September 7th, 2011

THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS (1984) ***

Remember a couple of weeks back when I reviewed Last Man Standing which was a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars? Well, here’s another remake of that classic, this time with an 80’s sword and sorcery motif. How closely does it follow both films? Well barbarian David Carradine, the stand-in Sanjuro/Man with No Name even scratches his stubble like Mifune and Eastwood! Priceless.

The Warrior and the Sorceress has the same exact plot as Yojimbo, Dollars, and Last Man. Except you know, with barbarians and sorcerers and shit. While The Warrior and the Sorceress may not be up to the level of Yojimbo or Dollars (or heck, even Last Man Standing), it does feature a four-breasted stripper taking it all off.

Kurosawa’s probably kicking himself for not putting THAT in his movie.

David Carradine carries on the Yojimbo tradition nicely. He says very little, kicks lots of ass, and has a soft spot for the ladies; which ultimately gets him beat up. (After getting beat up, he even has a huge eye welt; a staple of Yojimbo remakes.) Luke (Easy Rider) Askew does a fine job as the one warlord on the edge of town but the guy they got to play the opposing warlord is a complete joke. This dude looks like Tommy Lasorda… BEFORE the Slim-Fast.

As an 80’s sword and sorcery movie, The Warrior and the Sorceress is fairly standard issue. The action is poorly choreographed and shoddily shot. You’d think some of these people never held a sword before. And the effects are atrocious. I mean get a load of that lizard creature that sits on Tommy Lasorda’s throne. He looks like a goddamned Pillow Pet or something.

And speaking of slipshod monsters, there’s also a goofy tentacle beast that lurks in Askew’s dungeon. This thing is as bad as anything from a 50’s Corman movie. Still, it looks a lot better than the similar monster from the Conan remake.

Honestly, this was probably closer to a Two Star movie. For me though, I have to award the film an extra star because of Maria (Deathstalker 2) Socas; who plays the titular sorceress. And the reason I’m doing this is because Ms. Socas never once wears a shirt throughout the entire running time. If you thought Lana Clarkson was allergic to clothing in Barbarian Queen, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I’d say that Maria is topless throughout 99% of her performance. There’s this one short scene after Carradine rescues her where he covers her with his cloak, but it disappears immediately in the next scene. This is definitely one of the breast perform… err… best performances I’ve seen in a long time.

AKA: The Warrior.

NOT OF THIS EARTH (1957) *** ½

I grew up watching the Jim Wynorski 1988 remake of this film but never got around to seeing director Roger Corman’s original. Now that I’ve finally remedied that, I have to say the original is almost as much fun. You know I have to give the remake the edge because of all the nudity, but the 1957 version of Not of This Earth is still a blast.

Paul Birch is a well-dressed space vampire that wears sunglasses who comes to Earth wanting to drain us humans dry to pave the way for an upcoming alien invasion. The beautiful Beverly Garland plays a hot nurse whom Birch hires to give him daily transfusions. She quickly figures out he isn’t what he seems to be and with a little help from Birch’s chauffeur (Jonathan Haze) they try to stop the vampire’s reign of terror.

Not of This Earth walks the line between So-Bad-It’s-Good and So-Bad-It’s-Great. I particularly liked how Corman’s cost-cutting ways actually enhanced the plot. Like having a closet double for an inter-dimensional gateway. Or when Birch and another space vampire communicate telepathically; which saved Corman a bundle on recording live sound. Then there’s the decidedly low-tech monster; yet another memorable creation by Paul Blaisdell. This thing looks like a cross between an umbrella and an octopus; which is to say it’s pretty sweet.

Even though the flick loses its way in the final reels; there is no denying that it has some great stuff in it. You’ve got to love Birch’s methods in this movie. Instead of a traditional vampire, he uses transfusions to drain the blood of his victims. This also leads to a terrific bit where he accidentally transfuses his alien mate with blood from a rabid dog. And the scene where he lures some bums to his house with the promise of hooch is pretty great too. (In the remake the bums were changed to strip-o-grams.)

The cast really sells the flick. Garland is excellent as the snooping nurse and Birch looks pretty menacing in his sunglasses. Then there’s the one and only Dick Miller giving one of his greatest performances as an ill-fated vacuum cleaner salesman. But it’s Jonathan Haze who gets the best line of the movie when he says, “This guy is six kinds of a freak!”

Not of This Earth is on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of 1957 at the Number 8 spot; which places it right in between The Amazing Colossal Man and The Unearthly.

SHARK NIGHT 3-D (2011) ** ½

Shark Night 3-D is the movie that asks the question: When’s the last time you saw a one-armed quarterback grab a spear and go out into the middle of a lake to take revenge on the shark that ate his arm (and girlfriend) and screaming at the top of his lungs, “West Baltimore rules; you take one of mine… I take one of YOURS!”?

Yeah, say what you will about this movie but it does have that going for it.

Do we NEED a plot summary here? For those desperately in need of one, here goes: A bunch of college kids go to a swamp in Louisiana to party unaware that some vengeful rednecks have loaded the swamp with all kinds of killer sharks. They’ve also implanted video cameras onto the sharks so they can film them eating tourists and broadcast the footage online where people “pay big bucks for this stuff”.

Shark Night 3-D was directed by David R. Ellis, but don’t go in expecting Snakes on a Plane caliber entertainment. Unfortunately, the opposite thing happened to Ellis while making this film. Instead of taking a PG-13 rated film then retooling it for an R rated audience; Ellis was forced to pussify Shark Night for the PG-13 crowd. I will say the flick is a fairly hard PG-13. There’s arm chomping, face biting, and while there’s no real gore, there is a lot of blood.

Ellis does manage to do some funny twists on the usual horror movie clichés. You think the dog is going to get eaten but he doesn’t. They set the black guy up to die first, but then he lives (for a while at least). And you know when they have the “ugly” smart girl who instantly becomes hot when she takes off her glasses? Well this time it’s a nerd who becomes a hunk when he takes his peepers off. And even though the film is rated PG-13, it still features some gratuitous nudity… from a dude.

You see, it’s this kind of double standard that makes me sick.

Yes, this film is fun in that it plays with your expectations and then it does the opposite of what you’d expect. So I admired it for that. I also expected it to be good and it wasn’t so make of that for what you will.

And the 3-D? Well… it was so-so. (The first 3-D effect isn’t until about a half hour in.) It’s definitely no Piranha 3-D. Heck, it’s not even Jaws 3-D. We do get:

• 3-D Seaweed
• 3-D Shrapnel
• 3-D Gun
• 3-D Shark
• 3-D Flashlight
• 3-D Fish Heads
• 3-D “Cookie Cutter” Shark
• 3-D Shark (again)
• 3-D Shark (yet again)

If you do see this, I highly encourage you to stay through the credits. If you do, you’ll be treated to a rap video made by the cast. This thing is priceless and is ten times better than anything you’d see on MTV nowadays. You’ve got to hand it to David R. Ellis. This guy can make post-credit “Easter eggs” better than any of those Marvel directors. More movies need rap videos by the cast after the end credits. Can you imagine Liam Neeson rapping about taking out Nazis at the end of Schindler’s List? That shit would’ve been off the chain.

So we’re talking Two Stars for the movie. Extra Half Star for the post credits rap video. ** ½ total.

Best line: “The doctor’s on his way. He’s going to Humpty Dumpty your ass back together again!”

BARBARIAN (2003) **

This flick was first put on my movie-watching radar when I was researching my review of Deathstalker. I knew that film had spawned three sequels, but when I clicked on the “Movie Connections” link on Deathstalker’s IMDB page, I was shocked to learn that Roger Corman actually remade it back in 2003 as Barbarian. Lucky for me, this bad boy was on Netflix and it immediately went to Number 1 with a bullet on my Queue.

The plot is basically the same. This “Barbarian” guy (Michael O’Hearn) still has to reunite his magic sword with a magic amulet and chalice. He’s still got to compete in a sword fighting competition and he still has to defeat an evil sorcerer (now played by Karate Kid’s MARTIN KOVE!!!).

Things that are different: Right off the bat, when Barbarian saves the one chick from being raped, instead of almost raping her himself afterwards, she WILLINGLY gives herself to him. So right away we know this is a kinder, gentler Deathstal… err… Barbarian. The ending is different too. Now, instead of the film ending with a sorcery duel, the villain just becomes a stupid looking man-in-suit monster that can disappear at will. And there isn’t a sex change via sorcery scene in this one… sadly.

I guess the biggest change to the Deathstalker mythos is that the Barbarian has a new sidekick. This guy is portrayed by a dude in the worst fox suit you ever saw. Believe me when I tell you folks… YOU WON’T BELIEVE YOUR EYES! This guy looks like he just walked out of a room at the Overlook hotel. The icing on the cake though is that he talks EXACTLY like Snarf from Thundercats. Incredible.

If you get wistful for Deathstalker while watching this flick, fear not because footage from that movie turns up as flashbacks. If that doesn’t make you content, whole chunks from Deathstalker are used for the party scene. Remember the Pig Man? He’s in here again. Christ, they even reused the famous scene where he paws Barbi Benton! I have to wonder if Barbi got a paycheck from this. Knowing Corman, probably not.

I’ve got to say this O’Hearn guy doesn’t make for a bad Fakestalker. In addition to the swordplay (he even gets a Conan rip-off scene where he practices his sword-slinging technique) he also does some Kung Fu moves as well as a couple wrasslin’ maneuvers too. O’Hearn’s no Rick Hill, but then again who could be? He’s definitely a big step up from the guys who played Deathstalker in 2 and 3.

The Karate Kid fan in me got a big kick out of seeing Martin Kove in this. He’s miscast to be sure, but that’s kinda what makes it fun. In addition, Kove rocks an impressive mullet and just hearing him say rhyming spells like “The smell of blood is in the air… barbarian blood beyond compare!” is almost worth the price of admission.

Barbarian clocks in at 78 minutes. You’d think this would be a good thing, but there’s a shit ton of padding (especially in the sword fighting competition sequences), so it actually feels a lot longer than that. And I really missed the grungy look of the original as Barbarian mostly resembles a Hercules episode or something.

Is this movie very good? No; not in a conventional sense. I don’t think I’ll have a desire to watch it again, but I’m glad it exists. Does that make sense? Is it worth seeing? Totally, especially if you’re a Deathstalker or Martin Kove fan. This would be a killer Bad Movie Night flick for sure.

AKA: Barbarian: The Last Great Warrior King.