Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Junesploitation 2022 Day 29: Sword and Sorcery!


  1. Sorceress (1982 – Jack Hill)
    One of the first movies that tried to cash in on the success of CONAN THE BARBARIAN. It has everything: twin warrior women (who don’t know about their sex, but surely will find out within the movie), low-tier-charismatic barbarians, an evil sorcerer, horny satyrs, ape-like creatures (also horny), the undead. While our heroes struggle with the thin plot (out of a D&D-starter-kit) and lacking charisma, the settings actually look fine. The score is a re-use of James Horner’s work for another movie and is pretty decent, too (I mean, it is still Horner in the end). I had fun watching this for Junesploitation, but it surely isn’t a great movie overall.

  2. The Beastmaster (1982)

    Finally got around to this one. Watched the Vinegar Syndrome 4K disc, which will never not be funny to me. My favorite part is when he squawks back at the eagles.

  3. Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977, dir. Sam Wanamaker)

    An evil witch has turned a prince into a baboon, and Sinbad and his beloved princess have to seek out... oh, who am I kidding? No one watches this movie for the plot. You watch it for Ray Harryhausen's amazing stop-motion creatures, the colorful production design, and the lovely Jane Seymour. And all three of those totally deliver.

    Harryhausen conjures up all manner of animal and monster, and they all look amazing and they're integrated into the live action footage expertly. The realistic looking baboon especially is pretty remarkable. The sets and costumes are colorfun and fun. And Jane Seymour is (obviously) a fox, but the script doesn't give her a great deal to do.

    The Harryhausen Chronicles (1998, dir. Richard Schickel)

    A by-the-numbers documentary, but it's narrated by Leonard Nimoy and has extensive clips of Harryhausen's greatest hits, so what's not to like?

  4. Hearts and Armour (1983)
    Loosely based on the stories of the Paladins — the twelve fictional knights of legend who were the foremost members of Charlemagne’s court in the 8th century — especially the epic poem Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto, Paladins is less Conan than most Italian sword and sorcery movies.

    Like Yor Hunter from the Future, this was an Italian TV miniseries edited down into a movie for U.S. audiences and by that, I mean people like me staying up at 3 AM and watching HBO.

    Bradamante (Barbara De Rossi) is a woman with an invincible suit of armor that comes to save her — like literally, it rides in, a haunted suit of armor, after she’s nearly assaulted in a waterfall which proves that yes, this is an Italian movie.

    She gets caught between the Christians like Orlando (Rick Edwards) and the Moors, which include Isabella (Tonya Roberts), Ruggero (Ronn Moss, Rowdy Abilene from Hard Ticket to Hawaii) and Ferrau (Tony Vogel).

    Now, Moors are supposed to be the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily and Malta. Let me tell you, in no way does the Bronx-born Roberts seem like she fits in. Moss is also as blonde as it gets, so…yeah.

    How else do you know this is Italian? Just look at the supporting cast: Bobby Rhodes as a mercenary. Leigh McCloskey from Inferno. Al Cliver. Hal Yamanouchi as a samurai. Famous Zombi zombie Ottaviano Dell’Acqua listed in the credits as rapist.

    Yes, it sure is an Italian movie.

    Director Giacomo Battiato usually stayed away from the kind of movies I watch, so this is the first time I’ve encountered his work. I am frankly shocked that this wasn’t a Cannon movie, because this feels like something they’d pick up.

    There are some great costumes in this, like Ferrau’s bird-themed armor. It’s pretty much less hearts and more swords, non-stop combat as if it wanted to be Excalibur instead of Ator. It also looks like a big movie thanks to Dante Spinotti, who would leave Italian exploitation behind and make Hollywood magic in films like Manhunter, The Quick and the Dead and L.A. Confidential.

    Trigger warning: this has five attempted rapes, including one by a wizard, one by an invisible man and the other avoided by Ferrau’s bird-shaped codpiece is too rusty to come off.

    As far as I know, this has never come out in the U.S. on disk. You can find it on YouTube but if you’re the kind of viewer that needs a perfect print, I got really bad news for you.

    Letterbox list of other films in this genre if you need one:

  5. If anybody is interested in seeing some Japanese sword and sorcery films, Legend of the Eight Samurai (on Tubi) and Ninja Wars are worth seeing.

    1. It does not seem like Legend of the Eight Samurai has any subtitles. Weird.

    Prequel about the future Scorpion King, Mathayus, in his pre-kingly days. He and evil tyrant clash over the life of a powerful sorceress. (If she's that awesome, why isn't she the hero?) Although the Scorpion King was a villain in The Mummy Returns, this time Dwayne Johnson plays him as a classic swashbuckling rogue type. There are fights, escapes, and early 2000s CGI galore. It's perfectly middle-of-the-road, the type of movie they always used to show Sunday afternoon on TBS.

    Bonus Lloyd Kaufman-sploitation, day 29: TWO GIRLS ONE DUCK (2017)
    Behind the scenes of the making of Return to Nuke Em High 1 and 2. While there are still plenty of mishaps and arguments, this is a tamer set experience than we've seen in previous BTS docs. Part of the reason for this is Kaufman has gotten over any ethical/moral hang-ups he had about firing. We watch over and over as Kaufman fires anyone and everyone who slows down production. There are even some joyous moments when shots and effects work according to plan. Who would've thought?

  7. Conquest (1983) dir. Lucio Fulci

    Horns up to the King, Lucio Fulci…. Despite a deep love for both metal and horror, I struggle to care much about fantasy (outside a killer aesthetic in the 70s/80s), but it turns out I just needed to watch the Fulci-Fried version of it, because I was all fuckin in on Conquest. Fulci’s gauzy, gory airbrush painting from hell is exactly what I want a fantasy tale to be, blending magic and monsters and technology and dream logic with little care for backstory or exposition, and a lot of care for vibe. It never ceases to impress me that every time Fulci tackles a genre, it is unequivocally the Fulci version of that style we’re getting.

  8. Sorceress (1982)

    My second Jack Hill joint this month. Derk above really nailed it, so I'll just add my own two cents.

    I've had this movie on my radar since reading about it during Junesploitations past, and I must say I wasn't disappointed. It's an endearingly stupid, impressively dorky and profoundly horny mess of bad writing, bad acting and even worse dubbing that keeps one-upping itself as it goes along. The sisterly telepathic connection sex scene is one of the greatest things I've seen this whole month. Even the title makes no sense, which is just a cherry on the top. This is what June was made for.

    1. I should add that I've seen this earlier this month, but was holding back my review for this day. Maybe I wasn't fully tuned into Junesploitation at that point, because I totally agree: telepathic sex is a) worth to be mentioned, and b) great... well... at least considering the month that we are in. ;)

  9. DEATHSTALKER II (1987, dir. Jim Wynorski)

    What charming ‘80s trash! The comedic tone of the film makes it feel like a parody of the genre. Wynorski and the cast treat nothing seriously, and the addition of wrestling and zombies only adds to the ridiculousness. Of course, this being a Wynorski joint, you get a little T&A as well. One of the treats for me was seeing John Lazar, Z-Man himself, show his acting chops. The man should have had more opportunities in movies. Turn off your mind and just appreciate the goofiness of it all.

  10. Legend (1985)

    A princess, a forest boy, and an evil goblin gang get into some bad business with a unicorn, and that turns the weather very dark and wintry. Forest boy and princess do their best to restore the light, while evil goblin gang and the demonic Lord of Darkness try to make it even darker.

    This movie is like if Willow was crazier, but somehow also more boring. That doesn't mean it's without a few charming moments, like *MILD SPOILERS* when a dwarf named Brown Tom gleefully and gymnastically uses a cooking pan to block goblin-fired deadly projectiles, only to be shot through the head with an arrow, pass out, then come to in a later scene to joke about the arrow sticking out of his head! I don't think Legend is good, but I'd recommend it for at least a one-time watch. It's also the kind of movie that I can understand people liking a lot if they grew up with it.

    Best Quote: "I swear it on the festering forelock of Nicodemus!"

  11. Ator The Fighting Eagle (1982, dir. Joe D'Amato as David Hills)

    For the last watch of Junesploitation, I went back a day to get another cheesy sword and sorcery "epic" in, one that I have intended to watch for a long time. This is also the first D'Amato film I have seen for a few years. ATOR is definitely in rip-off territory, copying Conan the Barbarian extensively. It also to important to note that parts of the film are influenced by the Peplum films of the 1950s and early 1960s. I recognized several locations used in those film. A tolerance of bad cinema is needed to get any enjoyment out of this one. Little is done well in ATOR to the point that it does become a comedy, and there is a lot of walking or horseback riding to get through for the action scenes. Miles O'Keefe is terribly wooden most of the time in the lead role. The more I watch these Conan the Barbarian knock-offs, the more I appreciate how well the original works.