I hadn't seen this since I was a youngster. I fondly (in a weird way that just sticks in your memory and won't fade away) remember the belly button / ruby scene. I suppose, as a 14 year old boy (albeit with access to HBO) seeing a woman's exposed midriff was almost as good as bare breasts. Not really, but evidently it was still memorable.
That ruby is the MacGuffin of this story. The violent and unkempt hordes of Kadar chase down the caravan of jesters, minstrels, and cross-dressers in order to acquire the Queen's navel jewelry of supposed magical properties or something, though we never get to see them.
About those dimly-lit chambers, they look fantastic and so do the costumes - hides, leather, pieces of armor, helmets, swords, and most characters seem to be covered in fur or black robes or half-naked women. There are quite a few sets: villainous lair, medieval strip-club, treasure tomb, slave quarry, swamp, and the perfect archaic city. How did the filmmakers find or create these sets?!? It makes sword-and-sorcery movies today look out-of-place and stupid.
Which brings me to Richard Lynch himself. Yes, that guy! Richard Lynch has been the villain in more 80's movies and tv shows than you've fantasized about swinging a sword and carousing with wenches. He's super-serious, intense, and you just love to hate him. I mean, that's why he was the king of evildoers in that decade - he really makes a screenplay's asshole come to life.
There isn't much sorcery to go with all that sword, but we do get a bit. Kadar's witch, China, is exotic, beautiful, and looks like she could cast a spell or two. Rather than expensive pyrotechnics, the audience gets red eyes, smoke, cobwebs, and smoldering sorceress intensity - she pairs nicely with Kadar.
By the time it was released, this type of film was on its way out. A shame, since sword-and-sorcery is one of my favorite genres of the 80's and that decade did it right. I can't think of a decent one that came out of the 90's or 00's. Of course, now we have Game of Thrones. Great stuff, but sometimes I just want barbarians, blood, magic, naked women, AND cheesy dialog. It might not be as epic as Conan the Barbarian, nor as awesome as Beastmaster. Nevertheless, The Barbarians is worth seeing.
I just bought it as a double-bill DVD along with The Norseman (which I haven't watched yet). Until next time, fare thee well, my friends, and wear your mark of the open road proudly!
p.s. Oops, almost forgot. Aside from the kinda lame Weapons of Power, Kadar brandished a pretty cool magic item of his own. Below are the "official OSR stats" for it.
Shield of Blinding Light
This is a +1 shield. The following enchantment can be used once per day: each opponent within sight has a 2 in 6 chance (alternatively, opponents could roll a saving throw to avoid - GMs choice) of being blinded by the shield's glaring light for 1d3 rounds.
Blinded characters move at half their normal speed, as well as, taking a 4 point penalty on their to-hit rolls, armor class, and saving throws.