Sunday, August 14, 2011

VHS Swords & Sorcery

These days, kids getting into fantasy rpgs have a number of film and TV influences to draw from should our increasingly post-literate world make Appendix N unpalatable. There have even been D&D movies! If we want to stick with quality examples we’ve had the Lord of the Rings films and the D&D-without-the-name Record of Lodoss War, not to mention things like Harry Potter that (while not Medieval) have plenty of magic.

Such was not the case back the eighties. We had to savor what sword and spell films we had, however dubious their merits. Sure, we had several great films from Harryhausen, various Arthurian adaptations, and Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings and Fire and Ice. The quality tended drop off pretty precipitously after the top tier, though, but even those films were invested with extra magic due to their spotty availability on home video.

Some of those fantasy not quite classics that inspired my friends and I back in the day are still rare. I only got one chance to watch Archer: Fugitive from the Empire when it aired in 1981. I’ve been forced to rely only on my dim childhood memories of this sub-Hawk the Slayer “gem” about a young hero with a magic bow who teams up with thief and the daughter of a goddess to seek revenge on an evil wizard. It used to be on youtube (though now its been removed), but I suspect it still lurks out their on the internet in all its made for TV glory.

The Warrior and the Sorceress has David Carradine and plentiful bare breasts going for it--though admittedly only one of those things was uncommon in the post-Conan barbarian invasion. This film makes the provocative proposal that Yojimbo and Fist Full of Dollars would be improved with a four-breasted stripper assassin. I’ll let you judge for yourself whether it makes its case.

Staying in the realm of Boris Vallejo posters and bare breasts (which seems to Argentina, based on where these movies were made) we come to Barbarian Queen. I don’t think it actually provided much gaming inspiration for us, really--and its lack of magic and ancient Rome setting make it technically not a fantasy--but it had other charms that made these deficits easy to overlook in that early gaming era.

It looks like later this month we'll all get the change to revisit these Argentine/American epics in the company of the first two Deathstalker films when Roger Corman's Cult Classics brings them to DVD.

16 comments:

christian said...

Barbarian Queen you say? Yes, well, I must look into that for purely, um, academic purposes.

*ahem*

matt jackson said...

One of my favorite movies I remember was "The Sword and the Sorcerer" with the three bladed sword that could shoot blades at people. That thing rocked! I remember getting Showtime for free for a month, taping that at 2am and then watching it over and over.
Damn it, I cannot download it on iTunes!

Roger the GS said...

I think that kind of desperation was also the case for novels. I remember reading Sword of Shannara stricly from post-Tolkien hunger, and blithely devouring all the Conan and sword+planet pastiches there were to grab.

Dariel Quiogue said...

This post also makes me remember Lana Clarkson's (Barbarian Queen) tragic demise.

Tim Shorts said...

Hawk the Slayer was a must watch plus Showtime seemed to have it on nearly every time we got home from school. The animated movie Wizards was very good. The other one I remember fondly was Beastmaster, with that very cool tiger, some very cool creatures and of course a semi nude Tana Roberts.

Trey said...

@Christian - Academic...Of course. ;)

@Matt - Yeah, I would Sword and the Sorcerer above both of these here, though it's definitely of the genre.

@Roger - I agree completely. What changed that, at least for me, was the discover of used bookstores where I could find fantasy from the sixties and seventies.

@Dariel - Yeah, I had forgotten about that until I was doing research for this post. It was indeed tragic.

@Tim - Oh yeah Beastmaster was great (and by "great" I mean for this paticular genre).

matt jackson said...

+Tim I heck yeah, I loved Beastmaster, probably one of my favorite movies from my younger days. Was so fun...and everyone, I mean everyone wanted a Kodo and Podo for their D&D character.

Lagomorph Rex said...

I'm glad to see some of these finally getting a DVD release. I never pass up a chance to buy these sorts of flicks on VHS if I chance upon them. If your a bit savy, and have a few sacrificial blank tapes.. you can swap the reals out and get rid of the Macrovision stuff and then copy them onto DVD.. I've done that with Sword and the Sorcerer because of how expensive the DVD release was.

now if some one would just release all the Ator movies..

Trey said...

now if some one would just release all the Ator movies..

You're a true connoisseur, my friend. :)

ze bulette said...

Ah yes, Beastmaster. We never quite called it that back in the day. :P

The Happy Whisk said...

Tim made me watch Hawk when we first started dating. All I remember are the tinfoil walls.

Trey said...

@ze bulette - Heh!

@Happy Whisk - Obviously he knew you were "the one" from the beginning--to share Hawk with you. ;)

The Angry Lurker said...

God I remember The Barbarian and the Sorceress and liking it, is that wrong?

Trey said...

On the contrary, I think that's very, very right. ;)

Lee B said...

The "Heartbow" from Archer was one of the few non-sword badass weapons. Second only to the flying glaive in Krull I'd say. I too have only memories from when the movie aired.

matt jackson said...

I almost mentioned Krull. I did not care for the movie much but after it, EVERY player wanted a damn glaive thing. So ridiculous.