War Goddess
Italy - Spain - France | 1974
Directed by Terence Young
Starring
Alena Johnston
Sabine Sun
Rosanna Yanni

Color
| 84 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD
Double Feature Disc
| R1 - NTSC
Retromedia
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
 
3
    4   10 = Highest Rating  
"Women warriors as sensuous as they are savage... Women rulers as passionate as they are powerful!"
   
Such was the tagline used to sell the 1974 European film War Goddess on the drive-in circuit here in the States. A much better one might've been: "SEE! the greatest nude female wrestling match in the history of motion pictures!" ... In that case the ballyhoo may have come a little bit closer to reality.
    Buxom blonde Alena Johnston is Antiope, an Amazon warrior vying for the rulership of her lesbian tribe. Every few years the Amazons hold a tournament to decide which one of them will sit as queen; the competition features such events as archery, the javelin, horseback riding, etc. (The obstacle course scene could almost be something out of Girls Gone Wild! Survivor Island.) Contestants are gradually eliminated until only Antiope and her fiercest rival, the butchy Oreitheia (French actress Sabine Sun), remain. To win the crown, the two must wrestle for it topless, after anointing their bodies with sacred oil. (As it should be!) Antiope emerges victorious. Upon becoming queen she issues edicts designed to toughen Amazon society and increase the army's martial prowess. One tradition can't be changed, however, despite Antiope's distaste for it the annual "Love Camp" in which the Amazons hire male soldiers from neighboring countries to impregnate them. (Gotta make some babies to continue the tribe, after all, and the turkey baster hasn't been invented yet.) This year it's the Greeks, whose randy king (Angelo Infanti) has come along for the fun disguised as a lowly captain. He arranges to be paired with Antiope, naturally falling for the haughty but beautiful Amazon queen. Will his charm dissuade her from her purely sapphic ways? Meanwhile, the ambitious Oreitheia plots to kill Antiope and usurp the throne...
    Made with a decent budget and good production values, War Goddess is a schizophrenic film that doesn't seem to know whether it wants to be a tongue-in-cheek sex comedy or a "Sword & Sandal" action pic. It fails on both counts, so all we're left with is some mildly interesting nude scenes and not enough of 'em, sad to say. Those goodies at least seem to have been left in, thankfully up to 20 minutes of footage is missing from Retromedia's DVD presentation (according to the IMDB). The middle section of the film is so hamfistedly choppy as to be almost incoherent. For example, Antiope and Oreitheia go from mortal enemies at each other's throats to clingy, supportive girlfriends in the blink of an eye (or rather, edit), with no explanation whatever. Retromedia cobbled this print together from various sources, which were either incomplete or had sections too damaged to use, but it seems they had their hearts in the right place better to toss the plot than the pulchritude! There are certainly some nice examples of that on display, as most of the Amazons are of course good lookin' babes with a penchant for big false eyelashes instead of hairy-legged warrior women in comfortable footwear. Alena Johnston, who at times uncannily resembles former USA Up All Night hostess Rhonda Shear, definitely qualifies as eye candy (there's no point in discussing her acting, is there?), while amongst her fellow gladiator gals are such Euro-starlets as Rosanna Yanni (Kiss Me, Monster) and Rita Calderoni (Delirium). Blink and you'll miss 'em, though, as their parts, like that of Lucianna Paluzzi (Thunderball) as a Greek spy, are very, very brief. This is Johnston and Sun's show, with the latter the most willing to drop her toga at the slightest provocation. (Sun may have a face that looks like she's been around the block a time or two, but a very athletic body.) Their wrestling bouts are the only reason this movie even exists. The second match-up, I must say, is a true Horndog's Delight... Stark naked, coated in oil, the ladies go at it tooth and nail on a floor covered with furs, while a storm rages outside and flashes of lightning strobe the room. Yowza!
    Upon purchasing the DVD, I was surprised to learn that War Goddess was directed by Terence Young, the man behind those great '60s Bond films with Sean Connery. It's kind of sad to think that, within a decade, he was reduced to making silly sexploitation pics like this. Then again, maybe he was simply having a blast, relishing the chance to re-stage the gypsy catfight in From Russia with Love with the combatants first topless, then totally in the buff.

As with the last Sword & Sandal "flipper" DVD released by Retromedia (see our review of Mole Men Against the Son of Hercules), it is the Side B film that really caught my attention actually, War Goddess is just a glorified bonus feature. The main attraction, on Side A of the disc, is War Gods of Babylon (1962), a fairly opulent Italian production starring American character actor Howard Duff. (This was his only European film.) He plays the king of Assyria, who falls for his brother's hot barbarian girlfriend (Jocelyn Lane) just as he's installing the younger sibling as ruler of Babylon. War between Babylon and Assyria is then easily triggered by Li'l Bro's treacherous advisor, who plans to take over the empire himself. (It takes a sluggish hour or so to establish this thin wisp of a story.) We get a couple of brief, dull battle scenes, after which the film is capped by a flood sequence involving some rather elaborate miniature effects. Suddenly it's a disaster movie! Handsomely mounted, War Gods is unfortunately a total snoozer in every other respect. It gets a decent release with this DVD, presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colors are somewhat faded-looking, particularly in outdoor scenes, and there's minor print damage here and there. The dubbed mono audio track is serviceable enough.
   
War Goddess, regrettably, is in comparatively shoddy condition. Damaged and littered with dirt, with vertical green emulsion lines making lengthy appearances, it looks pretty terrible at times. (Retromedia offers an onscreen apology for its condition before the film starts, saying it was the best they could do under the circumstances.) Some scenes are just too dark, to include naturally the two Johnston vs. Sun wrasslin' matches. (That's why God made TVs with "Vivid" or "Sports" mode, guys!) Although shown in 1.33 fullscreen and not its correct AR, the framing of this non-Scope film doesn't appear that badly compromised. Audio quality is okay at best; the mono track doesn't do much for composer Riz Ortolani's score, which is thoroughly undistinguished at any rate (and often used at inappropriate moments to boot).
   
Neither film comes with any extras whatsoever nope, not even a trailer. NOTE: My DVD Rating of '4' factors in the total value of this double feature package, even though only one of the films is actually reviewed here. (Were the disc a few bucks cheaper it'd probably merit a '5'... Maybe.) 8/13/06
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