War Goddess (1973) / Action-War
aka La guerriere del seno nudo
aka The Amazons
MPAA Rated R for nudity, sexuality, violence and language
Running time: 89 min. (U.S. release)
Cast: Alena Johnston, Angelo Infanti, Sabine Sun, Rosanna Yanni, Helga Line, Rebecca Potok, Malisa Longo, Lucy Tiller, Almut Berg, Luciana Paluzzi
Director: Terence Young
Screenplay: Serge de la Roche, Massimo De Rita, Arduino Maiuri
Review published July 24, 2011
This pan-European exploitation film boasts a known director in Terence Young, who made a name for himself as the director of classic James Bond features as Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Thunderball. It is also based on a story by Robert Graves, a well-known English writer who specialized in written interpretations derived from Greek mythology. I suppose the man who titillated audiences with From Russia with Love's wrestling match between female gypsies would be the one called upon to do the same with Amazon warriors, though they do anoint their nude bodies prior.
Its original Italian title translates to Bare-breasted Warriors, so that's what they deliver on. Although it plays like a cheapie B-movie sex flick, a decent amount of lire, francs and pesos was doled out to make the film, which features a large cast, an army of extras with costumes for each, scenic locale work, crazy costumes, and other notable production value for its type. In many ways, it feels like the treatment that Bob Guccione have to Caligula, whereby legitimate filmmakers come in trying to make a serious epic, only to have the production company meddle and try to inject as much sex and nudity as possible to sell the film internationally.
Alena Johnston stars as Antiope, who would become queen of the fierce all-female clan known as the Amazons after winning a grueling competition of physical supremacy, a variation on the Olympics meets "Battle of the Network Stars", if it was capped off with a nude oil wrestling final round. One of her first orders of business as queen is the mostly loathsome (to the pro-women Amazons) of the camp, whereby the men of the rival Greek army, led by the lusty stud Theseus (Infanti, The Godfather), come into the Amazon camp in order to impregnate the ladies and keep the all-female race alive (any boys born are dispatched). Theseus want to change Antiope's man-hating ways, but her resolve is quite firm, though emotions begin to brim when the devious rival Oreitheia (played by the director's future wife, Sabine Sun) tries to seize hold of the camp and threatens not only her romantic interaction with Theseus, but also her Queen-dom.
Although it might seem a random idea for a story, often playing like a saucy sorority house flick meets a sword-and-sandal epic, War Goddess draws its story from ancient Greek mythology depictions of Amazons, the all-female warriors who would procreate to keep the tribe alive and kill men or keep them as slaves. While this serves as a backbone for the plot, the real impetus behind this film is primarily more along the lines of the sex and violence aspects of their story, represented by the fact that the bombshell Amazons all wear lots of make-up, fake eyelashes, and generally all look fashionably hot from the male perspective. The story makes little sense otherwise. The women never show they are pregnant and appear to give birth within days after having sex. And unless the much-truncated U.S. version chops out the explanation from the European cut, it is never explained why there aren't any Amazons shown within the age rage from one to twenty in the tribe. Are they off at Amazon boarding school?
The action, and there is a decent amount of it to qualify it as such, is substandard, with plenty of extras and stunt people fighting in poorly choreographed hand-to-hand combat, trying not to get trampled by the many people on horseback that fill up the the theater of battle. Most deaths are depicted using the old playground standard of showing a person throwing a knife or spear, shooting an arrow, or lunging with a sword, followed by a shot of a person holding said projectile with both hands as they fall to the ground while wincing. Still, many of the beautiful actresses do perform their own stunts, and the amount of tumbling and physical feats they have to perform do garner at least some respect in what they were willing to do for such a terrible endeavor. Compounding the problems is the awful, blaring horns that comprise the score, which feels like it belongs in a modern-day military movie of the 1960s.
If you're looking for gratuitous nudity, titillating situations, and a good deal of combat on horseback or with swords and arrows, War Goddess definitely has plenty of these aspects. As with many sex flicks, there isn't a good deal of emphasis on telling a good story or in building up nuanced characterizations, so don't expect anything close to a good film using conventional means to assess it. Frankly, the movie sucks, but if you enjoy trashy, unintentionally campy, highly sensational drive-in fare from the 1970s, it might find a pleasing audience in you. Feminists may be initially interested in some of the female empowerment components of Amazon society, though the ending will ultimately let them down. It is written, produced, directed and consumed mostly by male pigs after all.
©2011 Vince Leo