barrels of water are strategically placed so that can be overturned at the opportune moment to provide mud for women to wrestle in.
Unless you are hard up for gratuitous amounts of nudity there isn’t much here to make this film worth recommending, not even to even fans of bad movies because it never quite reaches the level of “so bad it’s good” and the badly choreographed fights, horrible acting, terrible attempts at humour – during a rape scene, a peasant woman is told to “Take it like a man” and I have no idea what the fuck that was supposed to mean – and it never overcomes the film’s meandering plot, which seemed to endlessly circle like a persistent turd that refuses to be flushed. Then to add insult to injury there is a complete lack of a point behind the magic sceptre, which the villains spend much of the film trying to find out its secrets, but when the heroes win Athalia tells the cheering masses that true magic is in trusting those that rule and then she simply chucks the sceptre to the crowd below. Seriously, we never get to see this magical MacGuffin in action and its complete pointlessness pretty much sums up this movie. All I’m saying is that “I have the power of love and trust!” does not have the same ring as “By the power of Grayskull.”
It’s a fact that bad low-budget Sword & Sorcery films are a dime a dozen but Barbarian Queen II: The Empress Strikes Back is even harder to sit through than most of those and it’s not the cheap production design and shallow talent pool that makes this one particularly bad, what causes this to be an embarrassment entry in the genre can be summed up by the scene where the villainous Holfax tears off Athalia’s bodice, revealing her naked and heaving bosom, and bizarrely declares “What an awesomely disgusting sight” which is a fair measure as to how tonally deaf and terrible this movie was and leaves one pondering “Who wrote this shit?” The original Barbarian Queen was a bad movie, but this “sequel” makes that one look like a work of genius.
Barbarian Queen II: The Empress Strikes Back (1990)
Movie Rank - 2/10
All the gratuitous nudity in the world couldn’t make this mess into anything other than a dime-store Robin Hood knock-off that was more painful to watch than suffering from a case of hemorrhoids.