Also known as: Top Mission (France), American Scorpion, Vice Wars (alternate English titles – Germany) Release Date: August 1st, 1985 (Argentina) Directed by: Hector Olivera Written by: Steven M. Krauzer, Hector Olivera, David Vinas Music by: George Brock, Jorge Lopez Ruiz Cast: John Schneider, Royal Dano, Federico Luppi, Rodolfo Ranni, Patti Davis
Aries Cinematografica Argentina, New Horizons, Concorde Pictures, 82 Minutes
“[while applying the cattle prod to Cliff’s teeth] “Tell me, Cliff… where are the papers?… You have no choice because I’m going to kill you…” – General Lujan
Sadly, this movie isn’t anywhere near as badass and cool as its poster. In fact, it’s kind of a letdown, if I’m being honest.
This does star John Schneider of The Dukes of Hazzard, though. So had I seen this as a kid, I probably would’ve loved it.
It also features Royal Dano, a character actor I like in all of his roles.
This was one of the ten films that Roger Corman made down in Argentina. He had some sort of deal with a studio down there and they pumped out a lot of shit like this, as well as pretty bad sword and sorcery flicks at the height of their popularity.
This film sees Schneider take on generic Latin American drug traffickers backed by military might. There’s a lot of action and gun play but overall, most of this stuff is poorly shot and executed.
For action flicks like this, all you need to do is “bring it” with the action shit and the plot and flaws almost don’t matter. However, if you fail at the most important part, everything else comes off looking like shit too.
Still, I did like Schneider and Dano in this but their presence doesn’t save the film in anyway. Well, other than making this not abysmally bad.
It’s still really bad, though and it’s damn forgettable. Schneider probably could’ve evolved into a legit action star if he were given the right vehicle. Cocaine Wars certainly wasn’t that.
Rating: 4/10 Pairs well with: other C-level action films of the ’80s.
Also known as: The Warrior (Germany) Release Date: September 7th, 1984 Directed by: John C. Broderick Written by: John C. Broderick Based on: a story by John C. Broderick, William Stout Music by: Louis Saunders Cast: David Carradine, Luke Askew, Maria Socas, Anthony De Longis, Harry Townes
Aries Cinematográfica Argentina, New Horizons Picture, 81 Minutes
Just when the world thought that there were enough re-imaginings (or ripoffs) of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, Roger Corman’s New Horizons made a sword and sorcery version of the tale.
Sadly, this is terribly boring and like many of David Carradine’s lower tier schlock flicks, he doesn’t even really seem to care too much about performance in this one.
While that is a knock against Carradine, the guy was truly great when he wanted to be. But maybe he’s one of those guys that needs good motivation from the director.
I don’t think that Carradine got that direction here and all of the other actors just sort of seem to be dialing it in. This feels more like a community theater rehearsal than a legit motion picture. That could be due to the inexperience of the director or simply because the script and story are uninspiring and overly derivative.
Additionally, the special effects are subpar, even for a foreign made Conan ripoff. Although, I did enjoy some of the sets. But to be fair about that, it really isn’t hard creating a sword and sorcery world. I have an ex-girlfriend whose house looks like half the sets in this film because she’s a witch and never cleans up after herself or her pets.
The biggest problem with this movie is that it is simply boring. Yes, I already pointed that out but it can’t be stated enough. I can look past some of the faults I already listed if I can be engaged or energized by something. This film, to its extreme detriment, just drained my battery dry.
If you are a big fan of cheap-o sword and sorcery flicks, you’ll probably still want to pass on this one. That is, unless you’re a David Carradine completist. If that’s the case, I don’t envy you, as he’s starred in some really dreadful shit.
Rating: 2/10 Pairs well with: other cheap sword and sorcery movies of the early ’80s.
Also known as: Highlander 2 (unofficial title) Release Date: January 31st, 1991 (Germany) Directed by: Russell Mulcahy Written by: Peter Bellwood, Brian Clemens, William N. Panzer Based on: characters by Gregory Widen Music by: Stewart Copeland Cast: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Virginia Madsen, Michael Ironside, John C. McGinley, Allan Rich
“Most people have a full measure of life… and most people just watch it slowly drip away. But if you can summon it all up… at one time… in one place… you can accomplish something… glorious.” – Ramirez
How do you follow up a pretty awesome and unique film that didn’t need a sequel?
Well, you completely fuck everything up and produce a cheap, trashy, nonsensical, unnecessary clusterfuck and release it on the world!
Highlander II: The Quickening is a complete bastard of a motion picture and one of the worst sequels in history. But I’ll explain, as there is actually a lot to pick apart with this piece of rabid, foaming horseshit.
The biggest problem with this, more than anything, is the plot. Instead of the Immortals just being an unknown cosmic mystery that just exist, this film turns them into space aliens from a far off planet. The ones on Earth were basically exiled away for whatever reason and they must fight until “there can be only one”. That “one” then wins “The Prize”, which is now, essentially, a trip back to their home planet. I mean, what in the absolute fuck?
And that doesn’t even get into how secondary that whole plot point is, as the film spends more time focused on trying to take down an energy shield that was created by MacCleod to replace the o-zone layer, which was destroyed by pollution. Never mind that the Earth looks even more polluted and somehow this energy shield wrecked the world’s economy because it’s convenient for the plot, which needed this film to be set in a cyberpunk dystopian future.
I think I’m retelling this right but this picture had an effect on my brain where it made me feel completely smashed without actually sipping a drop of alcohol. I’m still immensely hungover from this cinematic swill.
It honestly feels like the filmmakers were given a script about o-zone layers and energy shields that wasn’t even related to the Highlander mythos and they decided to rework it just to throw the Highlander name on it and to bank on getting Sean Connery in this flaming turd.
The second worse thing about this picture is the acting. Almost every character in this, especially the baddies, acts absolutely and utterly insane. And not in a good way that the film calls for. It’s like they rounded up all the villain actors and locked them into a prison cell made out of cocaine, which they then had to snort their way out of. Well, except John C. McGinley, he’s actually really dull by comparison when looking at Michael Ironside and those flying, primal weirdos that look like they’re from an ’80s Norwegian industrial band.
On the flip side of that, Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery are also really dull. Lambert plays this like he’s a charisma vacuum while Connery makes sure that the audience understands that he doesn’t endorse this film and just needed to buy his wife a new house.
I guess Virginia Madsen is the most likable person in the movie but she’s completely drowned out by all the fuckery going on around her.
The third worse thing is the special effects and the general aesthetic of the movie. They’re deplorable by 1991 standards and this looks a lot cheaper than the first film. I mean, they’re embarrassingly bad. Almost every sequence in this film looks like a cutscene from an early ’90s cyberpunk PC game. You know, back when they would hire really inexperienced actors to act out live action scenes with terrible effects and dystopian sci-fi sets all around them.
I could go on and keep picking out more negatives but this motion picture doesn’t deserve to have a novel written about it.
I’d talk about the positives but honestly, there aren’t any. And that’s not me being a dick, there really isn’t anything I can pull out of the bottom of this Port-O-Let and say, “Well, this little nugget here isn’t total shit.”
In the end, it was really hard to sit through this and I honestly don’t know if I can get myself to sit through the three sequels after this one. From memory, this was the worst in the series but I don’t have very fond feelings for the others, either.
Rating: 2/10 Pairs well with: the other Highlander sequels, none of which come close to the cool and original first film.
Also known as: Deathstalker II (original title) Release Date: September 12th, 1987 (Japan) Directed by: Jim Wynorski Written by: Neil Ruttenberg, Jim Wynorski Music by: Chuck Cirino Cast: John Terlesky, Monique Gabrielle, John LaZar, Toni Naples, Maria Socas
Aries Films International, New Horizons Pictures, Concorde Pictures, 85 Minutes
“You have to get up pretty early in the morning to catch the prince of thieves.” – Deathstalker, “It is early in the morning!” – Princess Evie
I’ve already reviewed the first and third Deathstalker movies because watching these in order doesn’t really matter. Each film seems to have its own tone, a totally different actor in the lead role and they’re mostly total crap.
However, this one is actually kind of enjoyable.
I think that this chapter is the most palatable because it is actually a lighthearted comedy mixed with sword and sorcery and glorious boobs. It has a charm that the other movies don’t and frankly, the two leads in this are more charismatic than the leads in any of the other films.
That could also be due to the fact that I’ve been crushing hard on Monique Gabrielle ever since I saw her in The Return of Swamp Thing, as a kid. Finding out later that she was a Penthouse Pet was a pretty stellar discovery in my teen years.
Like the other films, this one was made by Roger Corman’s studio but he didn’t direct it. Instead, he hired Jim Wynorski, who had just come off of directing the cult classic horror/sci-fi/comedy, Chopping Mall. I think that his style was beneficial to this picture and how it was presented as a more amusing movie than its predecessor.
The story is pretty cookie cutter stuff for cheap Conan knockoffs but it has some unique bits. For one, we are treated to an intergender wrestling match in an actual ring around the midpoint of the film. Also, it doesn’t try to emulate and ripoff Conan as much as the first film and works as its own thing in a similar setting.
The special effects are pretty cheap but everything still looks okay for what this is. It certainly looks better than the European sword and sorcery movies of the era. In fact, it feels similar in visual tone to the first Beastmaster. Sure, it lacks Beastmaster‘s hard edge but it utilizes the night in the same way, keeping things kind of small scale, production-wise, without exposing too many of its budgetary flaws.
All praise aside, this is still a cheap movie, as Roger Corman associated productions go. But out of the Deathstalker pictures, I’d say that it looks the best and uses its budget pretty well.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with: the other Deathstalker films and other very low budget barbarian movies.
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
“All the power comes to me.” – Munkar
The only Deathstalker I remember seeing in its entirety 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.
Also known as: Deep Sleep (English title) Release Date: October 11th, 2013 (Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival – Spain) Directed by: Luciano Onetti Written by: Luciano Onetti Music by: Luciano Onetti Cast: Luciano Onetti, Daiana Garcia, Silvia Duhalde
Guante Negro Films, 67 Minutes
I didn’t even know about this film’s existence until I was perusing the depths of Shudder. But when I read that it was an Argentinean film that was a modernized version of classic ’70s giallo, I had to give it a watch. Plus, it was only 67 minutes so if it was painful to get through, at least I wouldn’t have to be committed to it for 90 minutes or more.
Anyway, one guy pretty much made this film. He had a few other actors he needed but he directed it, wrote it, produced it, did the music and starred in it. I guess this is a good way to make sure that the film matches your vision and this guy certainly had a unique vision.
What’s cool about this film is that the visual style of it works and for the most part, the set design was well done even if it was minimalistic. I liked the lighting and the general cinematography. However, a lot of the camerawork left a lot to be desired.
Most of the shots were done in extreme closeup and it made the film surreal but mostly just disorienting. While a sense of disorientation is most assuredly what the director was going for, it becomes pretty unwatchable after just the first few minutes. It’s something that works best if used sparingly but the effect was overwhelming and distracting to what the rest of the film was trying to convey. Really, this just felt like a 67 minute music video for a ’90s industrial band without any awesome industrial music to back it up.
I don’t like to shit on someone’s art unless it is terrible, pretentious, self-serving bullshit. This doesn’t quite feel like that but it does ride the fence of pretentiousness.
If one wants to recreate the effect of a classic giallo, one really needs to employ great set design, a masterful use of color, as well as a more calculated and broader range in regards to their cinematography. While this captures some of the giallo vibe, it misses the mark in most of the key areas.
This feels more like an experimental project from a young film student than an actual film. That’s not a bad thing but the work needs to be fine tuned and expand outward, painting a world beyond tight closeup shots and pretty standard driving scenes. But there is talent here.
The director’s films after this have higher ratings on IMDb, so maybe he was able to build off of this. I may check them out in the future, if I can find them streaming.
Rating: 4.5/10 Pairs well with: Mario Bava and Dario Argento giallo films but those are better than this.
Also known as: El mago del reino perdido (Argentina), Wizard Wars (US alternate title) Release Date: October 1985 (US) Directed by: Héctor Olivera Written by: Ed Naha Music by: James Horner, Christopher Young Cast: Bo Svenson, Vidal Peterson, Thom Christopher
This was a really tough movie to sit through. At least I got to experience it in an episode of the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Jonah and the ‘Bots made it watchable, at least and their skits were good.
This is an Argentinian film that tries to mesh together The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. I think it was made more to capitalize off of the popularity of family fantasy movies like The NeverEnding Story and The Dark Crystal. It isn’t as well done as those pictures. In fact, it is poorly made and incredibly ridiculous.
The quality of this film from a special effects standpoint is laughably bad. In fact, it looks worse than Soviet fairytale movies that predate this by two decades. The wizard kid’s sidekick is basically a Wampa from The Empire Strikes Back without a face. He’s just a seven foot tall white shag carpet. It looks like a character from an old Sid & Marty Kroft show.
The biggest star in this thing is Bo Svenson, which should say a lot. He’s our big hero and instead of being some bad ass barbarian swordsman, we get a big out of shape guy that looks like he drank all the Old Crow at a Kris Kristofferson concert. He looks like a drunk extra from The Road Warrior. He’s like that drunken hobo that just shaved so he can apply for a job at True Value. And someone gave this turkey a sword.
Wizards of the Lost Kingdom is mind numbingly bad. I can’t imagine that this movie made any sort of money but somehow there was a sequel made four years later. That one is also in the new season of MST3K, so I guess I’ll be stuck watching it too.