Retro Review: The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)
So. Here we are. About to review a David Carradine movie. I know it’s Sword and Sorcery September, but man, this is one tall order. A box of balsa wood has more emotional depth, and looks more threatening in a fight. I really want to know what was going on behind the scenes where studios looked at this:
And thought “now here’s an action superstar if I’ve ever seen one.” Satan himself must have been scratching his head when Carradine was given the nod to assume the role of Caine in Kung Fu…a role intended for Bruce Lee. Bruce Fricking Lee.
Then, to continue the travesty, we have Carradine starring in The Warrior and the Sorceress. In case you missed it, here’s the cover art again, and a still of Carradine:
This is not Carradine running out of cocoa butter for a scene. Unfortunately, the only promise kept in this cover art is that a woman with 4 breasts is indeed present in this movie, though in considerably less armor. Like none. In fact, not a single female character in this gem can manage a bra, apparently. Issues of Playboy have less full frontal nudity. If there is any upside to this, it’s that at least the director had the good sense to keep David under several layers of clothing at all time.
The Warrior and Sorceress is a train wreck from beginning to end. The story is a blatant re-telling of the Yojimbo storyline: Two rival factions are locked in a stalemate that has destroyed the lives of the townspeople around them, when a mercenary for hire arrives, promising to tip the balance of power…for a price. Double dealing ensues, and the mercenary develops a conscience, throwing control of the town back to the people instead of the highest bidder. And kills more people than cholera. This story is so good, no less than 3 excellent movies have been made from it, Yojimbo (which if you haven’t seen Toshiro Mifune kicking ass and taking names, shame on you), A Fistful of Dollars with Clint Eastwood, and Last Man Standing with Bruce Willis. The Warrior and the Sorceress is not even close to these movies.
The story here is set on a distant planet of drab dessert, of which Sword and Sorcery movies cannot get enough of. The twin suns of the planet make water a scarce commodity, and the two warlords fight relentlessly over the only well in town. And by fight, we mean have their incompetent soldiers lounge around it and vaguely menace the clearly mentally insane townspeople. A further wrinkle is that one warlord (I can’t be bothered to remember which) has a captive sorceress who can craft the ultimate blade, which will surely make him the top loser in this town full of complete mouth breathers.
The quality of this movie is two levels below complete and utter shit. David Carradine must have specified that nobody involved could be capable of upstaging him, which means we have a movie that is jam packed with the worst acting imaginable. You and your friends could not conceivably do worse. And your props would be of higher quality. The budget here must have been nonexistent. Renaissance fair swords look like Excalibur compared to the butter knives these idiots swing around. The costumes are an embarrassment to B-Movie generic trash. And the special effects clearly misunderstood the term “special.” One fat warlord has a pet lizard as an adviser, in a clear rip off of Jabba the Hut, and just one of many obvious attempts to visually pilfer from the Star Wars trilogy. How bad does it look? Behold, I present to you a knew definition of pain:
And the action. Holy crap on a stick. David Carradine kicks like a Rockette with arthritis. His action scenes defy explanation. If you’ve seen even one episode of Kung Fu, you know that his hand waving, non-martial artistry was a complete sham. But here, you have a whole new level of bad. The slow, telegraphed fights look amateurish, and you could stab Carradine half a million times in the time it takes for him to perform one of his “flashy” spin moves. To make matters worse, when Carradine finally recieves the magic sword, he promptly loses it, and proceeds to beat the hell out of the baddy who picks it up, the only guy on set who looks like he could do a push up incidentally. Obviously a sword of wonder and magic.
Overall, there is nothing to recommend this flick. The story has been told better in no less than three movies. The action is a ridiculous farce. The acting is worse than homeless crazy people fighting over who gets to sleep on the nicest bench (I live in Portland, and trust me, it’s miles more entertaining to watch.) David Carradine never deserved to star in an action movie, and this is far from being one of the so-bad-it’s-good cult favorites that some internet sites claim it to be. If you need to see tin swords being swung with reckless abandon, or perhaps the utter despair of topless actresses who clearly wish they were somewhere else is your thing, there are much abler movies to deliver on those fronts. Leave this Warrior to wander the world alone, like Caine from Kung Fu.
If you survive watching this, you are now immune to most forms of radiation poisoning.