copyright 2005 by Pat Powers
The harem girl fantasy has fallen on hard times in recent decades. You want to see the full extent of the hard times that harem girl themes have fallen to nowadays? Watch Warlords. It's a Roger Corman film about a bunch of morons running around in the Southern California desert after the apocalypse, killing and chasing each other for little or no reason. Which is to say, it's pretty much the same as half the flicks Corman has produced in the last decade or two.
Warlords is not even the worst of the post-apocalyptic hairballs Corman has coughed up -- that "accolade" remains the property of Aftershock, which has absolutely nothing going for it. Warlords at least has Dawn Wildsmith, Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer, Debra Lamb and sundry harem girls in bondage. But that's about all it has.
Dawn Wildsmith and David Carradine are the stars of the movie, and they along with B-movie veterans Ross Hagen, Brink Stevens and Sid Haig do their best to de-lousy the movie, but there's not much they can do with all the nothing they've been given to work with. Wildsmith plays a post-apocalyptic female adventurer who starts out the movie wearing a leather harness around her breasts (which, sadly, are covered) and winds up in a black vinyl dominatrix boustier with fishnet stockings. Carradine is a semi-mystical warrior sort who's clearly destined to defeat the evil warlord and his mutant henchpersons.
The sets consist entirely of some old cars in the desert, some tents pitched in the desert, and the desert. We are talking cheap-ass moviemaking here. Worse yet, we're talking a movie that looks cheap-ass. James Cameron once said that every penny of the millions that were spent on Titanic were right up there on the screen. I suspect that Warlords had a budget that barely made it to four digits -- and every bit of that penury is up there on the screen. There are some shots of helicopters flying around shooting missiles and some shots of tanks and blown up cities in the opening, but rest assured they're clips from other Roger Corman films. Nobody's bank account was harmed in the making of this movie.
Contrast that with the gorgeous sets, costumes and so forth in Son of Sinbad and you get a real feel for how far the harem girl theme has fallen. Granted, some of the harem girls are willing to spill their beautiful breasts and butts out of their costumes, and there was plenty of bondage, but it's a poor substitute for, well, EVERYTHING ELSE THAT MAKES A MOVIE A WORTH WATCHING!
The harem girl theme is particularly harmed by the cheapness of Warlords. Harem girls and belly dancers are part of a fantasy of wealth, opulence and high culture. It's really convincing in movies like Son of Sinbad and Kismet. The harem girls in those films looked like the finest beauties of a rich and powerful land, trained for years to be a dream of pleasure and beauty for their owner, full of passion and fire and the ability to display it through dance.
But when everything is as unremittingly drab and piss-poor as it is in Warlocks, what you see is a bunch of cheap hoochies tarted up in spangles and shaking their butts. (Not that I think the actresses in Warlords were that, I just think the ugliness of the film made them look like that.)
This may have been the intent of Warlords -- to show how badly culture had degenerated after the apocalypse, but if so, you have to wonder -- why would anybody want to watch a bunch of jerks drive cars through the dirt and try to knock each other off the road to the accompaniment of loud noises? Hell, you can do that in real life easily enough just by going to a NASCAR rally and it's a lot more exciting with more cars and better driving. And if it's naked dancing girls you want, your average strip club has women who are better dancers, often much nakeder, generally in much more glamorous surroundings, and much, er, friendlier than the ones in Warlords. And if you want to see degenerate mutants on a toot, just visit DragonCon or go clubbing late at night at any major urban center.
Movies are supposed to offer fantasies that outstrip real life, but Warlords can't even MATCH real life.