"Know you now, of days long past, the time when the world was young, when sorcery thrived, and wild adventure was forever in the offing. And of this epoch, little is known, save that which is veiled in the mists of legendry…It is within these mists that our tale begins, on Tomb Island, a rocky crag, perched at the far edge of the world…"
|Director: Albert Pyun
Starring: Lee Horsley, Kathleen Beller, Simon MacCorkindale, George Maharis, Richard Lynch, Anthony de Longis, Robert Tessier, Nina Van Pallandt, Emily Yancey, Anna Born, Richard Moll
Screenplay: Tom Karnovski, Albert Pyun, John V Stuckmeyer
Ahhh, mid-80s fantasy… Conan the Barbarian has so much to answer for.
Titus Cromwell (Richard Lynch, that's right, from Deodato's slaughter-fest Cut and Run) is a king – sort of a cut-rate Tulsa Doom – who wants to expand his territories. Owing to numerous defeats in the past, he needs the help of the undead sorcerer Xusia to conquer the people of Eh-Dan. Is Xusia a powerful enough fella to help him? Well not long after being awoken from his undead sleep, he uses the power of his mind and his glowing fingernails to psychically tear the heart out of the witch who revives him. Suitably impressed, Cromwell takes the drippy red bastard on board, and sets off to destroy the peaceful, yet prosperous kingdom.
Cromwell, right bastard that he is, plays a double-cross on Xusia while he's still weak (although still strong enough to lay waste to good King Richard's armies), and knifes the sorcerer. Things do not look too good for the people of Eh-Dan. Cromwell orders the murder of the entire Royal Family, but Talon, the youngest of the princes, escapes. Just before he does, Talon is given his father's rather improbable three-bladed sword and told to avenge his father if King Richard is slain. The sword itself can somehow fire its blades *ahem* due its spooky magical powers. It can somehow regrow blades, too.
Eleven years after Richard's defeat, Talon returns to Eh-Dan with a band of mercenaries for the single-minded purpose of vengeance. Mind you, there are so many plots and counter-plots going on, it becomes quite difficult to work out who the hell is allied to whom. I think this might have been a tad over-written, in this regard. Cromwell, Talon, Count Machelli (Cromwell's War Chancellor – our Sherriff of Nottingham character, the power behind the throne), Mikah (the heir apparent), Xusia, Princess Alana – is anyone loyal to anyone anymore?
Alana escapes Cromwell's ambush to be rescued from certain rape by Talon, who beats up three of Cromwell's guys with a joint of beef. Well, you have to use what comes to hand. Alana engages Talon's services as a mercenary, and let's get ready to rumble!
Talon torches a whole bunch of Cromwell's elite archers, which certainly gets the rebel gang on side. Cromwell thinks that Mikah has Xusia on-board, and tortures him to find out where the sorcerer is. Mikah is truly surprised, as he is the rightful leader of the rebellion, and has no supernatural aid. He's also in a fair degree of pain! Talon goes in search of Mikah and Alana, who has been kidnapped by Cromwell (he needs to marry Alana to be "rightfully" crowned King of Eh-Dan), finds Mikah, and goes on a bit of a rampage through the castle. Stumbling into Cromwell's harem is just a bit of a bonus for him. Things unfortunately don't work out too well, although it's all vastly entertaining – lots of swashbuckling fun ensues.
Some of Talon's boys try rescuing him, but it doesn't quite work out. They end up imprisoned by Cromwell. And can I just say that for a bunch of battle-hardened mercenaries, they're all rather squeamish – girly-men, the lot of them, when faced with Cromwell's gaoler's torture. Elisabeth, the slave girl, who has been working against Cromwell from within the castle seems to be the only one amongst them with any…umm…balls – I don't mean that literally, by the way. She doesn't actually have testicles, but she certainly has a nice pair of chesticles.
Count Machelli (I'm assuming we're meant to make the mental leap from his name to that of Machiavelli – and by extension to the stop-at-nothing-to-gain-total-power philosophy he expounds in The Prince, which Machelli is obviously totally jiggy with) continues with his own machinations, telling Cromwell's generals he's in charge of the armies for the foreseeable future. The wedding feast, it would seem, is going to end up as a slaughter of all the guests, a la Kriemhilde's plans at the end of The Niebelungenleid (or Fritz Lang's filmed version, Kriemhilde's Revenge) – a) this isn't very hospitable, and b) phew, what a loony this Cromwell fella is – moreso than his real-life historical namesake, even. Machelli has an eye for the main chance, and no mistake.
Cromwell's feast is certainly lavish – loads of food and booze, all served up by semi-nekkid slave girls, although I did think it odd that a) the feast was before the wedding ceremony (some weddings I've been too, the ceremony wouldn't have been able to have been after the reception, due to logistical problems…), and b) he's got Talon crucified, as a kind of ornament. I think that'd put me off my dinner, personally. A couple of the local yokels seem to think the same way, and work out who Talon is, and decide to help him, Talon having been of aid to them in the past. However, we know something they don't know…
The wedding begins. Some of the busty slave-girls have taken a shine to Talon and want him helped, so they go down to the gaol and set the mercenaries free. The lads tool up in the armoury, and set forth to rescue Talon. Again. Y'know, it's just struck me 76 minutes in to the film – there's very little of either the Sword or the Sorcerer in this film so far, and we don't have too much longer to go. And seeing as how we're about to get a massive fight scene erupt, they'd better be brought to us post-haste.
Things are seriously building to a head. At the feast, Talon is trying to un-crucify himself, which I imagine would be a pretty painful process. He manages to interrupt the signal that would have signified the slaughter of all the gathered nobility (and thus ensured Cromwell's easy take-over of all 4 empires), and what we now have is a frenzied 20 minute race to the finish line. That's the spirit! Plot? Fuck that! Let's have carnage! And everyone appears to be having a whale of a time, too – the actors real give this scene their all, and it's palpable from the screen. You can feel it. This is no CG-fest like Peter Jackson's admittedly brilliant The Lord of the Rings, this is all on-screen special effects, and that gives it an immediacy and an energy that no amount of CG can, and I don't care how many imaginary giant elephants and trolls you throw at me.
Talon regains the Sword, and then goes off to get vengeance in his furry undies. Cromwell is high-tailing it with Alana, and Machelli is trying to get him off the scene for his own nefarious purposes, but Talon shows up to rain on everybody's parade, blood-soaked Sword in hand. Cromwell eludes him, and you just know that Xusia is bound to turn up. Now it turns out that Machelli has been playing both ends against the other, working for the rebels AND Cromwell at the same time – or rather, we've known it for some time, but the characters haven't. Alana, somewhat reasonably, feels a tad betrayed.
And FUCK!!! A major twist turns up here I'd forgotten since the last time I watched this film 20 years ago – nice! It's good to be surprised by a film, even better when it's one you've already seen. Mr Director, my hat's off to you.
Talon, Xusia and Cromwell go heads down for the big gang-bang, and I'll let you watch the film for the pretty awesome climax. It's worth the pay-off, let me tell you. This is a comic-book come to life, and it's so much fun I can't even tell you. Yeah, it might be a bit of a Conan The Barbarian rip-off a la Ator – The Fighting Eagle, but if you can't be entertained by The Sword and the Sorcerer there is something seriously wrong you. Seek help. And watch out for the secret sword! I laughed and applauded when I saw it. And then the other secret sword! This movie just keeps on delivering!
Y'know, for an M-rated film (Consumer advice: Frequent battle violence, Nudity, Supernatural themes) this is a pretty wild ride. I'm surprised, given the Nanny-state we live in that this got off so lightly. There are some pretty nasty scenes of violence on display – faces being ground off, for example – that I thought would have got it at least "Medium level horror violence" and bumped to MA15+, considering the amount of titty-skin we see on display as well. Ah, the intricacies of the OFLC rating system, eh?