Saturday, March 19, 2022

THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER (1982) Blu-ray Review

The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982) d. Albert Pyun (USA) (100 min)

Titus Cromwell (Richard Lynch), frustrated by noble King Richard’s successful defense of Ehdan, ventures to Tomb Island and resurrects a terrifying master of the black arts, Xusia of Delos (Richard Moll). With the wizard’s help, Cromwell crushes his foes then attempts to murder his newfound ally before Xusia can regain his full powers. Meanwhile, Richard’s young son Talon, who witnessed the murder of both his parents at Cromwell’s hands, escapes into exile, eventually becoming a highly profitable and respected mercenary. 11 years later, rebellion is brewing, with the Ehdan people championing Prince Mikah (Simon MacCorkindale) to reclaim the throne, with his faithful and spirited sister Alana (Kathleen Beller) by his side. Cromwell captures Mikah, whereupon Alana entreats Talon (now played by Lee Horsley) to take up his three-bladed sword against their mutual longtime enemy and rescue her imprisoned sibling.

Unlike the deeply serious Conan the Barbarian (which it beat to theaters by several weeks), writer/director’s Pyun’s feature debut possesses a marvelous sense of juvenile play, even as it mixes in R-rated exploitation elements of gratuitous nudity, splashy gore, and creature makeup effects. Combining the classic appeal of knights and maidens from Excalibur with the playful cliffhanger tone of Raiders of the Lost Ark (both of which made their respective bows to great box office and critical acclaim the year before) on a fraction of the budget, the neophyte filmmaker relied on homegrown moxie and a more experienced crew to bring his fantastic – in the truest sense of the word – vision to life.

On his energetic, rambling, and occasionally tear-inducing audio commentary and accompanying interview on the new Shout! Factory Blu-ray, Pyun shares how he was thrown out of nearly every producers’ office in Hollywood until Brandon and Marianne Chase, who had just had a surprise hit with Alligator, decided to take a chance on the young Hawaiian-born filmmaker with his highly detailed storyboards and boundless enthusiasm. Despite a budget that ballooned beyond Pyun’s humble estimations (and Chase opting to take the possessive credit, i.e. “A Brandon Chase Film,” a dick move if there ever was one), the final result proved a smash at the turnstiles, earning its budget back many times over and emerging as the highest grossing independent film of 1982.

Pyun continued to deliver entertainingly lowbrow entertainment throughout his career, including Nemesis (and its sequels), Cyborg, 1990’s Captain America, and Omega Doom, to name but a few, but The Sword and the Sorcerer remains his most popular and best-beloved offering. The script, developed with newfound pals Tom Karnowski and John V. Stuckmeyer after moving to L.A., has a classic cornball feel to it, taking itself just seriously enough, while David Whitaker’s (Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, Vampire Circus) buoyant score nails the “we’re having fun, not poking fun” element.

Shot entirely in local time-honored spots as Bronson Canyon and the southern California coastline, Pyun’s production team delivers the goods whilst hiding the seams. Cinematographer Joseph Mangine, whose illustrious genre credits include Alone in the Dark, Mother’s Day, Van Nuys Blvd, Squirm, The Lords of Flatbush, and the Swamp Thing TV series, works magic with his colored lenses and able handling of light/shadow.

Meanwhile, art director George Costello (The Terminator, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) dresses up the shabby sets enough to passably masquerade as residence for royalty. Costumes were designed by Christine Boyar (who single-handedly got David Hasselhoff, Chase’s first pick for Talon, fired, saying that his legs were inadequate); her only other design credit is for Pyun’s Radioactive Dreams, although she did serve on the wardrobe crew for David Schmoeller’s Tourist Trap.

Horsley, who parlayed his success here into a busy TV career as a second-tier Tom Selleck (Matt Houston, Paradise), sheds the mustache and plays his heroic role with a straight face and a twinkle in the eye. Despite being saddled with an enormous fur-lined coat for the first 2/3 of the film, he eventually gets to doff the duds and flex the pecs.

Lynch (God Told Me To, Invasion U.S.A.) digs into his well-stocked “full-throated villainy” toolbox and pulls out every trick in the book (even his goatee is evil), and while Pyun casually mentions that his star may or may not have been on cocaine much of the time, he is quick to applaud Lynch’s dedication to the cause.
Beller (Dynasty, Are You in the House Alone?) is equal parts sweet and spicy in her portrayal of the fair princess, using feminine wiles and wits to extricate herself from the clutches of lascivious men, setting up a third-act punchline where her tried-and-true methods do not succeed as planned.

MacCorkindale (who also provides the wraparound narration, after a soused and sauced Oliver Reed’s services were severed) delivers probably the most melodramatic performance – which is saying something, considering the material – chewing his lines like decades-old jerky and delivering them with double the froth. As punishment for his sins (and to balance the sexploitation scales), the future Falcon Crest star spends a goodly portion of the running time clad only in a loincloth, his manly flesh frequently tenderized for our viewing pleasure.

Meanwhile, George Maharis, best known as Buz Murdock during his four-year run on TV’s Route 66 (although pandemic cinema fans will also remember him from 1965’s The Satan Bug), delivers the most grounded performance as Cromwell’s sneering aide-de-camp Machelli, a man playing all sides against each other. His stone-faced knavery provides a marvelous counterpoint to all the face-pulling and near-camp surrounding him.

There’s also an enjoyable passing of the “big bald bad guy” torch from perennial ’70s thug Robert Tessier (The Longest Yard, Hard Times) to Moll (House, Evilspeak, TV’s Night Court), the former playing Cromwell’s bloodthirsty dungeonmaster while the latter had to bail halfway through when his demonic sclera contact lenses fused themselves to his corneas! (Though replaced by doubles and puppets for his unfilmed scenes, Moll was kind enough to return and provide his own ADR voice work.) There’s also a brief appearance from legendary character actor and acting teacher Jeff Corey as Alana’s faithful ally Craccus.

Low-budget regulars Reb Brown (Yor: The Hunter from the Future), George Murdock (Breaker! Breaker!), Earl Maynard (Truck Turner), and stuntman/actor Anthony De Longis (Road House) also pop up from time to time, with the latter also credited as the production’s sword trainer. Sadly, stuntman Jack Tyree (Prophecy, Humanoids from the Deep, Escape from New York) tragically missed the safety bag while doing Xusia’s high fall; the film is dedicated to him.

Talon’s impressively fanciful tri-pronged sword (and its Swiss Army knife special features, such as touch-activated projectile blades) was designed at Pyun’s behest by Roger Holzberg, taking inspiration from Kenji Misumi’s “Lone Wolf and Cub” franchise. Four-time Oscar-winner Greg Cannom (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and Allan Apone (The Return of the Living Dead, Deadly Eyes) provided the special makeup effects (Exploding hearts! Splitting heads!) with the Chiodo Brothers (Killer Klowns from Outer Space) fabricating the opening act’s memorable “cask of heads.” Selling the sizzle, famed fantasy and sci-fi illustrator Peter Andrew Jones delivered the eye-catching poster art that secured many a VHS rental back in the day.

Shout! Factory’s new high-def release comes bursting at the seams with supplements galore (listed below), a perfect way to celebrate the film’s 40th anniversary. Here’s to kingdoms to save and women to love!



NEW 4K Scan from the Original Negative
NEW Audio Commentary with Director Albert Pyun


NEW 4K Scan from the Original Negative
NEW Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Albert Pyun
NEW Tales of the Ancient Empire – An Interview with Albert Pyun
NEW A Princess' Tale – An Interview with Kathleen Beller
NEW Mightier Than the Sword – An Interview with Co-Writer/Co-Producer John Stuckmeyer
NEW Master of the Blade – An Interview with Editor Marshall Harvey
NEW The Specialist and the Effects – An Interview with Special Makeup Effects Artist Allan Apone
NEW Brothers in Arms – An Interview with Special Effects Artists The Chiodo Brothers – Charles, Edward And Stephen
NEW Dedicated To Jack Tyree, Stuntman – The Cast and Crew Remember Stuntman Jack Tyree
Trailers From Hell – Editor Marshall Harvey on The Sword and the Sorcerer
Theatrical Trailers
TV Spot
Still Gallery
Reversible art wrap featuring alternative original theatrical poster artwork

The Sword and the Sorcerer is available now on Blu-ray and UHD from Shout Factory and can be ordered HERE:



  1. ALL I remember about this is the fancy schmancy sword. Not even sure that I saw the whole film when I was a young teen, but it has been one I have been meaning to revisit for many years. So I can hopefully get to it soon :)

    1. This was probably my third viewing and it was funny how much of it I had mixed up in my head with Excalibur. I think the blenderized version of those two movies would be something special indeed.