There’s no name who can bring a chill to a room of people expecting a nice, normal genre movie like Albert Pyun. We’ve dealt with him on numerous occasions – “Cyborg”, “Captain America”, “Dollman”, and “Nemesis”, to name a few – and he’s become known for a certain sort of movie. I want to go into a bit more depth about his directorial quirks, but there’s also plenty of fun stuff to talk about with “The Sword And The Sorcerer”, his directorial debut, too.
Right away, the font of the opening credits gets you in the mood – pure gothic fantasy, veteran of a million similar movies. Much the same could be said for the plot, which starts off with a chap called Titus Cromwell summoning Xusia, who’s…maybe a demon? Cromwell wants to take over the rich, peaceful country of Adan, and needs a demon sorcerer to do it, apparently. Then, because Albert Pyun read “show, don’t tell” the wrong way round, all the conquering happens off camera and Cromwell realises that he doesn’t want to honour his end of the demon contract. So he “kills” Xusia, and traumatises Talon, a young boy, who manages to escape. I think he’s a Prince or something, but it’s really not important. What is important, sort of, is Talon’s sweet-ass three-bladed sword. The left and right blades can be fired like deadly projectiles, and…actually, I’m not sure it’s ever used in combat in its three-bladed variety.
Boom! 20 years later! Or thereabouts! Talon (Lee Horsley) has become a famed mercenary with a magnificent mane of hair, and Cromwell has taken over Adan. I think. You may notice something of a trend as I recap this movie. Titus has invited all the Kings of the neighbouring countries, or maybe he’s just kidnapped Prince Mikah (Simon MacCorkindale, “famous” for his role in Manimal). Talon is hired by the almost unfairly beautiful Alana (Kathleen Beller) to rescue Mikah, defeat Cromwell and generally save the day. It’s also screamingly obvious that Xusia isn’t dead, so you know he’s going to show up before the end too.
You may think this recap has missed quite a lot of the important setup of the movie out. Oh, ye of little faith! We’ve still got that to get to. The raid on the castle is magnificent in its oddness, with Cromwell’s amazing sparkly armour not even making it into the top three. There’s the way the guards know exactly where our heroes are, at all times, but are unable to use doors, smashing their way through unlocked ones on multiple occasions. There’s the way Talon meets the castle’s architect in the prison, put there because Cromwell didn’t want him sharing details of the secret passages. Why not just kill him then? It’s not like Cromwell hasn’t murdered people for less!
If you’re wondering about the acting, then don’t. Simon MacCorkindale has one scene where he’s clearly trying hard, and it’s a decent scene; but then he realises he’s working for Albert Pyun, and everyone else is just reading the lines however the hell they like, and he relaxes. It’s packed to the rafters with odd shouters and random emoters and other Acting 101 don’ts.
If any of this made sense, then I’d suggest it was made originally as a family film, and after the first half had been shot, one of the producers went “what on earth is this rubbish? Give me sex and violence, now!” Talon runs through a harem of nude ladies, and one of them is so immediately taken with him that she leads the rest of the concubines into danger to help him out. After a first half of cutting away just before the killing blow is landed, the second half has blood and guts galore (including one poor chap getting his head split open). At least one fella gets eaten by a horde of rats too. It’s sort of gross.
But let’s talk about Albert Pyun. He’s compared to Ed Wood Jr on his IMDB page, but Wood loved cinema and loved making it – and honestly, I’d rather watch “Plan Nine From Outer Space” a hundred times than anything of Pyun’s twice. I don’t think Pyun has the slightest skill at making movies, and I’m not even sure he likes watching them; if he did, there’s no way he’d continue to make the same mistakes, over and over again. The primary one, and this is one we’ve mentioned before, is his complete indifference to showing how scenes connect to other scenes. We see a group of mercenaries preparing for a fight, then in the next scene, with no explanation, they’re all in prison. Characters will be on their way to do one thing, and in the next scene they’re off to do something else. The exciting stuff, the fights and wars and magic, happens off screen and all we see is the buildup or the aftermath.
It’s so bad, and so obviously bad, that it annoys me none of Pyun’s future employers bothered to tell him to sort it out. It suggests a lot of people in charge of making potentially great genre cinema only care about getting 90 minutes of *anything* on the screen, to make a tiny bit of profit and move on to the next one. Albert Pyun has one skill – he can deliver a finished movie, under budget and on time. He does this by ignoring the connective tissue – showing how scenes connect to other scenes, how characters might have motivation to do something, or explaining why the stuff on screen is happening. While it might not seem important, it’s the difference between enjoying a movie and wanting to beat the director to death.
“The Sword and the Sorcerer” could have and should have been fun, but ended up being intensely annoying.
Rating: thumbs down