As allergy medication rendered the Mighty Bunche a loopy, futon-bound mess, the benevolent gods of DVD obscurity saw fit to take pity upon the stalwart mocha warrior and did bless him with a stack of flicks, among which was found the long overdue release of Matt Cimber’s HUNDRA. And our hero was most pleased.
Let’s get one thing straight. Be they high-class epics (I don’t care what you say, GLADIATOR was a barbarian flick) or low budget sword-and-sandal flesh and blood fests, I love me some barbarian movies. CONAN THE BARBARIAN stands tallest in my estimation of the genre, and even the laughably execrable SORCERESS counts as one of my all time favorite films, so I welcome the DVD availability of even the most obscure entries in the genre, and HUNDRA certainly fits that description. As one of the dozens of loincloth extravaganzas released in the wake of CONAN’s success, HUNDRA came and went in the blink of an eye, somehow being missed during my daily scouring of the movie listings, and that’s no mean feat since I even managed to see DEATHSTALKER during the nanosecond it played at the local grindhouse. For years I heard tell that HUNDRA was a better than usual example of the genre, but having fallen victim to such claims in the past and being burned by such recommended films (CONQUEST and HAWK THE SLAYER among them) I never bothered to check it out even when it periodically turned up on cable or VHS.
Then I went to Manhattan’s esteemed Kim’s Video on Sunday afternoon and found HUNDRA just released on DVD with the accompanying soundtrack album (by one of my favorite composers, lifetime achievement Oscar Winner Ennio Morricone!!!), and at $15.95 I figured it was worth taking a chance on. And I was absolutely right.
HUNDRA opens with a narration about a tribe of warrior women who happily live apart from men (requiring them only for reproductive purposes and giving away any male offspring), and how the strongest of their number, the uncouth and unkempt Hundra (Laurene Landon), has left on a hunting mission. Once Hundra’s out of sight we see their village attacked for no reason whatsoever by a bunch of helmeted male assholes who worship the bull, the ultimate symbol of manliness. The women put up one hell of a fight, but they are soon mercilessly raped and slaughtered, leaving the returning Hundra as the next-to-last survivor of the tribe. After killing fifteen of the men who destroyed her people, Hundra visits the cave retreat of the tribe’s aged holy woman for advice on what to do next with her life and isn’t very happy with what she hears: in order to perpetuate her tribe, she must make flaming Osh-Osh with a man (YECCH!) and give birth to a girl child. A man-hater to the core, a disgusted Hundra declares “No man shall penetrate my body, either with a sword or himself!” — you GO, girl! — but she can’t let her people die so she butches up and sets off with her faithful (if cowardly) dog, Beast, on a literal quest for dick.
After being accosted by a warrior midget (?), our girl encounters a drunken, flatulent barbarian dude and attempts to hump him, solely so she can get the noxious deed over with, but his patriarchal assholism earns him a righteous ass-kicking. Undeterred, Hundra heads to the nearest city in search of worthy genetic material and finds it to be the home of those bull-worshipping pricks, run by a priest who enlists the town’s unwilling young women to be trained to service the needs of warlords in the local temple. Needless to say, that shit don’t sit too well with Hundra so after preventing some soldiers from abducting a girl, the blonde warrior intentionally starts some shit with the authorities in order to hit the temple and teach the harem a thing or two about feminism. After a swashbuckling battle that would have been right at home in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, Hundra falls through the roof of a handsome, kindly doctor and swiftly finds her loincloth to be a very humid place indeed. When the guy refuses to submit to her demands made at dagger-point, Hundra has a change of plans and decides that maybe she could learn from the temple women how to appeal to the doctor instead of scaring the shit out of him. Once at the temple, Hundra pretends to submit to her docility and grooming training, all the while teaching her companions about their own self-worth and sneaking out for house calls with the doc. And when the mighty Hundra finds herself pregnant, the shit really hits the fan!
Somehow finding the perfect balance between humor and adventure, HUNDRA is a hoot from start to finish, and star Laurene Landon’s athletic skills more than make up for her thespic deficiencies, allowing her to come off like a less-polished Errol Flynn. It’s cheap, silly, and even kinda stupid, but it’s a perfect Saturday afternoon popcorn-muncher that’s a proto-XENA must for all the little girls out there; sure, it’s rated R and has a smattering of nudity (the raping thankfully takes place off-camera, so the flesh on display is a bit of casualness in the harem and a looney bit with a bare-nekkid Hundra riding her horse in the surf), but it’s a great lesson on taking no shit from patriarchal douchebags and doing what needs to be done for the greater good, namely getting knocked up by a total stranger you tried to coerce with sharp objects. Heartwarming stuff, indeed.