The Arena - 2001, starring Lisa Dergan and Karen McDougal.

"An action-packed look at the age of Arena Gladiators during the Roman
Empire. Through the demand of Roman Governor Timarchus--Druid maiden Bodicia, exotic slave girl Jessemina, and the barbarian Flavius, are each plucked from their hometowns and brought to The Arena to fight against each other as gladiators. After being banished by Caesar, Governor Timarchus takes his anger out on these gladiators and presents to the Romans extremely elaborate displays of combat, orgy, and death
."

Playboy playmates may seem unlikely choices to cast in the lead roles of a Gladiatrix movie; however, in the case of Timur Bekmambetov's remake of Joe D'Amato's 1973 classic exploitation movie, it proves inspired. Lisa Dergan and Karen McDougal excel in their roles, bringing real class to this movie.

Dergan reprises Margaret Markov's role, (the name changed slightly to
Bodicia), McDougal plays the Roman slave girl, Jessemina. The plot is almost identical to "The Arena" (Naked Warriors), save that the action has been moved (more realistically) from Rome to a mythical outpost called Durostrum. Filmed in Russia, the locale is bleak, and this perfectly with Bekmambetov's grittier take on his subject matter. Certainly, in D'Amato's original, there was an undertone of humour; in the 2001 remake, there is none to speak of.

Lisa Dergan and Karen McDougal bring real depth to their characters, and do not take the easy option of coasting through this movie. The conditions under which the film was made were tough for women more used to more exotic photography shoots, but Dergan and McDougal take to this with grim determination.


Buy The Arena 2001 from Amazon.com

In her excellent featurette (DVD version) Lisa Dergan explains just how difficult both she and Karen McDougal found their surroundings, and the quality performance they deliver are testament to their grit, determination and talent. Both actresses were obviously committed to and extremely proud of the movie. Indeed, as opposed to opting for the normal "commentary" on the DVD, both Dergan and McDougal present lengthy on camera features, in which they proceeds to give anecdotes and information about the movie. It’s impressive, and certainly adds to the whole "Gladiatrix" experience.

Timur Bekmambetov's directorial style is unique, using strange colours and inventive camera angles for much of the combat sequences. This adds to the atmosphere, as we actually feel we are part of the action. However, both actresses do state that there is much unseen fight footage that did not make it to the final cut of the movie.

A special feature on the DVD including this material would have been superb, but we must wait to see if the movie will be re-released with the full, uninterrupted fight scenes.

The movie was released as “Gladiatrix” originally, but it was felt by New Concorde that American audiences would get this confused with Ridley Scott's Gladiator, hence the re-titling "Arena 2001”).

The Arena is available from www.amazon.co.uk and www.amazon.com

Two of the fight scenes from the movie can be downloaded from the multimedia section.

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