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The Sword and the Sorcerer… a tale of my aging memory

I spent a couple of hours this weekend trying to remember the name of a movie I vaguely recall watching many years ago. It was back in the ’80s, during the era of Conan and its imitators: the era of Sword and Sorcery movies. I recall the film being kind of fun: a first rate B movie, if that makes sense. Yet I couldn’t recall a title or, with any certainty, the details of the plot.

I remembered two scenes from the movie, and possibly a third one. I wasn’t sure if perhaps I was misremembering, and combining these scenes from several different movies together into some sort of frankenmemory. I recounted my vague recollections to my nephew Shane when we were talking about other movies, and to my friend Chris, who I recall was there when I saw this particular flick all those years ago.

The scenes I remember were as follows.

  • The hero, the typical sword wielding warrior type, leaves a tavern carrying a giant drumstick (presumably from a four foot tall turkey) that he is snacking on. He stumbles across a young woman about to be raped by a group of bad guys. After making some sort of witty remark, he proceeds to beat the crap out of the villains using nothing but the drumstick. He has a sword…he just chooses not to use it
  • the hero again, this time after having been captured. He is nailed to an x-shaped cross with big steel spikes through the center of each hand. He pulls the spikes out of the wood and, with the spikes still stuck through his hands, begins to beat the crap out of the main villain’s henchmen
  • The third scene I recalled was one I couldn’t be completely sure was from the same movie. I had a recollection of the main evil wizard guy being “resurrected” from a funky coffin-thing, the sides of which were made up of carved images of writhing faces. During his resurrection, the faces came to life… and the process ended when the wizard used his magic to rip the still beating heart from the witch who dared to bring him back to life. Since I was pretty vague on this memory, I didn’t mention it to Chris or Shane

Shane thought I might be talking about Flesh and Blood, a classic “medieval setting” movie from the same period. I remember seeing that movie as well, and it is another one I enjoyed… but it wasn’t the right movie. My friend Chris tried to help me, but directed me to another “close but no match” entry in the genre: DeathStalker 2. Once I found a couple of grainy clips from it I realized it wasn’t what I was remembering. Unlike the movie I recalled, DeathStalker 2 seemed to be burdened with painfully wooden and downright bad acting- yeah, I know, this is sort of the forte of B movies, but the movie I recalled was humorous, not painful.

So, why was I seeking this barely recollected movie out? For some reason, it has bubbled up through my conscious mind as a “happy” piece of my youth. I remember talking about the main character in Dungeons and Dragons terms. He was obviously a ninth or tenth level fighter, and you could almost imagine the writers being gamers based on how the scenes played out. The bad guys assaulting the girl were obviously first level- beating them to a pulp with a turkey leg would be easy, and drawing a sword would almost be unsporting. Spikes through the hands? Just like in D&D, if the injury didn’t kill the warrior, it didn’t really “count”. And the hand-spikes make great weapons. Pop them out a moment later and you can grab a sword and start slaying bad guys without any signs of injury: after all, those spikes did maybe ten or twelve hitpoints of damage, tops, and a tenth level fighter probably has 100 hitpoints. Truly, it was classic stuff.

I did actually ultimately find the movie I was remembering: The Sword and the Sorcerer. How did I find it? By entering the genre search phrase “sword and sorcery” into various search engines- little did I know the the movie I was looking for had such an obvious name. I found a more complete review of the movie with some screen shots, then found a place to download the whole thing. I won’t bother recording where exactly, since the link I used will probably be gone by the time you read this: suffice it to say that a torrent of bits can be very helpful in finding some content that is out of circulation these days. I watched the whole movie, and it has all the pieces I remember, plus a few I had forgotten completely like the three-bladed sword.

Was The Sword and the Sorcerer as good and/or as much fun as I recall? Yes, actually- the humor still works, the action is well paced, the acting is reasonably skillful and, given the age of the film. the special effects aren’t too bad. I was surprised to find that the movie made over $40 million in its original release and, if you watch the closing credits, there was a sequel planned. The sequel was never made, though- probably a good thing, given how rarely a sequel lives up to the standards of the original. I also stumbled across several other movies from that era

5 comments to The Sword and the Sorcerer… a tale of my aging memory

  • Rumour has it the guy that made the first movie is now, finally, making the sequel. http://www.aintitcool.com/node/33581

  • Only 26 years late- good for them 🙂

    I’ll be curious about what comes out of this effort- as I say, the original movie is one I truly enjoyed, and if they can recapture that it would be worth seeing. But it will be a completely different movie: the main actors would all be too old and unlikely to want to recapture their original characters in any case, for one thing.

  • Oblivions

    For some reason, Johnny Mnemonic came to mind last night in that same sort of fuzzy haze. I was thinking hey, that’s be a great movie to see again, I knew it had a very young Keneau (spelling?), was something of a “thought provoking topic” and… that was kind of it.

    All I know is, I must see it.

    I picked up Clash of the Titans under the same sort of whimsy of the past… and found out that one could have stayed there.

  • I find the younger you were when you saw something the more likely it is that you will find that what was “great” really blows chunks now. Another warning sign is if you remember it for some reason other than it being funny. Our sense of humour changes as we get older, but I guess not as much as out tastes in special effects, or grand intellectual ideas.

    And of course, sometimes, when we are kids, we can just look past the cheesy styrofoam sets and pathetic dialog easier than when we are adults.

    It’s before Oblivion’s time, but Kelly might remember “Starlost” or “Earth Ship Ark”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMAi6u4Ps5A

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Starlost

    It had some great ideas – the initial concept was developed by Harlan Ellison – and as an 8-9 year old I loved it. Now, even though it still has great ideas it is just too painful to watch the cheesy special effects, the cheap sets and the horrible acting and writing.

  • Yeah, sometimes the human system of memory does a bang-up job editorializing. Remember that discussion we had a while back on the deceptive nature of human perception and memory? As much as I like to think of my mind as a finely honed machine, the truth is that all of us are victims of our own self deceptions.

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