Swept up by conquering Roman forces in the last century before the calendar switched from BC to AD, the druid priestess Bodicia (Margaret Markov) and the Nubian Mamawi (Pam Grier) find themselves enslaved in the service of Timarchus (Daniele Vargas), who runs the local version of the Coliseum in a minor Roman city. Starved for novelty, the town's Drunken Mob demands something new, and the two women, along with the other female slaves, find themselves thrust into the role of gladiator. They must now find a way to escape, or inevitably die in the bloodsoaked sand of the Arena.
Women in Prison pictures had proven quite profitable for Roger Corman's New World Pictures, and The Arena provided a venue for the genré different from the usual Filipino prison farm. As a combination of the WiP film and the previous decade's sword-and-sandal flicks, it is modestly successful. Still pretty entertaining for the drive-in fan - the history is fairly correct, breasts are exposed every ten minutes, the fights are good (especially in the mandatory climactic jailbreak), and there is a reason Pam Grier is an icon.
There is a full review at The Bad Movie Report.
Concorde steps up to the plate with a slap in the face to a cinematic elitist like myself - the movie starts in glorious 2:35:1 aspect, but after the credits, expands to a leaden, pan-and-scanned fullscreen treatment. This is rarely problematic - it's not like we're talking Sergio Leone compositions here - until the fight scenes in the titular Arena, in which we generally see either only one combatant, or mere portions of both. Then, at the end, the picture once more draws back into scope, so that the end credits may play, and I may draw a heavy sigh.
Past my usual grumblings about the aspect ratio, the print is in fairly good condition, with occasional speckling and dust damage. The image tends a bit toward softness, but the colors are bright and stable.
Oddly, the Concorde logo and the interactive menus play out in complete silence, once again causing me to suspect that I didn't switch my amplifier over to the DVD setting.
There is the usual trailer (and it's presented in Scope, he grumbled). Also, clicking on the oddly-named "Available Hits" gains you trailers for six more New World movies: Eat My Dust, Big Bad Mama, Humanoids from the Deep, Knocking on Death's Door, The Big Doll House, and Death Race 2000. For a trailer fan like myself, that's a nice bonus.
"Biographies" gives you text pieces on producer Corman, stars Grier and Markov, and credited director Steve Carver. The Corman section also provides access to two excerpts of Leonard Maltin's interview with Roger Corman; in the first segment, Corman talks about Women In Prison films in general; the second, curiously, is about the Ron Howard Smoky & the Bandit clone, Eat My Dust. I'm still puzzling over that particular inclusion.
Dr. Freex, 3/17/2001