Today I watched Albert Pyun’s The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)
We kick off Albert Pyun week with a classic slice of 80’s fantasy cheese. The film opens with the nefarious Cromwell resurrecting a long dead sorcerer and bartering for his power to overthrow King Richard. Cromwell uses this black magic but on the eve of his victory he betrays the sorcerer and casts him off of a cliff. This does little to hinder his assent to the throne but Richard’s eldest son escapes into the wilderness. The son, Talon, grows up to become a roguish, Conan the Barbarian-esque mercenary and when he finally returns to the kingdom another noble, a distant relative has already launched a rebellion. Meanwhile the evil sorcerer is still alive, of course, and he subtly manipulates events to forward his own boundless ambition.
This movie does a surprisingly good at balancing all of these plot threads and explaining everyone’s angle. Throughout the film Cromwell always imagines that every threat to his kingdom originates from the betrayed sorcerer which keeps that distant threat present despite the Sorcerer being pretty far in the background for most of the film. Cromwell is also a solid villain in his own right, his paranoia makes him keenly intelligent and he consistently foils the protagonists until the very end.
Talon, the protagonist, is quite rough around the edges, his life of violence and the chip on his shoulder from having witnessed his mother and father’s deaths are all readily apparent. Perhaps the film revels too much in his antiheroic nature though, it is too easy to forget that the flaws that make such characters compelling are still flaws. This runs into some classic 80’s misogyny which makes one or two scenes more than a little uncomfortable. It would be one thing if Talon’s arc included learning to respect women a little more but this is not focused on.
Despite some moral issues the film is well paced and comes to quite the action packed climax. The special effects are quite good here, especially the gore which produces some surprisingly grotesque moments. It is quite a derivative work but it offers pure entertainment without cynicism, it may hold itself with a certain naivete but that is practically a required feature for what it is. As a piece of classic fantasy film fare you can go plenty more wrong than this entertaining flick. 4/5