Zorikan the Barbarian (1964)

ZorikanPosterThough Zorikan sounds like some sort of rodenticide, he’s actually the best thing in an otherwise dreary heap of curdled Italian cheese.

Veteran sword and sandal pro Don Vadis (Spartacus and the Ten Gladiators, The Seven Magnificent Gladiators) scowls, sneers, chortles and tortures his way through a story involving a stolen religious relic which unwisely focuses on people walking, riding horses, sitting in tents, and talking about either stealing or recovering said relic. All that being said, Zorikan did have a really nice tent. Very spacious, well decorated and equipped with a bed. He may have been a low down heathen Saracen, but when he went invading, dude did it in style!

Pimped out tents aside, there wasn’t much else memorable transpiring. Zorikan and his seemingly limitless hoard raid a Christian settlement and steal its treasure and holy relic.

The precise nature of the relic was never revealed and all we saw was an ugly gold box, but Captain Ramperti will stop at nothing to secure its return! Of course, he’ll first have to shake off that terrible fall down a steep hill he took after he got his ass kicked by Zorikan’s forces, but surely that was only Ramperti’s way of feeling out Zorikan for weakness.

And because director Roberto Mauri (The Invincible Gladiators) knows that even us strong Christians who love borderline peplum movies (the average-sized and middle aged Ramperti and absence of any sand probably means this is more of a swashbuckling costume drama than true peplum) will have a hard time remaining invested in 90 minutes of a guy after an ugly jewelry box so he also has Ramperti’s girlfriend and her father get kidnapped by Zorikan.

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What follows demonstrates that Zorikan’s zenith as villian was when he double crossed his own men in an effort to secure an even larger share of his ill-gotten gains as Ramperti spends the entirety of the film constantly outsmarting the clueless barbarian.

From distracting a guard with the old “toss a rock in the other direction” routine to rescuing his girlfriend by dressing up as a barbarian and pretending to take her into the woods because she was drunk and going to be sick, Ramperti manages to use every predictable trick in the book that never fails to trick the predictably dim Zorikan.

Strictly speaking it wasn’t all Zorikan’s fault. His men didn’t exactly graduate from Barbarian West Point either.

A bunch of his goons were supposed to be guarding Zorikan cannons, but did so by having an arm wrestling match and by going off by themselves to urinate. It did provide one of the film’s highlights as the guy inadvertently urinated on one of Ramperti’s men’s head as he was hiding just below! It also led to a lowlight as we then had to watch the excitement of guys pushing cannons around.

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Zorikan himself manages to be deceived several more times to the point that it almost feels like Ramperti is just taking advantage of an unnaturally gullible dullard.

Zorikan manages to mess up the betrayal he had planned for Ramperti during a supposed exchange of treasure and cannons for the relic. Then as if to prove the point, he immediately rides into an ambush. Worst of all though, Ramperti even outwits him by going deep undercover with a fake mustache!

Despite his character’s mental shortcomings, it is Vadis that single-handedly makes the movie worth watching (but only for obsessive types who have to see every 1960s Italian adventure film) with his energetic efforts at being a cartoonish bad guy.

He complains about Christians, gives his men tips on how to torture information out of someone, and does his best to make the terribly choreographed sword fighting look less hideous by lunging about with authority.

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There’s a nice amount of violence scattered amongst all the talk and travel, with Zorikan killing a bunch of villagers, whipping a guy, and even trying to have two horses pull apart the girlfriend’s father before just deciding to stab the old coot instead.

The locations are mildly interesting with treasure hidden in a cave and the fishing village built on stilts in the water, but Ramperti’s inability to register as anything other than a faceless villager who happens to speak more than the rest, along with long dull stretches where Zorikan isn’t bullying or cussing someone doom the film to be forgotten amongst the numerous other similar and better Italian flicks of the era.

By the time Zorikan ends up floating lifelessly in the water following the big battle at the fishing village, you’ll be calling him Zorikant!

© 2015 MonsterHunter

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