From the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy, It's Retro Nerd Girl with a film review for you.
Today I'll be reviewing the movie Sword and The Sorcerer released in 1982.
Lee Horsley, Kathleen Beller, Simon MacCorkindale
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Horror
Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Rating:
4 million USD
Current IMDb Rating When Reviewed:
The Synopsis is:
Titus Cromwell, King of Aragon finds a sorcerer Xusia of Delos to win a war for him against Aidan, but years later a stranger arrives to change the balance of power with his 3 bladed sword.
The story is not based on anything but at the time the sword and sorcery genre was gaining some traction. In 1981 there were a slew of fantasy, sword and sorcery movies.
There was Hawk the Slayer (1980), Clash of the Titans (1981), Dragonslayer (1981), Excalibur (1981),
Heavy Metal (1981).
The film industry doubled down in 1982 with so many releases that came out of these genre films of mainly low budget ones, like Ator l'invincibile (1982), The Sword of the Barbarians (1982), The Beastmaster (1982), Sorceress (1982) and a few others. Of all of them, Conan the Barbarian (1982) had a larger budget and takes the credit for inspiring many movies in this genre. However, it was actually the popularity of books written by Robert E. Howard and comic books featuring the character in the 1970’s that inspired the trend. But also, it would be remiss of me not to mention the bodybuilding craze that was exploding at this time as outfits were getting skimpier, and hairstyles were getting bigger.
This film was written by Tom Karnowski, John V. Stuckmeyer and the director Albert Pyun (sounds like PEWN).
This was Albert’s directorial debut and he went on to do some pretty notorious films like, Cyborg 1989, Captain America 1990, A few Kickboxer sequels, and all of the Nemesis movies. He’s actually a legend in the world of low budget action B-movie.
The story is made in the old Hollywood style of action adventure films, with a battle for the throne and the dynamic entrance of a swashbuckling action hero ready to save the day. Most of these movies have similar themes, but I think this one in particular has a hint of Robin Hood baked into the story.
At one hour and 39 minutes, it's as I like it, short and sweet. It actually could have been a little longer and I wouldn’t have minded that at all.
The challenge in the film is the evil King Titus Cromwell of Aragon who awakens the powerful sorcerer Xusia to help him win the war against the kingdom of Aidan ruled by the kind King Richard.
Aragon was a real medieval kingdom in Spain. Aidan (Adan), was also an actual place that is currently called Yemen. In medieval times, which is about the time of many sword and sorcery movies, Adan was a very popular city attracting people from Egypt, India, East Africa and China for trading. It would be very attractive to a conqueror like Cromwell to rule and at one point Portugal and the United Kingdom occupied it independently.
Cromwell tells Xusia that his reward for helping him is simply not being killed. It’s a little weak, but you get the sense that Xusia was working on his own plan. He was only keeping his promise to buy himself a little time until he was stronger.
However, Cromwell broke his word as soon as Xusia took care of weakening Richard’s army. Afraid of the power of the sorcerer Cromwell attempted to kill him but Xusia escaped.
Living in fear for 11 years Cromwell is beside himself with distrust of everyone and bitterness. He acts a lot like a spoiled brat, seething with a constant scowl. Even Though he gets everything he wants, it’s not truly his and never satisfying. He’s also obsessed with finding Xusia to the point he considers the rebellion of the people of Aidan the work of the sorcerer to get his revenge.
Xusia does have his hands in the mix but only in disguise as the King’s right hand man he despises with a passion, Machelli. In the disguise of Machelli he is sneaky, full of lies and worthy of distrust. He always seems to have a little look on his face that screams of something afoot. I loved his deception, but I have to say I didn’t know he was secretly, Xusia. They look nothing alike. We can just tell he’s up to something.
Xusia in his original form is a 7 foot beastly looking character with a fierce temperament. He’s very scary and he shows his power by catching the heart of a victim in his hand. It’s gory and you get the point quickly.
He only lacks a little more lore about who he is and how he became who he is.
In the very beginning, he seems to have desires of his own to have his own kingdom. It may have been that they couldn’t really expand the story due to the budget restrictions. Conan had a $20 million dollar budget, this one had $4 million. So for what they had to work with, they did their best.
I thought Xusia was a bit naive for not having his own insurance when dealing with Cromwell. He’s so powerful he doesn't expect a mare mortal to dare, but he underestimated Cromwell. He dares.
I enjoyed these bad guys so much. The villains are not the smartest but they are a lot of fun for the story.
The film sets up a nice backstory for our protagonist, Talon. Talon is the surviving son of King Richard of Aidan who watched his entire family get murdered by Titus and his men. All he has left is the three bladed sword his father gave him with the promise that he would avenge him.
11 years after Cromwell's victory, Talon returns to Aidan as a mysterious hero with his rogues. He makes a pit stop on his way to save King Lambosha at Maladan in order to pay a debt. So right away, at the very start, he is out to avenge his father as he promised.
He arrives just as a rebellion is about to strike Cromwell led by Mikah and his sister Alana, the surviving children of King Richard’s advisor and the closest heirs to the throne. Unfortunately Machelli pretended to be an ally in order to prove to Cromwell that he could be trusted. Mikah was captured.
Talon saves Alana from being violated by three of the king’s henchmen. He’s not much better. She notices that he’s a traveling warrior and gets him to agree to rescue her brother for a night with her. Yep, that’s the bargain. There is palpable attraction between the two, in fact with most of these movies, the main protagonist seems to be a magnet for sexual attraction.
Before we consider him a scoundrel for only being interested in sex, he is going to risk his life to do it and the movie reminds you of that. Talon is very likable in spite of his persona of comedic indifference. He always seems to have a smirky grin on his face, until he’s in real trouble, or he’s ready to battle.
He reminds me a lot of Han Solo’s charm. However, in action Talon is magnificent, fighting like a beast in the final battles. It’s a shame we only have this movie to document his adventures.
I do want to talk a little bit about Alana, the classic damsel in distress. Her role is a little old fashioned but she is a feisty girl with a signature move of kneeing violating men in the groin. It doesn’t always work, but it shows that she was brave enough to risk fighting back whenever she thought she could.
There is a lot you can get away with the fantasy genre that you can’t get away with in other genres. You can really go big and not have to worry about verisimilitude. The title promises the audience a sword and boy did we ever get a sword with 3 blades. Two of the blades eject at a high velocity to knock back their targets into oblivion. Built into the sword is yet a smaller blade in the handle. But that is not all.
The sword appears in the beginning and the end, but it’s not really a part of the story until then. I really wished that there was a backstory about the sword and perhaps a little more hooptie doo about it, like Cromwell, wanting to have this legendary sword for himself. That would have made for a longer film.
Even with the sword, it’s not enough to kill Cromwell, but Talon also has a metal gauntlet that has a hidden blade. Incredible. This is a man who came to win the fight that is for sure.
I enjoyed the creative fight scenes that may baffle reality, but bring tons of excitement with twists, turns and amazing surprises.
The transformation of Machelli into Xusia was one of the most incredible I had ever seen in 1982. I was only 12 and my mom had taken me to see this in the theater. Wow, it was so gooey and gross and I loved it. Another wowing scene was in the very beginning where Xusia’s tomb had faces carved into the stone. Once the rites to his awakening began, the stone became live animated bloody faces writhing in agony. It was a pretty good effect for the time. Not bad at all.
Xusia’s creature design was very interesting, featuring many humps and what looks like charred skin, with open sores. It also looks as if he is a reptilian of some sort because of his eyes.
There is another similarity to Conan 1982, they both have a crucifixion scene. A tamer version of this scene was shot for TV.
Again, due to the budget, many television actors were selected for the film, but for sure, the acting was superb.
American film, television, and theater actor Lee Horsley known for starring roles in the television series Nero Wolfe (1981) and Matt Houston (1982–85), played Talon channeling fabulous action hero actors like, Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad 1924 and Errol Flynn in Robin Hood 1938. He definitely had some swashbuckling swagger doing his best to show a range in his performance. I thought he was fantastic.
Kathleen Beller was very popular on television showing up in several shows including Dynasty in 1982. However, she also had a feature film career appearing in movies like The Betsy 1978. She doesn’t have a lot to do here but she does her best with it.
Richard Lynch played Cromwell and won a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. This was well deserved. Unfortunately Lynch was typecast as villains for most of his acting career, because of his burn scars from a 1967 incident. He embraced his career with vigor and always brought so much energy into his performances. He’s the main part of the reason this film works.
Richard Moll is best known for Night Court from 1984-1992, but he currently has 180 acting credits in TV, movies, and voice acting. And indeed in this movie, his physical size was possibly part of the casting, but because he got very sick due to the makeup for Xusia, he had to be body doubled and Richard's voice was matched to the performance. He was intimidating and scary, helping to drive the horror elements in the story.
Other fantastic actors of note are Simon MacCorkindale, George Maharis, Anthony De Longis, Robert Tessier, and Joe Regalbuto.
The film grossed $39,103,425 at the box office and it was the most profitable independent film of 1982. The critics hated it, but audiences that saw it enjoyed it to the point that a small run of plastic 3 bladed swords were produced for the public for a while.
The was originally conceived as the first in a series of several films. In fact, at the end of the film it says that Tales of an Ancient Empire was coming soon. 25 years later Albert Pyun said that the sequel was on the way in 2007. Then finally in 2012, Tales of an Ancient Empire was released straight to video. It was a 30 year wait and the story had veered off to vampires and the next generation of characters.
Sword and the Sorcerer is a film that is known among B film lovers and it is still mostly unknown. However, it is growing in popularity as a classic 80’s sword and sorcery film.
There are some horror elements that are icky, but it marries well with the campy, kitchy, aesthetics that makes it so much fun to watch.
I mentioned The Thief of Bagdad 1924 and Robin Hood 1938 as films that may have inspired the film. There is a lot of old school homage to those films throughout in the acting and the triumphant music.
It’s a lovely 80’s modern through back.
This is one of my favorite guilty pleasures.
That sums up my review. I hope you liked it.
This is Retro Nerd Girl signing off!
Take care movie lovers! I'm off to the next review!