Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cheesy 80s Sword & Sorcery Films

Though I'm a Tolkien enthusiast, I was able to overlook the infidelities of the Jackson films and enjoy the movie trilogy. It could be that my enjoyment of the three films had as much to do with the terribly poor fare that preceded them as the quality of the productions -- after all, in my teen years I was subjected to a legion of awful 80s Sword & Sorcery flicks. Here's a sampling.

Hawk the Slayer (1980). Hawk is a swordsman out to right a wrong; his companions are a giant named Gort who carries a warhammer, an elven archer named Crow who can restring his bow between camera frames, a whip-wielding dwarf named Baldin that provides comic relief (a forerunner of Jackson's Gimli?), and a chap with a repeating crossbow. Chief villain Voltan -- Hawk's brother who is old enough to be his father -- is played by Jack Palance. The soundtrack carries echoes of old Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns.

The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982). The hero is Prince Talon, a champion who is driven into exile as a lad; he bears a 3-bladed sword that can fire two of its blades like miniature rockets. Talon was played by Lee Horsley, and many fans of the genre thought Horsley's daring and reckless character was a better model for Howard's Conan than the brooding and wooden Schwarzenegger.

There were plenty of other bad S&S films from that decade:
* the made-for-TV Return of the King (1980) was worse than the 1978 Bakshi film, but it does include Mordor Orcs singing the memorably absurd Where There's a Whip There's a Way;
* for some reason Beastmaster (1982) sometimes still shows up on TV;
* as does Krull (1983);
* the atrocious Blademaster (1984) is just about lost in oblivion;
* Brigitte Nielsen falls short in yet another role as Red Sonja (1985);
* Dolph Lundgren dumbed down a dull He-Man in Masters of the Universe (1987);
* and I knew in the opening scene that I'd wasted my money on The Barbarians (1987).

Flawed but non-cheesy examples of the genre include:
* Excalibur (1981), a paganized look at the Arthur legend;
* Dragonslayer (1981), with Peter MacNicol playing a hermaphroditic wizard;
* The Dark Crystal (1982), where Jim Henson's muppets get creepy (look for a 2011 sequel);
* Legend (1985), in which Ridley Scott put Tom Cruise to work as a beefcake character;
* The Black Cauldron (1985), Disney's sinister take on the Lloyd Alexander Prydain novels;
* Highlander (1986), the Christopher Lambert noir-ish cult-classic that introduced an Egyptian character who dressed like a Spaniard, wielded a katana, and spoke with a Scottish accent;
* Willow (1988), a special-effects-infested effort by George Lucas and Ron Howard.

1 comment:

Sean said...

Honorable mention: It's more camp than cheesy, and it's sci-fi rather than S&S, but another film that could arguably be included in the list is Flash Gordon -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMEc_MiLmgw&feature=related