Saturday, December 20, 2014

Annie (2014)

Modernizing Little Orphan Annie is certainly not a bad idea as one would have a hard time releasing a movie today featuring a war profiteer who rails against organized labor, is portrayed as an idealized capitalist and not be the film’s bad guy. Adopting a dozen red headed moppets couldn’t soften that image for today’s audiences.

Annie banner 
It’s a hard knock life!

Enter producer Will Smith and director Will Gluck who drag everyone’s favorite little orphan girl into 21st Century with a little African-American alteration in casting and some sweeping changes to the world of Little Orphan Annie. For me, and I’d like to think most people, the changing of Annie from red-headed Caucasian girl to a African-American one doesn’t even make a blip any political correctness radar, and the casting of Quvenzhané Wallis is easily the best decision this movie makes, sadly it is one of only a few good decisions this movie makes.

Little Foster Annie.

Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) is a sweet orphan kid living with a group of other foster girls living under the drunken care of Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz) who is only in it for the $157 dollars a week per kid she gets from the government. This Mrs. Hannigan is a little on the lighter side when compared to the Carol Burnett version we got in the 1982 movie as this updated Hannigan is more bitter than mean, she has a backstory where we find out she came close to fame as a singer and then had it snatched away from her at the last minute, this makes her eventual redemption more believable.

I was in the mask 
“I use to sing at the Coco Bongo club!”

In the case of this films Daddy Warbucks analog we have Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) a billionaire who made his money in cell phones and now wants to be Mayor of New York City. We learn that he grew up in Queens but due to a tough work ethic he developed from his now deceased father he rose to the top of his field, and because this is Movie Cliché Land hard work always means you’re neglecting the important things in life. He doesn’t notice that his chief assistant Grace Farrell (Rose Byrne) is in love with him or that his campaign advisor Guy (Bobby Cannavale) is a slimy asshat, but worst of all is that he has basically lost touch with “The People.” Apparently this is a near unforgivable sin.  He desperately needs something to soften his image.

jamie foxx 
Can a singing orphan girl save this poor billionaire?

We are treated to most of the songs from the original musical, as well as a few new ones, and overall they are quite well done, but where the film fails is in its attempts at comedy and in its horrible third act.  And I do mean horrible, the level of lazy writing for this movie’s conclusion is staggering, at no point does slimy campaign advisor’s plan to create fake parents for Annie make any sense, nor in any way would it not land all involved in jail.

“Help, I’ve been kidnapped by a plot contrivance!”

And as for the supposed comedy, well there is a scene in this film where Will takes Annie to a movie premiere and he acts as if he’s never seen a movie before, jumping out of his seat and shouting at the characters on screen, he grew up in Queens not the jungles of Borneo for Pete’s sake! It’s this kind of culture class comedy that prevents this film from being a decent adaptation as everyone in this production is talented, the songs are tried and true, so it comes down to the failure of the screenplay and the direction, well that and the fact that several of those talented people don’t actually know how to sing and are obviously aided by Auto-Tune.

“Next stop, Glee!”

Quvenzhané Wallis is a fantastic young performer, and she truly shines in this film, so her career will certainly not be harmed but its overall averageness. Just remember kid no matter what the critics say, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow!”

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

I don’t think you will find too many people that will dispute the fact that the book The Hobbit in no way warranted three movies let alone three overly long movies, but with Middle-earth source material drying up the studios convinced Peter Jackson to help them make as much money as possible. The parallel between MGM and New Lines blatant cash grab and Thorin Oakenshield’s descent into greedy madness was not lost on me.

The third installment starts right where the last one left off with a pissed off Smaug heading to Lake-town to let loose with some fiery vengeance, poor old Bard (Luke Evans) has been locked up by the corrupt Master of Lake-Town (Stephen Fry) and his stooge Alfrid (Ryan Gage) so he is at first unable to fight of the fire breathing dragon.

afrid and the Master 
The Dumb and Dumberer of Middle Earth.

Now the destruction we behold under this attack is spectacular but once again Peter Jackson can’t help himself by overdoing action sequences, Bard’s escape from captivity is not only stupid but too plot character coincidental. It’s as if Jackson was traumatized by Rube Goldberg Machine as a child and for some cathartic reason must now use such devices in every bloody action scene.

This on the other hand needs no action additives.

And what of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), in the book he was instrumental in defeating Smaug as upon his learning of the dragon’s missing scale a noble thrush delivers this news to Bard who with just a regular arrow brings down Smaug, now in the movies Bilbo learned of this vulnerability but as he never has a chance to pass this information along it now becomes irrelevant. Bard spots the missing scale on his own and uses the last of the “Black Arrows” to kill Smaug thus negating Bilbo’s importance in bringing down the dragon. Why a professed fan of Tolkien would make that change is beyond me. I assume it has something to do with him being against talking birds, because who would buy something like that in a fantasy story about dwarves and dragons?

Orcs with Frankenstein plates in their heads on the other hand is okay

In the first two movies Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) was a bit of a dick, but once he and the dwarves reclaim Erebor he goes right off the deep end into evil Scrooge McDuck territory and this brings up the biggest failing of the series, and especially the conclusion, and that is how quickly I stopped caring for any of these characters. Between Thorin’s gold fever, Bilbo’s advanced onset ring dementia, Bard and Alfrid’s constant conflicts, and the love story between Kili (Aidan Turner) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) I found myself so overloaded that my only defense was to shout, “Stop, I just don’t give a shit!”

Remember when this was about a Hobbit and his fun adventures with the dwarves?

One of the strangest elements in this movie is Jackson’s obsession with the character of Alfrid, who is just a one note toady and not all that interesting, and once Lake-Town was destroyed that should have been the last we ever saw of him, but no he keeps popping up again and again until I’m up out of my seat screaming, “Will someone please just kill that asshole already!” I know Jackson had to add stuff to stretch this story into a trilogy but I would have taken anything over that, even more drippy dwarf/elf love that dare not speak its name.

kili and tariel 
“I’m sorry, but I’m immortal and you…you are short.”

Now I’m not saying this film is without merit, Peter Jackson and company bring some pretty amazing visuals to life and I cannot say any actor gave a bad performance, well maybe Ryan Gage as Alfrid he kinda sucked, but most of the cast was hampered by a script that went for the cinematic spectacle over true character moments. When the Five Armies do clash it is pretty remarkable, and we finally get to see what an army of dwarves look like and I must say I wouldn’t want to face them in battle. Seriously, Thorin’s cousin Dáin (Billy Connolly) constantly head-butts helmeted orcs with his bare noggin. Yikes!

Dwarves on War Goats!

Stray Thoughts:
• Bard must have rolled a natural 20 with his +4 arrow.
• The villains all had way too many, “Oh shit, he’s not actually dead!” moments.
• Were those bat creatures from Skull Island?
• I’ll admit the spectral nine that will become the Ring Wraiths were pretty sweet looking.
• Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) rocks the Dark Queen thing really well.
• Legolas (Orlando Bloom) steering a peg-legged troll was damn ridiculous.
• Bilbo Baggins, Action Hobbit! Really, was that necessary?
• Will elf  king Thanduill (Lee Pace) ever discover the true meaning of Christmas?

elf on a deer 
“Hey, Santa wants his deer and elves back!”

Thus closes the final chapter of The Hobbit and until Peter Jackson decides to make a quadrilogy out of the Farmer Giles of Ham this will be our last trip to Middle-earth for a while and I for one could use the break.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

As a genre, Christmas movies are sadly more more miss than hit. For every Miracle on 34th Street you have a dozen more like Santa Claus Conquerors the Martians. Now in 1985 the Salkinds decided to take a stab at it and with Supergirl director Jeannot Szwarc at the helm that’s exactly what we got…stabbed.

santa poster 
“You’ll believe a sleigh can fly!”

The movie starts out promising enough as we pan down from a starry sky to a snowy Scandinavian landscape and quaint cottage full of people eagerly awaiting the arrival of their beloved friend Uncle Claus (David Huddleston) who bring toys for all the children. Many are impressed that Claus can cut wood for the whole village and still have time to carve all the wooden toys he provides each year, but it is his love for the children that makes it all possible. After giving out wonderfully hand carved toys to the children, he and his wife Anya (Judy Cornwell) bid their friends goodbye as they have more stops to make, and even though the weather is getting bad they can’t even think of disappointing the children who live on the other side of the forest. The storm intensifies and soon their reindeer collapse in exhaustion as the snow whips around them. Claus embraces his wife as the winter storm takes their lives.

This is a pretty dark way to start your Christmas movie.

The Northern Star appears and a magical cone of light descends on the frozen countryside and out of it steps a large contingent of elves. Claus, his wife, and reindeer all wake up (resurrected?) as a group of colorfully dressed little people approach. They are led to their new home at the North Pole where they are informed by the Ancient Elf (Burgess Meredith) that Claus is The Chosen One and that he will fulfill the duties of the Prophecy.

“Let me tell you about the Matrix.”

When one delves to deeply into the how and the wherefore of Santa Claus things are going to get weird. It’s just best to explain as little as possible and get your plot moving along as quickly as you can.  Sadly that is not the case here.  In this film we find out that the elves have been making toys for ages-possibly centuries, but with no one to deliver them, they’ve just been stock piling them until The Chose One from the prophecy would arrive. Claus is told that he is to deliver these gifts to all the children of the world and when he mentions the feasibility of such a task being accomplished by a man his age, he is told that he will now live…forever.

“Get to work fat man.”

Yeah, that’s not terrifying at all. Some poor schnook and his wife get caught out in a storm, saved/resurrected by some creepy elves and then told that they will now be working in the toy delivery business for all of eternity because of some prophecy. Sounds more like a cult then a magical workshop.

They’re all just waiting for the comet to come take them away.

We are then treated to a montage of Santa Claus delivering toys to all the children of the world over the centuries, though as the dates climb closer and closer to modern times I start to doubt the veracity of demands for just dolls and wooden toys.

"Where’s my Atari game console?”

When Santa receives a letter from a little girl about how her brother tortures her cat, Mrs. Claus states that, “This boy should not get a present this year”, Santa is shocked by the suggestions, “You’ll have folks saying that Santa Claus only rewards the good little boys and girls.” Mrs. Claus’s rebuttal “Isn’t that as it should be?” And good all Kris Kringle immediately caves and orders his elves to start making lists because making lists never goes wrong.


Note: The letters arrive magically at the North Pole, flying through the air to be deposited down the chimney of Santa’s workshop, so one must assume they don’t get to use this fireplace for things such as I don’t know…fire?

It’s not until about the 40 minute mark that the real plot of the movie starts to rear its ugly head. A seemingly overworked Santa Claus promotes an elf named Patch (Dudley Moore) to assistant, but his radical ideas of mass production results in shoddily made toys and unhappy children on Christmas morning. A now disgraced Patch runs away to prove he is useful. Of course he ends up hooking up with the films villain B.Z. (John Lithgow) an evil toy manufacturer who is being investigated by a Senate committee for producing dangerous products.

Does the United States Senate actually oversee the quality of toy manufacturing?

The other key players in this movie are Joe (Christian Fitzpatrick) a homeless kid who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus and Cornelia (Carrie Kei Heim) a little rich girl who we later learns is being raised by her step-uncle (That’s a thing?) and turns out to be the evil B.Z -our chief villain. The relationship that develops between Joe and Cornelia shifts from insulin shock inducing sweetness to kind of creepy as they are only about nine years old. Though for me the most disturbing relationship is between Joe and Santa as it seems that Santa befriends Joe, (Later Joe states that he is Santa’s only friend which is just sad and also, “Suck it elves!”) but each year when Santa drops by to visit he never once asks about Joe’s homeless state. The kid is an orphan living on the streets and all Santa gives him is a carved sculpture of Patch the elf. That’s just dick!

Joe must survive on product placements left out in the snow by sad little rich girls.

The stakes get raised when B.Z. dupes poor Patch into staying around and manufacturing him magical treats that allow the user to float up off the floor, and when this product becomes a Christmas hit that completely over shadows that old fashioned Santa Clause toy giving racket, B.Z. gets an idea- a wonderfully awful idea, that he can market a stronger dosed version of the magical treat that will allow kids to actually fly and then release it on March 25th in what he will call Christmas 2. Who knew toy manufactures had the power to create holidays, I thought that was reserved for greeting card companies.

elf marketing 
I think the filmmakers are trying to say that the commercialism of Christmas is bad.

Aside from Santa being depressed at being upstaged (I myself would think he’d relish the idea of retirement by now) the real threat turns out to be that this new Christmas treat is dangerous and potentially lethal and that if it is placed near extreme heat it could explode. Joe is kidnapped by B.Z. for overhearing the plans to take over Christmas, because if word of that got out well…um…nothing would happen because that actually isn’t a crime, but then Cornelia overhears the exploding treat dilemma, which is a crime, she calls Santa because though she called 911 she doubts the police would believe a child about such things.

Villains need to stop discussing their evil plans in the kitchen.

Of course Santa will come to the rescue and B.Z. will be thwarted but how this ending plays out is just plain weird. Patch discovers Joe tied up and gagged in the factory boiler room and finally tumbles to the fact that B.Z. may not be all that nice of a guy, he and Joe decide to bring the treats to Santa at the North Pole but unfortunately the cargo hold of Patch’s flying sled isn’t heat shielded so poor Patch and Joe are mere moments from exploding all over the arctic, but Santa and Cornelia arrive in the nick of time and the day is saved. But what of B.Z. is he going to get his comeuppance?

Apparently the police do take calls from nine year old girls seriously.

The police arrive and arrest all of B.Z.’s associates because judges love to issue warrants based on one phone call and no actual evidence, but this does panic B.Z. who chows down on the amped up flying magical treats and escapes into the stratosphere.

“I regret nothing!”

So Christmas is saved and everyone parties down at Santa’s work shop but Joe wants to know what is to become of Cornelia as her guardian is currently orbiting the Earth.  Santa and Mrs. Claus agree that she can stay at the North Pole at least until next Christmas because no one will wonder whatever became of B.Z.s’ step-niece and most likely sole heir. As for Joe, well nothing is mentioned but we assume that he is finally taken in by the Clauses’ and is still slaving away at the toy factory to this very day.

“Child Services will never find you here.”

About the only real enjoyment I got out of this film was watching Lithgow hamming it up with the evil cranked up to eleven, but as his character doesn’t show up until the hour mark it’s really not worth the wait, and I haven’t even mentioned the puns- the never ending supply of elf puns that Patch tosses out at the drop of a hat. This films idea of humor is having Patch drop the “S” from self to make such bon mots as “I’m elf-taught” or “It’s elf-explanatory” and this goes on for the films entire running time. By the end of the film you are just begging for someone to ram a candy cane through his eye, and that this film was marketed as a Dudley Moore vehicle makes it all the worse.

There is a special room in Hell set aside for Patch.

Like Supergirl, this Christmas disaster just seemed to meander around without purpose, now Jeannot Szwarc pretty much stopped directing movies after Santa Clause: The Movie flopped but he has made a decent mark for himself in episodic television with great work on such shows as Fringe and Scandal.
So if you’re looking for a good Santa Clause story to watch I advise a viewing of the Rankin and Bass Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town and give this big budget extravaganza a miss.

I’ll say one positive thing and that is that the Big Lebowski does look the part.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The People That Time Forgot : Book vs Movie

The_People_That_Time_ForgotNestled inside the world’s largest volcanic crater is the land of Caspak. Its jungles teaming with countless varieties of prehistoric life, and it is in this terror-fuelled land that adventurer Tom Billings must look to find his lost friend, Bowen Tyler. Edgar Rice Burroughs returns us to this mysterious world where evolution has been turned on its head.

The People That Time Forgot was first published 1918 as a three part serial for Blue Book Magazine and is a direct sequel to The Land That Time Forgot. When we last left this lost world Bowen Tyler and lovely Lys La Rue were alone on the cliffs of Caprona, where Tyler had tossed a canteen into the sea that contained a manuscript of their travails.

When the manuscript is found, an expedition is quickly mounted and is led by Tom Billings who is the secretary of the Tyler family shipbuilding company and a long-time friend of Bowen Tyler himself. Billings is your standard pulp hero; strong, intelligent, courageous but a little thick when it comes to things of the heart. They arrive off the coast of Caprona, and its seemingly insurmountable cliff walls, but not insurmountable to American ingenuity as Billings came prepared with several options for getting up those sheer cliffs; the first was in drilling steps bit by bit up the rock face, another was to fire cables via mortars to the top and scale them that way but as the height of said cliffs was higher than even he expected he must put plan three into effect which is to assemble the seaplane he brought along for just such a contingency.

over the ice 
Over the ice.

The plan is simple. Fly up and scout this strange land via air, find a suitable landing place and then proceed to ferry the rest of the men up from the cliff base. Unfortunately things do not go exactly as planned as almost immediately upon entering Caspak airspace Billings is attacked by pterodactyls and though his seaplanes guns, as well as his not to shoddy piloting skills serve him well he eventually gets a bit too overconfident in his exploring and one final encounter with a flying saurian sends his plane crashing into the trees.

Cut off from his men and with no idea where Bowen Tyler or his company is Billings is forced to trudge on alone into the interior of Caspak hoping to either chance upon Tyler or find some other way down the cliff walls. As this is a pulp jungle adventure story, Billings almost immediately runs into a pretty face, a beautiful native girl named Ajor; who is running for her life from a group of Alus (Alus are the lowest evolutionary rung of men on Caspak) but with his pistol and rifle, Billings makes quick work of these Neanderthals. Ajor herself is a Galu which are the people who have achieved the highest form of evolutionary progress and are what all men of Caspak hope to someday become.

Classic cave girl cleavage.

With Ajor at his side Billings begins the long trek north to return Ajor to her people and to hopefully find some sign of Tyler. Along the way they encounter many of the primitive subhuman classes of Caspak; the club wielding Bo-Lu, the hatchet armed Sto-Lu, the spear wielding Band-Lu and the bow using Kro-Lu, each a step the evolutionary ladderm but all who seem intent to killing poor Tom on site and taking Ajor for their own. It’s on this journey we discover a little more on how evolution works here in this topsy-turvy world. It seems that each species of man all come from “the beginning” and that each individual will, over the course of seven cycles (700 years) move up the evolutionary ladder. At one point a Bo-Lu will receive the “calling” and will then leave behind his people, fashion himself a spear, and go and join the Sto-Lu. Thus the chain of evolution moves north across Caspak until eventually they end their journey as a Galu.

the ape men 
“As primitive as can be.”

Ajor is the rarest of creatures though her parents both made their seven cycle journey she was born a Galu,  and it is from her that we learn of the other race on Caspak that could be the greatest threat of all, the Weiroo who are a race of winged humanoids that because they are unable to sire anything other than males they must kidnap the young women Galus to keep their species alive. It’s this crazy world that Billings must try and understand or die, but with the strong and capable Ajor at his side, as well as with the allies he makes along the way, he just may do that and find Bowen Tyler.
Sadly the fascinating evolutionary biology of Caspak is pretty much abandoned when Amicus Productions translated this book to the big screen in 1977 with returning director Kevin Connor at the helm, and looking at this film it is no surprise to learn Amicus folded before the movie even got released.

movie poster montage 
If only the movie was as exciting as this poster.

As I mentioned in my review of The Land that Time Forgot how nice it was to find a low budget film that seemed to really care about the source material- sure there were some key changes from book to screen but as a whole it was fairly faithful and certainly captured the spirit of Burroughs’s work. So it was a shock to see that the same company that did so well by the first book in the series apparently didn’t even read The People That Time Forgot let alone try and make a faithful adaptation of it.

group shot 
“We may not have been in the book, but we suck.”

Right off the start the movie veers away from the book by having Tom’s character changed to Major Ben McBride (Patrick Wayne) a friend of Tyler’s who leads a small team to Caprona; Hogan (Shane Rimmer) mechanic and gunner, Norfolk (Thorley Walters) paleontologist, and Lady Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Cunningham (Sarah Douglas) photographer. So aside from having the lead being a man who was friends with Tyler the script completely jettisons the book. They do take a seaplane that is brought down by a pterodactyl but not because of the pilot’s over enthused adventurous nature but because they really suck at fighting off a flying dinosaur.

People That Time Forgot 016 
Machine gunning a slow gliding monster is apparently trickier than it looks.

After a rough forced landing they need to get their plane unstuck and after discovering a nearby stegosaurus they attach some cables to it so the poor beastie can be used as a winch system. Yes folks, the first things our heroes do upon discovering a living breathing dinosaur is to quickly use it as personal property. No one in this party will ever stop and marvel in awe at the majesty of this prehistoric world- they’re all basically assholes.

dino surprise 
Dinosaurs make no marked improvement for the sequel.

They eventually run into cave-girl Ajor (Dana Gillespie) who is only a name check from the book as her character has no bearing on the one from the pages of Burroughs’ novel. This version of Ajor speaks English because she was taught by Tyler, while the book Ajor knew nothing of Tyler or his friends and never even learns English but instead teaches Tom the language of Caspak. The language thing I can let slide for the ease of film story telling but making her Tyler’s friend is bullshit.
king koopa 
“Mongo just pawn in game of life.”

Ajor agrees to help them find Tyler (returning Doug McClure) and will lead them across this dangerous world where they will of course be assaulted by more cave people before finally running across samurai like warriors called the Nargas who had captured Tyler some time ago.

“There is a prehistoric samurai standing behind me, isn’t there?”

Why are their samurai warriors on the lost world of Caspak? Why did the filmmakers decide to create a completely new race of people when the book was just chock full of different races to choose from? This isn’t a case of lazy writing as it is just bad and pointless.

skull mountain 
Either King Kong or He-Man lives here.

The Nargas are an evil volcano worshiping people that toss the men of our group into the dungeons of Castle Grayskull while immediately deciding to sacrifice the women to appease the angry volcano god. Those gods are always angry.  The men are thrilled to find Tyler lollygagging around the dungeons and quickly team-up to rescue the girls.

our heroes 
McBride and Tyler to the rescue!

Once again the island is going through volcanic upheavals, something that never happened in either book, so not only do our heroes have to fight their way through the Temple of Dumb they have to keep ahead of a world exploding around them.

david prowse 
Note: This very same year this dude was dueling with Alec Guinness in Star Wars.

Now if the movie wasn’t dumb enough, we get Tyler deciding to hang back to sacrifice himself so that the others can escape. What the fuck? So not only does our intrepid group suck at adventuring, but they also fail at the very goal that brought them here. In the book Billings falls in love with Ajor and as this is a Burroughs book she is captured and must require rescuing, but when her and Billings find themselves surrounded by the their enemies and about to be killed Ajor’s people arrive in the nick of time to save them, and with them is Bowen Tyler. Also alive is Lys La Rue who in the movie world apparently died between films because fuck you, movie.

end of the world 
Random explosions are a sure sign of volcanic instability and also poor writing.

The book ends with Bowen Tyler, Lys La Rue and Tom Billings about to leave Caspak when it is revealed that Ajor cannot go with them because of her being born a fully evolved Galu rather than attaining that form through the usual metamorphosis. She must stay to ensure the progression of her people. Good old Tom decides at the last minute that he cannot live without Ajor and stays while Tyler and Lys leave for home after an assumed double wedding. In the movie there is no romantic involvement between Ben and Ajor at all as Lady Charlotte is clearly his intended love interest, so the film ends with everyone back on the boat, minus the now dead Tyler of course, and where Ajor is apparently given to Hogan as a conciliation prize for fixing the plane while everyone else was off adventuring.

he gets the girl 
Ajor starring in “I was a Mail Order Cave Bride.”

The book by Edgar Rice Burroughs is a fantastic adventure tale set in a prehistoric world of untold dangers where evolution spans the length of the land rather than time, while the film is a cheap knock-off that is cast with actors that don’t even seem to know what kind of movie they are supposed to be in and written by screenwriters that I’m assuming never got further than reading the inside flap of the book.

This was the last of the Burroughs three books adapted by Amicus Productions and one can only dream of what the third book of the Caspak Trilogy would have looked like if they hadn’t gone under.  What B-Movie star would we have seen battling the winged men of Caspak?
Christopher Lee in “Out of Time’s Abyss” perhaps?

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sorceress (1982) - Review

Fantasy films of today, with their epic scope and amazing visual effects, bear little resemblance to the Sword & Sorcery movies of the 80’s that I grew up with, still they were vastly entertaining and I will always have a soft spot for them, but today’s entry is one that I completely missed…until now.
How can you not love this poster?

Upon seeing Conan the Barbarian with Arnold Schwarzenegger; low budget movie making master Roger Corman knew there be gold in them their sandals and quickly gave staff writer Jim Wynorski the directive to go home and bring back a barbarian fuelled script in a weeks’ time with the only caveat being that it star two women. Thus 1982’s Sorceress was born.  With long time Corman veteran Jack Hill at the helm, Playboy Playmate twins sisters to star and a deal to film it in Mexico for obvious budgetary reasons, greatness awaited.

The movie begins with your standard fantasy opening, evil wizard Traigon (Roberto Ballesteros), to attain even greater power, must sacrifice his firstborn to the dark god Caligara. But not surprisingly his wife is not too keen on this idea and flees after giving birth. Traigon and his minions catch up to her but just as he is about to take away the baby for sacrificing he discovers that his wife gave birth to twins, and even under torture she will not reveal which of the babies was born first. Enter mystic warrior Krona (Martin LaSalle) who distracts Krona long enough for the wife to stab Traigon in the back with her dying breath. Traigon gives a dying declaration that he will return and then fades away in sparkly blue light.

Note: It is strange that sparkly blue light is the about the only sign of magic in a movie called Sorceress, which I guess isn’t too surprising as the movie does not contain an actual sorceress.

Krona vows to gift these twins with his powers and abilities as a warrior and is only briefly put out when he is told that they are “girl children.” Now one would expect a montage of these two growing up and being trained to be great warriors who will one day avenge their murdered mother but no, Krona places his hands on the twin babies and we get some more “sparkly blue light” and thus they are now going to become awesome warriors in the twenty year jump cut without the pesky need for training. Krona then drops the babes off with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru with strict instructions to raise them as boys because when Traigon returns he will be looking for twin girls. Brilliant plan, I like it.

We first see the now grown-up twin warriors Mira (Leigh Harris) and Mara (Lynette Harris) as they bathe nude in a stream while being spied upon by a satyr named Pando (David Millbern). Pando is armed with a reed flute and an apparently very noticeable penis as Mira and Mara mistake the thing between his legs for a weapon and punch him in the face. You see apparently the only way Mira and Mara could be raised as boys is to not tell them about the Birds and the Bees and to have them actually believe they are boys despite them having lady parts. The result is that as heroes Mira and Mara do not come off as the sharpest tools in the shed.

the twins 
Who would guess these two aren’t boys?

Followers of Traigon arrive at the home of the kindly farmers that raised our “heroes” and demand that they be told where they can find “The Two Who are One.” Which is fantasy speak for where are the twins that Traigon needs. The farmer refuses to cough up the information and not only is he and his wife brutally killed but the minions also rape their natural daughter before killing her as well. So in the first ten minutes of the movie we get a woman tortured to death, a nude scene with twin sisters and a horny satyr, the murder of their adoptive family and a rape. Roger Corman does not mess around.

blue magic 
This is a different kind of Blue Movie.

Mira and Mara arrive too late to save anyone but with their blue light infused powers they are able to defeat the villains easily. On hand to watch their remarkable fighting skills is Valdar (Bruno Rey) a Viking and our favorite satyr Pando, and why a satyr is hanging around with a Viking is one of the great untold mysteries of this film. Valdar is so impressed by the twins warrior abilities that he vows to protect them and aid them on their quest.  They never ask for his aid or even really seem to need it, but hey you’re getting a Viking’s help so suck it up.

hgar the horrible 
Valdar the Horrible and friend.

What follows is your standard fantasy quest as our “heroes” must face great adversity as they make their way to fulfill the prophecy or some such nonsense. At one point they hook up with a barbarian prince named Erlick (Roberto Nelson) who is introduced to us cheating at dice to show his roguish character, but barbarian Han Solo this guy is not. He immediately has less than pure thoughts about Mira and Mara but is hampered by the fact not only do they think they are boys but that they have no idea what the difference between boys and girls is let alone how babies are made.  This makes for an awkward and very creepy situation.

Traigon hasn’t just been sitting around twiddling his thumbs all this time as he has his super-hot priestess Delissia (Ana De Sade) and her ape sidekick to help track down “The Two Who are One.” The sheer goofiness of the ape Hunnu (Douglas Sanders) beggar’s description and when he and his ape army bombard our heroes with laughing gas filled exploding coconuts it is cinematic joy.

What the fuck 
Hunnu is nightmare fuel, plain and simple.

So Mira and Erlick are captured and with some fast talking and a little mind altering drinks Traigon convinces Mira that he is a victim of nasty propaganda and that all he wants is what is best for his daughter. Meanwhile Delissia seduces the drugged Erlick, convincing him that it is in everyone’s benefit that he have sex with Mira and then later sacrifice her to Caligara. He seems cool with that. What is really not cool is that Mira and Mara are psychically linked so that they always feel what the other is experiencing so that when Erlick proceeds to have sex with the drugged Mira we are treated to Mara writhing around on the ground in coital bliss. Valdar realizes what is happening and when Mara proceeds to go onto a second earth-shattering orgasm Valdar concludes it’s all good as that means it must be Erlick providing the lovin. *sigh*

Will Mira and Mara be reunited? Can Erlick shake off his drugged stupor and save Mira from the dark god Caligara? Can Traigon be defeated in time? Will someone please shoot Pando? All these questions and more are answered in the exciting conclusion of Sorceress. This is really one of those “seeing is believing” type movies as anything I write down here pales in comparison to the awesomeness that is put up on screen. The comedy goes from goofy to outright weird. When Traigon calls forth an army of the dead the zombies rise out of the ground and proceed to attack the vestal virgins but their intent is more amorous than flesh eating, Valdar wittily comments, “Been buried a thousand years, ya know.” Because nothing is funnier than rape jokes.

we win 
Valdar: “Isn’t one enough for you?”
Erlick: “You forget Valdar, these two are one.”

The movie should have had a disclaimer “No actors were used in the making of this picture” as everyone in it is pretty awful. Now some of that can be attributed to the poor dubbing of the Mexican actors but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Mexican actors probably sucked even in their native language. The effects are laughable even by Roger Corman film standards, and the final clash between the forces of good and evil is a ridiculous looking winged lion centaur-thing that shoots lightning out of its eyes up against a disembodied head of a woman with half her face messed up. What is fascinating is that this was not in the script but something Corman asked his effects guy to come up with for the trailer, apparently the trailer needed more oomph, and if it looked good enough he could put it into the movie. Artistic integrity takes a back seat when it comes between Roger Corman and making a buck.

This is a god 
I could get behind any religion that had this for its god.

But he was right, the movie may be god awful mess but damn is it fun, and it was successful as well making some series cash for such a low budgeted cheesy film. Even Roger Corman was shocked to see how many people lined up in the snowy cold to see his picture.   The sad part of the chapter is the falling out between long-time friends Jack Hill and Roger Corman that resulted in Hill demanding his name be taken off the picture. From what I’ve heard is that the Jack Hill version was two hours long, focused on a new religion that Hill espoused, and had at least two ballet numbers. It would certainly be interesting to see that version but sight unseen I’ll have to side with Roger on this one because the end result is a gloriously goofy movie that I just love despite and because of its flaws.