aka Barbarian Master (Sangraal, La Spada Di Fuoco)
Director – Michael E. Lemick [Michele Massimo Tarantini], Screenplay – Pietro Regnoli, Producers – Pino Buricchi & Ettore Spagnuolo, Photography – Giancarlo Ferrando, Music – Franco Campanino, Music Conductor – Giuseppe Vessichio, Special Effects – Corridori, Set Design – Franco Cuppini. Production Company – Visione Cinematografica
Peter McCoy (Sangraal), Yvonne Fraschetti (Aki), Hal Yamanouchi (Li Wo Twan), Anthony Freeman (Nanuk), Xiomara Rodriguez (Leni), Margareta Rance (Rani), Lou Kamante (Belam), Massimo Pittarello (Rudak)
The People of the Plains are slaughtered by an evil demon-possessed king. King Ator’s son Sangraal is smuggled away to safety by his nanny. Years later, Sangraal returns as a brawny grown man and determines to lead the surviving People of the Plains on a trek to a new land. They are welcomed in one village after Sangraal saves the chief’s daughter from attack. Nanuk, the ruler of the kingdom the village lies in, is a worshipper of the fire goddess Rani. Rani commands that Sangraal and the People of the Plains be slaughtered. Amid the massacre that ensues, Sangraal’s wife Leni is killed. Sangraal swears an oath that he will find a means to bring her back to life. He sets out on a quest to find the mystic Rudak who may have the means to do so. All along the journey however, Ranu and Nanuk’s men seek to kill Sangraal.
The Sword of the Barbarians was one of a host of sword and sorcery films made in Italy that sought to capitalize on the success of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan the Barbarian (1982). Although it does make reference to a King Ator, The Sword of the Barbarians does not appear to be related to the Ator films – a series of Italian-made Conan copies starring Miles O’Keeffe, which consisted of Ator the Invincible (1982), Ator the Blade Master (1984), Iron Warrior (1986) and Quest for the Mighty Sword (1989).
The Sword of the Barbarians borrows great chunks of plot from Conan – there is a near-identical beginning where the hero’s family and village are slaughtered by an evil warlord, causing him to swear vengeance, as well as a later plot element where the hero’s wife is killed and he swears that he will find a way to return her to life. Musician Franco Campanino even goes so far as to model his score on the pseudo-Wagnerian Carmina Burana that was used to great effect in Excalibur (1981). On the other hand, the adventure elements that the film does invent for itself are dull and unexciting – a seeming endless array of wilderness encounters with people who push boulders down on the party, attacks by blind creatures in a series caverns, capture by ape men in the woods – that feel as though they have been slung together at random.
The film is crippled by the same problems that affect almost all of the Italian sword and sorcery films of the era – cheapness. The acting is dull and flat, the dubbing typically terrible and the photography extremely cheap looking. The action is uninspired, although you cannot deny that it is maintained at an effectively bloody and occasionally brutal pace. To cut costs, the entire film appears to have been shot outdoors with the actors running around on horseback and foot with the swordfights all taking place in open countryside. In fact, there do not appear to have been any sets built for the film – at most a village, which seems to consist of no more than three huts. One of the more laughable scenes is where the party go over a waterfall whereupon we see the three actors pretending to be tossed around in water six inches deep and then thrown over a set of rapids that are only about four feet in height. Peter McCoy is a stolid bodybuilder – certainly, he is not as wooden as some of the actors who were around at the height of Italy’s peplum cycle of the 1960s, but not a great deal better.