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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.14%
Worth A Look: 0%
Just Average42.86%
Pretty Crappy42.86%
Sucks: 7.14%

2 reviews, 2 user ratings

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Arena, The
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by Matt Mulcahey

"An unusual Roger Corman trio – boobs, blood and boredom."
2 stars

When The Arena opened in period costumes with a fife-led religious ceremony, I began to reach for the cover art fearing I had grabbed the wrong movie. Before I could do so, a battalion of Roman soldiers galloped into the frame and, upon seizing statuesque blonde Margaret Markov as a captive, one of them declared “That’s a nice piece.” Never mind, I said. This was a Roger Corman flick after all.

Take away the Roman garb, prop tridents and Italian scenery, and The Arena is nothing more than a period variation on Corman’s women-in-prison flicks popularized in the early 1970s with the likes of The Big Bird Cage and The Big Doll House. It’s also a re-teaming of Markov and Pam Grier from the 1972 “Defiant Ones with hooters and lesbianism” flick White Mama, Black Mama.

The physically enticing pair play slaves captured in distant lands of the Roman Empire and brought to a decadent province to entertain and serve the more affluent attendees of the titular house of gory gladiator battles. There they are subjected to Caligula-like debauchery at the whims of the Roman aristocracy before eventually being forced into the arena themselves when the masses tire of men brutalizing each other and long for a little girl-on-girl grappling.

The Arena begins like every Corman babes behind bars flick – with a shower scene, as the newly purchased slaves are asked to “get out of (their) filthy rags” within five minutes of the opening credits.

However, midway through the limited running time, The Arena begins to diverge from its procession of female sexual humiliation and lamely choreographed gladiator battles and veer toward the kiss of death for any morsel of drive-in schlock – it begins to take itself seriously.

The slaves stop with the unmotivated toplessness and begin giving Braveheart-esque speeches on freedom (granted, sometimes they give those speeches topless). Faster than you can say “Spartacus with Double D’s” (the film actually references the Kirk Douglas-played hero several times as if this tits-and-ass-apolooza were at heart a film about the struggle for emancipation), the ladies revolt in a boredom-inducing escape sequence that encompasses nearly a third of the running time.

Not that dramatic undertones should be banished outright from all T&A flicks, but it’s hard to take a gladiator’s gravely intoned query “Are there gods who listen to the cattle in the butcher’s stable?” seriously when it’s followed by an about-to-be-assailed sex slave exclaiming “...Do you mean we have to satisfy their animal heat?” before being served as a pre-fight poontang snack to one of the gladiators.

The anachronistic dialogue (who knew slut and bitch were such crucial components to the ancient Roman vernacular) provides a few unintended chuckles, but for the most part The Arena’s final half drags on void of unintentional or intentional camp and full of pretense.

As with many of Corman’s early 1970s sexploitation pieces, The Arena continues to receive some level of critical adulation for its perceived feminist undertones.

The inclusion of social commentary beneath a traditional B-movie veneer is the principle reason Corman is renowned above all other schlock purveyors, and while placing assertive female characters in roles traditionally occupied by males is in a way subversive, to call The Arena a feminist statement is as ridiculous as the leading ladies’ revealing gladiator garb.

The women of The Arena may eventually throw of their chains and overthrow their male oppressors, but by defiling, humiliating and degrading these women for the sexual gratification of the film’s men and the titillation of audiences, The Arena reinforces the sexual objectification of women rather than subverting or commenting on it.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=7648&reviewer=255
originally posted: 09/13/05 15:26:26
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User Comments

12/19/10 My Name Pam Grier - 'Nuff Said 5 stars
10/21/08 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 1 stars
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  02-Feb-1973 (R)



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