Monday, November 11, 2019
The sword and sorcery genre isn't one that ever got much love, certainly not the phase that came in the 80s. We got Deathstalker, Ator, a few random pictures like the Barbarian Queen movies and Warrior and the Sorceress, and that's pretty much it! This is such a shame, because when done right, this can be such a fun genre!
Evil sorcerer Traigon wants to sacrifice his first born child to his god to make himself the ruler of the world, but the mother is able to save the two babies with the help of good wizard Krona, at the cost of her life. Krona brings them to a friend, asking him to raise the two children as his own, and let no-one know they're girls. 20 years later, Traigon returns, and gathers his soldiers to find his offspring. The girls have all grown up, still unaware that they're not boys, and live a happy life with their adoptive family, until they're tragically killed by Traigon's men. With the help of a group of adventurers (viking Baldar, faun Pando, and hunky barbarian prince Erlick), they go on the hunt for Traigon, to destroy him once and for all...
1982's Sorceress comes to us from Jack Hill (director of such films as Spider Baby, and Black Mama, Whit Mama), not to be confused with 1995's Sorceress, also made with Jim Wynorski. Funnily enough, that's why I avoided this movie all these years, because I got the two conflated in my head, and really had no intention of watching a 90's skinemax flick replete with obviously fake boobs, as opposed to an 80's sword-and-sorcery fantasy flick in the same vein as Deathstalker II. Upon learning of my mistake, I was eager to see this! However, after finally watching Sorceress, I have to say I didn't miss much all these years!
This is an all-round bad film. Over the years, Jack Hill has made plenty of excuses for how it ended up like this, and how if only he'd gotten the money he was promised from producer Roger Corman, it would've been a fantastic and popular movie! I have to say, nope! Sometimes a film is just bad! Even if he'd gotten the budget he wanted, it wouldn't have changed the story, the dialogue, or the acting. Frankly this movie looks like it got the budget perfectly suited for it. There are some thing money cannot save.
The plot is pretty standard. It ticks off a bunch of fantasy cliches, without a hint of irony or any real spirit. I wouldn't mind if they were handled amusingly, but they barely raise a smile. And anything the movie does that is unique is just bizarre, like the sheep invasion at the end, or the giant magical lion in the sky that comes out of nowhere. All of this culminates in a crushingly disappointing ending!
One frustrating thing about the movie is how characters are consistently too late to save anyone. It's ridiculous! Even in the grand finale, they don't lift so much as a finger when a bunch of women are carried off by horny zombies, nor do they really seem that broken up about the brutal murder of their adopted parents and sister.
The cringiest part of the story has got to be the gender confusion. Since Traigon's forces always know they're the 'two who are one', it adds nothing but some forced comedy.
The credits say this is written by Jim Wynorski, though Hill admits to having written it himself. Given how lifeless feels, I can imagine that the writer of Deathstalker 2 wasn't behind this. How Jack Hill made such a bad picture though is mystifying!
The dialogue in Sorceress is next-level awful! A lot of this is down to the stilted acting, but my god, these lines are so clunky it's unbelievable! This is a script with no saving. No amount of top actors could help. No-one here comes across as natural, and it's enough to make you believe this is really set in the future, where everyone are secretly robots. Perhaps the worst and most baffling line is "Death is only death, swine!".
The acting here is bad. Playboy playmates Leigh and Lynette Harris are pretty but incredibly vapid, and it's clear they were only hired for two reasons (or should I say four?). Bon Nelson looks unappealing, but to his credit he does become slightly more likeable as the movie progresses. Doesn't mean I wanted to see his ass though! Bruno Rey is ok as the viking Baldar, but his fake beard is distracting, especially when it appears to have slipped. David Millbern has a silent role as the weird braying faun Pando. He has the most convincing make-up in the whole movie, and has his moments.
Roberto Ballesteros is hilariously unimposing as the villain, with cheesy eyeliner and colourful fashion (which shows altogether too much of his legs!), not to mention his perm hairstyle. Traigon and Erlick must share hairdressers!
Appearing briefly is a much welcome Miguel Angel Fuentes, who cuts a memorable figure even when dubbed. The rest of the actors range from ok to absolutely awful. The fight choreography isn't much better either. Too slow and unconvincing.
Te biggest selling-point to this film is the abundance of nudity, which is of course a good thing in my book! Then comes the two leads, however. Do they get nude a lot? Yes. Are they, err, really related? Yep! Whether or not the majority of this movie is sexy for the viewer depends on how much they like the idea of two real-life sisters getting naked with each-other all the time. Ewwwww, excuse me while I throw up!
It gets worse though, in a sex scenes that's creepy on at least three levels! A hypnotised sister and Erlick have sex while both hypnotised, it's overseen by her father, and her sister feels everything she feels, if ya know what I mean. Ughhh, enough to make even the strongest man shudder!
The effects are one of the best things about Sorceress. The costumes range from cheap to decent, while the make-up and masks are mostly convincing enough, and all the magic is well handled. The battle of the gods at the end is well-crafted too, even if the magic lion's face isn't the most articulated.
The costumes for the villainous guards look silly, but at least they're inventive, and consistent. The movie found a design it wanted, and it stuck with it. As I said in my Deathstalker 3 review, I won't hold the silly design against it given crazy real world examples of helmets, but it is still amusing to see these rough tough soldiers with gigantic beaks.
Overall, the appearance of Sorceress is by far its best aspect! I like Jack Hill, but I really think he was just making excuses when he said he didn't have enough money, because that's clearly the one thing this movie actually had going for it! Especially when you consider the supposed behind-the-scenes setbacks that [supposedly] plagued the production.
The score here is pretty decent. It's been lifted almost entirely from Corman's sci-fi flick Battle Beyond the Stars, and this track admittedly works a lot better in fantasy outings than it ever did in a science-fiction setting
As far as movies go, Sorceress is an ignominious end to its director's once thriving career, and one of the worst sword-and-sorcery films to have come out of the 80s.. I'd recommend it for the camp value, but even there the film is far better as short clips rather than sitting through the whole thing. Stick with Deathstalker...