Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Sequel You Never Knew Existed and Will Wish Didn’t

By Jerry Chandler

The year was 1982, and television’s favorite upper-class, well to do P.I. Matt Houston (Lee Horsley) traded in his tailored suits, fancy cars, and quality time with Pamela Hensley for a scruffy look, a large horse, and Kathleen Beller on the big screen. It may have been a step down all the way around; particularly that last one. Oh, but he did get to play with a really wicked sword with three blades and spring-loaded action. I speak of course of The Sword and the Sorcerer.

It was low budget, it wasn’t blessed with the best writers (two of the three writers involved with it never wrote another movie) or director, and, well, the acting could get a little scenery chewing. But, damn, for kids of a certain age it became one of THE vital building blocks in having a love of darker fantasy, sword and sorcery cinema. Like a lot of movies coming out at that time, it even teased a sequel film during the end credits; complete with a title already worked out. We were told to watch for the (Coming soon!) continuing adventures of Talon in Tales of the Ancient Empire.

Their definition of “coming soon” turned out to be a little… well… off. How off? It took them just shy of thirty years. Was it at least worth the wait? Hell no. How not worth the wait was it? Holy mother of god awful is this movie mind staggeringly bad to absolutely gloriously obscene levels of horrendous film making. This film redefines bad almost to the degree of turning it into an art form unique in and of itself.

Abelar: Tales of an Ancient Empire (AKA The Sword and the Sorcerer 2)

There are basically only two uses for director Albert Pyun’s film. You can use it to torture prisoners of war with or you can attempt the most painful DIY RiffTrax/MST3K night ever. But, be warned, this is a film you are probably best served by seeing drunk or illegally impaired by reality altering substances not available from your local CVS. Not that this will make it any better or make it seem to make any more sense because it won’t. You just may find the altered state these things create to be the safest way to expose yourself to the film.

For a film that was almost three decades in the making, you’d think they could have scraped up a budget for it. Just loose pocket change dumped daily into a jar over that time would have probably outdone what this film looks like it was made for. I'm pretty sure the budget was around $13.76 and the entire affair filmed over a single weekend at Albert Pyun’s house. I also wouldn’t be surprised to learn that almost everyone involved in it only worked on it because they lost a football bet with Pyun and had to do it. But even they wouldn’t shell out a few extra nickels and dimes to cover better sets and FX. There are entire scenes in this thing that look and sound like they filmed the actors doing a dry reading of the script off of cue cards in front of a green bedsheet in the director's kitchen while wearing costumes they got at the local Halloween thrift store’s post Halloween liquidation sale, and then the director just slapped a background into the shot behind the actors and called it a finished scene. That vibe was not apparently that far off the mark either. 

They don't even deliver on good, basic action or FX in between the dry script reads in front of the green bedsheet in the director’s kitchen. They promise some action coming up time and time again, but when the time comes for action at last? That’s when we cut to a woman that I’ll simply call Narration Chick telling us what happened as we look on as the camera pans over a poor man's Larry Elmore pen & ink illustration of a scene from the narration. Or you just get a shot of Narration Chick's face as she talks. Then it's back to the kitchen or that one tiny set they built in the director’s basement and used for way too many scenes for it not to be noticeable that it's the same small set with new furniture over and over again. Seriously, classic era Doctor Who didn’t reuse some of its corridor sets in a single story as much as they reused that set for this film. But back to being shortchanged on anything even remotely close to passable action scenes in a FREAKING SWORD & SORCERY MOVIE.

I mean, look at some of the names in the cast. Kevin Sorbo, Sasha Mitchell, Matthew Willig, Ralf Moeller, Michael Paré… We should at least get some good fist fights and sword fights, right? Maybe even a good action scene with a warrior to warrior fight here and there in the director’s backyard, right? Wrong. Given that some of the cast involved have movies and television experience that in fact does include sword fighting experience and a past history of doing their own fight scenes and minor stunts, you'd think at least a couple of fights would be on the menu to be served up to action hungry viewers and maybe even look kind of good. But, nooooo. Once again, it looks like they were filmed doing a first time dry run read through in the director’s kitchen. Or, you know, Narration Chick explains to you what an epic fight it was that you didn’t get to actually see on the screen.

I'm pretty sure the number of people- both in front of and behind the camera -who did not phone it in while working on this can be counted on one hand while still having enough fingers left over to flash the hand sign of the greatest faction to ever grace the history of pro wrestling. Hint- This was a four man faction, and they were named after a certain set of horsemen. I'm amazed that ANYONE acting in this or working on this outside of director Albert Pyun allowed their real names to be used in the credits. When the end theme started playing, I was fully expecting every credit on the thing except for his to read “Alan Smithee” over and over again. I mean, look at this acting and tell me what she’s feeling. Terror? Madness? Anger? Pain? Accidentally turning it on on the wrong speed setting? Who knows? Not the viewer and possibly not even the actress.

Actually, I will say there was one shining light moment in the film. Lee Horsley shows up in a tavern scene, delivers a few lines to a young lady, and while doing so displays a better skillset as an actor than anyone else connected to the project.  Interestingly, he’s not appearing as Talon in the film, but rather credited as The Stranger. So, outside of the director, the only connection the film has to the original film it’s supposedly a sequel to doesn’t even connect the films by virtue of being the same character.

Despite my attempts to do so here, words cannot truly describe the horribleness and the depths of bad filmmaking plunged into on almost every level by the people making this thing. Yes, I called it a thing, because it should be illegal to call it a film. There are first week film students doing better and more competent films than this thing while hung over from a weekend party and high as a kite from their… uhm… morning’s treatment of medicinal herbs. Frankly, it's so bad that I think even John Dimes would have a hard time claiming that "there are no bad movies" after watching this.

Just how bad is this film and Pyun’s filmmaking in general? There are people who have compared Albert Pyun to the late, great master of bad movie making, Edward D. Wood, Jr. Those people need to be beaten senseless with a 2X4 for insulting Ed Wood like that. Even at his rock-bottom lowest, his drunken, drugged out days of doing bad porn shorts, Ed Wood displayed a greater ability as a filmmaker than Albert Pyun does here. Abelar: Tales of an Ancient Empire makes even the lowest of Ed Wood’s works feel like a collaboration between Shakespeare and Cecil B. DeMille.

If you choose out of a sense of curiosity, masochism, or insanity to seek this out and watch it, just know that you have been warned. Abelar: Tales of an Ancient Empire is often found on Amazon or Netflix streaming, so it can be watched without any great additional out of pocket cost. However, the copious amounts of alcohol you will likely have to consume in order to make it all the way through it and the PTSD therapy you'll need to enter into afterwards in order to recover from the experience may set you back a wee bit more than a paycheck or two.

Who could have known back then that this was a damning, painful curse and not a promise of cheesy delight to come?

Jerry Chandler follows geek stuff. When not found writing here he can be found writing for Gruesome Magazine and his own blog. He has a Twitter. He can also occasionally be heard talking pro wrestling with the amazingly talented crew at of the ESO Pro: The Pro-Wrestling Roundtable podcast.

No comments:

Post a Comment