I know I always say this kind of thing, but this line up has been a long time coming at Zombie Club. I remembered loving Beastmaster as a kid, but my interest was rekindled when I found out Don Coscarelli, of Phantasm and Bubba Hotep fame was the guy behind it, so I consequently tracked down the widescreen version a couple of years ago. Then I did the usual thing you do when you buy to many DVDs, i.e. popped it on the shelf in its shrink wrapping and let it gather dust, next to that copy of The Sword and the Sorceror, which has a similar purchasing tale behind it.
Of course, then debate raged on and off for years. Should we just do the barbarian double, should we add in Umberto Lenzi's Iron Master and make it three in a row, or should we do those three and add Fulci's seminal Conquest from Zomblee's collection?
Well, due to time constraints we only had time to watch three, so a quick trip to imdb.com suggested that Iron Master was the one to ditch, which we did. So bring on the loin clothes.
Tonight's Zombie Club collection is bought to you by Jim in association with the Johnson's Baby Oil, which kept Marc Singer lubed up for decades.
The Beastmaster (1982)
Plot A sword-and-sorcery fantasy about a young man's search for revenge.
Rawshark So, kicking off tonight’s muscle man marathon is The Beastmaster, a film about a semi-naked hero who has an eagle, a tiger and two ferrets for his allies, and although it’s only a PG, Jim did reassure us from the off that ”there is a brief nudity scene”. Well that’s just about ok then – I mean a PG movie at Zombie Club! Tch...
The plot goes something like this; Maax (a large-nosed Rip Torn) attempts to kill all the unborn children in the area to avoid a prophecy of his own demise. With the aid of a witch, Maax attempts to transfer the unborn baby of King Zed into a cow, but the baby is ultimately saved by ”Daddy DeVito” (Zomblee). The boy, Dar, grows up with the ability to calm wild bears (”That’s what happens when you’re born of Ox” - Jim) and eventually turns into Marc Singer, a man described by Jim as having ”an impeccable torso” - no less than three times throughout the film.
Anyway, Marc’s village is then attacked by men with big wing helmets, forcing Marc into the big wide world where he likes to pose alone on the tops of mountains. After a series of small adventures, he hooks up with the two ferrets Codo and Podo and an eagle and a tiger before we get to the afore-mentioned nudity scene - ”Breasts at 35 minutes!” (Zomblee). This teasing encounter with Tanya Roberts finally gives Marc the motivation he needs to embark on a (smallish) epic quest to save the folk from pyramid city and the evil Rip Torn.
As Jim said on the night, The Beastmaster is ”a lot like The Lord of the Rings, except a lot cheaper”, but there’s lots of classic b-movie stuff here to keep you more than happy, from the cool eye ring through to the final Junn Horde battle. Best of all though are the Death Guards, brainless black-armoured dead guys who chase Podo and Codo through the corridors of the prison. ”The Death Guards have a great run. They just look pissed. Graaagh!” said Zomblee and he was spot on. They’re brilliant and I now want to be a Death Guard when I grow up.
”They whip you like a beast!”
Zomblee Tonight I finally got a chance to see The Beastmaster again for the first time in almost 20 years. If that makes me feel old, can you imagine how old Rip Torn must feel? Yeah, like really old. "Rip Torn has a prosthetic nose in this movie", Jim informed us at the beginning and he was right, it's quite a specimen, especially in profile. But we're not here just to talk about Rip's rubber honker, though I thought it was worth a mention.
When the boy Beastmaster's (Marc Singer) town is raped by an evil clan called the Jun-Horde, he takes his top off, becomes the Beastmaster officially and sets out for revenge - as Rawshark rightfully pointed out, "Now that he's topless the movie can start!". Along the way he meets assorted characters, like Codo and Frodo, the cute ferrets, and Kiri (Tanya Roberts), the even cuter love interest. According to my notes, she unleashes her bosoms at 35 mins (helpful for those of you who want to get right to the point) - Jim seemed surprised at the sight of nudity in a PG movie ("I wasn't expecting breasts!"), but it didn't seem to bother him. Poor Rawshark must have been busy scribbling away: "I can't believe I missed the nude scene on the projector!" I'm sure there'll be another time, Rawshark.
Needless to say, The Beastmaster is quite an adventure - Singer's ability to talk to the animals ("It's like he's a master of the beasts or something" - thanks Rawshark) gets him out of a scrape or two, and those ferrets are just so damn cute! Eagle-eyed Jim also noticed that the Beastmaster himself "still has his BCG jab" - i had no idea society was so advanced in those days. But even though routine vaccinations were apparently the norm in sandalled times, there was still danger aplenty - director Don Coscerelli really shows his talents for budgeted spectacle with some amazing sequences, with a two-part finale, and it's for reasons like this that The Beastmaster is more popular today than it ever was.
"I have been told you are planning a child sacrifice."
Jim Alright, I knew there was an ‘ickle bit of nudity in Beastmaster, but I couldn’t remember the extent of it. I thought it was a brief sideways glance of the delectable Tanya Roberts (was she in a Bond movie guys? Have we missed another Bond connection?), so I wasn’t expecting the eyeful we got. But that’s what happens when you can talk to ferrets and can tell them to go steal the clothes of beautiful young models that happen to be skinny dipping when there’s a camera crew around, so we shouldn’t be surprised really.
Anyway Beastmaster - as you can probably grasp already we all really liked this flick. I mean, how much fun can you have in a barbarian movie? He talks to the animals, gets into fights and has this beautiful chick tagging along for most of the movie. What’s not to like? Marc Singer, with his boy next door charm ("Beastmaster next door?" - Zomblee), who we should mention just missed becoming a household name after being in V, does have an impeccable upper torso, which is something I’m confident in my heterosexuality enough to say (I am married with child you know), although it was a bit over-oiled for our liking. ("They've oiled him up again." – Rawshark. “He looks worried, he must be running out of oil!” – Zomblee).
Tanya Roberts also does pretty well in the upper torso department too, for different reasons of course, and Rip Torn’s prosthetic nose is almost worth the price of admission alone, but Zomblee’s already told you all about that so I shan’t dwell on it.
In terms of the acting, the whole cast do pretty well even though they have names like Dar and Gar (from the land of Ahhhh) and whoever trained those animals, particularly them ferrets, was a genius. Plus you’ve got lots of loin clothes on show, demonstrating a lot of what Zomblee labeled as ”ass cleavage”, although as Rawshark pointed out “Showing hips on a girl – good. Showing hips on a guy – bad.” He’s got a point, you know.
"I have my eyes, I have my cunning and now I have my strength!"
Director Don Coscarelli
Cast Marc Singer
Runtime 118 mins
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The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)
Plot A sword-and-sorcery fantasy about a young man with a three-bladed sword and his search for revenge.
Jim Our next entry in this fabled night is the slightly more gory effort The Sword and the Sorcerer, which I remember seeing on TV as a kid and thinking was brilliant, hence it's inclusion in the line up tonight. It stars Lee Horsley as the eponymous hero Talon, who you'll also probably remember from the Matt Houston TV series (although neither of my colleagues here did) and because he looks kind of a lot like Errol Flynn. And also you might recognise his sidekick whose name I can't remember, but he was also the sidekick in Streethawk, if you remember that.
So the plot goes something like this. Cromwell is an evil king, and him and his henchmen, including some guy with really big cheeks (”He must be the trumpet player!” - Rawshark), resurrect a creepy, long fingered sorcerer called Xusia (”Oh, great fingers.” - Rawshark) in the intro. Xusia then uses skills to help Cromwell conquer all the land, including the nearby kingdom of Ehdian. Young Talon, heir to Ehdian, can do nothing about this event, though he does have a three-bladed sword. And just when Cromwell wins, at the height of all his conquering, he betrays the overacting Xusia (”He is very thespian, you’re right.” - Rawshark), stabbing him in the chest.
Cut to years later, Cromwell’s been a princely king for years and Talon is now an adventurer commanding a small army of mercenaries. There’s a chance encounter between him and this sexy young chick who’s a princess or something, and the wheels are set in motion for Talon to come back and have a series of adventures involving being thrown in and out of Cromwell’s dungeons. This then sets up a predictable final fight between Talon, Cromwell, and just about everyone left standing including those mercenaries, Cromwell’s guards and loads of escaped prisoners (”It’s just going to be a massive scrap until the end of the film!” - Zomblee). And you can bet that Xusia turns up in again, proving that you just can’t keep a good thesp down.
All in all The Sword and the Sorcerer is great fun, while also being quite crap and incredibly corny. It has that cheesy back lot studio feel and is that sort of movie that nowadays would be a straight-to-Sci Fi channel affair, but that doesn’t really matter for Zombie Club. This is the kind of film that TV people do in the off season, and no ones really proud of, including I’m sure that guy off Cannonball Run who is also in Starcrash (”He’s green in Starcrash, isn’t he?” - Zomblee). That three-bladed sword, though, is quite frankly pure brilliance and I’m just disappointed I didn’t think of it.
Rawshark Following up on the established ‘barbarian’ template (young boy sees his parents killed by a tyrannical despot, grows up to seek revenge), The Sword and the Sorcerer was also made in 1982, and went up against Conan the Barbarian in the US, where – get this fact fans – it actually grossed more at the box office than the Stone / Milius / Schwarzenegger vehicle ($39million versus $37million)! Director Albert Pyun has no doubt been living off that glory ever since and is indeed currently trying to get a new sorcery fantasy epic off the ground called Tales of an Ancient Empire.
Despite it’s fairly good production values and pretty ok gore (hearts being pulled out of people’s bodies by pure thought), the coolest thing about the Sword and the Sorcerer is that three-bladed sword. How cool? Damn cool. It’s just a shame it has to be wielded by perhaps the least charismatic of tonight’s leading men, Lee Horsley, although in his defence he does save a girl from being raped at one point by beating up the attackers with a leg of mutton, and then agrees to save her brother in return for one night of passion with her. What a charmer.
With a lot more nudity than the previous film (at one point our heroes find themselves in a topless girl bath scene straight out of a period Private DVD), more gore, lots of mini bush-chin beards and glowing fingernails!” (Jim), The Sword and the Sorcerer is still good Zombie Club value, and Richard Lynch as the baddie is on top form (”Richard Lynch has such a good bad guy’s face” - Zomblee). The ending, where Talon wins the sword fight (”Ah, good work – they spark!” - Jim), shags the brunette before callously riding off to fight another war is pretty sweet too.
”Come now, let's be off. There's a battle in the offing! We've got kingdoms to save and women to love!”.
Zomblee I have to admit, I've never seen anyone attack armed with a leg of mutton before, but as Rawshark implies, our main actor Lee Horsely almost needs to wield something this bizarre to give him any charisma. Richard Lynch, on the other hand, has enough charisma to sink a medium-sized boat, and he excels here as Cromwell, but I got the impression Jim didn't approve of his '8 years later' facial hair stylings - "Why has Cromwell grown a shit beard?". Hell, there were so many beards on show I don't think I noticed.
For some reason, I didn't notice much of The Sword and the Sorcerer - a bit like when you meet someone and instantly forget their name. Even though it seems competently made and it has its fair share of all those elements you want and expect from a fantasy movie - including oiled-up topless maidens, loads of weird American actors trying to say "Aye!", and the green dude from Starcrash - I think that unless you watched this one in your childhood then the magic might not be there.
I can see how it would make a huge impression if viewed at a young age - the Devil guy at the beginning (who reappears later) looks great and would probably scare the bejesus out of you if you were 8 years old, but there is a prevailing light-hearted feel to the entire film, in the tradition of Errol Flynn's swashbuckling antics. A strange brew indeed.
Great sword, though. It had three blades, you know.
"I can't wait to bed you, wench."
Director The Sword and the Sorcerer
Cast Lee Horsley
Runtime 100 mins
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Plot A sword-and-sorcery fantasy about a young man with a magical bow and arrow. Oh, and his search for revenge.
Zomblee Fulci is back at Zombie Club. It's just like the old days. From comedy to horror, old Lucio was never afraid to dip his Roman toe into whatever genre he happened upon next. It will be no coincidence that Conan the Barbarian hit our screens in 1982 while Conquest landed on our video shelves a year later in '83, and although the Schwarzenegger spectacle drew audiences in with its sorcery revenge plot, Fulci didn't make it quite as easy for the viewer. Armed with a shit load of fog machines, assorted loincloths and a load of actors we've never heard of, he made a film that is as bizarre as it is beautiful - a true one-off in the footprints of Conan. Which I guess means you'll either love it or hate it.
Plot-wise, it involves young archer Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti), armed with a magic bow, who is sent out to fulfil his destiny by killing Zora (Conrado San Martin), a crazy nude sorceress with a gold head and a fondness for snakes ("she's wanking with that snake again!" - Jim). Along the way, he's attacked by a load of wookies but is then saved by the heroic efforts of a huge hairy warrior called Mace (Jorge Rivero). The pair form a bond, and take refuge in a cave where...ah, what's the point. Suffice to say, they eventually kill the crazy broad with the gold head, then she turns into a wolf and runs off at the end.
As long as you don't expect anything remotely sensible or conventionally entertaining, and are more than willing to immerse yourself in the otherworldly land of Fulci at his most bizarre, complete with dodgy dialogue, crap special effects, 80's synthesisers (courtesy of Goblin Claudio Simonetti), I don't see how you can't enjoy a movie as outrageous as Conquest. And if that's not enough, it's got naked chicks, loads of fighting, wolfmen, fake dolphins ("It looks like Emu" - Jim), submersible swamp zombies, "webby rock people" and… wait for it... laser arrows ("I love the way they make laser noises, too!" - Rawshark).
Sheesh...all that for £4.20? Bargain.
Jim Yes, I was also secretly very excited about those laser arrows, and all of Conquest in general actually. Okay, I wasn’t prepared for the over abundance of fog machines either, but I couldn’t wait to see what Fulci could do with a barbarian theme.
And he doesn’t disappoint - sort of. The film opens with a tribe getting attacked by a bunch of wolfy-dog people, peaking at a white painted savage girl getting ripped in half in a crowd pleasing moment of extreme gore that Zomblee rightly pointed out you had to expect from Fulci in every film after Zombie Flesh Eaters. Then it turns out the dog people’s leader is a “topless gold helmeted chick” (Rawshark) who’s into snakes in a big way and also keeps having this dream about a faceless warrior with a laser bow that kills her.
Back out on the smoky landscape we meet Ilias and his laser bow and Mace, a caveman warrior guy with a nunchuka made of rock – yes, it’s a rockchuka, patent pending I presume. They have some adventures together (”It’s gone really gay all of a sudden.” - Zomblee) and there’s a big sub plot about Ilias getting poisoned and Mace searching for a magic plant to heal him before one of the “topless gold helmeted chick”’s minions beheads Ilias and Mace goes all out in a laser arrow revenge frenzy finale, unmasking gold helmeted villainess in the process to reveal her true hideousness. ”There’s a recurring theme here with sexy body evil faced girls.” offered Rawshark at the end, although I don’t remember any other sexy body bad face chicks tonight. Either I need to drink less or he needs to stay away from match.com
What a lot of fun though, Conquest is exactly as you imagine it. Momentarily brilliant, often rubbish, always ridiculous and extremely watchable and with a bit of post-Zombie Flesh Eaters Fulci gore thrown in for good measure, although it didn’t go any further in explaining why loin clothes are called that (”Where is the loin anyway?” - Rawshark) Beats me man, let’s not go there.
"Why isn't it called a groin cloth?"
Rawshark So then, on to Conquest, where we’re clearly within the realms of Fulci’s 80s phase -which generally means overly complicated plots coinciding with lots of smoke-filled, well-shot visuals. Not that the stylistic framing was of any real concern to us as by the third film of a long night of Zombie Club Barbarianism, the alcohol was beginning to take it’s toll. That’s not to say we didn’t appreciate the ample gratuitous shots of gore and nudity though – ah, you’ve gotta love Fulci!
Yet not only is there nudity and gore, we also have cheap SFX laser arrows that actually sound like lasers, cool wolfmen who do drugs (”I like his face. It’s like the back of his head” - Zomblee), swamp zombies, mole men, webby rock people and an actor who looks like the Italian Bruce Campbell (”Brucio Campbell” - Zomblee / ”Brucio Campbelli” - Jim).
Best of all though is the scene where Mace is pushed off a cliff whilst tied to a crucifix, before being rescued by fake dolphin heads that ”look like Emu” (Jim). Go dolphins! Ok, so Conquest may have been the dumbest movie of the night, but it certainly wasn’t the least entertaining. Oh, and who’d have thought that the topless gold helmeted chick would have her helmet removed at the film’s climax to reveal a gross face. Well, ok, all of us actually, but that’s not the point…
”I won’t let you die. There’s a small valley near here where a magic plant grows”.
Director Lucio Fulci
Cast Jorge Rivero
Conrado San Martín
Runtime 88 mins
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So, let's recap. Beastmaster has a brief spell of nudity, a prostethic nose, an impeccable upper torso, an assortment of drunken death guards and a pair of ferrets who can out act Marc Singer. The Sword and the Sorceror has great fingers, the green guy from Starcrash that's also in The Cannonball Run, a mutton fight, a bad looking Richard Lynch an mightily impressive three-bladed sword. And Conquest has a gold helmeted naked chick, dog people, a pair of rockchukas, a magic bow that fires laser arrows, some value for money Fulci gore and a crap dolphin puppet that looked so much like Emu that both Rawshark and Zomblee mentioned it in their write-ups. Not bad for one evening's entertainment, I think you'll find. Don't you just love Zombie Club?
Tune in next time for what Zomblee would refer to as "more Fulci gibberish" courtesy of those really cool guys over at Shameless Films.
25th Oct 04 Fires blaze uncontrollably as smoke billows from damaged buildings while sirens wail indiscriminately over the screams of the living as they run for their lives, pursued at break-neck pace by the recently deceased.