Long ago, far back in the mists of time, there was a tribe of warrior women who lived in the forest, eschewing the company of men other than to mate with them and swell the ranks of their gathering - as long as the babies were girls, that was, as if boys were born to them they were given away, simply not interested in raising them. Not every member of the tribe was interested in procreation, however, as one who was solely concerned with fighting and defence was Hundra (Laurene Landon) who with her trusty steed and faithful hound was often riding off alone to practice her combat in preparation for any altercations. Alas, it was during one of these escapades that a rival tribe of brutish men descended on her own, and massacred every one of them...
Think warrior women in the cinema of the nineteen-eighties and you may see them beginning and ending with Brigitte Nielsen in Red Sonja, but there were pretenders to her throne, and she was not the first in that style. Step forward Hundra as that groundbreaking character, a lady as handy with a sword as she was good at getting out of trouble, which may have you believing the Conan-inspired sword and sandals efforts of that decade had a genuine feminist slant in some incarnations. Well, you might think that, but in the main these were made for men and by men, which meant that Hundra and her ilk were often dressed in skimpy clothing, and even no clothing: Landon here graced the screen with nude horseback riding.
That said, if you were a man who appreciated a fantasy of powerful females, you would probably find something to like in this subgenre, though sad to say these works were rarely anything more than barely tolerable - even Conan the Barbarian as envisaged by John Milius was a bombastic affair difficult to get into unless the appeal of the ubermensch was something you had a preference for. And the director here, Matt Cimber, was no John Milius, having made his name with modestly-budgeted exploitation flicks that at the barest minimum had their finger on the pulse of what audiences were interested in at the point they were crafted (or thrown together). He had recently believed what audiences wanted to see was Pia Zadora, for instance.
Butterfly had been a recent hit for him, an overheated Southern melodrama that had Pia and Orson Welles squaring off against one another, but here he was not relying on stars, for while Landon had some box office cachet as one of the wrestling stars of ...All the Marbles a couple of years before, she did not make headlines in the way La Zadora did. What she did have on her side was athleticism, performing most of her stunts herself, whether that be a matter of pride or a matter of foolhardy penny pinching was unclear, but there was some value in recognising that yes, that was indeed Laurene scaling that wall or handling that blade. With that authenticity in her corner, you may have wished the movie surrounding her had been of higher quality, or at least lived up to her abilities, but it was not the case.
Cimber, like many a Spaghetti Western exponent before him, had elected to use Spanish desert locations (though there was some greenery to be seen as well), and the cast backing Landon was a bunch of unknowns to keep the costs down, so no chance of seeing Hundra hack and slay a barbarian who would prompt you to think, "Hey, it's that guy!" unless you were quite the expert in Spanish actors. The plot had our heroine realising (thanks to a pep talk from a whispering wise woman) that she needs to repopulate her tribe single-handedly, which seems a tall order, but does see her seeking a male to assist her in that task and finding every man Jack of them a bunch of losers for whom conversation is an obstacle to getting what they really want. Some have termed Hundra a feminist fable, and one supposes from a certain angle it could look that way, Landon was a strong presence after all, but Cimber insisted on placing her in demeaning positions; fair enough, she emerged triumphant, but there was something about the way his camera ogled his leading lady that suggested a barbarian had penned the screenplay too. Music by Ennio Morricone, one of his briefest scores (much repeated).