It was a long time since I last saw The Sword and the Sorcerer, and yesterday when walking home from work I found a cheap DVD, anamorphic widescreen and all, of Albert Pyun's classic at Record Hunter, the excellent store in Stockholm. So could I stop myself? No, absolutely not!
The totally awesome Richard Lynch plays Cromwell, a very evil man that wants to crush the stoic and heroic King Richard. But to be able to defeat King Richard's soldiers he need something special, and that special is the ancient demon and sorcerer Xusia! So he wakes him up from his eternal sleep and makes him help out with killing all the soldiers of King Richard. He then throws Xusia from a cliff and think he's dead. After that he executes the king and queen, but the young son, Mikah, escapes, just leaving the daughter in Cromwell's dirty hands.
Many years later Cromwell is the ultimate evil king over the country, but Mikah (now played by Simon MacCorkindale) wants revenge. He hires Talon (Lee Horsley), an adventurer and mercenary who with his times of tough guys will help him overthrown King Cromwell and save the princess! But what no one knows is that Xusia is alive and planning his revenge too...
This was a blast. I didn't except it after so many years actually. The best thing was that it was a lot more mature than I expected. Sure, the overall story is like standard fairy tale, but it's also filled with darker themes, some very nice graphic gore and nudity. This was of course after Conan, a movie that also was more violent and controversial than people will remember, so this one is welcome in a genre that rapidly almost became a genre for children.
One of the strong parts of The Sword and the Sorcerer is the acting, because even a handsome movie without good acting can be terrible to watch. Here Richard Lynch makes one of his best performances ever, in the almost Shakespearian character of King Cromwell. Obviously not a happy man, even bitter and sad after he gets the power, but still having anxiety over the maybe not even existing threat of Xusia (it's like he's having bad conscience) and of course that he knows that Mikah is lurking somewhere out there trying to gather the people against him. His relationship with his closest man, Machelli (George Maharis - who is fantastic), is also very up and down, like they're married almost. Not the normal master and slave like in all of the other fantasy-flicks out there. Lee Horsley is excellent as Talon, a very likable and well written hero and the rest of the bunch ranges from great to good.
But of course, this is a very stunning visual movie too and Pyun really makes a lot of probably a quite low budget. It looks big, but still is still shot in a lot of interiors or in smaller outdoor areas, which I guess was a low budget necessity. Pyun also seem to have carefully chosen real buildings, indoors and outdoors, that has castle- or a middle ages-feeling to make it bigger and look more expensive, but just used small parts of these not to show any modern structures I guess. And it works very good.
The gore surprised me. Some very nasty bits with a torn out heart, a head split open, impalings and blood-spurting. Way to go, I loved it! No splatter-movie of course, but it spiced up the movie a lot.
It think may of us could agree that The Sword and the Sorcerer is one of the best and entertaining fantasy-movies from the eighties, up there with Conan and The Princess Bride. They all three have very different styles, but if I was going to a deserted island this is the movie I would bring!
And for you who live in the US and Canada, go right to this page and pre-order Tales of an Ancient Empire. It will be available all over the world sooner or later, but for you who can - get it and support this sequel, now 28 years in the making! It's just a month or so until it finally will be released.. and I can't wait to see it!
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