From the Archive – The Sword and the Sorcerer

Directed by Albert Pyun
Starring (in the loosest possible sense) Lee Horsley, Kathleen Beller

In this sub-Conan offering from tatmeister Pyun – his very first attempt at movie-making – the evil king Titus Cromwell (I shit ye not) gains the aid of a big lizard-sorcerer dude called Xusia to overthrow good King Richard of Ehdan, then stabs him and throws him off a cliff because he’s too dangerous to keep around. I’m sure that we all know this is a big mistake. Richard’s youngest son Talon (Horsley) escapes the massacre and grows up to be a mighty – yet uncouth – mercenary, well-loved across the civilised world.

Eleven years after the overthrow of Richard, Talon returns to find the son of his father’s adviser, Mikah (Simon ‘Manimal’ McCorkindale), plotting rebellion with Cromwell’s sinister minister Count ‘Not Xusia in disguise, not me no way guv’ Machelli. Following Machelli’s not-so-shock betrayal, Mikah’s sister Alanna (Beller) hires Talon to rescue her brother, then gets captured herself. Talon rescues Mikah, then hangs around in the palace for no adequately explored reason until Cromwell captures him. His men try to rescue him but get captured, and Cromwell has Talon crucified as a centrepiece for his feast to celebrate a treaty between all the great kings and his marriage to Alanna.

With me so far? No? You lucky things.

Talon rips himself off the cross, the kings help him out since they all owe his mercenary band, the mercenaries are freed by some random plot wenches and Machelli/Xusia kidnaps Alana. Talon – unimpaired by having just lately had a nail through each palm – kills Cromwell and Xusia, boffs the princess then leaves her behind and rides off to adventure and sequels which – thankfully – never seem to have got made.

Oh, and Talon has a funky metal ‘glove’ and a three-bladed sword, two blades of which can be shot off like spears.

Seriously; this is the shit.
Seriously; this is the shit.

What’s wrong with it?

What isn’t? The special effects are dreadful, the plot is feeble and the production values poor. Pyun’s trademark filters almost wash out the lens in a haze of blood, and the view is constantly obscured by the parade of sweaty, oiled flesh being flashed at us in the hope that if we’re distracted by the cheesecake – and beefcake; sword and sorcery is something of an equal exploitation genre – we won’t notice how awful the film is.

This does not work.

The princess is supposed to be spunky; we know this because she keeps kneeing people in the bollocks – not that it ever does any good – and joking with Talon about his ‘sword’ (see, it’s funny, because when she says sword she means penis). She also just lies there while Xusia’s oh-so-phallic python tries to grope…I mean, kill her. It’s pretty lame.

And a word on the weaponry. First off, Cromwell clearly shops at a dodgy bargain weapon place for his goons, since their swords snap constantly. He on the other hand has the big-ass sword o’ badness, which seems more or less indestructible – even shearing through the hero’s sword – and has a miniature steel quarterstaff concealed in the fricking hilt. How he can wield the bugger without a pommel is a mystery to me, but doubtless unimportant to the filmmakers. Oh, and the hilt with it’s bulbous pommel perpetually jut from the area of Cromwell’s crotch in the most phallic manner imaginable.

Then there’s Talon’s three-bladed sword. It has three blades, in line and spaced out by about two inches, such that he doesn’t have a scabbard, he has a knife block instead. The side blades fly off (on wires, clearly), and then seemingly regenerate, since he always seems to have three blades, despite not stopping to collect the ones he fires. There’s also a little dagger in the pommel, and his metal ‘glove’ (really more of a bracelet) has a hidden blade and proves more use than every sword in the film combined.

What’s right with it?

The score is halfway decent, but then composers are relatively cheap.

How bad is it really?

As a young lad I read the book of this piece of crap, and it has stuck in my mind as being one of the worst books I had ever read.

The film is worse.

On the other hand, it is widely – and fairly – regarded as Albert Pyun’s best.

Best bit?

Talon’s men plan to rescue him with the aid of a bunch of pirate who owe Talon and the blonde hooker who’s fallen for him and will soon die for not being the officially-sanctioned love interest. They get all macho and posture, and then it cuts straight to them having been captured. It’s probably a budget decision, but played for laughs and actually kind of funny.

What’s up with…?

  • The assorted goofy waprons? Conan did okay with just a sword and a knife, didn’t he?
  • The Sorcerer? He plays like an afterthought, yet his name is in the title there.
  • The fact that anyone – let alone everyone – trusts Machelli? He’s so sinister.
  • Talon running back into the palace after rescuing Mikah? I thought he might be going after Alana, but clearly is surprised to see her; or might just be taken aback because she’s oiled and naked. I don’t know why he would be though; everyone else is oiled and naked after all.
  • Ehdan’s capital city? It’s clearly in North Africa under Islam, yet is overlooked – apparently, we never see them in the same shot – by a huge European castle with crucifixes in the decor. Now, we’re told Cromwell had a new castle built, but it’s clearly the same one Richard was in; with the same decor.
  • The death of the torturer? The pirate captain runs up behind him and forces his head onto his own sharpening wheel. But it’s a pedal-wheel, so the torturer must still be pedalling as the wheel slices into his skull.
  • Xusia’s bitches? Cromwell’s lieutenant questions the sorcerer’s power, so the sorcerer proves himself by killing the witch-acolyte who raised him; tradition would surely dictate that he kill the lieutenant then make a sardonic comment, not the faithful servant? Then he has another scantily-clad witch in his lair, who is in one scene then vanishes utterly. Maybe she just came with the lair of foulness.
  • The names? Ehdan is home apparently to King Richard, Talon, Alana, Mikah, Elizabeth and a serf named Rodrigo. The evil king is Titus Cromwell, whose goon is Machelli. The Kings at the feast are Ludwig, Leonidas, Sancho and Charles of the Franks!
  • Charles of the Franks? This is supposed to be set in an ancient time when the world was young; what exactly is a Carolingian doing here?
  • All of Talon’s friends happening to be in the same one-room brothel in Ehdan city at the same time?

Ratings:

Production values – Cheap and cheerful, which is at least a step above most Pyun films, which aren’t so cheerful. 12

Dialogue and performances – So this film didn’t attract any great Shakespeareans or anything, but the playing is all of a fairly professional level, with the exception of a few background goons and Cromwell, who chews the scenery like it was toffee. The dialogue is a different matter, with the script laden down by lame innuendo and cod mediaeval dialogue, forsooth. 14

Plot and execution – The plot is pretty laughable, with most scenes either fights or manoeuvring to set up the fights. It tends to the incoherent, and the fact that everyone is some variation of big, sweaty and angry doesn’t help when you’re trying to work things out. 15

Randomness – This film is driven by randomness. Talon’s decision to head back into the palace; the random plot wenches who release the captive mercenaries; the waprons! 16

Waste of potential – Okay; so this film isn’t going to win awards, even by the standards of S&S movies, but I have to say, it could have been worse. It could have been Wizards of the Lost Kingdom. 8

Overall 65%

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