Tag Archives: sword&sorcery

North By Norwescon

by Lillian Csernica on March 24, 2016


Hi there!  I come to you from Seattle, Washington, home of Norwescon, the finest science fiction convention in the Pacific Northwest.  We’re here at the DoubleTree Inn by Hilton at SeaTac.  Lovely hotel, somewhat confusing at first, given that there are 7 wings and plenty of event spaces.  Yes, the hotel does still give out chocolate chip cookies when you check in.  That’s my kind of welcome!

This adventure began on Tuesday at 1 p.m. when I hit the road for Stockton.  That’s a two hour drive from my house over the Altamont Pass.  I haven’t driven that far all at once in almost 30 years.  Neither have I driven on Interstate 5 North since late August of 1987 when I was in the car accident that left me for dead on I-5 South.  Was I jittery?  Oh yeah.

Pat and I have made many a road trip together.  Stockton to Eugene, 6 hours’ sleep, then Eugene to Seattle saw us arrive here at the hotel an hour or so before Pat’s first Programming item.  There was joyful chaos all over the place as people checked in, other conventions passed out ribbons and promo materials, plenty of folks were already in costume, and we were clearly ready to party like the book-loving fan boys and girls that we all are.

Tonight’s highlights:


Lots of fun on the Alien Communication panel.  Did you know giraffes can hum?


Crossed paths with Dean Wells, one of my favorite people. I met him many years ago when I was a pro in his section of a writer’s workshop.  He’s gone on to publish in markets such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  I am very proud of him.


The Art Show reception was a total blast.  Gorgeous paintings and sculpture and jewelry and housewares.  Pat and I went nuts over the Tarot of Brass & Steam.  Oh my stars and garters!  I would LOVE to have those artists illustrate my steampunk stories from Twelve Hours Later and Thirty Days Later!


Now it’s after midnight.  I’ve been up for 18 hours and I haven’t gotten a whole lot of sleep in the past few days, so it’s time to take advantage of my queen size bed and call it a night.

Tomorrow:  More adventures from Norwescon 39!



Filed under art show, artists, chocolate, Conventions, cosplay, fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Lillian Csernica, science fiction, steampunk, travel, Writing

How To Break Through to the Real Story

by Lillian Csernica on February 16, 2016


Never throw anything away.

That’s one of the most important Rules for Living my mother ever taught me.

The minute you throw it away, you’re going to need it again.  Sometimes it can be relatively minor, like a phone number.  Sometimes it’s pretty major, like giving away all the baby toys and layette stuff then BOING!  There’s a new baby on the way.

When it comes to writing, we never know when that idea or that turn of phrase or that scene might come in handy after all.  As I’ve been editing Garden of Lies, the second novel in my Flower Maiden Saga, I save the chunks I cut out and put them in a separate file.  They may turn into the seeds of new ideas for the third novel.

Right now I’m experiencing a rather drastic epiphany in my writing process.  I have a story that fits the theme of an anthology taking submissions right now.  The story meets the essential requirements of the theme.  Unfortunately, it’s a story I wrote quite a while ago.  As my beta reader put it, it’s “from an earlier stage in my evolution as a writer.”  That means I’m a better writer now than I was back then.

I thought the plotline was pretty good.  I thought the characters had good motivations.  I thought the magic and the monster and the twist all worked.

I was wrong.  And I couldn’t see that.

I don’t know if it was just laziness on my part or what.  The more questions my beta reader asked, the more I tried to slap little patches on some of the problems, the more the story began to fall apart.  I’m in a hurry, because the submission deadline is closing in fast.  Thank Heaven my beta reader is very patient with my foibles as a writer.  She kept challenging me to think about what the story could be, and not just make do with what I’d already slapped together.

It’s not easy to admit all this.  I pride myself on writing good, solid stories.  Granted, I pulled this one out of the mending pile.  I knew it needed work.  Not until the second round of comments from my beta reader did I finally realize what the problem really was.  Yes, the main conflict of the story was worth keeping.  The rest of it had to be torn down to the foundations and rebuilt from there.

Imagine the difference between a nursery rhyme puppet show and real actors in a live performance of Shakespeare.

I’m not comparing my work to Shakespeare.  I am saying I now see how shallow the original version of the story had turned out.  If I wanted this story to really shine, I had to commit to tearing everything apart, rethinking all of it, and rebuilding it from scratch.

Stronger plot.  Fully fleshed characters.  Magic that made sense in both the big and the little details.  Anger and jealousy and hatred.  Love and loyalty and sacrifice.

Good enough isn’t good enough.  Sometimes it’s hard to see what more we could do to a story to improve it.  That’s what beta readers are for.  That’s where writing groups can be helpful.  (Please see all my caveats about writing groups.)  Once we have some thoughts from other people on what’s missing, what’s too much, and how well what we’ve got is working, then we can push harder and deeper for the real story that’s waiting to be told.

Writing is hard work.  As Westley says to Buttercup in The Princess Bride, “Anybody who says differently is selling something.”



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Filed under creativity, Depression, editing, family tradition, fantasy, Fiction, frustration, Goals, Lillian Csernica, publication, sword and sorcery, Writing

A to Z: Another Year, Another Adventure!

by Lillian Csernica on May 3, 2015


Time now to look back on the 26 days of reading, writing, thinking and replying.  I’d like to begin by saying thank you to everyone who stopped by my blog.  A special thank you to the folks who hung out with me, added their observations, and made the whole adventure that much more enjoyable:

Alex Hurst

Jazzfeathers at The Old Shelter

Sue Archer at Doorway Between Worlds


Lori MacLaughlin at Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams

Pat MacEwen at Bone Speak

Sanch at Living My Imperfect Life


What Worked:

1) A crazy topic.  I suppose I could call this “a unique theme.”  I had no idea so many people out there enjoy bad sword & sorcery movies as much as I do.  Now we know about each other, so we can form a support group.  LOL

2) Good graphics.  Some of the movies I chose were rather obscure, which made finding graphics for them more difficult.  That in turn made such content more valuable.  Some of those costumes really have to be seen to be believed!

3) Replying to all comments, even if I just hit “Like” now and then.  Give and take is what it’s all about during the A to Z.  It’s just plain polite, of course, but running around seeing what my new friends were creating made this experience organic and exciting.

4) Links.  Good links, informative links, links that lead somewhere worth the click time!

What Didn’t Work:

1) Not getting enough posts written and scheduled ahead of time. I started off with a week’s worth of posts ready to go.  That kept my head above water until around mid-month when my other writing commitments began pushing the blog posts down the priority list.

2) I couldn’t do justice to these movies in really short posts, so it would have been wiser to plan ahead and budget my time accordingly.  The real pleasure for me in talking about these movies comes from the behind the scenes trivia, the little details about special effects snafus, and the consistency errors.

3) Finding the graphics.  This is a two-edged sword, har har.  It sucked up a lot of time, hunting down the graphics, finding the right sizes, and tinkering with the posts until the layout looked just the way I wanted it to be.

4) Toward the end of the month time got tighter and tighter, so I did not make it as far down the list of participants as I’d hoped to go.  The flip side of that was the problem with several of the links I did visit in the lower 1/4 of the list.  Often the links didn’t lead anywhere, or the blogs hadn’t been updated in ages.  That put a dent in my enthusiasm.

I know people are posting their stats and measuring the traffic on their sites.  I respect that, and I pay attention to those numbers when I’m thinking in terms of business and self-promotion.  The A to Z Blog Challenge is something I do for fun.  Last year my theme was chocolate.  This year, bad sword & sorcery movies.  I’ve made some new friends, found some great resources, and I reached my goal of completing the challenge.

Thank you to Arlee and Alex and all the folks who helped out in the A to Z.  I’ll be back again next year!


Filed under Awards, bad movies, Blog challenges, Family, Goals

Z for Zu Warriors

by Lillian Csernica on April 30, 2015


A few years ago I went through a phase of watching almost anything I could get my hands on that starred Ekin Cheng, Adam Kwok, Nicholas Tse, and/or Louis Koo.  Ekin Cheng is one of the headliners in this heavenly action flick.  I’m not sure why, but I find it very difficult to keep track of all the personalities, relationships, and conflicts that appear within the extensive realm of Chinese mythology.  I cannot possibly reconstruct the plot of this divine soap opera on my own, so I’ll be getting some help from Wikipedia.  Follow along and let’s see if you can make more sense of this movie than I did.

The Plot:

Peace-keeping immortals living in clans inhabit a mythical mountain range called Zu, which exists between Heaven and Earth. A demon called Insomnia desires to rule Zu and the world below; it begins wiping out the various clans. In the Kunlun Mountains, Dawn (Cecelia Cheung) sends away her apprentice, King Sky (Ekin Cheng), because she believes that their emotional attachment hinders their progress. She gives him her weapon, the Moon Orb, to help him train; he is to return only after attaining a higher level. If she cannot be found, the Moon Orb will find her. Moments after they part, Insomnia attacks Dawn and disintegrates her.


King Sky with the Moon Orb

200 years later, at Omei, Grandmaster White Brows (Sammo Hung) senses darkness coming and dispatches his disciple, Red (Louis Koo), to investigate. King Sky joins Red and the Omei clan to fight Insomnia. White Brows engages and weakens Insomnia with his weapon, the Sky Reflector; Insomnia retreats into the legendary Blood Cave; Omei’s top warriors pursue Insomnia. At the cave, King Sky notices Enigma(Cecelia Cheung), who resembles Dawn. White Brows warns that the cave is capable of sucking away the powers of those who venture near it. Red and King Sky risk their lives to battle Insomnia within the cave, but they narrowly escape after White Brows sacrifices the Sky Reflector to save them. With Insomnia absorbing the cave’s energy, White Brows has Red guard the cave entrance while the Omei reconnoiter.


Grandmaster White Brows and Red

At Omei, White Brows tries to combine Enigma’s Heaven Sword with Hollow’s (Ng Kung) Thunder Sword, the two guardian weapons, to form a new weapon, the Flaming Sword of Thunder. Unfortunately, the fusion process fails, turning it into scrap metal, and rebounds; Hollow dies and Enigma is seriously injured, but King Sky rescues her. White Brows appears before King Sky and admits that Enigma is the reincarnation of Dawn. He then appoints King Sky as the chief of Omei as he ventures into a new dimension to find a weapon to defeat Insomnia. Before leaving, he resurrects Hollow, who is renamed “Ying”, hoping that the reborn Hollow can wield the Thunder Sword in their most desperate hour. King Sky asks Enigma to help him attempt to use the sword, but is unsuccessful and he was burnt alive in the process. Enigma tries to save him, but fails and buries him.


Red and King Sky in the Blood Cave

Meanwhile, Red is possessed by Amnesia (a flower demon) (Kelly Lin) while guarding the Blood Cave. Red returns to Omei and decimates the clan and captures Enigma. Amnesia then destroys the rest of Omei, weakening the clan. To the survivors’ frustration, Ying has yet to re-awaken his abilities. In a pitted fight against one of the Sword Saints, Thunder (Patrick Tam), Ying’s abilities and memories return. Concurrently, through the power of resurrection, King Sky revives just in time to intercept White Brows’s weapon. With his new weapon, King Sky joins Ying in confronting Red at the Blood Cave.


How’s this for a badass sword?  Say what?  It look like a Chinese light saber?

After Ying rescues Enigma, they return to Omei to stop Insomnia’s final assault. King Sky exorcises Red, but the latter sacrifices himself to destroy Amnesia. At Omei, Enigma and Ying successfully fuse their swords to form a new weapon to defeat Insomnia. King Sky joins the duo and they weaken Insomnia. Enigma possesses Insomnia to prevent the demon from escaping, giving King Sky a chance to destroy it. Just as Insomnia is destroyed, Enigma remembers herself as Dawn and tells King Sky she is happy to find him again before disappearing. After the battle, Enigma is reincarnated as a new immortal and Mount Omei is restored. King Sky parts with the Omei to rebuild his clan.

Did you catch all of that?  Neither did I.

If you like lots of CGI, plenty of wire work, glorious colors and a cast of dozens, you’ll have a good time here.  From Tsui Hark and Yuen Wo-Ping, the masters of big flashy martial arts movies.




Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, classics, fairy tales, fantasy, legend, romance, sword and sorcery

Y for Yamato Takeru

by Lillian Csernica on April 29, 2015


When you Google the name Yamato Takeru, you will discover everything from the Toho Studios movie to various anime and manga to actual videogames.  Here is the legend of Prince Yamato Takeru, first known as Prince Osu:

From Wikipedia:

Prince Ōsu slew his elder brother Ōusu (大碓命, おおうすのみこと). His father, the emperor Keikō, feared his brutal temperament. To keep him at a distance, the father sent him to Izumo Province, today the eastern part of Shimane Prefecture, and then the land of Kumaso, today Kumamoto Prefecture. However, Ōsu succeeded in defeating his enemies, in the latter case by cross-dressing as a maid attendant at a drinking party (see image left). One of the enemies he defeated praised him and gave him the title Yamatotakeru, meaning The Brave of Yamato. But Emperor Keikō’s mind was unchanged.

Keikō sent Yamato Takeru to the eastern land whose people disobeyed the imperial court. Yamatotakeru met his aunt Princess Yamato-hime, the highest priestess of Amaterasu at Ise Grand Shrine (in Ise Province) and grieved, “my father wishes I would die?” Princess Yamato-hime showed him compassion and lent him a holy sword named Ame no Murakumo no tsurugi (Kusanagi no tsurugi), which Susanoo, the brother god of Amaterasu, found in the body of the eight-headed great serpent, Yamata no Orochi. Yamatotakeru went to the eastern land. He lost his wife Oto tachibana-hime during a storm when she sacrificed herself to soothe the anger of the sea god. He defeated many enemies in the eastern land, and legend has it that he and a local old man composed the first sedōka in Kai Province with Mount Tsukuba (now in Ibaraki Prefecture) as its theme. On his return he blasphemed a local god of Mount Ibuki, which sits on the border of Ōmi Province and Mino Province. The god cursed him with disease and he fell ill.

The story above is found in the Kojiki. In the Nihonshoki version, the father and Yamatotakeru keep a good relation.

According to traditional sources, Yamato Takeru died in the 43rd year of Emperor Keiko’s reign (景行天皇43年).[1] The possessions of the dead prince were gathered together along with the sword Kusanagi; and his widow venerated his memory in a shrine at her home. Some time later, these relics and the sacred sword were moved to the current location of Atsuta Shrine.[2]

The statue of Yamato Takeru at Kenroku-en

Yamato Takeru is believed to have died somewhere in Ise Province. According to the legend, the name of Mie Prefecture was derived from his final words. After death his soul turned into a great white bird and flew away. His tomb in Ise is known as the Mausoleum of the White Plover. A statue of Yamato Takeru stands in Kenroku-en in Kanazawa, Ishikawa.

The movie is a somewhat condensed version of the Prince’s very busy life.

From imdb.com:

After killing his brother, Prince Yamato is banished from his father’s kingdom until he can bring his dangerous powers under control. On his journey, he meets and joins with the magical priestess Oto, and together they go to fight against an evil god that has been ravaging the Earth in the form of an enormous hydra. Will Yamato ever return home to reclaim his rightful place on the throne? Written by Jean-Marc Rocher <rocher@fiberbit.net>


So we have a Japanese prince, son of the twelfth Emperor of Japan.  We have a sorceress/Shinto priestess who has mystical powers.  And we have an eight-headed dragon, the dreaded Orochi.  This movie was made by the same wonderful folks who brought us the original Godzilla.  That means we can expect high drama, noble sacrifice, and a monster suit made out of rubber.  What’s not to like?




Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, classics, fantasy, history

X for Xena, Warrior Princess

by Lillian Csernica on April 28, 2015


Yes, this is a TV series, not a movie, but how could I possibly leave Xena off this list?  Xena, Warrior Princess is a spin-off of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.  Xena got better ratings than Hercules and went on to become far more popular.  Xena continues to enjoy a huge fan base.  I haven’t watched every single episode, but I have watched enough to know the stunts on this show are entertaining, the scripts are good, and the wardrobe staff had a great sense of humor.


From imdb.com:

Xena, a mighty Warrior Princess with a dark past, sets out to redeem herself. She is joined by small town bard, Gabrielle. Together they journey the ancient world and fight for the greater good against ruthless Warlords and Gods.


Renee O’Connor as Gabrielle


Xena’s weapons: a sword, a whip, and the Fatal Frisbees


Kevin Tod Smith as Ares, God of War

Hercules has to keep fighting anything and everything the goddess Hera sends against him.  Xena has a love/hate relationship with Ares, God of War.  He makes frequent appearances in the series.


Bruce Campbell as Autolycus, King of Thieves

If I have a favorite character in the series, it’s the agile and witty Autolycus.  I’ve been a Bruce Campbell fan for a long time now, ever since Army of Darkness.


Then there’s Callisto.  More than one bad sword & sorcery movie has started off with the hero suffering through the trauma of seeing his family slain and his village burned to the ground.  Callisto is what happens when that suffering and trauma leave you a violent, bloodthirsty headcase.  If she wasn’t when she started out, she would have been by the end of the series, given everything that happens to her character.  Actress Hudson Leick must have had a real workout!

If I have any complaints about Xena, I’d have to say that there are times when the situations run to the corny or melodramatic.  Once in a while the “What lesson have we learned in this episode?” stuff gets to be a little much.  Still, that is a minor complaint.  With plenty of eye candy and action, Xena: Warrior Princess is worth watching.



Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, classics, Conventions, fantasy

The Warrior and the Sorceress

by Lillian Csernica on April 27th, 2015


Roger Corman is the executive producer of this derivative conglomeration of alien lifeforms, big swords, bad stunts, and the usual truckload of half-naked women.  Shot in Argentina, the producers reused at least one of the sets from Deathstalker.

When I tell you that David Carradine is the “holy warrior” named Kain, you will forgive me if I groan at the remarkable similarity to his character in “Kung Fu,” a wandering Buddhist monk named Kwai Chang Caine.

What’s the plot, you ask?  Ever seen Yojimbo by Kurosawa?  Sanjuro, maybe?  A Fistful of Dollars by Sergio Leone?  You get the idea.  Lone swordsman wanders into the middle of a dispute between two different groups.  Each side tries to get him to fight for their cause.  He plays them off against each other for his own amusement and because they all deserve a good thrashing.  The people who are really in need of the Lone Swordsman’s help are the peasants who are just trying to scrape up a living while the Two Warlords wage their battles.

In this bizarre version, Kain is on the planet Ura where water is the most precious resource.  So the battle is being fought over the one well that hasn’t run dry.  The Bad Guys are Zeg the Tyrant (Luke Askew) and Bal Caz (William Marin).


There’s Zeg the Tyrant in grey.  Just behind him is his right hand man, Captain Kief (Anthony DeLongis).

Oh look!  Bal Caz has his very own Muppet!

Now here’s the funny part.  This would have been a rather boring all-male movie if not for the half-naked slave girls and the Sorceress, who’s mostly naked through the entire movie.  Oh, but we’re not talking about your normal kind of human naked!  These are alien women!  The ladies of Planet Ura proudly display a bonus in the bosom department.


Now let’s talk about Naja the Sorceress.  That would be Maria Socas, who  also plays the Queen of the Amazons in Deathstalker II.  She’s wearing a remarkably similar costume, what little there is of it.

This is the one and only shot I found where Naja is covered up.  That’s her, sitting in front of Bal Caz.  As for her powers of sorcery?  Bwahahahahahaha.  Not good.  Tricky photography, rays of colored light, and a few explosions.  Not even big explosions, either.

I mentioned aliens, didn’t I?  These guys are slave traders.


The sword fights are all that one would expect given that David Carradine with his yoga-based martial arts skills is doing the fighting.  All that really makes this movie worth watching is Anthony DeLongis running around bellowing and attacking whoever Zeg the Tyrant is after right then.


Mr. DeLongis has had a long and busy career in the movies.  For more sword & sorcery, you can find him in The Sword and the Sorcerer and Circle of Iron.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, before production began David Carradine got into an argument with his girlfriend and punched a wall, damaging his right hand.  That’s why he’s wearing the ugly black gauntlet on his right arm.  Whenever you see the hero wearing some kind of glove, gauntlet, arm brace, etc., odds are good there’s a reason for it beyond fancy costuming.

Meanwhile, back at the Saga, we find Kain killing everybody within arm’s reach so he can defend the well from those who would exploit it.  His true purpose is to follow his heart, free Naja the Sorceress, and renew the spirit of purpose in his warrior’s heart.  (No, I did not cut & paste that from somewhere.  Yes, I did manage to write it with a straight face.)


When you think about how much money it takes to make a motion picture of anything close to feature length, you really have to wonder why people waste that kind of money on a movie like this.


Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, fantasy

T for Tales of an Ancient Empire

by Lillian Csernica on April 23, 2015

By a strange twist of Fate, today’s movie happens to be the sequel to yesterday’s epic adventure.  Lee Horsley, star of The Sword and the Sorcerer, was not available, so the producers did what producers always do in these circumstances: they cast Kevin Sorbo.  It’s only fair to warn you that this movie is rated R, full of half-naked vampire women and a few guys with fangs.


The plot of this train wreck is a hopeless muddle that combines guys with swords, girls with fangs, a queen about to lose her realm, and the ultimate threat: Vampire Queen Xia, roused from the sleep of centuries by treasure hunters stupid enough to break into her tomb.

Gosh, does this sound familiar?  It should.  Kull the Conqueror starred Kevin Sorbo as he went up against Akivasha, the demon queen.

The ruler of Abelar who originally imprisoned Queen Xia is long since dead, so she goes after the current royals.  Queen Ma’at sends her half-sister Princess Tanis off to Douras, some landlocked equivalent of Tortuga where all the outlaws stop off between crime sprees.


Tanis is looking for her father, but has to settle for her half-brother Aedan.  (This is where Kevin Sorbo comes in.)  She finds him thanks to the pendant he wears, an exact match of the one given to Tanis by Queen Ma’at.  Aedan is drunk, rowdy, and not really in the mood for a heroic quest.


Does this shot look familiar?  In The Sword and the Sorcerer, Talon uses a big joint of meat as a club against Cromwell’s guard when the guard is about to attack Princess Alana.

So the princess and the outlaw waste valuable time finding one half-sister Malia, and then another, Rajan, who brings her daughter Alana along for the ride.  The man who fathered these five must have been a cross between Rob Roy and Don Juan.  Thanks to him we very nearly have the sword & sorcery equivalent of the Magnificent Seven.


Maybe I’m being too picky, but if Douras is knee-deep in outlaws, shouldn’t Aedan be able to round up a few mercenaries?  Women can be just as dangerous with a sword, heaven knows, but if Queen Ma’at’s throne is at stake, Tanis better bring back enough manpower to secure the throne and take out Queen Xia.

If you read the plot summary on imdb.com, it says, “A princess is on a quest to unite the five greatest warriors to save her kingdom from a demon sorceress.”

Uh huh.  Let me sum up a lot of really bad dialogue and tedious travel shots by saying things don’t go well.  Here’s Queen Xia in all her subterranean glory:


She looks like Magenta with a bad hangover.

But wait!  There’s more!  Princess Tanis has yet another half-sister, a servant girl named Kara.  While Tanis and Kara share the same father (who must have knocked up almost every woman he ever met), Kara’s mother is Queen Xia!  GASP!  Queen Xia turns Kara into the equivalent of a daywalker so Kara can hunt down Tanis and prevent her from rallying any serious opposition.

When Our Heroes encounter Queen Xia and her bloodthirsty minions, poor Rajan and Alana end up joining their side.


When I talk about these movies, I do post the occasional Spoiler Warning if I think you might really want to see what happens.  Let me save you from making that mistake here.  Movies used to be 90 minutes long.  This one is listed as being 86 minutes.  The actual movie is only 70 minutes.  The last 16 are devoted to “Coming Attractions” of the third movie in this supposed trilogy, Tales of An Ancient Empire: Red Moon.  You know what this means, right?  It means Our Heroes don’t drive a stake through Queen Xia and her minions then ride off into the sunset.  The movie has the chopped-off ending that’s the sure sign of a badly planned sequel.

Lee Horsley made an appearance in this film, listed as “The Stranger.”  I’ve looked high and low for a shot of him in the movie, but I can’t find one anywhere.  Perhaps that’s for the best.



Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, fantasy

S for The Sword and the Sorcerer

by Lillian Csernica on April 22, 2015


From Wikipedia:

The film opens as King Cromwell (Richard Lynch) and his men land ashore of Tomb Island in search of Xusia of Delos (Richard Moll), a long-dead sorcerer who may be the key to overthrowing his rival King Richard, whose land of Ehdan is the richest in the world. Using one of Xusia’s worshipers to awaken him, Cromwell convinces Xusia to join his cause. With the sorcerer’s black magic at his command, Cromwell easily lays waste to Richard’s formidable army.

Now this has to be one of the most disgusting deals-with-a-demon I’ve ever seen.  On all sides, Xusia’s coffin looks like this:


What’s more, the coffin itself is full of blood, and Xusia himself rises up out of it bald, dripping, and with the sorceress licking his fingers.  When the negotiations take a hostile turn, Xusia rips her heart out of her chest with the Glowing Press-on Nails of Doom.


Eventually, Cromwell becomes eager to be rid of Xusia. Fearing that the sorcerer could very well turn against him, he attempts to kill Xusia by stabbing him in the chest and chasing him off a cliff.[1]

This scene turned tragic when stuntman Jack Tyree missed his airbags and died as a result of the fall.

With only one army left to defend the city, King Richard prepares to lead the charge against Cromwell in a last-ditch effort to save Ehdan. He orders his family to evacuate to the river, and entrusts his youngest son Talon with his magnificent triple-bladed projectile sword, instructing the boy to avenge his death should it occur.


Here is young Prince Talon with this amazing sword that can actually fire three blades.  Spring-loaded?  Pressure canisters?  Magic?  For some strange reason we’re never allowed to know the secret of the shooting blades.

When Richard fails to return home afterwards, Talon goes to find him. At that moment, Talon spies his father in the distance, just seconds before his execution. Talon desperately races to the river on horseback, but once again, he is too late. Horrified, he watches as his mother is put to death at Cromwell’s hands. With Cromwell’s men now in pursuit of him, Talon has no choice but to flee. After narrowly surviving an ambush, the boy manages to evade capture and disappear from the kingdom.

This is where the name “Talon” comes in.  The kid is leaning on a tree.  An enemy arrow nails his hand to the trunk.  To escape, Talon has to lose parts of his last two fingers on that hand.  That’s why you see him wearing that spiffy leather brace through the rest of the movie.

Eleven years later, Prince Talon (Lee Horsley), now a seasoned warrior, leads a small group of mercenaries back into his homeland, seeking to fulfill the promise he made long ago. Meanwhile in his subterranean lair, the sinister Xusia—still very much alive—vows to repay Cromwell for his treachery.


In the city of Ehdan, a rebellion has begun under Prince Mikah (Simon MacCorkindale), son of King Richard’s closest advisor, who many believe to be the rightful heir to the throne. After confirming the final plans with Machelli (George Maharis), Cromwell’s war chancellor (who is secretly a double agent), Mikah relays the news to his sister Alana (Kathleen Beller), but Cromwell suddenly bursts into their hideout and a battle ensues. Although Mikah is captured, Alana flees through the city streets, but eventually finds herself cornered by Cromwell’s men. She is then rescued by Talon, who easily dispatches her assailants.


This is one of the funniest scenes in the movie.  Here you have a Prince and a Princess, both looking like five miles of bad road.  He’s being the tough mercenary and she’s bargaining with her natural charms.  What makes this even more entertaining to me is knowing Lee Horsley is over six feet tall, while Kathleen Beller is barely five feet.  The crew must have stood her on a box for the scenes where Alana and Talon are kissing.

At a nearby tavern, Alana learns of her brother’s imprisonment and asks Talon to rescue him, along with a faction of rebels who have been recently trapped by Cromwell’s forces. Unable to bribe the mercenary with gold, Alana reluctantly offers herself to him for one night. Satisfied, Talon departs on his mission, but Cromwell’s men arrive shortly thereafter and capture Alana as well.


Simon MacCorkindale as Mikah.  He went on to star in a short-lived TV series called “Manimal” about a veterinarian who could shapeshift into various animal forms.

Successful in freeing the rebels, Talon infiltrates the castle through the sewers and is able to rescue Mikah, but is subsequently detected and captured by Cromwell.


You want to know how Cromwell caught Talon?  Simple.  Talon burst into the room where Alana was butt naked getting a massage by candlelight.  That provided the crucial distraction.  Talon ended up getting tossed out the window.

After forcing Alana into marriage, Cromwell invites the four neighboring kings to their wedding feast, where he intends to assassinate them with Talon crucified in the dining hall.


Before the plot can be carried out, however, Talon amazingly summons the strength to pull himself free of the crucifix, just seconds before the rebels, led by Mikah, storm into the dining hall and overpower Cromwell’s soldiers.


Here he is, yanking that huge spike out of the wood.  In slow motion, no less.  Assuming the heads of the spike didn’t break enough of the bones in his hands to just slide through, I seriously doubt Talon would be in any kind of shape to grip the hilt of that huge, heavy, triple-bladed sword.

Cromwell attempts to flee the castle with Alana in tow, but Talon intercepts them. In the resulting skirmish, Machelli takes custody of Alana and brings her to the catacombs beneath the castle, where he reveals his true identity as Xusia.


Now here’s another utterly gross moment in the movie.  Xusia is just wearing a Machelli “body,” which he proceeds to erupt out of, giving us a wonderful view of Machelli’s face coming apart.


Although Cromwell tries to intercede, he proves to be no match for the sorcerer, but Talon is somehow able to resist Xusia’s power long enough to strike him down with his projectile sword.


This isn’t as easy as it looks, because right then Xusia’s Glowing Claws of Mayhem have lit up as he tries to rip Talon’s heart out.  Cromwell couldn’t hold out too long, but Our Hero can do it!

He then engages Cromwell in combat, finally vanquishing the evil king. Afterwards, Talon saves Alana from a giant constrictor snake, but Xusia suddenly rises again, prompting Talon to finish off the sorcerer with a blade concealed in his gauntlet.

Why is there always a great big snake?

In the end, Talon yields the crown of Ehdan to Mikah, and Alana honors her commitment to spend one night with her brother’s savior. Talon and the mercenaries then prepare to leave Ehdan for another adventure. As the film closes, a large oared boat with no oarsmen is shown moving out from shore — Xusia, still alive, is shown on board directing its course.


Full disclosure: when I was working at the Ren Faire selling chain mail jewelry, my company made the headdress you see Alana wearing in these photos.  I once met Kathleen Beller at the Ren Faire.  Little tiny lady!  Quite beautiful, and very gracious.


Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, classics, fantasy, Horror

R for Red Sonja

by Lillian Csernica on April 21, 2015

No list of really bad sword & sorcery movies would be complete without this little gem.  I don’t know who thought Brigitte Nielsen could act, or use a sword, or even look good in that really bad red wig they put on her.  Whoever it was, I rest content in knowing his or her guilt will linger forever thanks to the archival nature of the Internet.

From Wikipedia:

After being raped by the soldiers of Queen Gedren, a despot who had her parents and brother murdered for scarring the queen’s face while rejecting her sexual advances, Red Sonja is visited by a spirit who grants her the strength to seek revenge.

Let me clear this up.  Queen Gedren is played by Sandahl Bergman, who also played Valeria in Conan the Barbarian.  Red Sonja rejects Gedren’s “advances” and in the process puts a sizable gash in the right side of the Queen’s face.  Well, we all know how touchy evil queens can be about their beauty, so of course Gedren orders Red Sonja’s family slaughtered.  From then on Gedren wears a bejeweled mask.

Having trained under a swords master, having become distrustful of most men, Red Sonja is found by Lord Kalidor who takes her to her dying sister Varna. Varna is a member of an order of priestesses who were preparing to destroy a light-powered relic known as the Talisman that created the world and whose growing power now threatens it.

These are the priestesses.  I like the Aztec-warrior-meets-Vestal-Virgin look.

However, Gedren’s army and her aide-de-camp Ikol slaughtered the priestesses and took the Talisman while Varna was fatally wounded by the time she found Kalidor.  Before dying, Varna tells Sonja of the events at her temple while urging her to find the Talisman and destroy it.


After turning down Kalidor’s offer to accompany her, seeing a storm in the distance, Sonya arrives to the now-ruined kingdom of Hablock. There she meets the young Prince Tarn and his servant Falkon, learning Gedren completely wiped out Hablock when Tarn refused to surrender. Tarn announces that he is raising a new army to crush Gedren and invites Sonja to work for him as a cook. She declines while told that Gedren is based in Berkubane, the Kingdom of Eternal Night.


Sonja kills Lord Brytag after he refuses her passage through the mountain passes. His troops surround Sonja, and Kalidor, who has secretly been following her, attacks their rear, allowing Sonja to escape. Sonja comes across Tarn and Falkon in the mountains. Tarn is being tortured by bandits. Falkon rejoins Sonja to help her kill the brigands and free the prince.

Prince Tarn is one of the most aggravating aspects of this movie.  I don’t know if at the time Ernie Reyes, Jr. was just obeying the director’s instructions or what.  Prince Tarn is so totally obnoxious I kept hoping somebody would finally feed him to the monsters or drop him in the lava or at least sell him to those brigands.


They travel onward toward Berkubane. At Castle Berkubane, Gedren and Ikol watch Sonja and her party approaching on a magic screen. Gedren recognizes Sonja and orders that she be brought back to the fortress unharmed. She and Ikol use the Talisman to conjure up a storm, forcing Sonja’s band to take shelter in a watery cavern. Gedren unleashes an “Icthyan Killing Machine” in the cavern. Kalidor reappears, and helps Sonja blind the beast.  Sonja now accepts Kalidor’s company, learning he is a descendant of the lords who entrusted the Talisman to the temple, but also warns him that “no man can have her” unless he can defeat her in a swordfight. Kalidor challenges her and they fight to a draw.


There they are, right in the middle of a quest for vengeance/saving the world, and they stop to have a sword fight.  In sword & sorcery movies, this is the accepted method of foreplay.

Kalidor, Sonja and Falkon then infiltrate Castle Berkubane. To protect Tarn, they convince him to stay behind in order to prevent Gedren from escaping. Sonja confronts Gedren, while Kalidor and Falkon deal with her guards in the castle’s dining hall. Ikol, realizing Gedren is insane when she refuses his pleas to place the Talisman in a dark place for a while, tries to escape with some of the gold looted from Hablock. But Ikol is stopped by Tarn, who accidentally killed him during their fight.


There you have it.  The glowing, gold-dipped Beach Ball of Doom.

The Talisman, which Gedren has placed in a Chamber of Lights, is becoming too powerful to control. Its power breaks the floor open, revealing a chasm of molten lava beneath the castle. Sonja and Gedren fight in the Chamber, but Sonja eventually gains the upper hand and runs Gedren through with her sword, sending the evil ruler plunging to her doom in the lava pit below.


Sandahl Bergman is fun to watch as the evil queen.  I can’t help thinking she must have felt like she was in an Ator movie, doing her best to make Brigitte Nielsen look good during the sword fights.

Sonja throws the Talisman in after her, destroying it and starting a chain reaction that tears Castle Berkubane apart. The heroes manage to escape just before the castle is consumed by the rising volcano. As Prince Tarn and Falkon eventually depart to rebuild Hablock, Sonya and Kalidor spar again before they kiss.



Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, fantasy