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The Sword and the Sorcerer: Collector's Edition (1982)
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Details At A Glance
Audio Commentary-Feature length with director and film critic.
Theatrical Trailer-(3:01) Uncensored version
Theatrical Trailer-(3:02) Censored version
Theatrical Trailer-The Beastmaster (2:08)
Theatrical Trailer-Perils of Gwendoline (1:35)
Theatrical Trailer-Barbarian Queen (1:48)
Year Of Production
||Cast & Crew
Beyond Home Entertainment
Anthony De Longis
Nina Van Pallandt
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
The success of John Boorman's Excalibur (1981) was directly responsible for the production of The Sword and the Sorcerer. We learn this fact from the totally fascinating commentary on the recent Big Sky release of this cult action flick, from then first time director/producer Albert Pyun. Pyun had been trying for four years to find a studio that would accept his property. The following year, 1982, was to see the emergence of Conan the Barbarian, directed by John Milius, and the Dungeons and Dragons inspired genre was set to roar through the 80s. Although there are actually no dragons or monsters in Pyun's brainchild, there is enough of everything else to make this endure as a genuinely enjoyable "sword and sorcery" epic.
Aided by two more film novices, Tom Karnovski, now successful producer with recent credits May Payne, 10000 BC and The Illusionist, and John V. Stuckmeyer, producer of The Librarian : The Curse of the Judas Chalice, Pyun's screenplay is perhaps a little too dense, with an excess of plot detail and characters. This is to a degree overcome by the clunky voiceover narration, supplied by Simon MacCorkindale. (The commentary/interview gives interesting insight into why the original narrator, Oliver Reed, was replaced by young Simon.) The narrator device accepted, there is no problem in following the machinations of the plot. It is all here; murdered good royal family, evil usurping kings, an avenging son, a virtuous deposed prince and princess, a resurrected wizard, exciting swordplay - involving a humongous triple-bladed broadsword with amazing extra capabilities, oiled muscular torsos, torture and gorgeous slave girls. Pyun shot two versions of the sexier scenes, and fortunately we have the version with the slave girls nipples exposed most attractively. What really sets this above the rather lumbering Conan sagas is the tongue-in-cheek exuberance of it all. This no doubt comes from the youth of those involved - the director, writers, and three principals all under thirty. Lee Horsley (TV's Matt Houston) makes a very fine hero of Talon, handsome and athletic without looking like he came straight from a workout with his personal trainer. As Prince Mikah and Princess Alana, Simon MacCorkindale (Death on the Nile) and Kathleen Beller (Godfather II) take the acting honours, as well as contributing some contrasting eye candy. Beller looks quite lovely throughout, in one scene receiving a sensuous nude massage, while a loin clothed MacCorkindale is strung up, evidently oiled from head to toe, and tortured. In the climax, Horsley is also stripped to a loincloth and crucified. Richard Lynch avoids cliché as the evil King, Titus Cromwell, allowing George Maharis as the sinister Machelli to camp it up unopposed. There are other faces that will be recognized mainly from TV, including Richard Moll (Night Court) and Joe Regalbuto (Murphy Brown).
Despite a tight budget, the film looks good. The murky dark dungeons undoubtedly cover much of the economising, and some of the processing work is poor. There are even some instances of stock footage being used. Compensating for this is the authentic look of the settings and the costumes. There is also some excellent and spectacular stunt work. The film is dedicated to Jack Tyree, a stuntman killed in a cliff fall during production. The original score by David Whitaker (Vampire Circus) is strongly reminiscent of an Errol Flynn action adventure at Warners, and at times reaches quite epic proportions. The camerawork by Joseph Mangine is imaginative and technically excellent.
I had fondly remembered The Sword and the Sorcerer from my early laser disc days and it is very pleasing to see it having an anamorphic widescreen release on DVD. At the beginning of the original end credits we are advised to "watch for Talon's next adventure : Tales of the Ancient Empire - coming soon". It has taken twenty-seven years, but finally that promised movie is in production under Pyun's direction. Lee Horlsey is again on-hand, presumably to pass on the legendary sword to his son, and others to appear include Christopher Lambert and Kevin Sorbo. Albert Pyun was twenty-eight when Talon first wielded his mighty sword, and it will be exactly twenty-eight years later that the sequel will finally appear. I wonder if a middle-aged Pyun will be able to recapture the exuberance and joy in life that makes the original still so enjoyable.
A minor whinge. Why was the original artwork, retained on the picture disc, not used on the slick?
Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.
Evidently the same transfer as was used in the US Anchor Bay release of April 2001, the reality is that a catalogue title such as this will never be given a major restoration. It is good news, then, that the source material used for this release is in good condition, and is of highly acceptable quality.
The transfer is 16x9 enhanced and is presented in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.83:1. The original theatrical ratio was 1.85:1.
The print is reasonably clean, though frequently has a dark, murky look - but then what can you expect in a dungeon? The opening titles are particularly murky, but once they are over the image clears considerably.
The image is softer than we have become accustomed to. There is a considerable amount of grain, but the colour palette is fine. There are scenes that are suitably brown and dark, but in other scenes, such as with the scantily clad maidens or a cave scene (18:50) colours are quite vibrant and vivid.
There is some pixelation and the occasional digital artefact, but generally this is a surprisingly clean presentation.
There were no noticeable film artefacts.
There are no subtitles.
Video Ratings Summary
The feature has three English audio streams; Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 Kbps, Dolby 2.0 Surround encoded (192 Kbps), and a Director's Commentary in Dolby Surround (192 Kbps).
The slick for the 2001 Anchor Bay release in the US states that the feature utilises "Chace Digital Stereo", while this local Blue Sky release informs us of the three streams above. I have tried playing the disc on three different systems, and if the 5.1 track is selected you certainly gain an enveloping sound, but everything comes from all channels, including the dialogue. If the 2.0 stream is chosen, the sound field is reduced but dialogue is front centre, and the music and effects are in the rears. The film certainly feels like an "epic" with the 5.1 stream, but you may find the enveloping dialogue a bit distracting.
Apart from the above concern the soundtrack is in good shape. Dialogue is clear, crisp and clean, with no sync problems. There is limited directional use across the fronts, and the music is most impressive when in epic mode. I could detect no clicks or dropouts, but noticed a low background sound, rather like the sound of distant surf, in the rears. This was only noticeable with my head literally plugged into the rear speakers. I could detect no discrete contribution from my subwoofer.
The audio on the commentary track is very clear and clean, my only grumble being the failure to adjust the soundtrack's level when there was nothing coming from the two contributors.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
The only real extra is the commentary track, which is a good one.
Main Menu The main menu is presented over a montage of live action highlights from the film.
The options presented are : Play with Dolby Surround
Play with Dolby Stereo
Scene Index : Selection freezes the live action montage and offers three sets of six live action thumbnails, plus score.
Extras : See below.
Trailer 1 (3:01)
This full theatrical trailer is in excellent condition, though not as sharp as the film itself. Presented at 1.85:1, and 16x9 enhanced, the trailer is extremely well constructed, with well chosen moments from the film, showing skin, humour and action. This is the bare-breasted "uncensored version".
Trailer 2 (3:02)
Here we have the "censored' version of the same trailer - with flimsy adornments added to the costumes of the ladies concerned.
TV Spot (0:29)
Presented at 1.33:1 in a 4x3 transfer the quality is way below that of the theatrical trailers. The "dungeons and dragons" connection (?) is heavily stressed.
Audio Commentary :
This feature length commentary is exclusive to the Australian release. Director Albert Pyun is interviewed by film critic Chris Gore, a self-confessed cinema geek. The interview evidently took place towards the ends of 2008, with references to the final realisation of the movie's sequel. Pyun and Gore complement one another very well, Gore's exuberance contained a little by the more sedate director. The two cover the four-year gestation of the project, the influence of the 40s swashbuckling films and their music - Pyun is unable to remember Erich Wolfgang Gorngold's name - the auditions - including one by Lorenzo Lamas - and casting (David Hasselhoff was a possibility for Talon), Oliver Reed's replacement, the influence of the Samuria films on Pyun during his Hawaiian boyhood, and a host of reminiscences about the production. Pyun is extremely honest in his acknowledgement of his inexperience contributing to problems during shooting, problems that led to him twice to the brink of quitting the production. The two also discuss the upcoming sequel - after over a quarter of a century. This is a pretty good commentary track, only marred by a failure to monitor the level of the film's audio. Occasionally the two pause in their discussion to let us hear the actual soundtrack, but the audio level is left low. Pity.
Other Fantasy Trailers
Three other titles locally available through Blue Sky are :
The Beastmaster (2:08)
Presented at the ratio of 1.85:1, in a 16x9 transfer with Dolby Digital 2.0 encoded at 224 Kbps. This trailer, of one of the best sword and sorcery films featuring the resplendent Marc Singer, is in excellent condition.
Barbarian Queen (1:48)
Presented at the ratio of 1.33:1 in a 4x3 transfer, this looks like a lifeless soft porn entry, and is just passable quality.
The Perils of Gwendoline (1:35)
The full title being The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak, this looks like it might be enjoyable trash. The 1.85:1 image is given a 4x3 transfer, and the picture quality is fairly good.
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
The audio stream issue aside - see above - the local release has the addition of the audio commentary, which is well worth listening to.
© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Saturday, October 24, 2009
|DVD||SONY BLU RAY BDP-S350, using HDMI output|
|Display||Samsung LA55A950D1F : 55 inch LCD HD.
Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player.
Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|
Thanks for the heads-up, Garry
- Bran (my bio, or something very like it) REPLY POSTED