Is Matt Cimber‘s 1983 sword and not an ounce of sorcery flick Hundra a “great” movie? Well, that depends on one’s perspective on these sorts of fantasy movies. If you go in with “epic” level expectations from what’s basically a very straightforward and competent “B” movie with a nice mix of action and humor, that answer might be “nope.”
On the other hand, it’s not bad at all if you bust out the popcorn and fizzy adult beverages and don’ forget to grab a few like-minded friends who enjoy stuff like Xena: Warrior Princess or other fun shows or films with strong female leads. In that case, you’re in for a pretty solid time in front of the TV, warts and all.
(Thanks, Cinema Epoch!)
Laurene Landon‘s striking looks and gung-ho athletic ability (she did her own stunts) outstrips her less than dynamic acting talents here. But her raw performance really works well for the film’s purposes because she’s playing a wild female warrior type in search of a man to impregnate her so she can restart her slain nomadic tribe’s lineage.
Shush, now. It makes sense when you see the film and yes, that it’s not all played dead serious helps make the film quite enjoyable. After her all-female tribe is brutally massacred while she’s away on a hunt, a returning Hundra is chased by the remaining men into a dead end battle where she exacts her revenge. Fierce fighting over with, she seeks out her tribe’s sole remaining leader who just so happens to live far away from the now decimated forest village. Chrysula the Elder (played by an actress with a single name, Tamara) tells Hundra that she needs to do as the women in her tribe have done forever and go get herself with child. Hundra being a tall, striking knockout of a man-despising murder machine wants to disagree and in fact, does. But Chrysula’s words sink in and it’s off to the races to hook a stud for that one-time roll in the hay.
(Thanks, Wolfy King!)
So yeah, that’s a lot to dwell on… well, if you pause to dwell on stuff during your movie enjoying time.
Anyway, brutal opening sequence aside, the film rolls out the humor wagon to keep the story going as well as from going for a more intense tone. Hundra sets out on her horse with her loyal but fraidy-cat dog (the animals here add comic relief in a few key scenes) and eventually meets her first potential mate. Guy number one is a gassy, bearded brute with a train of subservient wives who tries to force himself on Hundra and gets a beat down for the ages in the process. Their encounter is initially a tough watch when the creep starts smacking Hundra around and it sure looks as if he’s going to have his way with her. But she gets the upper hand, foot, and everything else, leaving him loopy and lumpy with his wailing wives coming to his aid as she rides off annoyed and a bit bruised. If at first you don’t succeed and all that…
Her next stop is a walled city where she sees two young girls taken away from family members for some obviously nefarious purpose. Of course, this doesn’t sit well with her free woman warrior side and she briefly deters the men who make off with their “prizes” after some effort. Invited inside by an old man for a meal, Hundra discovers the girls in the village get rounded up and taken to the castle to be ravaged by King Napatkin (John Ghaffari) and his cult of bull worshiping manly-men. Cue a great, hilarious action sequence where Hundra takes on and defeats some of the city guard unprepared for such feminine ferocity. This scene comes to a close when she crashes through a roof and lands in the bed of Pateray the Healer (Ramiro Oliveros). As he’s asking if she’s alright, Hundra shakes off her daze, locks eyes with him and yep, she’s found her baby daddy.
Pateray thinks she’s suffering from a hit to the head, but a smitten Hundra pins him to a door by throwing knives through his robes (eek!) before trying to seduce him. Naturally, the healer lets her know this sort of rough behavior isn’t conducive to a romantic interlude or mood. As Hundra grills him on what type of woman he thinks is right, a woman named Cradema (Maria Casal) stops by to retrieve a child treated by Pateray. She just so happens to be one of the castle’s women who trains those kidnapped girls to be compliant, so a seemingly clueless Hundra decides to follow her and get a leg up on being more likable to Pateray. Yikes. The shot where a happy to learn Hundra leaves Pateray’s place and is confronted with a pan shot of pissed off guards, more pissed off guards and her captured horse glaring back at her is PRICELESS because it’s the throwaway shot you’d expect and her “Calgon, take me away!” reaction is the punchline.
The humorous montage of Hundra going from killer man-stomper to pliant for Pateray works thanks to Langdon’s expressions and reactions to everything from mud baths to makeup and even using a spoon properly. Landon’s “lack” of acting chops actually help because she’s not playing the part like a big deal “ACT-OR” would at all. She’s doing the full-on uneducated in the ways of the word warrior gal and having fun with it.
Eventually, that My Unfair Lady-like stuff gets sorted out and Hundra returns to Pateray a new woman. naturally, while the baby-making stuff goes just fine, King Napatkin gets the buzz that the tall, leggy blonde who beat the crap out of his men a while back is still in town and he decides he wants her for his cult to tame in their inimitably cruel manner. By this point, Hundra has given birth to a daughter (thankfully) and has schooled Cradema in the many ways of self-defense. There’s a showdown coming for sure, but you’ll need to see for yourself how it all climaxes. Everything is wrapped up in a great score by Ennio Morricone that’s dramatic when it needs to be, yet humorous when it counts.
The film didn’t get a wide theatrical release and from my recollections, didn’t really make a name for itself until a few companies tackled remastering it not too long ago. Stay away from the shoddy Mill Creek print found in the Sci-Fi Invasion box set, as it’s a bit fuzzy and the sound mix is weird. The Cinema Epoch version I have above has a better picture, and better, but not *quite* flawless audio quality. The slightly more expensive Subversive Cinema release has a few nice bonus features including commentary and interviews with Cimber and Langdon, who’d work together again on Yellow Hair and the Fortress of Gold, a film that SOUNDS as if it’s a sequel, but isn’t. It’s a Raiders of the Lost Ark riff with Langdon as a female treasure hunter well before Lara Croft put on those Mary Janes and tight top.
What, you’re still here? Oh, that’s right! This post is part of The Sword & Sandal Blogathon hosted by MOON IN GEMINI. Hi Deb! Pop over there from July 8 – 12 to read some cool and even more informative posts than this one, I say.