Witchville (2010)

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Because we couldn’t stay away for long, here’s another SyFy review for you. Spoiler alert – it’s dull as hell, so if you’re a busy person who can spare 90 minutes for a movie but not three minutes to read a review, don’t bother. If you’d like to join me in annoyance, read on.

 

Luke Goss is presumably quite happy Bros are reforming, and I bet he hopes they make enough money for him to retire from the movies.  He’s been in some interesting stuff, including the two “Death Race” sequels and “Blade 2”, and is much better known as an actor than he ever was as a singer, but…he’s not the best picker of material, let’s put it that way. He and Danny Trejo are go-to guys for low-budget action directors, it would seem (credited together 5 times), and chances are if you see a DVD that looks like a big-budget movie, only you’ve never heard of it, Goss will be in it.

 

Here, he’s Malachy, a medieval type enjoying a beer with his friend Jason (Ed Speleers). Their fun is spoiled when Jason’s brother Erik (Andrew Pleavin) comes in to round them up and get them back to “the kingdom”, where Malachy’s Dad, the King, is dying. Turns out witches have been cursing the place, or just using up the vitality of the Earth for their black magic, for some time, and the kingdom is in a right old state. A magician called, oddly, Heinrich Kramer (Simon Thorp), tells em about the witches – he has a book with all their secrets in it, and wants their help in hunting down and killing them all. He also appears to be doing a Jonathan Pryce impression, but that’s not crucial to the movie or this review.

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The Witch Queen is Sarah Douglas, by a comfortable distance the most famous actor in it (the first two “Superman” movies, a lifetime of TV and film roles, and a regular of the ISCFC, from “Meatballs 4”, “Puppet Master 3” and “Beastmaster 2”). She has an assistant, Jozefa (MyAnna Buring, “Ripper Street”), and a big supply of weird red smoke which possesses people.

 

There’s not really a lot to this movie. The gang goes after witches, the witches try and kill them, there’s a very obvious “this villain will eventually be on the good side” twist, and then there’s the role of China. As this was funded by Chinese money, Malachy meets a group of Chinese fighters who kill his cannon fodder troops, then when they realise who he is and what he’s fighting, join up with him and become sort of background for the rest of the movie – like that was all they needed to secure the funding, and they couldn’t be bothered to write characters for any of them.

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Simon Thorp’s performance is so terrible that I kept expecting him to be the main villain of the piece, undercover, but…no. And Buring is so terrible that I knew she’d be on the good guys’ side by the end. Everyone else is terrible thanks to an appalling script, which has them all talking like brain-dead characters from medieval fan-fiction; Goss is particularly poorly served by the lines he’s forced to read out, but no-one comes out of it well. There’s also a really bad non-following of Chekhov’s Gun – at the beginning, we see Heinrich with a powder that can briefly resurrect dead creatures, so you think, reasonably, that at some point that powder will be used on one of our heroes, to give them that little push over the top to finally defeat evil…of course, that might have been fun or interesting so they just never mention it again.

 

The main problem I have is how grossly mismatched the contest is. The Witch Queen wins constantly, with our heroes buffeted on all sides by forces they can’t possibly match; after seeing them beaten over and over again for over an hour, a couple of the characters suddenly get massive power-ups during the final battle. What’s quite surprising is seeing a movie about witchcraft in 2010 that doesn’t try and do anything interesting with the idea – like it’s an expression of feminism, or men wanting to control women and being upset when they wanted their own lives. But it’s just more evil women, crappy obvious plot twists, and a pair of twins (spoiler!) who in real life are 11 years apart in age. Clearly the distributors wanted you to think it had more of an Eastern flavour, either to sell it to China or set it apart from legions of similar releases, but if I’d bought it on that proviso, I’d have been very disappointed indeed.

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But if you’re a fan of “World Of Warcraft”, then there’s quite a lot to enjoy. All those shoulder-armour-things, ludicrously oversized and entirely unsuitable for combat, feel like lifts from the game, and there’s an apparently almost exact ripoff of a character from a WoW comic (never read it). Also, more than a few people have noticed the similarity to another computer game, “Witcher”, so perhaps they were hoping to get naming rights to one of those, failed but decided to keep the props they’d made.

 

Anyway, it’s only the morning after watching it, and mercifully the details are already fading from my mind. Let’s just all pretend it never happened, eh?

 

Rating: thumbs down

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The Warrior And The Sorceress (1984)

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ARRGHHHH IT’S ANOTHER “A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS” RIPOFF

Regular readers may cast their minds back to yesterday’s review, where I was less than thrilled that cheap android movie “Omega Doom” used the plot of the Western classic “A Fistful Of Dollars” (or “Yojimbo”, if you like the source). At least, I thought, I wouldn’t have to watch the same plot again for some time. How wrong I was! My friend Dave suggested this for our “Awesome Movie Monday” night, knowing nothing about it other than the name, David Carradine starring in it, and the trailer, which promised much. If he’d known it was the same plot as the rubbish movie I’d watched the previous night, he’d…well, he’d have still made us watch it. He’s that sort of person.

 

This particular gem has something of a lurid title, as you may have noticed, and coming at the time it did, in the middle of the sword-and-sorcery trend (mainly a result of Italian and Spanish locations, crews and backing actor, with just the stars being American), you might have expected it to have some swords and some sorcery in it. Of course, as the construction of this paragraph has already told you, you would be wrong. “The Dark One” (Carradine) has one fight near the beginning, and – OK – one excellent fight near the end. But I wouldn’t call him a warrior in the same way I wouldn’t call Eastwood’s Man With No Name a warrior.

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I suppose we ought to discuss the sorceress, Naja (a lady by the name of Maria Socas). Now, while the all-time greatest “constantly nude” performance is Mathilda May in “Lifeforce”, Socas runs her a pretty close second. Although…even at times when she both could and should put some clothes on, she’s naked to the point you start to feel a bit sorry for her. Why so naked? Still, she’s had a pretty decent career in her native tongue and doesn’t need my vague pity. There’s one other decent supporting person, and that’s Anthony De Longis, whose cheeky grin lit up many an episode of “Highlander: The Series” and who is a fantastic sword-fighter for real. So, of course, the movie gives him one fight, right at the end. It reminds me of having Jean Claude Van Damme in “Cyborg” and making him fight like an old boxer.

 

Anyway, the plot. Carradine wanders into town, there’s a well with two groups feuding over it. They’re both assholes and treat the villagers like dirt, so Carradine starts playing them against each other until they’re all dead. Or most of them are dead. Honestly, I’d stopped bothering by the end because this movie sucked hard. At least it’s short, I suppose.

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There’s really not a lot to like about “The Warrior And The Sorceress”, and not much of any worth to write about. But I’ll give you a little bit of something, which indicates the contempt the people who made this had for their audience. Below, you will find the trailer. Now, I know it won’t mean anything to you as you’ve not seen it, but the trailer features at least three scenes, all of which look quite exciting, that aren’t in the final movie at all. Now, I may have watched the weirdly edited UK version, or something, but I bet those scenes didn’t get finished and they couldn’t be bothered to take them out of the trailer too.

Aside from De Longis, who looked like he was trying, and the lovely nude lady, this is absolutely worth ignoring. If some friend says “hey, the trailer looks good, let’s watch this!” then immediately stop being friends with them. Actually, I do have one more thing. In 1983, the year before this came out, “National Lampoon’s Vacation” did a parody of the fantasy movie poster – check it out, it’s a great poster. So, how lazy would a movie have to be to use the same old lame clichéd poster, with exactly the same poses?

 

Rating: thumbs down

Yor, The Hunter From The Future (1983)

This would have been coll if it had actually been in the movie

This would have been cool if it had actually been in the movie

If you’ve ever seen “Planet Of The Apes” on video, you’ll probably wonder what all the fuss is about with the big twist at the end, seeing as how it was revealed on the poster / front cover. This movie tries to go one step further by actually revealing the twist in its own title – at every moment of this rather oddly paced movie, you’ll be thinking to yourself “when is this bloke going to hurry up and get to the future?”

 

Part of this problem may be explained by Yor’s provenance – this 90 minute movie is edited down from a 4-part miniseries on Italian TV. So, people will pop up and be villains, for about 20 minutes or so, before disappearing, getting summarily dispatched, or whatever; and Yor gets himself into a number of romantic scrapes that resolve themselves remarkably quickly. As it’s co-financed by Turkey, you get to see a lot of locations which fans of bad movie gold like “Turkish Star Wars” will remember very well too, and when a movie is this difficult to explain, it’s almost guaranteed to be some fun.

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Yor is Reb Brown, bad movie royalty from his roles in “Space Mutiny”, “The Sword And The Sorceror” and the original awful “Captain America”, and he appears to just be strolling through the Stone Age wilderness when he rescues a tribe from a rampaging Triceratops. Pag (Luciano Pigozzi, Italian “That Guy” actor) is the “protector” of Ka-Laa (Corinne Clery), who likes what she sees when she sees Yor. Some guys with blue-ish skin attack the village, and our three heroes, after the barest minimum of resistance, just run off and leave their friends and family to die. Hurrah!

 

Yor, Pag and Ka-Laa make friends, enemies and see some of the truly beautiful and unusual sights of Turkey, and they find someone who has the same weird medallion thing as Yor, which sort-of sparks the quest to find out who he really is. Then, with the movie about two-thirds done, the sci-fi stuff kicks in and the plot, not so much as hinted at to this point, kicks in. Blame it all on nuclear destruction, although where the dinosaurs popped up from is anyone’s guess, and this ends up with Yor heading off to the island where all the technology still is. Will he stop the bad fella’s quest for world domination? How little self-respect does Ka-Laa have?

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It’s certainly an unusual movie – although I’m sure there’s backstory in the TV series that would have made all this make a little more sense, the impression that the people making this were very worried about their audience getting bored is strong. Although…the sheer amount of stuff does become tiring, partly because it’s so samey. He rescues some villagers from a monster! He meets a lady! Ka-Laa is jealous of the lady! He walks through some caves! I was a little disappointed that one of these ladies, the staggeringly beautiful Marina Rocchi (as Tarita, who avoids getting blown up by lasers near the end) didn’t have a bigger role, and indeed had a career that didn’t go much of anywhere.

 

By the time the albino-looking people and their Darth Vader-ripoff adversaries have shown up, the excitement that should be there from having a movie with stone age stuff suddenly go full sci-fi has been worn down a bit. The last section is, dare I say it, a bit boring even?

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I think “Yor” has been helped by its reputation, much like “Plan Nine From Outer Space” (which isn’t really one of the worst thousand films ever made, much less right at the bottom). It won a few of the early Razzie Awards, it’s got a wacky title, it’s got Reb Brown doing that weird shouting thing he does…it’s a fun story more than a particularly fun movie. Cast your eyes over the ISCFC’s other sword and sorcery reviews for something a bit more exciting.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Quest For The Mighty Sword (1990)

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Re: that hookline, no it doesn’t, and no it doesn’t

You can’t beat a good misleading title, and this one’s a doozy. Our hero doesn’t so much quest for the mighty sword as he does find it under a rock in the home he’s been living in for 15 years or so; and this particular quest is more like the movie’s prologue than anything else, happening in the first 20 minutes. Fans of trash cinema may find those troll outfits familiar, and that’s because they were re-used outfits from “Troll 2” – not the only thing the two movies share (they also both suck).

It’s not just got one misleading title, though, being known as “Troll 3” in some markets, despite director Joe D’Amato releasing another – also entirely unrelated – movie which was billed as “Troll 3” (better known to us as “Creepers”, “The Crawlers” or “Contamination .7”). It’s also occasionally listed as either the third or fourth “Ator” movie, the cheap Conan knock-off series previously starring Miles O’Keefe, despite having nothing to do with any of the previous movies, sharing no cast or plot elements and making the lead character completely different. Oh, plus it’s listed on IMDB as “The Hobgoblin”, which is different to 1988’s (also terrible) “Hobgoblins”.

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Are you confused yet? Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to ponder such questions as the movie rumbles on, because it’s not exactly packed with conflict. The best way I can think of to describe it is as a computer game with the cheat codes turned on, because while hidden stuff still causes a slight problem, monsters fall immediately and everyone thinks the main character is the best thing ever. I’m going to have a go at recapping this one, because the plot is a delightful, meandering, odd thing and I hope you enjoy reading about it.

 

Ator is a Prince, and we see him dishing out justice to a couple of criminals, who apparently have a win your freedom or die thing going on (spoiler: they don’t go free). Then, a large monster-looking chap, who is apparently a demon, or a minor god, or something, decides that Ator is showing him up by being fair and decent to his subjects, and kills him. Where will it go from here, I wonder? Well, Ator’s wife escapes with her baby and Ator’s broken super-sword and goes along to some hobgoblin she knows who runs a forge. She asks the hobgoblin to raise her son and reforge the sword to give him when he turns 18…oh, and also that she wants to commit suicide due to her husband being dead. You know, like normal. Anyway, the hobgoblin gives her a love potion rather than poison and has his wicked way with her…and then she’s cursed to wander the earth as a prostitute, being beaten and abused by her clients (although we don’t find this out til later).

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The hobgoblin then raises the kid even though he had absolutely no reason to, a kid who grows up to look identical to his own father and is also named Ator. Why not? Ator finds out that this chap betrayed his mother, so after being tricked with a few fake swords and generally having the hobgoblin be a dick towards him, while he’s one his own one day, Ator finds the broken sword, reforges it and splits his former mentor in half. Ator’s helpful old woman turns up and tells him his destiny, which is to rescue the beautiful Dejanira and marry her. She was a goddess who spoke up on behalf of Ator and was sentenced to mortality as a result, although the movie isn’t too good at supplying these details to us.  Someone else wants Dejanira though, the evil Prince Gunther; plus, his sister Grimilde wants Ator for her very own. Gunther is played by the old white guy Donald O’Brien, while Grimilde is the significantly younger Indonesian-born Laura Gemser; it’s a bold move to make them brother and sister, but this movie does it!

 

Anyway, back to the action. Ator beats a couple of baddies up without really trying (including one robot, D’Amato did love his pointless anachronisms), and rescues Dejanira almost embarrassingly easily. He also frees his mother from her curse with no problem at all (in fact, he’s barely aware he’s doing it)…but then the cheat codes don’t work for a minute and they all get captured by Gunther. Before escaping with Ator, Grimilde shapeshifts into Dejanira, but Ator notices pretty quickly, and after confronting her, they nip back to Gunther’s castle, with a predictably quick and easy battle to finish everything off. Oh, there’s a fight against some frog-people in there somewhere, presumably because one of the producers had a warehouse full of the outfits and wanted rid of them; and a friendly guy with a boomerang who pops up to help out.

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We all know the hero is going to survive the movie. That’s a given. But the tension of the powerful villain, or the morally justified one, is what makes these sorts of movies interesting, and when the hero achieves everything he set out to without encountering any resistance, it falls flat. Well, flatter, because nothing about “Quest For The Mighty Sword” is interesting at all. Star Eric Allen Kramer (Robin Hood: Men In Tights, “The Hughleys”) is a solid dependable actor, but here he’s barely trying, and rather than looking like the lean, ripped Miles O’Keefe, looks like a large former high school American football player gone to seed. All the other actors, even those not under troll masks, are terrible too, like they realised that they were in a Joe D’Amato movie and didn’t need to try.

 

Joe D’Amato was, by all accounts, a warm and generous guy to work for, but his filmed output was largely rubbish, being cheap rip-offs of Hollywood genre movies, gory horror, and (almost exclusively towards the end of his career) pornography, of the soft and hard-core varieties. The first two “Ator” movies, one of which was covered by “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, are fun affairs, but by this point everyone had stopped caring. Not so much bad as utterly pointless. Sword-and-sorcery movies should at least be a bit exciting.

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Rating: thumbs down

The Sword And The Sorcerer (1982) aka “Why I Hate Albert Pyun”

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I’m pretty sure everything at the top of the picture is a lie

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.

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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!

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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.

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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

Kull The Conqueror (1997)

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Hiring Kevin Sorbo to be in your swords-and-sorcery movie in 1998 is a bit like hiring William Shatner to be in your space captain movie in 1968. Sorbo was a few seasons into “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” at the time, a show that was vastly better than it had any right to be, thanks to Sam Raimi and pals’ involvement, and despite this being a bit different, I suspect the producers knew what they were doing, hiring the guy who played the long-haired, bare-chested, ass-kicking fantasy hero Hercules to play the long-haired, bare-chested, ass-kicking fantasy hero Kull.

This film had quite the journey to the screen. Robert E Howard is the greatest pulp novelist maybe of them all – in a short life he absolutely hammered out stories and novels, for characters like Conan, John Carter of Mars, Kull, Solomon Kane, and others. The story this movie is based on, “The Hour of the Dragon”, is a Conan story, and was originally intended to be the third Conan movie, but Arnold Schwarzenegger refused; and Sorbo said he didn’t want to step into Arnie’s shoes, and would only do it if they changed the character.

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There’s a good god, Valka, and there’s an evil sorceress queen, Akivasha. She was in charge of Acheron, a pretty horrible looking place, until Valka overthrew her and built the kingdom of Valusia on Acheron’s ruins. One eternal flame remains to remind everyone of how bad things used to be, but other than that…things still seem pretty bad if you’re not wealthy, although I suppose you have the benefit of not living in a flame-drenched hell-world. Kull is trying to better his situation by joining the King’s personal guard, but he fails his entrance exam (a huge fight) because he’s not of noble blood (he’s from Atlantis, apparently a no-no). But Kull cares not for such boundaries! The king has gone crazy, killing all his heirs; thanks to some rather poor succession rules, Kull half-accidentally kills the king and then takes the crown himself.

All sorts of people want to see Kull dead – the last remaining heir, the chief of the King’s guards, the Head Priest, but most of all Akivasha, who it turns out was just in a sarcophagus the last couple of thousand years, waiting to be woken up. She turns into Tia Carrere (remember how hard some people tried to make Tia Carrere a thing?), bewitches Kull into marrying her and then poisons him, taking over. Of course, Kull’s not dead and he’s got help from a badass monk and her sister, one of the slaves in the Palace who Kull wanted to free (being a former slave himself, he’s got strong opinions on the subject). They need to get the Power of MacGuffin from a distant island, of course.

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You might be forgiven for expecting this to be a double-episode of “Hercules”, in tone and cost, but it’s not. There’s serious money on display here, from the investor who expected this to be an Arnie movie, possibly; there’s big castles and really good-looking set pieces where you can tell they went and filmed there rather than using green-screen (although there’s some green-screen too). There’s tons of extras, and some decent actors dotted about as well – Harvey Fierstein is bizarrely cast as a sleazy fence of stolen goods; Ed Tudor-Pole is fun too; and Karina Lombard is great as the exotic slave/love interest Zareta.

I think if this had been the third Conan film it’d have caused its own problems. Schwarzenegger by the 90s would have wanted it “bigger”, there’d have been A-listers with their own egos involved, and the simplicity and basic fun of what we ended up with would have been lost. It’s just a good, fun adventure, with a decent sense of humour and very little doubt about how things are going to end up. I can’t say anything interesting about these solidly above average movies! You’ll enjoy it, and won’t want to tear your own eyes out after watching it.

Rating: thumbs up

Beastmaster 3: The Eye Of Braxus (1996)

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How do you spot a failed pilot for a TV series? There are a number of clues, and this film has plenty of them. Firstly, you have at least two or three supporting characters given way more backstory than usual, often with a skill the lead character doesn’t have, and most importantly of all they don’t die. The villain of the piece will almost always “survive” in one form or another, and it’ll usually throw some irrelevant world-building detail in there too.

So, even though there actually was a Beastmaster TV series, three years after this, it shared no characters (apart from Marc Singer, but he was only in a few episodes and played someone slightly different), and I say this was a pilot that crashed. Much like part 2, it’s full of B-movie royalty – Tony Todd as Singer’s sidekick Seth; Casper Van Dien is King Tal, the grown up version of the kid from part 1; Sandra Hess, a rare “That Girl” actor; Leslie Anne Down, having a whale of a time as a witch with a heart of gold; and David Warner, able to give gravitas to the stupidest projects, plays Lord Agon, who needs the Amulet of MacGuffin to open a door and get ultimate power, or whatever.

Also, this film pretends part 2 never existed, which is a shame. But like part 2, it’s clearly aimed at the kid’s market, so barely anyone actually dies, there’s no nudity, and absolutely no animals die either (I like the second and third things, honestly). Plus, it’s a little difficult to shake off the idea once it gets into your head that the only reason this film got made is that someone realised they still had the rights to it and didn’t want them to lapse.

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I’m not sure I even need to recap this. Dar wanders about the wilderness, gets sucked in to some universe-destroying plot, meets a few friends, has his animals do some cool stuff (although he has a lion now, even if it does have the same name as the tiger from parts 1 and 2), quips, has some sexy time, then after he’s saved the day wanders off into the wilderness again. I don’t want to spoil it, I suppose?

Although the incredible cheapness shines through at every moment, with the fantastic sets of Don Coscarelli’s original a very distant memory (14 years, I suppose), it’s actually a really fun film. Singer and Todd have good chemistry, plus Down and Warner are veterans of this sort of daftness, don’t take it seriously for a second and elevate every scene they’re in.

There’s a lot of padding, though. The whole diversion with the painted-face people, a good 5-10 minutes of the movie, could have been removed and you wouldn’t have missed a thing, and “interestingly” the films have been getting shorter anyway – from 2 hours for part 1, to a shade over 100 minutes for part 2, and now 90 minutes for part 3. Strangely, this feels like the longest installment, and you can tell the lack of money in every scene set in a bit of wilderness.

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I’m not the first person to notice this, but the evil demon-thing who Agon frees at the end of the film is the spitting image of the dinosaurs from the Jim Henson show “Dinosaurs”. Like, way too much for it to be a coincidence, I think. So, if you really want to have no chance at all of taking the final fight seriously, there you go.

It seems the TV series which was the next (and, so far, last) installment in the Beastmaster saga, has a lot of fans, but then all sorts of garbage can have lots of fans. I’ll stick with the films, and they’ve been a heck of a lot of fun. Not always that great, and the treatment of the animals in part 1 still leaves a slightly bad taste in my mouth, but Singer is a great leading man, the casting people succeeded over and over again, and there’s plenty of adventure and a few laughs to enjoy.

Rating: thumbs up

Beastmaster 2: Through The Portal Of Time (1991)

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The squeamish among you will be pleased to find out that no animals are put in any sort of danger in “Beastmaster 2”. You think one of his menagerie dies, but they don’t, the tiger is normal tiger-coloured and the ferrets save the day. Hurrah!

Never mind part 1 altogether, really. The peace that Dar achieved at the end of the first film…er…what first film? Look over there! *runs away* We’ve got some serious B-movie royalty in this one – the bad guy, Arklon, is Wings Hauser (last seen by us in the amazing “Rubber”); one of his henchmen is Robert Z’Dar, returning to the screen soon for “Samurai Cop 2”; making a brief cameo is horror legend Michael Berryman; and introduced later is Kari Wuhrer, who we loved in “Sharknado 2”  and “Alien Tornado”, but who really ought to have been a far bigger star. And, even though I don’t go searching his films out, this is again Jim Wynorski-related, as he wrote the script.

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The gimmick of this film is a tried and tested staple of low budget cinema – the baddie opens a portal to present day LA! Theirs is a parallel universe, apparently. So, after a little bit where Wuhrer, playing wild child Jackie, accidentally drives through the portal and has a very hard time believing she’s not in LA anymore, the entire main cast decamps to present day LA, and Arklon goes looking for the neutron detonator, a mega-nuke of some sort that can destroy the Earth. Arklon sucks all the knowledge of the earth from some poor cop’s head using magic, Dar follows Jackie and evil witch Lyranna has been watching LA through the portal for months so knows all about our customs.

There’s a surprisingly small amount of “fish out of water” comedy on display, as if everyone realised that would be too cheesy. Arklon is trying to get the neutron detonator to take back to his world and rule unopposed, and Dar is trying to stop him, nice and simple-like. There’s a “hey, we’re the real barbarians, man” moment; Dar gets into rock n roll and calling people “asshole”; there’s the sort of scene that “Wayne’s World” parodied, when Dar happens to meet a monster in the woods at the beginning who gives him a huge amount of incredibly important information; there’s the way Kari Wuhrer can’t shut up, even though unless her IQ is in single digits she must realise something very weird has happened to her; there’s the way Dar isn’t remotely curious about where this utterly alien woman has come from. In other words, this film is packed with little OTT details that really elevate it.

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I know this film is cheaper than part 1, doesn’t look quite as beautiful, has a less strong cast, barely any death (must have been aiming for a family-friendly certificate) and is played for laughs much more than serious questing…but I think it’s a better film. The ending fight alone is a minor work of comic genius, even though the stakes are high and the characters are taking it seriously. You’ll have yourself some fun with this one.

Rating: thumbs up