THIS is how slavegirls should be dressed in a proper sword and sandal movie! Just look at the way the barbaric finery sets off the women's luscious bodies. The irony is, this is NOT a vidcap from a sword and sandal movie. It's from a Skinamax movie, and the actresses seen are portraying actresses portraying slavegirls in a Skinamax sword and sandal movie, if that makes any sense. But the weird thing is, you'll NEVER see slavegirls dressed like this, EVEN IN AN ACTUAL SKINAMAX SWORD AND SANDAL MOVIE! May I simply say, AAAAAUGH!!!
copyright 2005 by Pat Powers
I'm worried. The Middle East, a failing economy, strange viruses, terrorism -- yeah, all this is cause for concern. But let's get to the SERIOUS stuff -- I fear that the spate of sword and sandal movies inspired by the success of Gladiator is going to COMPLETELY miss the dramatic potential of the Slavegirl Mystique.
Let's look at the tally, shall we?
There have been a few other productions as well, but nothing major turned up in a search of the IMDB. Other sword and sandal productions will no doubt show up in the future.
Now, in each of the sword and sandal productions listed there were scenes involving characters who might have been and almost certainly were slavegirls -- women dressed in tasteful robes who were doing things like serving food, dancing and helping dress rich women. But because their dress was at most mildly sexy and their behavior was about as wild as you'd expect to see among, say, waitresses at Applebee's, they barely qualified as generic sexygirls, much LESS slavegirls.
The chained gladiatrix in Age of Treason awaits her turn in the arena. It's better than nothing, I supposed, but not a LOT better than nothing.
How did ALL these movies manage to miss out on what makes slavegirls special and different from generic sexygirls? Slavegirls have an extra special something that makes them a LOT sexier than generic sexygirls, and presenting slavegirls as generic sexygirls is very much a matter of trading down/missing the boat -- oh might as well come right out and say it: FUCKING UP!
It's obviously beyond the limits of any mainstream film to explicitly show a slavegirl obeying her master when he orders her to bend over and spread 'em for him or one of his buddies (though you can definitely show her being ORDERED to spread 'em or suck it and you can show her preparing to comply, just no follow-through, as it were). But you can show her obeying in any R rated film just by picking the right angle to shoot the scene from.
Beyond that, the thing that REALLY makes a slavegirl's vulnernability powerful visually is to show her bound and gagged, or at least bound, and to have her naked*. THIS is the imagery that communicates vulnerability and helplessness powerfully. THIS is the imagery that most powerfully communicates the Slavegirl Mystique.
Slavegirls should generally be clothed skimpily. But they should also be clothed, not in dull rags, but in barbaric finery. This makes both dramatic and historic sense. A slavegirl is a possession, and as such you want her looking right. Just as modern guys put detailing on their cars and such, I'm sure ancient guys bought barbaric jewelry that accentuated the beauty and sexiness of their slavegirls. And dramatically, a hot, sexy-looking slavegirl in chains is much more powerful than some dirty wretch in shapeless rags.
Furthermore, as John Norman's works have shown, you don't even have to have the slavegirl bondage in the foreground of a scene for it to work. In the Gor novels, very often slavegirls are seen as background characters, serving the main characters and whatnot. So, the SMART filmmaker or TV director will take advantage of these opportunities to make clear the helplessness and vulnerability of the slavegirl and add a little sexy frisson to the film by having SOME of the slavegirls in the background show up bound and gagged and naked,* preferably bound in poses that accentuate their helplessness and sexiness. Perhaps the slavegirls can even be seen in the distance, serving their master or his guests sexually while naked and bound, perhaps partially obscured by something in the foreground to keep the bluenoses at bay.
Hence, you might have a long panning shot in a banquet scene. As the camera moves down the table, most of the people at the table will be guests seen eating and talking or being served food. But there might also be a shot of a naked slavegirl bent over face down on the table, her arms tied behind her back, her mouth gagged, her body moving back and forth as if she's being taken from behind. The shot could be framed so that you never see the man taking her from behind, thus preserving an R rating, but still, the audience knows what is happening.
The other guests ignore the slavegirl being taken, and the scene need only take a second or two to make the status of slavegirls in that culture very plain indeed. In a similar way, a long pan through a crowded marketplace might show a naked slavegirl kneeling before a man, her arms tied behind her back, wearing a collar with a chain running to a stake at her feet, serving the man orally, perhaps with a flap from the man's garment concealing her face. A bowl with coins in it sitting beside her would reveal the nature of their assignation. Once again, she's ignored by the crowd as it's an everyday occurence, and once again it need only be visible for a second or two to make its contribution to the Slavegirl Mystique.
And if sexual activity is Just Too Much, you can show the slavegirls standing naked among the clothed citizenry, with only a few armlets and her collar and chains to clothe her. Although not quite as powerful, this does establish the helplessness and vulnerability of the slavegirl to some extent.
If one of your main characters is a slavegirl who is unfortunately clothed much of the time, if your audience sees the OTHER slavegirls in the film displayed naked and serving their masters in the background, they will put two and two together and figure out that your slavegirl character might at any moment find herself just as helpless as the other slavegirls.
Frex, the people who made the film Outlaw of Gor did one thing and ONLY one thing right in their pathetic butchery of John Norman's novel. Apparently, although no one associated with the movie ever read any Gor novels, somebody DID talk to someone who HAD read one, and who vaguely remember that slavegirl's outfits "have no nether closure, making slavegirls accessible to the uses of men." (Yay!)
The only thing Outlaw of Gor got right -- costumes that made sure the slavegirls' naked butts were hanging out for all to see -- and presumably use, on Gor. Of course, not on the MOVIE version of Gor ...
The serving slavegirl costumes, while short of nudity had one great feature -- they consisted of a thong and some harem leggings that ran from ankle to mid-thigh, leaving the slavegirl's butt gloriously exposed. Because so much of the rest of the slavegirl was concealed while her butt was revealed, the costume did a great job of pointing up the sexual vulnerability and accessibility of the slavegirls, perhaps more effectively than nudity among clothed people would have.
The only films that has come anywhere NEAR close to handling the Slavegirl Mystique properly were the sword and sorcery films of the 80s like Deathstalker and Barbarian Queen. Frex, Deathstalker had a huge banquet scene which featured a bunch of warrior enjoying a feast. The slavegirls were dressed in skimpy clothes and were often topless. One slavegirl was chained by the wrists to a wall, dressed only in a filmy negligee which is subsequently ripped from her body by a lusty warrior. That's doin' it right! And for another frex, in Barbarian Queen when Lana Clarkson is chained in the bad guy's dungeon, she wears only a skimpy thong. That's doin' it right, too!
One of the few instances of Doin' It Right in the whole Sword and Sandal oeuvre -- slavegirl Barbi Benton is chained to the wall and about to have her negligee ripped from her body by the lusty warrior on the left, leaving her still chained to the wall, but stark nekkid!
Unfortunately ALL of the sword and sandal epics made in the current spate (since Gladiator) have completely missed this element of the slavegirl mystique. They've also missed the EASE with which the slavegirl mystique can be injected into the background of a film.
Now, back in the 50s, people had an excuse for missing the Slavegirl Mystique. They lived in dark times, when censorship stalked the land, no one was free to express themselves on matters sexual, and sexual bondage was knowingly practiced only by a few skinny guys in New York City who wore goatees and berets who played bongos and composed bad poetry, and their girlfriends who wore tight black capri pants and loose sweaters and also composed bad poetry (but who cares -they all looked like Betty Page, Mary Tyler Moore and/or Monica Lewinsky).
There's no excuse for the modern wave of sword and sandal films to miss the Slavegirl Mystique. We're a lot more sexually hip nowadays. Nudity is acceptable. Sexuality is acceptable. And if filmmakers don't have the sense to grab the Slavegirl Mystique by the thong and make it bend and spread 'em for them, this latest trend toward sword and sandal movies could come and go and miss the Slavegirl Mystique even more completely than the the sword and sandal movies of the 50s missed it. And that would be a shame, because the Slavegirl Mystique is there to lend sexiness and dramatic power to the film or television producer with the wit to claim it.
*Or as close to naked as possible given the medium. Obviously, a mainstream TV show isn't going to show breasts, though a thong might be acceptable in some instances, and a thong and bra set works in all instances. A mainstream movie won't show genitals, but it could probably show a slavegirl in nothing, or even nothing at all, if the shot is set up right.