Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Warrior And The Sorceress (1984)

A lone swordsman dressed in black - whom the end titles in their incredible originality call Kain (David Carradine), but who is never named in the film itself, so I''ll just call him Toshiro - comes to a desert town somewhere on a two-sunned planet in sword and sorcery land.

Two bands of thugs are competing for dominance of the village's well, and with it its citizens. One of the gangs is lead by an overweight guy named Balcaz (William Marin) and his pet lizard doll person, the other by the only slightly more impressive Zek (Luke Askew) and his captain of the guard - if you want to call about a dozen badly armed hollering yokels a "guard" - Kief (Anthony De Longis).

As will come as a complete surprise, Toshiro plans on putting both groups even more at each other's throats than they already are, hoping to achieve a nice profit and possibly a thugless town in the process. The swordsman is rather good at his job, too. At a later stage in his plans he even manages to put the reptiloid slave trader Burgo (Arthur Clark) to good use.

Our hero's life gets a bit more difficult when he discovers that Zek keeps Naja (Maria Socas and her perpetually unvovered breasts), a sorceress/princess of a now fallen empire Toshiro had once sworn allegiance to, as a prisoner. For some reason, Zek wants the woman to make him a magical sword whose usefulness besides its sharpness the film never bothers to explain.

Toshiro for his part has not freed himself completely from his old oaths and tries to help Naja (or her breasts?). That is not going to make his life any easier.

I like to imagine that, like the character David Carradine always played, the actor drifted from country to country for most of his career, sprouting wisdom of the east he didn't have a clue about, lending his dubious acting talents to whomever payed him enough needed him. His wanderings must have lead him onto the set of this US/Argentinian sword and sorcery rip-off of Yojimbo some day, and because its director John C. Broderick gave him a bit of money and promised him many scenes of interaction with pretty, bare-breasted women, the veteran of looking bored while carrying a weapon stayed.

Keeping in mind the type of guy who usually starred in cheap sword and sorcery flicks, a professional sleepwalker like Carradine is an improvement. At least he looks like an interesting human being and not like a bodybuilder and has some experience in looking not completely ridiculous in fight scenes. Of course, a lot of Carradine's acting here still consists of him looking bored or stoned, possibly both, but that's still a better performance than Miles O'Keefe ever delivered. From time to time, Carradine even looks somewhat awake (I blame Maria Socas). Sometimes, he even looks as if he is having a bit of fun with trying to imitate Toshiro Mifune's body language out of Yojimbo, or at least the part of it that consists of rubbing his face or his chest.

The rest of the actors is about as good as you'd expect from a film like this. Maria Socas looks quite striking but doesn't have anything to do, while Askew and especially Marin do look appropriately silly/menacing.

Not surprisingly, while he's stealing merrily from both directors, Broderick's work on his film is neither on the level of Kurosawa nor on that of Leone, but he does a solid and unremarkable job of the point and shoot type. The film's pacing is also kinda alright. This outpour of relative technical competence alone does put The Warrior and the Sorceress on the higher tier of Sword and Sorcery films for me. Yes, I am damning with faint praise, but what can you do?

At least, the film tries for a bit more internal coherence than typical of its genre on screen. It might be a bit generous to speak of believable world building, but the characters at least seem to have a past that has something to do with the history of their surroundings. I'd even go so far to say that a better scriptwriter could have used the characters' pasts to produce a bit of tension here.

Of course, there was only John C. Broderick, and so the tension is replaced by sometimes competent, sometimes dreadful fights, a four-breasted woman with a poison tentacle, some rubber monsters, a lot of naked women with a more normal amount of breasts, an unfortunately also nearly naked fat guy and David Carradine. That, however is entertaining enough for me, so I'm not going to complain.


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