"You mean this dungeon tour includes bound rape at no extra charge?" Queen Amathea demonstrates why the smart amazon warrior does her kegels regularly as she gets the full treatment in King Argan's dungeon.
One of the things your fancy, big-city print movie reviewers like to do in order to show how observant they are, is focus on some minor character who doesn't mean a whole hell of a lot to the overall plot.
We're gonna do that in our review of Barbarian Queen, which is perhaps the most Gorean of the Gorean movies out there, matched only by Deathstalker 2. But we've got a good reason for our focus -- all the other characters are so predictable that focussing on them would put most readers to sleep in seconds.
Barbarian Queen starts out with a wedding of peaceful forest dwellers. Things do not bode well for this marriage, as a horde of black leather-clad horsemen are charging through the forest even as the villagers deck their hair with flowers and stroll about happily, as peaceful forest dwellers are wont to do.
Soon the horsemen are amongst the villagers, raping and killing and pillaging as uninvited wedding guests were wont to do in barbarian times (maybe this is how large weddings got started).
One of the women who is raped is the bride-to-be's little sister, Taramis (played very well by Dawn Dunlap) and she's dragged off by the horsemen for more raping. They leave the village a burning shell filled with corpses.
"I can't believe I'm doing a topless scene on such a tacky set!" One of Queen Amathea's subjects is left hanging around by King Argan's warriors.
Unfortunately for the party-trashing horsemen, who are minions of neighboring King Argan (played by Frank Zagarino) they do not manage to kill everyone in the village. Most notably they fail to kill Amethea (played by Lana Clarkson) the queen of the village and the bride-to-be, and several of her best warriors. They dispatch the straggler horsemen who've remained in the village to get in that last bit of pre-Christmas raping and looting. Then they hit the trail, their goal: track down King Argan and turn him and his followers into shish kebobs as well as rescue any amazonians who've been captured by the evil scum.
The rest of the movie concerns Queen Amethea's quest. She uses the same kind of investigative techniques that private eye Ginger MacAllister used in the Ginger movies -- she and her entire entourage head for the Argan' capital, where the villains capture them, thus lulling them into a false sense of security. It seems a little extreme, but these were barbaric times, and apparently there is no more important investigative goal than developing a false sense of security in the villains.
Meanwhile, Taramis has gone through quite a few changes. Her sisters' wedding turned into a mass raping and pillaging -- of her personally -- and the problem didn't even originate with the in-laws. Instead of a nice card, she got raped by a group of smelly warriors in black leather. Then they dragged her off to their camp at the river where they rape her some more and maybe torture her a little, but mostly they torture one of their other captives. Not that we see any images of her being molested, but it's obvious that something like that happens between the scene where she's dragged off by Argan and his goons and when she's found later on.
Well, it definitely puts Molly Ringwold's character's problems in Sixteen Candles in perspective. When Queen Amethea and her warriors attack the camp and kill all the enemy warriors after finding their torture victim, they find Taramis a naked, whimpering wretch cowering under some furs in a corner.
"Well, if you're going to be terrified, it's great to have nice furs to cower under." Taramis hides in a corner when she's found by one of Amathea's warriors.
Taramis' plan is that they go back to the village because everyone will miss them at the wedding. Apparently the rape and abuse she's suffered has caused her mind to slip a cog, and she's not able to absorb the fact that the village is a smoking pile of rubble and most of its residents are dead.
The Amazon warriors take Taramis with them, since she's clearly in no condition to do much for herself, spending most of her time sitting around with a vacant, troubled look in her eye. (You see a lot of B-movie actresses doing this sort of thing a lot, but in this case it's intentional.)
(The usual function of characters like Taramis in movies like Barbarian Queen is to serve as justification for all the whupass that the good guys eventually lay on the bad guys. Typically their fate is to go all googly-eyed and blubbery-lipped at some critical moment and die a pointless death, generally in pretty short order, they having served their purpose in the plot. But Taramis is a different kind of victim.)
Amethea and friends head into town to remove King Argan's head from his shoulders, in the predictable manner of barbaric heroes and heroines on a quest, where they join up with the survivors of another village that was smushed by King Argan. Disguised as peons, serfs, slavegirls, lowlifes and assorted ne'er-do-wells, they scope out the place. Soon they blunder into King Argan's palace, where Amethea and her lieutenants are promptly captured and imprisoned, either sent to the dungeons or forced to be harem slaves. Complacency-lulling is rarely accomplished so quickly and easily.
Taramis, who got the harem slave option, takes her first opportunity to run up to King Argan and tell him she wants to go with him. As in be his special girlfriend, not just follow him around, we guess. Then she goes back to her little-girl thing and asks him if he will give her a cat or a dog. (Getting cute with someone whose minions have recently raped the shit out of you is kinda after the fact -- let's face it, the relationship is off to a bad start.) But this does not deter Taramis, nor does it deter King Argan, who says, in effect, "Isn't that the kid we raped the shit out of back at the river camp? Oh, well, let's clean her up, no harm in her."
"I'll give you a pussy if you'll give me a doggie!" Taramis makes her move on King Argan.
Why King Argan would accord Taramis any special status when she's already his harem slave and he's already got a ton of harem slaves, we don't know -- maybe the little-girl thing got to him, or maybe it was just the novelty of a harem slave volunteering to have sex with him and smiling at him and all. In any event, he lets her be his favorite, in much the same way a fisherman might toss a fish that jumped into his boat into the hold.
Thus, Taramis becomes King Argan's bitch, or "consort" as they called it back then. She gets to follow King Argan everywhere wearing a sexy black leather costume when she isn't serving him in his chambers. We don't know what she does or doesn't wear when she serves him in his chambers, because there are no scenes showing her serving him in his chambers.
From a bondage fan's perspective, and that is the one I favor, this is the only major flaw in a film that is quite generous with bondage imagery throughout. And we're not even saying that there ought to be a bondage scene between Argan and Taramis, though of course we'd be the last to complain if there was, and it would certainly be in keeping with Argan's generally dominant personality and Taramis' generally submissive one.
But what we're really wishing for here is a little more character development for Taramis, because she's by far the most interesting character in the movie.
Amethea is predictably brave and good and determined, and her warriors are predictably brave. Argan is predictably evil and determined, and his minions are predictably vile and vicious.
Only Taramis fails to behave in a manner that is completely predictable to your average 10-year-old moviegoer. So we wonder, "What's going on with Taramis? Why did she decide to hang with King Argan? Was it Stockholm syndrome, where a victimized person identifies with their persecutor, much like the many middle class people who vote Republican? Does she have a secret plan to use her familiarity with King Argan to help her friends? Or is she just drawn to him because he seems to be powerful and therefore sexy?"
A scene or two of Taramis serving Argan in his chambers would go a long way toward clearing this stuff up. You don't even have to have an explicit sex scene -- though we wouldn't complain about that, either, and Dunlap had done some of that in her earlier works -- but basically we just want something to establish the nature of Taramis' relationship with Argan and how she feels about it. Let us into Taramis' head a little bit, people!
Of course, a dominant/submissive sex scene would help establish the vileness of King Argan and make clear the extent that Taramis has gone to in hooking up with him, but we'd be fools to second-guess someone as intelligent as a B-movie screenwriter.
"So, sis, YOU want to be the big victim of King Argan now, eh?" Left, Amathea is on display in Argan's dungeon, where Argan and Tarmis (right) stop by for a visit.
There is an interesting and telling scene later where Taramis meets up with her sister Amethea while she's lulling Argan into complacency. Amethea is stretched out spreadeagled on a flat vertical table in Argan's dungeon, naked except for her thong and tied hand and foot. She's looking kinda sweaty and bothered, too, because Argan's very Jewish-looking torturer has been giving her his attention for some time. Definitely not feeling her best. When Taramis pops in with her man Argan, she doesn't reveal that she recognizes Amethea, and Amethea doesn't reveal that she recognizes Taramis. They're like two ships that pass in the night, and it looks like it's gonna be a very long night indeed for Amethea.
Fortunately, shortly thereafter, the torturer gets horny for Amethea, rips her thong off, and tries to rape her right there on the table (see the picture at the top of the article). But Amethea's warrior training has apparently included doing brutally lengthy and intense kegels, because while the torturer's got his dick in her she grabs it with her pussy and squeezes it so hard that he immediately becomes her completely compliant servant. She orders him to free her from her bonds, which he does, allowing her to shove him into a conveniently placed vat of acid, resulting in a painful death by dissolving, and allowing Amethea to make good her escape.
All in all, one of the great bondage scenes in Gorean films, if not the greatest, then a definite contender.
Taramis' final scene seemingly answers all questions about her plans. A tournament in which some of Amethea's warriors are slated to fight to the death turns into a general rebellion against Argan's tyrannical rule. During the course of it, Amethea and King Argan end up in a swordfight to the death. Seeing that King Argan is about to skewer Amethea with a real sword (as opposed to the pork sword he's been skewering Taramis with) Taramis whips out a knife and thrusts it into Argan's back, killing him.
So you have to figure Teramis didn't really like Argan.
Then again, maybe not. Lots of women carve up the men they love, especially when their relationship begins with gang rape. It's hard to picture Taramis' feelings for Argan as anything but conflicted. Or maybe Taramis, as a result of the trauma she'd been subjected to, had come to the conclusion that the only way to survive in her barbaric world was to be on the best possible terms with whoever held the most power -- not out of cynicism but in a naive response to the brutality she's been subjected to. This would explain why she fails to come to Amethea's rescue when she sees her sister naked and tortured in the dungeon. Arguably, Amethea was in more desperate straits then, but Argan was in power then. Later, when Argan is fighting Amethea for his life and his subjects are in open rebellion, Argan has clearly lost his power and Taramis feels safe in attacking him.
That would also explain why, as soon as they were in King Argan's domain and she saw that King Argan's domain had actual buildings, she knew which side to join.
There's just one thing about all this theorizing -- it brings us to what I call the comic book critic's conundrum, a problem that's also present in B-movies.
There are a lot of adults who love comics -- I'm not one of them, but being a fan of B-movies, I'm hardly in a position to feel superior to them, though of course I do feel superior.
Anyway, these adults will sometimes write lengthy screeds about the hidden psychological aspects of Glowing Gigantic Man or the aesthetics of death by electro-ray. Some of it can be interesting, insightful and amusing, but on the few occasions I've read such work I've always had an uneasy awareness that the story being written about is most likely a pile of adolescent testosterone spew and nothing more.
Similar pitfalls exist in B-movies. One searches for insight, intelligence, characterization and so forth, but mostly one finds formulaic scripting, acting and direction at best, or the garbled natterings of wasted minds at worst.
So, when you find an almost developed character like Taramis in a script whose other characters are pure cardboard, you have to wonder -- have you found something good or are you projecting qualities into the film that actually don't exist? Could Taramis have been written as she was out of sheer random impulse, rather than as a part of a carefully considered characterization?
The evidence of the film argues that the truth lies somewhere between these two extremes. I don't think the scriptwriter, Howard R. Cohen, or director, Hector Olivera -- whoever was responsible for the way Taramis' character developed -- consciously wanted to portray Taramis as a person damaged by the trauma of sexual abuse and coping with it as best she can in a world where it's not rape if the woman isn't a member of your own tribe.
If the filmmakers had taken that route, they might have had a few sex scenes between Taramis and Argan in which it becomes clear that in submitting herself to Argan sexually, she's neurotically revisiting the trauma of her rape. It might even have made sense to have Taramis encouraging Argan to tie her up and dominate her to make their sexual relationship more rape-like. The fact that such scenes are absent indicates that there wasn't any conscious development of the theme.
I strongly suspect that the writer developed Taramis' character without being consciously aware of what he was doing, just thinking of her as a contrast to Amethea and her brave warriors. But I also suspect that the author had absorbed some knowledge of how victims of sexual trauma behave, and that this subconsciously informed the development of Taramis' character, without any conscious awareness on the author's part.
The same subconscious sophistication may also be responsible for the capable exploitation of the bondage, rape and torture themes in the movie, which makes it so much better than most Gorean films, which typically, and sadly, lack sophistication of any sort.
Taramis' little-girl act with King Argan and her inability to so much as give a conspiratorial wink to her naked and tormented sister point out what a damaged creature she is, thus adding a great deal of pathos to her role and the film. Unfortunately, with all the other charcters being all cardboard, all the time, and Taramis' screen time totalling less than five minutes, and her lines totalling less than a dozen, she just doesn't have that much of an effect on the movie as a whole. If we'd just gotten a little more into Taramis' head, it could have added a lot of depth to the movie.
This is typical of B-movies though -- on those occasions when they do come up with juicy characters or interesting themes, they have a way of botching or ignoring them somehow.
"Ha! if only you had thought to bring a cell phone with you, you could have called your fellow rebels!" Amathea works hard at lulling the villains into a sense of extreme complacency.