Tag Archives: sword&sorcery

Q for Quest of the Delta Knights

by Lillian Csernica on April 19, 2015

Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse, I bring you the Quest of the Delta Knights.


Start by knowing the plot is lifted almost wholesale from Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy.  The theme song was also stolen from a science fiction source, Battle Beyond the Stars.  Otherwise the soundtrack such as it is consists of that flute-ish sounding music that almost passes for somebody playing a recorder properly.


A young lad named Tee (Corbin Allred) is recruited by Baydool (David Warner) and trained up to fulfill his destiny as a member of the Delta Knights.  This involves recovering a cache of lost treasures which are rumored to be kept in the “Lost Storehouse of Archimedes.”  Along the way they are joined by plucky tavern wench Thena (Brigid Brannagh).


The Bad Guys are Lord Vultare (also David Warner) and his queen, the Mannerjay (Olivia Hussey).


For reasons known only to himself, Lord Vultare’s henchmen are all dressed up like Vikings even unto the horned helmets, which the most shallow student of that period knows did not exist.


Thrown in Leonardo da Vinci (David Kriegel) as well as the use of firearms, and what you have here is something no film student with any sense of self-respect would admit to making.

The settings and costumes are a horrible mishmash of Dark Ages, quasi-medieval, and Elizabethan England.

Part of the movie was filmed at the Northern Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Novato, CA.  By a strange coincidence, that is the very Faire where I once worked, and I worked there at the very time the film people came looking to recruit extras from among our fencing booth “privateers.”


So when you see the guy sitting at the table get hit in the neck with a dart and keel over, and you see the surly Hispanic-looking guard pacing back and forth, know that those two guys came from the fencing booth where I worked.  I cannot tell you how much this adds to the humor value of this movie.



Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, fantasy, history

O for Onmyoji

by Lillian Csernica on April 17th, 2015


Onmyoji is an entertaining movie.  For those not familiar with the terminology, an onmyoji is a practitioner of onmyodo.  I encourage you to follow the link, because onmyodo is a fascinating subject.  If I get started on it, this post will end up being a lot longer than it should.  For our purposes, let’s just say that the onmyoji in this movie, Abe no Seimei, puts the sorcery in “sword and sorcery.”  His goofball buddy Minamoto no Hiromasa is the one who wears the sword.


From Wikipedia:

Onmyouji (陰陽師?) is a Japanese movie that was released in 2001 and sent to the US in 2004. Directed by Yōjirō Takita, it tells of the exploits of Abe no Seimei, in Middle Ages, the Onmyouji (also known as: The Yin Yang Master) from the court of the Emperor. He befriended bungling court noble, Minamoto no Hiromasa, who enlists his aid to defend the Heian emperor. Meanwhile, an opposing onmyoji Doson is plotting the downfall of the emperor, while attempting to frame Seimei by unleashing a horde of yōkai to do his bidding.

There are some modern depictions of Onmyouji magic involving divination, transforming paper cutouts into beautiful maidens, and the like. Mansai Nomura is a famous kyogen actor, a type of traditional theater related to noh but of a more comic nature, and this role is considered something of a big transition for him. His portrayal of Abe no Seimei has been described as including a number of ‘foxy’ looks, perhaps in acknowledging the folklore describing Abe no Seimei’s mother as a kitsune. The lead actress, Eriko Imai, a pop singer, has very few lines and little involvement with the plot. The film was a commercial success grossing ¥3,010,000,000 ($36,567,313) becoming the 4th highest earning Japanese production of 2001.[1] The film was also giving a limited theater release in North America where it grossed $16,234 in 3 theaters.[2]

A sequel, Onmyouji 2, appeared in 2003. Both movies are based on the Onmyouji novels by Baku Yumemakura, which also inspired a manga series by Reiko Okano.


Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Samurai), ready to kill Mansai Nomura.

I will admit it takes the kind of fascination I have for Japanese culture to really get into the action here.  Doson is a great Bad Guy.  When he sends the “horde of yokai” (monsters) against Abe no Seimei, we get to see the magic-users in the fight to the finish.  This makes Onmyoji rather unusual among Japanese historical movies.  So many of the taiga dramas are devoted to samurai and political upheavals.  Heian period costuming is quite a hoot to the eyes of Western audiences, so that also makes the movie worth watching.

I’m supposed to be listing bad sword and sorcery movies, right?  So how did this one make it onto the list?  The answer is simple.  This is the only sword and sorcery movie I could find on any list that begins with the letter O.


It’s not smart to mess with the onmyoji!


Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, classics, fantasy

M for Masters of the Universe

by Lillian Csernica on April 15, 2015



He-Man and the Masters of the Universe started out as a set of action figures.  I am proud to say I owned the Castle Grayskull play set along with several of the figures.  The popularity of the toys gave rise to an animated series.  Since Hollywood never knows when enough is enough, eventually Cannon got the green light for a live action movie.

From Wikipedia:

On the Planet Eternia, at the center of the Universe, Skeletor‘s army seizes Castle Grayskull, scatters the remaining Eternian defenders, and captures the Sorceress of Grayskull; he plans to add her power to his own by the next moonrise.

Christina Pickles as the Sorceress

Skeletor’s archenemy, the warrior He-Man, veteran soldier Man-At-Arms, and his daughter Teela rescue Gwildor from Skeletor’s forces.

Dolph Lundren, Chelsea Field, and Jon Cypher

Gwildor, a Thenorian locksmith, reveals that Skeletor has stolen his invention: a “Cosmic Key” that can open a portal to any point in time and space. The device allowed Skeletor to breach Castle Grayskull; the group uses Gwildor’s remaining prototype to travel to the Castle.

Billy Barty as Gwildor.  Wow.  That’s a LOT of makeup!

They attempt to free the Sorceress but are overwhelmed by Skeletor’s army and forced to flee through Gwildor’s hastily opened portal, transporting them to Earth. The Key is misplaced on their arrival and discovered by two teenagers, Julie Winston and Kevin Corrigan, who attempt figure out what it is and accidentally send off a resulting signal that allows Skeletor’s second-in-command, Evil-Lyn, to track the key; she sends her henchmen, Saurod, Blade, Beastman, and Karg to recover it.

What Evil-Lyn should look like, vs. the movie version.  What’s with the cape?

Kevin, an aspiring musician, mistakes the Key for a synthesizer and takes it to a music store. Karg’s team arrives and chases Julie until He-Man comes across her and rescues her.

Take a look at the next photo down below, where Det. Lubic is holding the Cosmic Key.  Kevin can’t be the sharpest knife in the drawer if he thinks that Key looks anything like the keyboard on a synthesizer.  And then He-Man just “comes across” Julie?  Sounds like he’s out jogging or something, doesn’t it?  Not exactly dynamic plotting.

Karg’s team returns to Grayskull where, incensed by their failure, Skeletor kills Saurod and sends the others back to Earth, with a larger force under Evil-Lyn’s command. Unable to find Julie, Kevin is taken to Julie’s house by Lubic, a detective investigating the disturbance created by Karg’s team. Suspecting the Key is stolen, Lubic confiscates it from Kevin and leaves. Immediately afterward, Evil-Lyn captures and interrogates Kevin for the Key’s location with a mind control collar, before pursuing Lubic.

Here’s Lubic (James Tolkan) with the Cosmic Key.  Looks to me like a weapon out of “Alien vs. Predator”!

Julie and the Eternians release Kevin from the collar before they go after Lubic. Evil-Lyn recovers the key and summons Skeletor to Earth. Skeletor’s forces overwhelm the Eternians and Julie is mortally wounded by Skeletor’s lightning blast, simultaneously destroying Gwildor’s Key.  He-Man surrenders to save his comrades, and is returned to Eternia as Skeletor’s slave. Skeletor demands that He-Man kneel before him for all of Eternia to witness, before he is killed. He-Man refuses and is whipped by Blade’s laser whip in an attempt to make him kneel.


Zeus had that fire-whip in Immortals.  Here’s Blade with his laser whip.  I had no idea you could make a laser beam flail around like that!  Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynmann would probably have laughed himself silly.

He-Man is still standing when the moon rises and Skeletor absorbs the powers of the universe. Declaring himself the Master of the Universe, Skeletor asserts his victory and continues to torture He-Man with energy blasts.

Frank Langella, who plays Skeletor, has said it’s one of his favorite roles.  When researching the character, he talked to his kids who were big fans of He-Man.  He also watched the animated series.  What’s not to love about this armor?

Back on Earth, Gwildor builds a makeshift Cosmic Key and Kevin recreates the tones necessary to create a gateway to Eternia. The group, including Lubic who attempts to arrest them, are transported to Castle Grayskull, where they begin battling Skeletor’s forces.

I think Lubic’s expression says it all, don’t you?

Evil-Lyn, resenting that Skeletor absorbed the power of the Universe without sharing it with her, deserts him along with the other henchmen.

Why do the Bad Guy’s minions ever expect him to share what he’s after?  Get real!

Skeletor accidentally frees He-Man who then reclaims the Sword of Grayskull.

Excuse me?  The omnipotent Bad Guy “accidentally” frees Our Hero, and then lets him get his hands on the the ultimate weapon?

The pair battle until He-Man shatters Skeletor’s staff, removing his new powers and restoring him to his normal state. He-Man offers mercy but Skeletor draws a concealed sword and attempts to kill He-Man;

I’m sorry, but how could you possibly conceal a sword?  OK, maybe the big black hooded cloak is covering it up.  I defy anybody, even Skeletor himself, to draw a sword of better than average length from under a full-length cloak fast enough to kill the enemy without getting tangled up in several yards of cloth.  (Yes, as a matter of face I have handled swords while wearing a full-length, hooded cloak.)

He-Man manages to knock Skeletor from the throne room into a towering pit below. The freed Sorceress heals Julie, and a portal is opened to send the Earthlings home. Treated as a hero for his exploits, Lubic decides to stay on Eternia.

Probably a wise decision, because the Police Chief will be asking questions about where Lubic went when he vanished from the crime scene.  “Saving the universe” is not a reply that will help his career prospects.



Filed under bad movies, Blog challenges, classics, fantasy, He-Man, Masters of the Universe

G for The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

by Lillian Csernica on April 7, 2015

I could not do justice to the silly side of sword & sorcery movies without at least one mention of the Sinbad movies.  The Golden Voyage of Sinbad is the best of the three, all of which feature the amazing creatures brought to life by Ray Harryhausen.

From Wikipedia:

While sailing, Sinbad comes across a golden tablet dropped by a mysterious flying creature. He wears the tablet as an amulet around his neck. That night, Sinbad has a strange dream in which he sees a man dressed in black, repeatedly calling Sinbad’s name, and also about a mysterious girl with an eye tattooed on her right palm. During his sleep, a mysterious storm throws his ship off course, and the next day Sinbad and his men find themselves near a coastal town in the country of Marabia.


This is what you get when you hang a strange amulet around your neck.  Did Sinbad know where it came from?  Where it was being taken?  Whether it was powerful or cursed?  Nope.  It was golden, so he decides to wear it.

Swimming to the beach, Sinbad is met by a dark-cloaked man, who demands his amulet. Sinbad narrowly escapes into the city, where the city guard forces the hostile stranger to flee. Soon, Sinbad encounters the Grand Vizier of Marabia (Douglas Wilmer). The Vizier, who wears a golden mask to hide his disfigured face, says that Sinbad’s amulet is actually one piece of a puzzle; the Vizier has another. The Vizier relates to Sinbad a legend that the three pieces, when joined together, will reveal a map showing the way to the Fountain of Destiny, hidden somewhere on the lost continent of Lemuria. The legend tells that he who bears the three pieces of the puzzle to the fountain will receive “youth, a shield of darkness, and a crown of untold riches.”


Sinbad agrees to help the Vizier find the fountain. They join forces against Prince Koura (Tom Baker), the black-cloaked man who is an evil magician bent on conquering Marabia. Koura had locked the Vizier in a room and set it on fire, horribly burning his face. The creature that dropped the gold tablet was one of Koura’s minions, a homunculus created by his black magic. Using this creature he hears the conversation, and it turns to ash when it is found.


That’s right, Doctor Who himself, Tom Baker!  How often do you get to see him play a bad guy?

Shortly afterward, Sinbad meets the girl he saw in his dream, Margiana (Caroline Munro), a slave-girl. Her master hires Sinbad to make a man of his lazy, no-good son Haroun (Kurt Christian), and Sinbad agrees on the condition that Margiana goes with him; so the two new passengers and the Vizier board Sinbad’s ship.


Margiana tends to speak in a breathy voice.  No wonder!  The poor woman probably can’t draw a full breath!

Koura hires a ship and crew of his own and follows Sinbad, using his magic several times to try to stop Sinbad. However, each attempt drains away part of his life force and he ages noticeably each time.

Kudos to the writer and director for showing one way magic always demands a price.

Along his journey, Sinbad fights the wooden siren figurehead from his own ship which Koura has animated, which steals the map, enabling Koura to find the Island. However Sinbad has memorised the map. Koura gets to the Island and uses another homunculus to hear the Oracle of All Knowledge (an uncredited Robert Shaw) as it describes to Sinbad what he will face. Koura then seals the men inside the cave, however Sinbad is able to escape with a rope and get the others out. The Homunculus is killed with an arrow as it tries to stop Sinbad.

Now this is what it’s all about!  Sword & sorcery at its finest!

Koura animates a six-armed Kali idol when he is captured by hostile natives, causing them to free him. However, Sinbad and his men arrive and fight and defeat Kali. The natives capture Sinbad and his crew and give Margiana to a one-eyed centaur, the fountain’s guardian of evil.

Sinbad and the others escape when the Vizier shows his burnt face, scaring the natives. The Centaur fights the guardian of good, a griffin. Both seem reasonably matched but with Koura’s help the centaur prevails. However Sinbad then stabs it dead. Once they reach the fountain, Koura obtains all the pieces, assembles the puzzle, and drops it in the fountain. His health is restored and he becomes invisible (the “shield of darkness”).

However, he is slain in a sword duel by Sinbad, who then takes the “crown of untold riches” that rises out of the fountain and gives it to the Grand Vizier. Sinbad explains to Margiana that he values freedom more, and a king is never really free. The crown’s magic powers causes the Vizier’s mask to dissolve to reveal his healed face, and Sinbad journeys back to Marabia with Haroun, who has proven himself during the adventure, as a new crew member and Margiana by his side.

Let me add a brief P.S. to this entry.  When my husband and I first watched this movie together, we did our own version of the MST3K shtick, which had not yet been invented.  As Sinbad’s ship approaches the mysterious isle, home of the Fountain of Destiny, there’s about a minute’s silence.  Into this silence my husband said, “Lemoooooooria!”  Just then, Sinbad turns to Margiana and says, “Lemuria!”  I had such a fit of the giggles we had to pause the movie until I could get a grip.

I love these movies, I really do!



Filed under bad movies, fantasy, Fiction, Humor

F for First Knight

by Lillian Csernica on April 6, 2015

What better classic subject matter for a sword & sorcery movie than King Arthur and his noteworthy knights?  The knight everyone remembers best is Sir Lancelot.  Why?  He’s the son of the Lady of the Lake.  He has never been defeated in any battle or joust.  And he broke the basic rule of chivalry by stealing Guenevere’s heart from poor King Arthur.  I’ve read a few versions of the story where Lancelot and Guenevere meet first when Lancelot saves her from brigands.  Lancelot is everything a young maiden could want in a stalwart hero, so it’s no wonder Arthur tends to suffer by comparison.

Nowhere is this unfortunate turn of events more obvious than in Jerry Zucker’s First Knight.

This version of the story is draws heavily on the writings of Chretien de Troyes, the man who created the character of Lancelot.  If you’re looking for all the usual ingredients of an Arthurian tale, you will discover right up front that while First Knight certainly has plenty of swords, it has no sorcery.

No Lady of the Lake.

No Excalibur.

No Merlin.

No Morgan le Fey.

What then does it have that could make anybody want to watch it?  Again, we have a splendid cast.  Richard Gere as Lancelot.  Julia Ormond as Guinevere.  Sean Connery himself as King Arthur.  Ben Cross plays the bad guy, some previously unknown member of the Round Table named Sir Malagant.  That name should be Malignant, because that’s what the character is.  He wants Arthur’s throne and will do whatever horrible deeds required.


The story starts off with the part where Guinevere is on her way to King Arthur to marry him and bring her land of Leonesse under his protection.  This is very important because Malagant has Leonesse in his sights.  Guinevere’s carriage and escort get attacked by Malagant’s brigands.  Lucky for Guinevere, the “vagabond and skilled swordsman Lancelot” happens upon the battle and pretends to be one more brigand hoping for his share of the spoils (nudge nudge wink wink.)  He lulls the brigand holding Guinevere into lowering his guard.  Not a smart move, because Guinevere has picked up a crossbow and promptly shoots the brigand right up through the belly.

Lancelot is quite taken by Guinevere.  On the ride to King Arthur’s castle, the banter between knight and lady is the most entertaining part of the movie.  Lancelot promises Guinevere that before sundown on the summer solstice she will ask him to kiss her.  She laughs that off since by then she’ll be formally betrothed to King Arthur.

To celebrate the coming royal wedding, there’s the usual trader’s market, festival, and displays of martial skills.  What this movie lacks in proper sorcery it does make up for in some impressive stunts.  Somebody went to a lot of trouble to put together an obstacle course that will beat the daylights out of anybody who isn’t fast, agile, and alert.  King Arthur challenges any man who thinks he’s up to the task to step forward and run the course.  The man who finishes will win a most coveted prize, a kiss from the Queen-to-be.  And it just so happens to be the day of the Summer Solstice.

Guess what happens next.  That’s right.  Lancelot hangs out in the shade watching two contestants get thumped and flung aside.  What he’s really doing is estimating the timing and distance between the various obstacles.  My favorite moment in the movie arrives when Lancelot is up there on the dais next to Guinevere, who has steam coming out of her ears.  Here’s the dialogue, all sotto voce:

Lancelot: Ask me.

Guinevere: No.

Lancelot: Ask me.

Guinevere: Never!

When King Arthur calls upon Guinevere to bestow the prize, Lancelot declines, claiming he is not worthy.  While this is gracious and humble, it’s also the smart thing to do.  King Arthur is considerably older than Guinevere, and he can already see some of the sparks that fly between his fiancee and this no-name peasant who’s good with a sword.

The other Knights of the Round Table are already put off by this commoner with pretensions to their ranks.  They’re not exactly doing their jobs, because Malagant does manage to kidnap Guinevere.  Lancelot disguises himself, sneaks into Malagant’s stronghold, and gets Guinevere out of there.  By now he’s even more in love with her, so much so that he’s resolved to leave King Arthur’s Court rather than put Guinevere at risk.  Guinevere can’t stand the thought of Lancelot leaving.  This is it.  This is where she swallows her pride and asks him for that kiss.

Right then, in walks King Arthur.

Now begins the incredibly stupid part of the movie.  Yes, King Arthur gets upset.  Yes, he demands and explanation.  Does he listen?  No!  He goes totally ballistic and puts both Guinevere and Lancelot on trial.  The Knights of the Round Table are inclined to believe Lancelot never did anything more than what the King saw, but there’s nothing reasonable about the trial.  I can’t believe Sean Connery overacted that badly with such stupid, over-the-top dialogue.

Meanwhile, Malagant has taken advantage of all this uproar to stage his invasion.


Insert one-on-one fights between key knights and their particular enemies on Malagant’s side.  Some live, some die.  Lancelot wades into the battle and the tide turns in favor of Our Heroes.  By then King Arthur is already wounded.  On his deathbed, he passes the crown and the Queen to Lancelot.



Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, history, love

D for Deathstalker

by Lillian Csernica on April 4, 2015

There are a total of four movies in the Deathstalker franchise.  They put the “low” in “low budget” with their steady decline in plot, characters, and special effects.  On board for the first Deathstalker movie was none other than Roger Corman himself, the king of the B-movies.




All of these movies feature lots of pretty warrior women, princesses, and slave girls who are wearing as little as possible.  To be fair, the heroes are handsome and they run around half-naked too.


Here we have Rick Hill and Lana Clarkson starring as “Deathstalker” and “Kaira.”  Nice outfit she’s almost wearing.


Deathstalker II is so bad it’s hilarious.  Wikipedia says, “Princess Evie of Jzafir is deposed by the evil Jerak and his ally Sultana. Posing as Reena the Seer, Princess Evie enlists the aid of the renowned hero Deathstalker. Together they battle the forces of evil and a clone of Evie created by Jerak, to win back Evie’s kingdom.”


Sure, all that happens, but there’s so much more!  The sorcerous clone of Evie apparently eats people alive, leaving only the bronzed face of her victim which she adds to the headboard on the bed.  Deathstalker and Reena get captured by Amazons.  Deathstalker must fight for his life in a wrestling match with an actual lady wrestler with the ring name of “Queen Kong.”

Starring John Terlesky as Deathstalker and Monique Gabrielle as Reena, Deathstalker II is a borderline porn flick with swords and magic.  It does have a script that’s worth the time.  When Sultana tells the evil Jerak that the famous warrior Deathstalker is helping Reena, Jerak starts spluttering with laughter and says, “Deathstalker?” in this perfect tone of sarcastic disbelief.  Watching John Terlesky play Deathstalker messes with my mind because he looks a lot like a boyfriend I had back when I was 19 or so.  Poor Mr. Terlesky can’t get through some of his scenes without breaking into a grin or just losing it completely.  When he faces the clone of Evie who plans to seduce and devour him, she cuddles up to him and gets a good grip on the front of his leather pants.  Have you ever seen a hero in one of these movies blush?  Terlesky does, the poor devil.  Watch Deathstalker II, especially the outtakes.  Those are really priceless.


In this installment, Deathstalker is played by John Allen Nelson, an otherwise respectable actor who has gone on to have a busy career in television.  Deathstalker is hired by yet another princess to find one of three magic jewels that are crucial to restoring peace to the kingdom.  Two of the jewels are inside the fortress of the evil sorcerer Troxartes, a necromancer who believes in recycling.  Every time he kills a bunch of the good guys, he raises them from the dead to be his zombie soldiers.  The princess gets killed, but as luck would have it, she has a twin sister!  I kept getting distracted by the fact that John Allen Nelson’s head did not look like it belonged on his body.  Clearly the man had worked out and muscled up for the role, but it really looked like his head was sticking up out of some kind of costume.  How bad is this movie?  It is so bad I’ve watched it only once.

Last but not least, Deathstalker IV: Match of the Titans.  Deathstalker is lured to a competition among warriors held at the hilltop castle of the wicked Queen Kana.  Deathstalker discovers the competition is mere bait to attract the strongest warriors in the land so they can be killed off one by one.  Deathstalker decides it’s time to round up the remaining fighters and run for it.  Queen Kana unleashes her Stone Warriors and so begins the battle to the death!  If this plot sounds a lot like the first Deathstalker movie with the addition of silly Stone Warriors, that’s because it is.

Rick Hill returns to the role he created, the mighty warrior Deathstalker.  Doesn’t look too happy about it, does he?


Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Horror, Humor, romance

C for Clash of the Titans

by Lillian Csernica on April 3, 2015



Admit it, you were expecting Conan, right?  Clash of the Titans is far more deserving of its place on this list.  The original movie is full of bad dialogue, actors chewing on the scenery, boring costumes, and a really annoying clockwork owl, but at least it had the amazing talents of Ray Harryhausen behind its mythical creatures.

The story is simple enough.  The gods of Olympus are busy cheating on each other and taking it out on the mortals involved.  One of Zeus’ affairs results in Perseus, the hero who must capture Pegasus, solve a riddle or die trying, outwit the cursed Calibos, and battle the dreaded Medusa.  These challenges enable him to face the ultimate test, rescuing Princess Andromeda before the Kraken can devour her.

The movie boasts a really impressive cast.  It made a surprising amount of money, and it lingers on in the memories of all of us who are devoted to the sword & sorcery genre.  There are several scenes that make the movie look much more low-budget that it really was.  For a complete list of the consistency errors and other mistakes that made it into the film, see the imdb.com page.


The 2010 remake relies on CGI and way too much of it.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, the producers pushed back the release date so they could bring the movie out in 3D format.  This cast includes Liam Neeson (Zeus), Ralph Fiennes (Hades), Mads Mikkelsen (Draco), and Jason Flemyng (Calibos).  Sam Worthington plays Perseus.  Worthington, Neeson, and Fiennes reprised their roles in the sequel, Wrath of the Titans, which was intended to be 3D from the beginning.  This proved to be no help, and the sequel got even worse reviews than the remake.


Speaking of really terrible sequels, I can’t leave the letter C without mentioning Conan the Destroyer, sequel to Conan the Barbarian.  The sequel turned out to be so cheesy it earned the nickname “Conan the Disappointing.”  The single most telling detail about how bad this movie really is comes near the end when Conan is muscling his way through some rocks that have collapsed and blocked the passageway.  You can see the foam boulders compressing under Conan’s weight as he elbows his way forward commando-style.





Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, history, Humor, romance

A for Ator

by Lillian Csernica on  April 1, 2015





When I was in high school, the first of the Ator movies appeared in theaters.  At the time I was heavily into sword & sorcery, so I went to see it.  Not five minutes into the actual movie, the dramatic voice-over put a name to the bad guys: the Kingdom of the Spider.  You don’t have to be a movie expert to know what that means.  Sooner or later, Our Hero is going to go up against a spider the size of a tank.  I’ve gotten a lot better in recent years, but at that time if I saw so much as a tiny spider, I started screaming.  It’s a good thing I’ve always had a vivid imagination, because I spent most of the movie with my eyes shut.


I’d seen Miles O’Keeffe in the remake of “Tarzan, the Ape Man,” and while that was hardly Oscar material, my main interest was the eye candy factor, so it was all good.  I did expect more out of a movie that promised sword fights.

Ator: The Fighting Eagle” begins with Our Hero asking his father Torren for his own sister Sunya’s hand in marriage.  Excuse me?  Ator wants to marry his own sister?  Well gosh, as luck would have it, Torren chooses that moment to tell Ator this is not a problem because Ator is in fact adopted.  Does anybody in Torren’s court have a problem with this?  Apparently not, because the wedding plans move ahead.   Ator is doing the barbarian equivalent of choosing a boutonniere when Dakkar, High Priest of the Spider Cult, has Sunya kidnapped.  Can you guess what Dakkar plans to do with Sunya?  Here’s a hint: it involves a really huge spiderweb.


This is plainly a rip-off of Conan and Valeria in “Conan the Barbarian.”

So Ator vows to rescue his beloved, but first he must learn how to fight to defend himself from all the dangers along the way.  What’s this?  He’s a prince in a warrior culture and only now is anybody teaching him how to use a sword?  I believe the expression I want here is  <facepalm>.  Once his training is complete, off goes Ator to rescue his beloved.  (The sword training should have taken several weeks, if not years, so in a realistic world Sunya would already be spider chow.)

On the way Ator meets Roon, an Amazon thief, who decides to help him out on his quest.  Sabrina Siani wears the armor well enough, but she’s no Valeria.  Sandahl Bergman, a professional dancer, made her sword fights in “Conan the Barbarian” look great.  In the Ator movies, and I mean in ALL of the Ator movies, you have the dubious pleasure of watching Miles O’Keeffe parry before his opponent even starts to attack.  I’ve watched dozens of movies that include sword fights.  My husband lettered in fencing in college, and back in my Ren Faire days we both worked at the fencing booth.  I tell you, it is painful to watch Ator walk through his fight blocking like a nervous groom learning how to waltz.  You can see the stunt men holding back until he’s in position.

The middle of the movie is taken up by set pieces from a bad D&D campaign.  There are hideous witches, undead warriors, and then Ator’s own shadow attacks him!  It’s a creature of sorcery, so its fighting skills are far superior to those of Ator himself.



Another standard feature of sword & sorcery movies is the evil seductress who seeks to derail Our Hero from his quest.  Ator comes up against a perfect example when he meets Indun, played by porn star Laura Gemser.


Even so, Our Hero triumphs and enters the lair of the Spider Cult.  Some day, if I turn my writing skills toward game design, I’m going to create a Trivial Pursuit variation all about adventure movies.  Observant players will be able to answer the question that comes up time and time again, from Indiana Jones to Harry Potter:  Just how many tarantulas did they use in that scene?



Poor Sunya, stuck in the web while Ator fights off the Mother of All Spiders.


If you want to have a good time and you’re OK with lots of spiders, then grab some popcorn and settle in for 98 minutes of predictable storytelling, silly dialogue, laughable costumes, really bad sword fights, and special effects that make the original “Doctor Who” look like Jerry Bruckheimer with a bottomless SFX budget.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love “Doctor Who.”  Tom Baker then, Christopher Eccleston now!)  In all fairness, I should praise Ator’s best asset: his hair.  No matter how rough things get fighting the big ugly spider puppet, Ator always has great hair.

Join me tomorrow for a look at a true B movie!


Filed under fantasy, Horror, Humor, romance

Not Too Revealing?

by Lillian Csernica on March 23, 2015



Once again I shall be participating in the great April A to Z Blog Challenge!  This is my third year in a row.  Many thanks to Arlee Bird, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and the mighty team of A to Z ninjas who help make this event so special.  When I began my blog three years ago this month, participating in the A to Z Challenge helped me discover the joys of blogging within a community.

Time now to announce what I’ll be blogging about during this year’s challenge!



Sword & Sorcery Movies

So Bad

They’re Great!

One of my guilty pleasures in watching really bad movies.  You can’t do much better than a really bad sword & sorcery movie.  Join me during the month of April for twenty-six awful adventures, hamfisted heroes, hysterical heroines, Vaudeville villains, and some of the tackiest treasures ever invented!


Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, Goals, history, Horror, Humor, love, romance, Writing