The Arena aka Naked Warriors 1999 Horror Movie Review
Horror movies Review
No need to be put off by this rating I personally love this movie. I am exploitation -enthusiasts and would have rated it much higher but instead I save myself for being a bias. Fashionable feminism, utterly unwarranted nudity, catfights, overdramatic dialogue are all right here in “The Arena,” a lavish spectacle (by New World standards) in which the audience is treated to Caged Heat in gladiator drag. Of course, most DVD buyers will probably want to snag this one up for Pam Grier, doing by far the most explicit and unabashed nudity of her career. Luckily, it also happens to be quite a fun film.
The Roman Empire was at its height (and right after the Spartacus revolt, as one minor character is quick to point out), the Romans took delight in pillaging other cultures, slaughtering innocents, and taking the most beautiful women back with them as servants. Bodicia (Margaret Markhov) of Brittany is the token blonde goddess captive, while Mamawi (Grier) is a tribal woman; miraculously, both apparently know how to speak Latin. Along with two other women, Bodicia and Mamawi are subjected to such indignities as public hose-downs and hand waiting on Roman political slobs. When the girls start a nasty catfight (the first of many over the top highlights), the nasty Romans, headed by the questionably named, token gay comic character Priscium (Sid Lawrence), decide that their new acquisitions might make for more entertainment in the gladiator arena. However, after the women witness the brutal treatment of the male gladiators, who are promised their freedom and summarily executed, they decide that perhaps this isn’t the most efficient system of government and plan an escape. Not surprisingly, the last third of the film is devoted to the female “jailbreak,” filled with plenty of sword clashing and spilled blood. The male contingent of our cast is a sad lot, though much of their performance is damaged irreparably simply by the obvious dubbing. No amount of dubbing, however, could excuse Daniele Vargas’ overacting as Timarchus. His eyerolling, sheet-chewing scene when he condemns Septimus to death could likely be used as proof for the (now discredited) theory that Rome went mad from drinking water poisoned by lead piping. Sid Lawrence can be forgiven, he was told to be a cliché as Priscium, and he is a cliché. Paul Muller’s Lucilius, however, is a nicely restrained, steady performance by a pro.
Markhov and Grier make a nice team after their previous stint on Corman’s Black Mama, White Mama, and visually, the film looks terrific. Though credited to Steve Carver (Big Bad Mama - Special Edition, Lone Wolf McQuade), directorial chores were reportedly handled mostly by the film’s cinematographer, Joe D’Amato (Aristide Massaccesi), who later found a profitable career helming horror films (The Grim Reaper) and a slew of highbrow Rocco Siffredi hard [**] titles. And believe it or not, this was edited by Joe Dante, long before Corman gave him his big break as director of Piranha. For Grier and women in prison fans, the decision to pick this one up should be a no brainer.