Sunday, December 1, 2013

Survivor's Guilt

Wizards of the Demon Sword (1991) R

I have heard so many horrible things about this particular movie, I felt it impossible that they all be true. Of course, that was before taking into consideration that this movie is distributed by Troma. Troma films play at being so bad that they are good. They are not. They are awful, twisted, mutations of cinema that hipsters used to pretend to enjoy for the fun of watching their fiends yawn in apathy. Wizards of the Demon Sword lives up to Troma's level of "quality".

Upon viewing the cast list, that this movie is this bad is a matter of astonishment. Lyle Waggoner, a perennial TV favorite in the 60's and 70's, pops in as the villain Lord Khoura. This starring movie role was his last, assuring that he'd spend the rest of his time popping up from time to time on television. Russ Tamblyn, fresh from Twin Peaks, plays Ulric, the bit part king and sword guardian who is the father to the mildly interesting "romantic" interest. For fans of horror films? Michael Berryman appears, for about 4 lines of dialogue in a murky day for night shot that clearly shows his bald head while mostly obscuring his features. Finally, Lawrence Tierney would survive this debacle and move on to a role in Reservoir Dogs.


 

One would think that, with a cast like this, WotDS would be a fantastic film. One would be wrong. This star power is all bit parts. It is almost funny to see the level of personal contempt that oozes out of Tierney's few scenes. It is apparent that he knows he's better than the people he's sharing the screen with, but he has a bit part and they are the stars.

That's right, that list of names aren't really the stars of the film. No, for that we have Blake Bahner in the role of Thane. Bahner washed out of General Hospital and Days of our lives and went on to star in a string of direct to video action-ish movies. Prior to this film he'd even appeared in another Sword & Sorcery film, Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II, which leads on to wonder if that title had anything to do with this film's title.

Bahner's co-star and love interest was Heidi Paine as Melina.. If you remember her from anything, it would be for... well, nothing really. Ms Paine did a string of appearances as forgettable background women, often topless (indeed she once appeared as the character "Topless Girl" in the movie Terminal Exposure), but never important. Her career lasted 5 years, ending in 1991. Coincidence? I think not. One might wonder how an actress who is this excruciatingly bad could ever land a leading role. The only sensible reply is that the quality of her acting is suited to the script.

With "Star" power like this to drive the movie, only a decent script could save it. Sadly, there was not even a bad script. What passes for writing in this movie is a confused mess. First, the movie can never decide if it is taking itself seriously as a bad movie, or if it is trying to be so over the top as to be forgivable. The lead characters go off in search of the Seer of Roebuck. Let that sink in for a moment. The "Seer of Roebuck, played by Hoke Howell and his distinctive southern drawl....How about the multiple references to "Corinthian leather"?

In one seen, a distant garbage truck can be heard to be backing up. Sadly, it didn't carry away the movie. There are the sets, including a castle wall, from which a guard, hops halfway down and attacks. Our heroes are over the wall in three bounds. What purpose does such a wall serve again? The majority of the costuming obviously came from a cheap costume shop...The list of crimes against film continues.But perhaps now is time to discuss the movie itself.

The story starts in the generic deserts of California. While easily recognized, this is a fairly small sin. Cheap locations are often overused. Suspension of disbelief can get one past that. We enter as three men on horseback, one wearing a black hood for no apparent reason, are pursuing Melina. Having already captured her father, they wish to bring her in so as to cement complete control over Blade of Aktar, the Demon Sword of the film's title.

The "sword" that barely is long enough to be called a dagger, and which is obviously made of cheap, clear, plastic. Seriously, people are fighting over a Halloween costume piece. That Lyle Waggoner is able to do this movie with a straight face shows his depth of commitment as an actor. But we digress.

Melina is captured and Thane, the self-appointed "world's greatest swordsman" comes to her rescue. By the fight choreography it is quite apparent that Thane earned his title by buying a coffee mug with "World's Greatest Swordsman" emblazoned upon it. The fight is slow, clumsy, and lacking in any tension. It is just grown men "playing swords" on screen. To make things even worse, Thane is wielding a sword so improbably long, it is almost anime-sized.

Later in the movie, Thane teams up with another self-appointed "Greatest Swordsman in the World". They duel and their apparent skill level drives home the fact that they both own the same coffee mug.

REALLY awful.

It simply gets worse from here, at a level that is almost physically painful to recount. We are treated to re-used dinosaur footage clipped from the film Planet of Dinosaurs, sad attempts at comedy, still poorer attempts at drama, and then? Then there is the performance of the "Harem Mistress", woodenly played by Tina Plackinger. She perhaps glances at the camera one. For the rest of the scene, she is staring off camera while smoking a hooka and stiltedly delivering her lines. Thankfully, this WAS the last project of Ms. Plackinger's career. To be fair, her career up to this point involved being "Health Club Woman #1" in a Z-Movie and appearing in a workout video. Hollywood certainly didn't lose a great talent with her retiring from the business.


What Didn't Stink
This movie has no redeeming qualities. Even the soundtrack is certain to put the most forgiving teeth on edge as it repeats the same synth-chords over and over.

Watching this film, and surviving, is a badge of honor. This movie is so terrible that it scores a 0% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. Seriously, nobody likes this film...and for good reason. While this movie certainly hits on all of the Sword & Sorcery tropes: Mystery man with a sword, a strange wizard, an ancient artifact/weapon it all comes off forced. The story plays out like there was a group of horrible actors and someone threw the concept of Swords & Sorcery at them and they half-heartedly walked through what they felt were the requirements.


Final Thoughts
They really don't get any worse. 0 stars (only because I cannot give it less).


Works Cited
"Blake Bahner." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0046922/?ref_=tt_cl_t3>.
"Corinthian Leather." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corinthian_leather>.
"Ernest D. Farino." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0267495/?ref_=tt_ov_wr>.
"Heidi Paine." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0656838/?ref_=tt_cl_t4>.
"Hoke Howell." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0397982/?ref_=tt_cl_t11>.
"Lawrence Tierney." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0862937/?ref_=tt_cl_t8>.
"Lyle Waggoner." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0905741/?ref_=tt_cl_t1>.
"Michael Berryman." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0077720/?ref_=tt_cl_t9>.
"Russ Tamblyn." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0848560/?ref_=tt_cl_t2>.
"Tina Plackinger." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0686378/?ref_=ttfc_fc_cl_t19>.
Watson, Dan. "Wizards of the Demon Sword." Somethingawful.com. N.p., 13 Nov. 2006. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.somethingawful.com/movie-reviews/wizards-demon-sword/>.
"Wizards of the Demon Sword (1992)." Wizards of the Demon Sword. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/wizards-of-the-demon-sword/>.
"Wizards of the Demon Sword." Ballie's Bad Movies. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.englishtreejapan.com/archive/Ballies_Bad_Movies-Demon-Sword.htm>.
"Wizards of the Demon Sword." IMDb. IMDb.com, 27 Aug. 1999. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103278/>.
"Wizards Of The Demon Sword Trailer." YouTube. YouTube, 27 Sept. 2011. Web. 01 Dec. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHz9k8sE50w>.