Color, 1984, 81m.
Directed by John C. Broderick
Starring David Carradine, Luke Askew, Maria Socas, Anthony De Longis, Harry Townes, William Marin

Color, 1985, 71m.
Directed by Héctor Olivera
Starring Lana Clarkson, Katt Shea, Frank Zagarino, Dawn Dunlap, Susana Traverso
Shout Factory (US R1 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1)

Never one to let a cinematic trend pass unexploited, Roger Corman saw a prime opportunity in the mid-'80s with the rise in popularity of sword and sorcery films following the success of films like Conan the Barbarian and The Sword and the Sorcerer. While Europeans were busy cranking out fare like Conquest and Gor, Corman jumped right in with one of the first imitations, 1982's Sorceress, before selling New World Pictures in 1983, but he quickly jumped back on that horse under his new banner of New Horizons with a slew of additional mystical muscleman films. 1983's Deathstalker proved to be the template for several films to follow: South American filming locations (usually Argentina), endless parades of female flesh, striking Boris Vallejo poster arast (either real or imitation), and bizarre plot twists aplenty.

One of the more prominent of these in theaters was The Warrior and the Sorceress, which caught a lot of teenage eyes with its poster design featured a quadruple-breasted vixen writhing beneath a buff, sword-wielding David Carradine. Not surisingly, Carradine is considerably less ripped in the actual film, and the four-boobed starlet is actually a slinky dancer who only appears for one (albeit highly memorable) scene. Our tale here is yet another version of Dashiell Hammet's Red Harvest (which was filmed unofficially as Yojimbo, A Fistful of Dollars, Last Man Standing, etc.) as a lone swordsman, Kain (Carradine), strides into a sandy, desolate town called Yama-Tar in some world mixing the primeval and the postnuke. The local water supply from a well is under control by one of the town bigwigs, and when Kain muscles his way into releasing the water for everyone, the townspeople react by celebrating and naturally allowing three topless women to splash around in it. Soon Kain's services are demanded, first by chubby criminal kingpin Bal Caz (Marin) who consults with a creepy telepathic reptile on his shoulder, and then Zeg (Big Love's Askew), a tyrant whose prize prisoner is the titular sorceress, Naja (Socas), who spends the entire film topless. While pocketing his share of gold coins, Kain plays both sides against each other until a violent finale.

Playing yet another variation on his zen warrior from Kung Fu and Circle of Iron, Carradine is his usually zoned-out self here and fun to watch as always. However, it's the hammy supporting characters here who are the real show, with all of the actors (most weirdly dubbed in post-production for some reason) acting as strangely as possible among the cheap desert sets. Select doses of previous Corman scores (including some recognizable snatches of James Horner music) add more color to an obviously threadbare production, and director John C. Broderick (best known for the drive-in trash favorite Bad Georgia Road) keeps things movign very quickly for the trim 81-minute running time. Of all the Corman sword films, this is certainly far from the worse and quite entertaining if you're in the right frame of mind. Shout Factory's disc (available officially through their Direct line, found at the link above) features an anamorphic transfer that's several huge steps ahead of the murky, washed-out Vestron VHS tape and the later New Concorde DVD which recycled an old one-inch tape master. This new transfer features some significant damage during the opening credits, but otherwise it's crisp and colorful with only some minor debris issues to speak of. It's obvious this won't be a Blu-Ray candidate anytime soon, but the upgrade value here is definitely substantial. The anamorphic framing also restores a lot of compositional style compared to the awkward, open matte versions we've had before.

Paired up as the second feature on this disc is the following year's Barbarian Queen, a huge hit back in the VHS days and a frequent resident of video shelves across the country. It also spawned a sequel, 1987's inferior Barbarian Queen II: The Empress Strikes Back, which has apparently been set aside for a future double feature. Now Barbarian Queen is most notorious as the only starring vehicle for Lana Clarkson, the gorgeous blonde who appeared in a number of '70s TV shows, played the unforgettable Mrs. Vargas in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and was shot to death by record producer Phil Spector at his house in 2003. Here she stars as Amethea, a survivor of a Roman raid on a small village who teams up with two other beautiful female escapees, Estrild (Shea, future director of Poison Ivy and Stripped to Kill), and Taramis (Forbidden World's Dunlap). Since the whole siege happened on her wedding day and her betrothed (Zagarino) is now in the clutches of the Romans, she and her sisters in butt-kicking infiltrate the city walls and recruit some gladiators to help on their quest. The indisputable highlight for sleaze fans comes when Clarkson is strapped topless to a rack by a loony scientist with huge glasses; the entire sequence is one of the wildest in the Corman catalog with an insane punchline. Along with the usual Corman stock music (including more Horner cameos), this is also notable as one of the earlier film scoring assignments for the great, still undervalued Christopher Young, still two years before breaking through with Hellraiser.

Deathstalker co-producer Olivera takes over directorial chores here and keeps things super-tight at a punchy 71 minutes, though a slightly longer unrated version was also prepared for videocassette. As an actual print of this version apparently isn't available, the extra scenes (mostly dialogue, though you do get some extended skin during the pillage and rack scenes and a bloody throat slitting) are presented on the DVD as a "deleted scenes" extra from the tape master. The main feature looks much, much better than before; the anamorphic transfer is vivid and film-like with all of the '80s hairdos looking crystal clear. The film element is in cleaner shape than the co-feature, and the sound is also much crisper than the dull, muted track found on the VHS and earlier New Concorde DVD editions. Full frame trailers for both films are included, and when you watch each film, they're preceded by additional Corman titles like Deathstalker, the wonderfully insane and entertaining Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans (easily the best of the entire Corman sword cycle and one that's hopefully coming from Shout as soon as possible), Streets, and Angel in Red. For sheer bang for your buck, this pairing's hard to beat.