Color, 1983, 100m. / Directed by Matt Cimber / Starring Laurene Landon, Cihangir Gaffari, Maria Casal / Subversive (US R1 NTSC) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

Following the critical disbelief which greeted his bid for mainstream acceptance in 1982 with a pair of Pia Zadora vehicles (including the notorious incest-fest Butterfly,) director Matt Cimber (a drive-in vet par excellence) reteamed with composer Ennio Morricone for another project the following year. This abrupt change of pace, Hundra, is one of many, many Conan copies which flooded theaters around the world, though in this case it also predates another Schwarzenegger film as well, Red Sonja. One of the more accomplished of its ilk (though certainly not as lunatic as some offerings from the likes of Roger Corman and Lucio Fulci), Hundra follows the template of its predecessor fairly closely albeit with a female lead handling all the swordplay and tough talk.

When her all-female clan is slaughtered by marauders while she's out gathering food, blonde and athletic Hundra is told by a wise old seer that it is now her destiny to go out into the world and find a way of beginning her bloodline anew. Though she doesn't really know how to interact with men when it doesn't involve bashing them over the head with the brunt of a sword, Hundra decides to make a go of it as she roams through various tribes of midgets, barbarians, and snotty villagers. A potential babydaddy finally appears in the form of Pateray (Oliveros), whose roof she falls through in one of the film's goofiest scenes (reproduced again in the menus for good measure). Unfortunately she's a little too scrappy to light his fire, so she decides to improve herself by ingratiating herself with the local prince and his makeover-friendly wife, who further Hundra's quest to create another little fighter for her tribe.

Strangely paced but rarely dull, Hundra offers all the usual staples of the genre: flat performances, dusty deserts, lots of costumes assembled from bedsheets and animal pelts, and a boisterous orchestral score. Morricone shines as usual with his musical support (and oddly enough, he'd go on to score Red Sonja, too), and Cimber seems to have fun manipulating the action within his scope frame even when cinematographer John Cabrera (fresh off Hell of the Living Dead!) doesn't seem quite up to the task; just imagine what Cimber's past cinematographer, Dean Cundey, could have done with this. The film is also far less exploitive than you'd expect; the gore and nudity are kept to a minimum, perhaps in deference to the pro-feminist storyline, but viewers still get lots of rousing action, especially in the rousing opening 15 minutes.

Long mangled on home video with unwatchable pan and scan transfers, Hundra finally gallops to DVD with a much-needed restoration of its original anamorphic compositions. The transfer itself is something of a mixed bag; the framing looks right and detail appears sharp enough, but the colors seem a bit unnatural and artificially boosted (while past versions were way too desaturated). Also, while this plays well enough on smaller monitors, sequences packed with movement (especially the opening scene) tend to shimmer and break up on larger widescreen displays. Don't expect a demo piece by any means, but fans of '80s sword and sandal romps should still find this well worth the investment.

Subversive has also packed their Hundra disc with a worthy selection of supplements, highlighted by the massive 47-minute featurette, "Hunting Hundra." Both Cimber and Landon appear on-camera to discuss the making of the film, talking about everything from the fiesty actress' performing of her own stunts, the European locations, the nature of independent multi-national financing, and various anecdots from the set, including the reasons for the obvious visual parallels to Conan. Their rapport carries over to the feature-length audio commentary, in which both are joined by Subversive's Norm Hill for a fast-paced chat. Landon's deficiences in the emoting department are largely glossed over, though it's obvious here through inference that Cimber had to work pretty hard with his editors to craft a remotely effective character in the editing room. Other extras include a new promo for Hundra, a rather nice color comic book insert by Phil Avelli with another adventure for Hundra, additional Subversive promos, and in a welcome gesture for the first few thousand copies, a second disc containing Morricone's original score, which was previously issued several years ago in the U.S. as a budget release from Laserlight.

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