Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Sword and the Sorcerer

Any good sword-and-sorcery tale contains a strong element of horror. The first scene from The Sword and the Sorcerer has horror in spades as it sets the tone for what will follow for the next hour and forty minutes.

Ruthless warlord,Titus Cromwell (Richard Lynch) has conquered most of the civilized world but cannot seem to take Ehdan. Ehdan is a wealthy kingdom ruled by King Richard (Christopher Cary), and Titus has been defeated by Richard's formidable army four times already. Crowmell and his men land ashore of Tomb Island,bringing with them a witch who worships the demon,Xusia (Richard Moll) The witch summons Xusia and Cromwell makes the deal. There is some nice macabre imagery in this scene, but for me to describe it would somewhat lessen the experience for one who has not yet seen this film.

Xusia makes good on his promise to Cromwell by overcoming King Richard's army and Cromwell rewards the demon by stabbing him and throwing him off a cliff. Cromwell then puts King Richard to the sword. Richard's son, Talon (great name for a sword-and-sorcery hero) was given his father's triple-bladed projectile sword, and asked by Richard to avenge him and save his kingdom if he were to fall to Cromwell. Talon sees Cromwell put his father to death and tries to go to Cromwell and kill him, but  King Richard's advisor Mogullen ( Russ Marin) tells Talon to get to the river and  save his mother before Cromwell can get to her. Talon arrives at the river on horseback, too late to save his mother. Cromwell's men pursue Talon, but he manages to escape from the kingdom and vanish for years.

Next we see Talon (Lee Horsely) eleven years later. He is a seasoned warrior leading a small band of mercenaries. While on a campaign he happens to be passing by Ehdan and decides it is time to fulfill the promise to his father and settle the score with Cromwell. Yet again we see vengeance as the protagonist's motivation, as with John Milius's Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja, and the Beastmaster.

Cromwell is now combing the city searching for Prince Mikah ( Simon McCorkindale ) who some say is the rightful heir to the throne. Prince Mikah is captured by Cromwell , and the tyrant demands as ransom Mikah's sister Alana's (Kathleen Beller ) hand in marriage. Talon saves Alana from being raped by Cromwell's men in an alley,easily defeating the villains. Alana offers herself to Talon for one night if  he will rescue her brother from Cromwell's dungeon. Cromwell has been looking over his shoulder for years, knowing good-and-well that he didn't kill Xusia as easily as stabbing him and throwing him off a cliff. The tyrant is sure the demon walks the kingdom in the guise of a man.

I will say this is a good sword-and-sorcery film with a little thicker plot than Conan the Barbarian, though not even in the same ballpark as John Milius's masterpiece. The Sword and the Sorcerer has all of the elements necessary for good sword-and sorcery storytelling: a sword-slinging anti-hero with a score to settle, an intriguing plot fairly full of treachery, the beautiful princess in a jam, a nasty tyrant, and a relentless demon . Since 1982 I have said this was the only sword-and-sorcery motion picture aside from Conan the Barbarian that was worth a damn. I have added Deathstalker and Fire and Ice to my list in recent years, making four films that I consider to have successfully embodied Howardian blood-and-thunder in the cinematic experience. I will always go to Milius's Conan the Barbarian as the measuring stick by which I gauge these kinds of films, but thirty-five years later I still consider The Sword and the Sorcerer the next best thing. Oh, and there is blood on those swords -- lots of blood!

1 comment:

  1. I have always felt this film was more "Howardian" than Conan '82. From the resurrection of a long dead Sorcerer to the "who dies first?" quote to the crucifixion scene; all cribbed from Howard directly. But Conan '82 is still the best S&S film for sure. Have you read the novelization of The Sword and the Sorcerer? I think I have it kicking around somewhere...