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Fantasy movies from the early 1980s, with few exceptions, varied mostly from run of the mill mediocre to painfully bad. Albert Pyun's THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER, a bargain-basement budgeted, uninspired, and messy bloodfest from 1982, falls among the lowest end of the spectrum. Clocking in at a seemingly neverending 100 minutes, it starts out when medieval tyrant King Cromwell (Richard Lynch), on a quest for world domination, resurrects a centuries-old sorcerer, Xusia (Richard Moll, in heavy lizardlike makeup) to conquer the tranquil kingdom of Eh-Dan. Ten years later, Talon (Lee Horseley), a prince who escaped the invasion, leads a band of mercenaries to liberate conquered kingdoms. In the process, he returns to his old home of Eh-Dan, where rightful heir Mikah (Simon MacCordinkale) and his voluptuous sister Alana (Kathleen Beller), are plotting to overthrow Cromwell, who, incidentally, has plans to marry the lass. When Mikah is kidnapped, Alana desperately hires Talon to rescue him; he agrees to do so on the condition that they have a lovemaking session should he succeed. Oh, and incidentally, Xusia (who had been betrayed by Cromwell) is also planning to settle the score with his former ally, spending about a good portion of the last third disguised as a shady court advisor, Mahelli (George Maharis). (This last plot development is handled clumsily and in a groanworthy way, as is much of the movie.)
Taken as a plot concept, THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER sounds fairly uninspired, but it's even worse in its execution. The simplistic plot becomes needlessly convoluted as it bounces all over the place, throwing in lots of unexplained and abrupt developments that come from nowhere — if Cromwell needed Xusia to conquer Eh-Dan, then why does he stab and then throw him over a cliff shortly after smashing a few armies? There are lots of unexplained stupidities, too, particularly in the hero's weapon, which, at the touch of a button, can send one of its *three* — count 'em, THREE — blades spearing through an enemy like a projectile; furthermore, at the laughably choreographed final showdown between the villain and the hero, we discover that the sword can opt as an alternate dagger in the event that it is shattered in close combat. That is only one of the many scripting problems contained in this movie.
It's poorly edited, too, particularly the hero's first combat scene with two villains. All the shots in that moment are spliced completely out of order, making it a very choppy and confusing flow. Another particular example of bad editing occurs when a group of rebels makes plans to invade Cromwell's castle, and the next shot shows them all in prison! This is done with no transition or explanation, that it makes it mystifying how they got there.
What ultimately works against THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER overall, however, is the excess of gory violence (one person's face is sliced in half with bloody results, another's heart is ripped out of her chest, and a tongue is cut out) and occasional nudity (the hero swings into a room with topless babes, and in another scene the leading lady is given an oil bath). These two controversial elements can be put to effective use in masterpieces like PAN'S LABYRINTH (lots of horrifying violence, but done in a meaningful way) or, perhaps in CONAN THE BARBARIAN (par for the course with the original pulp novels it was based on). Here, however, both are slapped onto this film for no other apparent reason than just violence and nudity for the mere sake of it. In one particularly distasteful sequence, we see the hero spiked onto a cross, bleeding painfully during the main villain's wedding. Not only did I find this a blasphemous and tasteless echo of Christ's crucifixion, I found it even more ridiculous (and sickening) that Talon would have the gall to yank himself free of the device.
Even without these problems, there's hardly anything to recommend about THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER. The characterizations are mono-dimensional and uninteresting, the acting and the dialogue are terrible (Moll does get some points for being at least scary, even though he has little to do in his surprisingly scanty role, as does MacCordinkale, who does a decent job), and the direction is very amateurish and clumsy. The special effects are also pretty cheesy, particularly the aforementioned sword and especially in a corny transformation scene toward the end of the film where a character literally pulls apart his human skin to reveal a demonic creature. The only thing to come clean out of this dreck is a lively musical score by David Whittaker as well as Moll and MacCordinkale's performances, but otherwise, the movie as a whole is little more than standard junk for undemanding fans of this kind of trashy fantasy.
When it's all over, just before the credits roll, there is a comment made that the hero will have further adventures in an upcoming film called "Tales of the Ancient Empire." It's a wonder it took more than 20 years for that to happen, but frankly, if the quality of this movie is any indication, it's not worth it.
Greetings cheesy 80's B-movie nostalgia fans! Greetings also to all cheesy sword and sorcery action movie fans! Welcome to the DVD review of "The Sword and the Sorcerer" an "action packed adventure saga, filled with brutal battles, luscious maidens, savage monsters and MORE!"...so proclaims the box anyway. The "MORE!" in this instance by the way is a cheesy script, over-ambitious clunky plot, not-so-special effects and a lazy-cum-pointless DVD transfer(Anchor Bay sucks)...but don't let that put you off. As hack 'n' slash 80's B-movie adventures go this is one of the better ones. The Sword and the Sorcerer is probably not something most people out there will be rushing out to rent...or, as is more likely the case, *buy* seeing as it's now around 20 years old. I remembered seeing the first 15 minutes of this as a child before being hustled off to bed after the opening scenes of a blood soaked necromancer ripping out a witch's heart threw my mother into censorship mode...and then watching the rest upstairs and wishing I hadn?t afterwards. I?d pretty much forgotten all about it until Peter Jackson decided he would revive the whole fantasy genre(or at least to drag it out of nerdy bedrooms and thrust it onto the big screen again) and then cruelly leave huge gaps between film releases with few others daring to step up to fill the void! I doubt I'm alone in hunting around for more fantasy movies and I doubt I'm alone in noting the same names turning up time and again on top ten lists. "Krull", "Conan The Barbarian", "Willow" (there's no accounting for taste) and strangely, considering how few people seem to remember it when you mention it in conversation "The Sword and the Sorcerer" all pop up regularly. In many ways, this is little more than your typical attempt to cash in on the Dungeons & Dragons craze of the late 70's early 80's but wh
ere others went for the simple 'show me the money' style of cinema, the makers of "The Sword and the Sorcerer" actually do make an attempt to put some effort into the production. You will no doubt notice a glut of dungeons and umm...well no dragons whatsoever(despite both trailers proclaiming otherwise!) as at least half of the action takes place in the depths of a castle but it?s all good fun so very forgivable. The first point in its favour is that the storyline is pretty complex for this kind of thing. Oh sure, it's also pretty clumsy too, you can be sure of that, as in order to bring it across to the viewer they intersect the first 20 minutes with an annoying narration, but it's a hell of a lot better than the majority of others which just lurched from one excuse for a punch up to another with nothing in between to say why. We are introduced to our villain 'Cromwell' early on when he enlists the aid of a sorceress to raise an ancient evil necromancer from his gory tomb. Cromwell wants the kingdom for his own and knows with the aid of the necromancer that his desires will surely be satisfied...but not without a price. Cromwell gets his wish by slaughtering the king and taking the kingdom as his own. Everything is dandy except the king's youngest son does a little slaying of his own using a mystical three bladed sword which shoots out two of the blades at opponents (we all wanted one as kids 'round my way lol) and escapes to become the stuff of legends amongst the peasants who expect him to return one day. Oh and the sorcerer decides he naturally wants more out of sacking a kingdom than just 'his life' and, as is the way of such things, pays for it with his death(again). Wouldn't you just know it though, the sorcerer isn't reeeally dead and when a small rebellious uprising begins against Cromwell's despotic rule guess who's there egging it along. Worse still for Cromwell, a mighty
roving warrior wielding a funky three-bladed sword has ridden into town with his motley band of barbarians and is stirring up even more trouble after accepting the offer of one night of nookie with a beautiful princess if rescues her brother from Cromwell's dungeon... OK so it sounds cheesy on paper(and on a monitor screen) and doesn't get much better on the screen but it's a lot of fun. Much of its appeal probably comes from the fact that "The Sword and the Sorcerer" rarely takes itself too seriously so even when there are some really misjudged moments(and there are a few) it produces a smile but not a groan accompanied by muchos eye-rolling and reaching for the remote. It's naff in a fun, "Conan The Barbarian" kinda way as opposed to just plain naff in a "Red Sonja" way... The fight scenes are great as is the costume and even though you may get the feeling you are watching an adult, scuffed up version of TV's "Hercules: The Legendary Journies"(please bear in mind I kinda like watching that too and the Robin Hood one they show in the mornings sometimes so you may like to ignore my opinion of what's naff and what isn't!) with more blood and gore and gratuitous norks-a-plenty. Even though I'm not sure Dungeon's & Dragons fantasy heros can ever be described as swashbucklers, you can't shake the feeling that Lee Horsley certainly does buckle a good swash(or whatever) in some scenes in the greatest traditions of an Errol Flynn movie. All great fun. The script is forgivably silly and the casting not always that great but serviceable. There are no big names on show here, in fact, I couldn't remember seeing any of them before and had to go rooting around the IMDB for info. Just in case you were interested in the cast you've got Lee Horsley(famous for appearing in nothing else memorable whatsoever) gets to romp it up as a smart-arsed cross between Arnie and Errol Flynn
as Prince Talon and does so well but you end up questioning his 'beefcake hero' status when he seems to get his butt kicked so often and spends half the movie in a dungeon! Richard Lynch plays Titus Cromwell who doesn't seem all that villainous apart from the fact that he is forcing the princess to marry him(heard that plotline before eh? lol), Simon MacCorkindale(Jaws 3D and now apparently in Casualty on the BBC??) is Prince Mikah, put there to be captured a lot and Kathleen Beller(Time Trackers) gets to play the typical defiant princess role... Notable names are thin on the ground, original characterisation even thinner. The bottom line, further waffling is futile because it can't be said any plainer than this, if you enjoyed the likes of "Conan The Barbarian", "Krull", "The Beastmaster" and the countless other fantasy movies released in and around the 80s then you'll probably like this as well. If not, then I doubt it's going to convert you to the genre. Simple as that. Oh yes and the DVD... Well, Anchor Bay gets their usually thumbs down from me for their DVD release of this movie. Having bought the DVD on a whim and sat through "The Sword and the Sorcerer" I can honestly say that, had I bought a copy on VHS instead, then I wouldn't have lost anything from the experience. There appears to be very little attempt having been made to clear up the picture, particularly in the opening few scenes where there is visible damage to the print and the blacks are horribly grainy. The picture quality does improve after the first 10 minutes or so although I probably just got used to it. Anyhoo, it looks like a straight transfer to DVD with little additional work done to improve an old print so thumbs down. In terms of the sound, you've got the choice of Dolby surround or Dolby stereo...which both sound pretty much the same to me but there you go. Still, I'm not sur
e I could take the cheesy heroic music in surround sound anyway and at least there is some sign of effort there. No subtitles though, not even in English which is very lame and so it's thumbs down again. Then you've got a scene index comprising of 18 scenes, two trailers and a TV Spot(lasting 27 seconds...lol) and a selection of stills from the movie. That's all, nothing else. Not even a commentary and judging by the way these actors' careers have blossomed(hah!) I'm sure they would have turned up and said something about the movie if someone at Anchor Bay had slipped them a fiver. Ho hum. Oh and incidentally there?s not even the "Cast & Crew Filmographies/Biographies" that the box lists amongst the features list either. Hmm... Verdict: 3/5 for the movie. 1/5 for the DVD. 3/5 overall because I like the movie, just don't expect anything special from the DVD.