As part of the 1983 Project, I was excited when I found this movie was on one of the many streaming services. I thought this was about to be another Joysticks. Multiple posts, a deep dive, a discussion on whether or not it deserves cult status. There was nothing but positive thoughts going into this viewing. But by the end, this movie left me disappointed for what could have been. However, it also left me to apathetic to care.
Hundra takes place firmly in the swords, sorcery, and sandals genre. Minus the sorcery. There is no magic or monsters in this film at all.
The film opens with a nomadic tribe of all women hiding out in the woods. Imagine a Conan movie. Swords exist, some science, writing is questionable, pre-Christianity. These women decided that they could take care of themselves better than any man and broke off from that world. Everyone can fill any role within their community. Some are taking care of children, or food, or animals, and others are swinging swords and knives around. They are a community without men, even boys.
A voice over explains that at times a woman from the tribe will return to the other groups to seduce a man in order to bear a child. If she gives birth to a girl, that child is raised with the rest of them. If a boy, he is brought back to the other community and left with them. Within the first minutes of the film one of the women gives birth to a boy and the disappointment ripples through all of the women. But all of the women who are on the same mission vow to keep trying. There’s that Can-Do attitude!
To the surprise of no one, this counter culture community has raised the ire of the male led groups near by. While there is a logic to letting other groups with different mindsets live and let be, that logic doesn’t allow for an hour and a half movie. It could be a futile mission, because all of the women are skilled warriors, but the men wait until the greatest warrior – Hundra – temporarily leaves to find food for her kinswomen.
The men come riding in on horseback and begin attacking the forest tent city. Every single woman of any age drops what they are doing and steps up to defend their sisters. Spears, knives, swords, everything they can hold is used to hold back the male offensive. In the end though it is too much. Not because the women are weaker – they by all means are the better warriors – but because of the numbers game. Five to one, or ten to one odds, when only one side has horses at the ready, is an insurmountable adversary.
Hundra comes riding back on one of the few horses (and with her hunting dog, the only male allowed in the tribe) and sees the embers of her home. While searching for anyone to save or blame she is spotted by some of the invading army’s stragglers. Hundra gallops away, the dog weaves around obstacles, and she takes the fight to better terrain. While Hundra is most likely a continent and an era away from Sun Tzu, she understands the art of war. She finds high ground, uses the terrain, bases her offense and defense off of the topography of the land. While the battle is mostly grunting fighting it is well choreographed and shot giving promise to the rest of the movie. I wouldn’t say Hundra wins easily, but she didn’t break much of a sweat.
While Hundra is looking for answers she enters the mountain cave home of the women’s religious elder. The type who doesn’t get involved but delivers edicts from on high that must be followed without question. Possibly the most believable scene in the movie. Hundra is informed/told that in order to start the tribe anew she must find a mate and start bearing children. The greatest warrior must now become the greatest mother.
Yes. Yes it is a big switch after building up this strong woman who doesn’t need a man now against a wall and in need of a man. While 1983 was awhile ago, it’s not that far away to excuse corralling women back into their patriarchal roles. Maybe Hundra can stay strong in this new role and be an inspiration.
Tune in tomorrow to see.