Film Review: Conquest (1983)

Also known as: Mace the Outcast (working title), El Bárbaro (Mexico)
Release Date: June 2nd, 1983 (Italy)
Directed by: Lucio Fulci
Written by: Gino Capone, Carlos Vasallo, Jose Antonio de la Loma Giovanni Di Clemente
Music by: Claudio Simonetti
Cast: Jorge Rivero, Andrea Occhipinti, Conrado San Martin, Sabrina Siani

Clemi Cinematografica, Clesi Cinematografica, Conquest Productions, 88 Minutes

Review:

“When a man meets a man, you never know which one will die. But when an animal meets a man, it’s always the animal that dies. I’m on the animals’ side.” – Mace, “Isn’t this an animal you’re eating?” – Ilias, “[shrugs] I didn’t kill him.” – Mace, “That’s a pretty strange law.” – Ilias, “Not when you’re hungry.” – Mace

By the time 1983 rolled around, everyone was making sword and sorcery movies, especially the Europeans, who just wanted to make their own version of Conan the Barbarian. Since most of these movies were made in Italy and Spain, it seems natural that Lucio Fulci, mostly known for his horror pictures, would direct his own.

What’s interesting about Fulci doing one of these movies is that he got to tap into his horror skills, adding in some interesting monsters and a darker tone to this sword and sorcery tale.

For the time and the budget, the special effects are pretty decent. The evil sorceress’ henchmen are basically  barbarian werewolves, which was a neat idea. Granted, they look like the lovechild of Joe Dante’s werewolf from The Howling and Chewbacca but still, werewolf barbarians is a cool enough concept to carry its own movie.

On the downside, however, this is a very cheap film and it looks it. I like the practical effects but that’s something I personally have an appreciation for and if you share that sentiment, the hokiness of the production probably won’t bother you. But for most people, this picture won’t cut the mustard. It also doesn’t help that it’s dark, dreary and always looks foggy or as if there is a haze over the camera lens.

That being said, I think the visuals of this film will turn most people away, as it’s not pretty to look at, especially when compared to bigger budget sword and sorcery pictures from the same era, mainly the Schwarzenegger Conan films, Red Sonja and the first Beastmaster.

I still like the movie though, but I have an affinity for these sorts of things. Plus, the one dude shoots light arrows, which is neat and reminds me of the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, which is odd because this movie and that TV show came out in the same year.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other Lucio Fulci movies, as well as other European sword and sorcery pictures from the early ’80s.

Film Review: Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983)

Also known as: Death Warriors (Europe English title)
Release Date: August 13th, 1983 (Italy)
Directed by: Giuliano Carmineo
Written by: Dardano Sacchetti, Elisa Briganti, Jose Truchaso Reyes
Music by: Detto Mariano
Cast: Robert Iannucci, Alicia Moro, Eduardo Fajardo

2T Produzione Film, Globe Film, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Onward my merry mother-grabbers!” – Crazy Bull

I’ve been watching a lot of these Italian Mad Max ripoffs because I’m planning to write an article about them. But since there are several I haven’t seen, I’m trying to familiarize myself with as many of them as possible.

Exterminators of the Year 3000, also known as Death Warriors in some countries, is actually one of the better ones that I’ve seen.

Sure, like all of these films, this isn’t better or as good as an actual Mad Max movie but for something with next to no budget and quickly shot in a Spanish desert, this attempt at cashing in on post-apocalyptic vehicular carnage isn’t half bad.

I really like the hero in this because he just doesn’t give a shit about anything. He’s kind of a prick in the cool way but as the film rolls on, he meets a boy, a smart old astronaut dude and a girl he becomes smitten by. So he sort of becomes a big softy as he develops a family dynamic with these characters. Plus, his name is Alien because why not? And did I mention that the girl is named Trash?

Anyway, everyone in this film needs water and it’s the commodity they’re all fighting for. It’s like the need for gasoline in Mad Max but instead it’s fuel for the body and for plants to grow and make more food for the body.

The bad guys feel like they’re right out of Mad Max but they feel more like a small gang without the reach of the Toecutter or Lord Humongous. They feel like a squad to a larger group and while the characters are menacing and effective, they don’t feel as dangerous as the gangs from the Mad Max films.

What’s weird about this movie is that it takes place in the year 3000 and all of the vehicles are junky 1970s cars. Somehow they’re all able to run a thousand years from now yet in 2019, you don’t see these models on the streets anymore. But this isn’t the type of film where you should get hung up on stuff like accuracy.

I also like the cool twist in the film where you find out the kid is half cyborg. There’s a moment that comes off as pretty brutal where the evil gang ties both of the kid’s arms to motorcycles and then they hit the gas and rip one of the kid’s arms off. However, you soon notice that there’s no blood and there are wires hanging out of the kid’s shoulder. It was one of those, “No, they’re not actually going to do that?!” moments.

Anyway, I like this movie. Not to the point that I’ll rewatch it anytime soon but compared to similar pictures, this one is near the top of the heap.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Mad Max ripoffs, especially the European ones.

Film Review: Deathstalker (1983)

Also known as: Warrior King (Philippines), Stalker – The Warrior King (Norway), El cazador de la muerte (Argentina)
Release Date: September 2nd, 1983 (limited)
Directed by: James Sbardellati (as John Watson)
Written by: Howard R. Cohen
Music by: Oscar Cardozo Ocampo
Cast: Richard Hill, Barbi Benton, Richard Brooker, Lana Clarkson, Victor Bo

Aries Cinematográfica Argentina, Palo Alto, New World Pictures, 80 Minutes

Review:

“All the power comes to me.” – Munkar

The only Deathstalker I’ve ever seen is the third one and that’s because it was on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. That one was atrocious, so at least this one is better than that turd.

However, this is still a pretty shitty film even if it has the magic touch of Roger Corman. He helped put it out through New World Pictures when he was still running that studio and it was the first of ten pictures that he did from Argentina.

Anyway, the film is boring in just about every way. The script is abysmal, the plot is paper thin and not much of anything interesting happens onscreen.

Now I do like some of the practical effects but some monsters and creatures look good for the time, while others look like total crap. It’s as if some of the budget was pushed into certain characters or creatures while the other effects suffered from a lack of funds. It’s pretty inconsistent even though the film already looks cheap, regardless.

Rick Hill was decent as Deathstalker but he didn’t have much to work with and the direction he was given was poor. The real highlight though is Lana Clarkson, who simply wore a G-string and a black cloak. Her tippies were hanging out all over the place, which had I seen this when I was a kid, I probably would’ve rented this all the time.

The evil wizard is weak, not impressive and struck no terror in me whatsoever. I mean, if you’re going to do a sword and sorcery picture at the height of the sword and sorcery genre, you need to have a cool and menacing villain. This guy just looked like the doorman at The Pickled Bear, an underground gay bar in Palatka, Florida.

Weirdly, it looks like the second Deathstalker has a higher rating on IMDb than this one or the third one. Maybe I’ll check it out but I watched enough paint dry after my cousin re-did his foyer last weekend.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: the Deathstalker sequels and other very low budget barbarian movies.

TV Review: Dungeons & Dragons (1983-1985)

Original Run: September 17th, 1983 – December 7th, 1985
Created by: Kevin Paul Coates, Dennis Marks, Takashi, Mark Evanier
Directed by: Bob Richardson, Karl Geurs
Written by: various
Based on: Dungeons & Dragons by TSR
Music by: Johnny Douglas
Cast: Willie Aames, Don Most, Katie Leigh, Adam Rich, Tonia Gayle Smith, Teddy Field III, Sidney Miller, Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Bob Holt

Toei Animation, Marvel Productions, Dungeons & Dragons Entertainment Corporation, TSR, CBS, New World Television, 27 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I used to watch the shit out of this cartoon when I was really young. It was one of my favorite Saturday morning treats. However, I haven’t seen it since at least the early ’90s.

But like most animated series that were productions involving Japan’s Toei studio and Marvel, it was top quality stuff for its time and it has aged really well.

Sure, it’s hokey and goofy like kid’s cartoons are but it has a real charm about it and that charm is still effective.

I love the character designs of the show, especially in regards to the villain Venger and the five headed dragon, Tiamat. Also, Venger was voiced by Peter Cullen, best known as the voice of Optimus Prime while Tiamat was voiced by Frank Welker, best known as Megatron.

The show followed six Earth kids, their little unicorn named Uni and the impish Dungeon Master. The Earth kids were magically transported to the Dungeons & Dragons dimension through a theme park ride. I know, it sounds ridiculous but you didn’t care about stupid details or coherent plot when you were five years-old. Frankly, I don’t care about it now because the show works for what it is: a kid’s magical adventure.

Unfortunately, the show never had a proper ending and the kids never actually made it home within the episodes produced. I guess it can be assumed that they eventually saw their parents again but hopefully that happened before they were in their forties.

Anyway, this is still a really cool show. I even showed a few episodes to my nephew and he dug it with his discriminatory 2019 standards.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other ’80s fantasy cartoons like Masters of the Universe, Captain N the Gamemaster, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Visionaries, ThundercatsSilverhawks, etc.

Film Review: Fire & Ice (1983)

Release Date: March 25th, 1983 (Germany)
Directed by: Ralph Bakshi
Written by: Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas
Music by: William Kraft
Cast: Susan Tyrrell, Maggie Roswell, William Ostrander, Stephen Mendel, Steve Sandor

Polyc International BV, Producers Sales Organization, 20th Century Fox, 81 Minutes

Review:

“Next time you present me with one of your little sluts, Mother dear… I’ll squash you like a bug.” – Nekron

I have a funny story about this film. I saw it when I was probably about four or five when my aunt told my uncle to take my cousins and I to a movie. However, she said it had to be a cartoon because he always took us to see movies he wanted to see, which were usually violent action films. So my uncle took us to this and while it was rated PG by 1983 standards (before PG-13 was even a thing), it certainly wasn’t a kids’ cartoon due to its level of violence and barely clothed voluptuous women.

Anyway, I thought it was cool as hell as a young kid and since I hadn’t seen it since the ’80s, I thought that revisiting it was long overdue.

Luckily, Fire & Ice is still a lot of fun. It has held up tremendously well and it has that early ’80s sword and sorcery spirit. Plus, the visual style is incredible.

What’s really interesting, and it wasn’t something I knew about or would have cared about as a kid, is that the film was made with rotoscoping. What that means, is that live action actors were filmed and then those frames were then traced over for the animation. This early ’80s rotoscoping isn’t as clean as the technique is in more modern films like A Scanner Darkly but it still gives fluid movement and realistic motion.

I also love the character design and the way the fantasy world was drawn. The ape men look great, the monsters are cool, especially the giant octopus, and the rotoscoped characters just fit naturally with the painted landscapes.

The story is also entertaining and what’s really cool about it, is that it was written by Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas, two guys that had previously written Conan comic stories for Marvel. For fans of classic Marvel Conan, you will see parallels to those tales. It’s also worth noting that Peter Chung, the guy who would later create Æon Flux, was an artist on this picture.

Fire & Ice is imaginative and badass. It’s a cool world and a great looking film. I heard a few years ago that Robert Rodriguez was trying to make a live action adaptation of this and frankly, I hope that he does. This is a world that could and should be explored more. Maybe a live action resurrection will help turn Fire & Ice into more than some forgotten ’80s sword and sorcery cartoon. There’s a good story here with really cool characters.

Hell, maybe a comic book company can get the publishing rights and put out The Further Adventures of Darkwolf because he is one of the coolest barbarian heroes of all-time.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other early ’80s sword and sorcery movies, as well as the animated films Wizards, The Lord of the Rings from 1978 and Starchaser: The Legend of Orin.

Film Review: A Christmas Story (1983)

Release Date: November 18th, 1983
Directed by: Bob Clark
Written by: Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, Bob Clark
Based on: In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd
Music by: Carl Zittrer, Paul Zaza
Cast: Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin, Peter Billingsley, Ian Petrella, Scott Schwartz, R.D. Robb, Zack Ward, Jean Shepherd (voice)

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 94 Minutes

Review:

“You’ll shoot your eye out!” – everyone in the movie that isn’t Ralphie

This is one of those reviews where my opinion is in contrast to the majority.

I’m just not fond of this movie. It’s not a bad motion picture but I certainly don’t have the spot in my heart for it like the millions of people that feel the urge to sit down and watch this for 24 hours straight every Christmas. Full disclosure, my whole family does that and I’m usually off in the corner staring at my phone.

But that being said, I have seen this movie more than any other because it just plays and plays on my family’s television through our annual Christmas Eve party, Christmas morning and during gift giving time. I mean, it’s just a staple. We actually barely pay attention to it at this point except for the younger ones. But everyone in my family still deems its existence in our lives to be necessary.

Give me ScroogedDie HardDie Hard 2Gremlins, Krampus or hell, this director’s other Christmas classic, Black Christmas. Okay, maybe these film selections aren’t safe for child eyes but I’m not the one having kids. And if I did, they’d see Gremlins at the same age I did: five years-old.

Anyway, this is a cute film but nothing about it is exceptional or worthy of the strange acclaim that it has now. I only consider it a classic because it’s just labeled that and for some reason, it resonates with so many people. But I also think that’s just people succumbing to the power of nostalgia. Plus, I don’t get the nostalgia bug for it because even though it came out when I was a kid, it was a bomb in the theater and only gained traction later on television. The kids that found the film were younger than me and I was probably making out with girls by that time. Eventually, I just saw it on TV. And then it was on all the damn time.

It’s a fair picture. There’s nothing great or off putting about it. It just sort of exists to me. It has a few funny moments but the comedy isn’t superb, by any means. Honestly, the movie is kind of slow and a bit drab. It has a few scenes that have become iconic but overall, watching more than ten minutes at a time, bores me to tears.

But I get that I’m the oddball, here. I just feel like there are so many holiday films better than this one. This feels dated, incredibly overplayed and probably needs to be replaced as the big Christmas marathon movie.

I’d have no problem with Home Alone being on 24/7 on December 25th.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other mediocre Christmas “classics”.

Film Review: Christine (1983)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Christine (complete title)
Release Date: December 9th, 1983
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Bill Phillips
Based on: Christine by Stephen King
Music by: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth
Cast: Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky, Harry Dean Stanton, William Ostrander

Delphi Premier Productions, Polar Film, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“Whoa, whoa. You better watch what you say about my car. She’s real sensitive.” – Arnie Cunningham

I gew up in a time when John Carpenter was king. I was a big fan but somehow I always forget that this is in his oeuvre because I associate it more with the slew of Stephen King adaptations from the time.

That being said, it is still very Carpenter but it is also very much King. I guess it’s a pretty good marriage between two of the top horror icons of that era. And frankly, I still love this film even though I hadn’t seen it in quite awhile and forgot how much I enjoy it.

This still plays very well and is a great film in regards to how it builds up suspense.

I was also really impressed with the special effects, especially in regards to the scene where the car repairs itself in front of Keith Gordon’s Arnie. Man, that sequence is spectacular and considering that it was all done with practical effects in a time when CGI was still very primitive, makes me respect how perfectly they pulled it off behind the scenes.

Keith Gordon carries the film with his performance and he does a fantastic job transitioning from the weakling nerd that he is in the beginning to a kid driven by his obsession for his car and finally, as a character that is completely possessed by evil.

The performances by the other two leads, John Stockwell and Alexandra Paul, were also good. It’s the famous character actors that give this film a bit more seasoning though, as both Harry Dean Stanton and Robert Prosky deliver some really good scenes in the film.

I really liked John Carpenter’s score but his music always had a certain presence that accented the frights in his films. This score is no different and his use of audible effects seemed more refined than what he did in Halloween. Not to take anything away from his audio trickery in Halloween but I think that he really found his groove with it here. And while it may go unnoticed by most people who watch this film, it’s these little flourishes that sets Carpenter apart from the pack and gives his films more of an edge.

This is a good coming of age story that doesn’t have a happy ending for everyone. It’s creepy but it’s effective. And I’ve always loved that there really isn’t an explanation in regards to the car being possessed by evil. It’s a machine that just has to kill.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Stephen King films of the ’70s and ’80s: Maximum OverdriveSalem’s LotCarrieSilver Bullet, etc.