Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Arena

This is one of a number of cheapo exploitation flicks Pam Grier did in the early 70s until she had developed enough star power to enable her to make less interesting movies where she wouldn’t be required to get naked. While she had already done a few women in prison films like Black Mama, White Mama or The Big Doll House, this was a somewhat more inspired effort, giving us a Women in Prison flick crossed with a gladiator movie, setting the film in ancient Rome and giving us the pretense of it being a female empowerment movie.

What “female empowerment” in this film of course means is that, after our female cast is all captured, enslaved, and constantly stripped naked and occasionally raped, they are turned into gladiators to satisfy an increasingly jaded Roman public, where they then try to overthrow their captors and strike a blow for women and slaves everywhere. This sounds a bit more interesting than it actually is. The film is actually pretty dull, despite its premise, with a good deal of filler padding out its running time to feature length. Exploitation films like this tended to be fairly rushes productions, with filming usually only lasting a couple weeks (Little Shop of Horrors was the king of this, with filming going on a scant two days), so I get the idea that the writers and director simply didn’t have enough time to think of a really interesting direction to take this, and so just went with a Spartacus rip-off with a good amount of nudity. That the characters in the film openly discuss Spartacus’ rebellion probably counts as clever in this world.

To be honest, had it just gone full-blown with the sleaze I would have liked it more than I did. I mean, hell, I did buy it after all. Unfortunately, this is a rally second-rate exploitation film. It doesn’t have enough violence or nudity to keep up its exploitative side, and it simply doesn’t have enough plot or humor to keep things going outside of the exploitation angle. This one can safely be ignored.

Rating: * ½

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