The Arena (Italy 1973)

Rating: **
Alternate Title: "Gladiator Women", "Naked Warriors"
Review Date: 11/3/18
Cast: Margaret Markov, Pam Grier

"For men to fight and die seems natural. But, women!"

After the successful pairing of Pam Grier and Margaret Markov in "Black Mama, White Mama" (1973), Roger Corman brought them together again for a Roman period piece as slaves who are trained to fight as gladiators. Rather than die in the arena for the pleasure of bloodthirsty crowds, they make a desperate attempt to rise against their cruel masters and escape. It's a good no-nonsense action film, but it suffers from sluggish pacing and overly harsh lighting. Both Margaret Markov and Pam Grier deliver excellent performances, and while they're not the greatest fighters, their physicality is wonderful and they enthusiastically throw themselves into their action scenes without any aid from stunt doubles (arguably because there was no budget for that). Ms. Markov looks fantastic as a warrior woman, and her projection and presentation are dead-on. Her impossibly long blonde hair is also quite enchanting. Feisty Pam Grier is delightful as always, and works well with Markov. The scenes that they share together are the best that the film has to offer.