Golok Setan (1983)

Barry Prima was one of the biggest stars of Indonesian cinema, appearing in several  Jaka Sembung movies which were adaptions of a comic book, including Jaka Sembung (The Warrior), Si Buta Lawan Jaka Sembung (The Warrior Against Blind Swordsman), Bajing Ireng Dan Jaka Sembung (Jaka Sembung vs. the Ninja), Jaka Sembung Dan Bergola Ijo (Jaka Sembung and Bergola Ijo) and Jaka Sembung Dan Dewi Samudra (Jaka Sembung and the Ocean Goddess).

Also known as The Devil’s Sword, this is based on another comic and has a sequel as well, which is called Mandala Dari Sungai Ular (Mandala from the Snake River).

Once upon a time, as they say, an old man found a meteorite and forged it into a sword. Then he hid it until the time was right for its use. That time seems like right now, because the Crocodile Queen is kidnapping all the men of the village and turning them into her sex slaves, while still allowing them to steal women of their own.

Our hero floats around on a rock and has laser beams that can come out of his hands.

Our villainess is the only person in this whole country willing to admit that she gets horny.

Our monsters are goopy, gory and awesome.

And the sets? You’ll want to live within them.

For some reason, my week of sword and sorcery has had plenty of crocodile-themed enemies in it. I hope the universe isn’t trying to tell me something.

You can watch this on YouTube.

DRIVE-IN ASYLUM DOUBLE FEATURE, FEATURING TWO ASYLUMS!

This Saturday at 8 PM east coast time at the Groovy Doom Facebook page, we’ve really gone, well, insane with two films set inside the walls of mental hospitals. First up, we return to SF Brownrigg’s unique brand of weirdness with…

Don’t Look in the Basement is available on Tubi to watch! You know what would taste great with that movie? A shot! So here we go!

Sam’s Popsicle 

  • 1 oz. amaretto
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. heavy cream or half and half
  1. Put everything in a shaker and do your thing until fully mixed.
  2. Pour over crushed ice in a cocktail glass. Enjoy!

Silent Night, Bloody Night is also on Tubi. What if we made a holiday-themed drink to celebrate?

Christmas Eve 1935

  • 1 1/2 oz. melon liqueur
  • 1 1/2 oz. Chambord
  1. Pour melon in first over ice, then top with Chambord by layering it (pour over a spoon, if it helps).
  2. Drink it!

Remember! We’ll see you Saturday at 8 PM east coast time at the Groovy Doom Facebook page!

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

Have movies ever been as good before or since this one?

Nope. They haven’t.

The first of three Columbia Sinbad films, all boast the genius of Ray Harryhausen and his Dynamation stop-motion magic.

As we meet Sinbad and his crew, they’re helping a magician escape a towering cyclops. Things don’t get any easier — or less exciting — for them for the next 88 minutes.

Our hero (Kerwin Matthews) has the goal of marrying Princess Parisa (Kathryn Crosby) to bring peace between her father’s kingdom of Chandra and his homeland of Baghdad. But during the festivities, the sorcerer Sinbad saved portends of dark times to come and a war between Baghdad and Chandra. Unless he returns to Colossa, all is doomed. No one listens, so he shrinks Parisa, which means that Sinbad must go to Colossa to find the egg of a Roc, the only thing that can restore her.

What follows is an adventure packed with a dragon, a mutinous crew of criminals, a sword battle with a skeleton and a second and even more vicious cyclops.

Director Nathan Juran had already worked with Harryhausen on 20 Million Miles to Earth. The creature in that movie, the Ymir, had its model reused to create the cyclops in this film.

This is the kind of movie that’s ideal for a lazy and rainy Saturday. It’s filled with imagination and moves so quickly that you nearly want to watch it again the moment it wraps up.

 

Magic Voyage of Sinbad (1953)

For some reason, I’ve decided to see how Sinbad is treated all over the world, which means that I’ve now gone to Russia to watch Sadko, which was exported to the U.S. by Roger Corman in 1962. Ten minutes were cut, the movie was dubbed into English — the script adaptor was a young Francis Ford Coppola — and Sadko was renamed Sinbad. So perhaps I’m not watching Sinbad at all.

Actually, I’m not. I’m watching a Russian opera and here I thought this was going to have stop-motion creatures battling people. Instead, I’m watching the story of Sadko seeking the sweet bird of happiness, which is not a metaphor.

That said, this movie has some ingenuity, as the land of the Ocean King is obviously not underwater but all tricked out with in-camera special effects. I mean, there’s a moment where our hero rides a seahorse to escape.

While this doesn’t have the Harryhausen effects that the Sinbad title — American kids were fooled into seeing a Russian film in the midst of the Cuban Missle Crisis, so if there’s ever anyone as carny as Corman, you let me know — but that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a spectacle.

You can watch this on Tubi.

The Sword of the Barbarians (1982)

Known in Italy as Sangraal, la spada di fuoco (Sangraal, the Sword of Fire), this is the first of two barbarian movies that Michele Massimo Tarantini made. For a director better known for his commedia sexy all’italiana films, this is pretty decent. By that, I mean that you have to have an affinity for Italian sword and sorcery. If you haven’t figured out that I do, well, now you do.

This also has the alternate name, Barbarian Master, which is a very metal movie name.

Sangraal (Pietro Torrisi, who started his career in peblum movies like The Ten Gladiators and ended it in sword and sorcery movies like Gunan, King of the Barbarians) is Sangraal, whose father’s kingdom has been decimated by the evil warlord Nantuk (Mario Novelli, Warriors of the Year 2072Amok TrainEyes Behind the Stars). He leads his people to a new land which is ruled by Belem (Luciano Rossi, whose career hits all of the Italian trends, from westerns like Django to the Eurospy Killer 77, Alive or Dead to giallo sich as Death Carries a Cane and Death Smiles at a Murderer and poliziotteschi, war films and exploitation in Salon Kitty).

Nantuk has become a king, yet the Goddess of Fire and Death* (Xiomara Rodriguez) demands more. Sangraal must die or Nantuk will lose everything. So he does what any madman usually does and crucifies our hero — hello, Conan the Barbarian — and forcing him to watch everyone in the village be killed**, including the Goddess personally murdering his wife. He’s saved by the archer Li Wo Twan (Haruhiko Yamanouchi, the only actor I know who has been in both Joe D’Amato and Wes Anderson movies) and Belem’s daughter Ati (Yvonne Fraschetti, Demons 2).

This movie actually has something to say about love, loss and grief, as a wizard tells Sangraal that he must give up on the memory of his dead wife and keep on living if he wants to defeat Nantuk, who is devoted to killing him. Then again, as you deal with these issues in your life, I doubt you will ever battle an evil king. That said, perhaps you’ll find something in this to help you.

You have to give it to the servants of Nantuk. When Sangraal challenges our antagonist to a duel to the death by the traditional rules — with no interference — they refuse to help, even when their leader demands they kill our hero. And then, they just let Ati go at the end.

This movie has taught me that goddesses can be killed, if you have a magic crystal crossbow.

Also — and perhaps most importantly — Sabrina Siani (who is pretty much the queen of these movies, thanks to appearances in The Throne of Fire, Ator the Fighting Eagle and, most importantly, her turn as Ocron in Conquest) is in this as the Goddess of Gold and Life.

This is why I watch movies, to be battered into happiness by Italian barbarians battling half-naked and fully naked evil beings.

You can get this from Revok.

*If you’re watching this and wonder, “Have I seen this village get destroyed before?” You’re right. It’s the exact same footage that is in The Throne of Fire.

Quest for the Mighty Sword (1990)

If there’s a 12 step group for people who watch too many Joe D’Amato movies, well I should be the counselor, helping talk people off the ledge after they think they need to watch Erotic Nights of the Living Dead or Eleven Days, Eleven Nights or…hell, I can’t do it. For all people heap scorn on the movies of the man born Aristide Massaccesi, I find myself falling in love more and more with each movie.

There are four Ator movies and honestly, none of them need to be seen in order. The first, Ator the Fighting Eagle starts with our hero asking his father if he can marry his sister, at which point most people get grossed out and fans of Italian sleaze say, “Oh yes,  this is a D’Amato movie.” Throw in a spider cult, Sabrina Siani as a thief and Black Emanuelle herself, Laura Gemser, as well as a script by Michele Soavi, and you have paradise on VHS tape.

The second Ator epic — well, stretching the use of the word there, even I get that — is Ator 2 – L’invincibile Orion, which was released in the U.S. as The Blade Master and Cave Dwellers. It features modern technology — a hang glider and a nuke — within its sword and sorcery plot. Rushed to theaters to take advantage of Conan the Destroyer, it feels like more Yor Hunter from the Future than a trip to Cimmeria.

The third — and I’d argue best — Ator film is Iron Warrior. Directed by Alfonso Brescia, this is an MTV music video arthouse version of a peblum movie and it makes me mental every single time I watch it, screaming at the TV in absolute maniacal joy. It’s like after all the Star Wars ripoffs Brescia made, he had to bless us with something from another universe. He’d follow this up with the equally astounding — and scummy as it gets — The Beast In Space.

D’Amato hated what Brescia’s did, so he starts this one off by killing Ator and introducing us to his son. Obviously, Miles O’Keefe isn’t back.

This one has nearly as many titles as Aristide had names: Ator III: The HobgoblinHobgoblinQuest for the Mighty Sword and Troll 3.

That’s because the costumes from Troll 2 — created by Laura Gemser, who is in this as an evil princess — got recycled and reused in this movie. D’Amato proves that he’s a genius by having whoever is inside those costumes speak.

Let me see if I can summarize this thing. Ator gets killed by the gods because he doesn’t want to give up his magic sword, which he uses to challenge criminals to battles to the death. The only goddess who speaks for him, Dehamira (Margaret Lenzey), is imprisoned inside a ring of fire until a man can save her.

That takes eighteen years, because Ator the son’s mother gave the sorcerer Grindl (the dude wearing the troll costume) her son to raise and the sword to hide. She then asked him for a suicide drink, but he gave her some Spanish Fly and got to gnome her Biblically in the back of his cave before releasing her to be a prostitute and get abused until her son eventually comes and saves her because this is a Joe D’Amato movie and women are there to be rescued, destroy men and be destroyed by men.

This movie is filled with crowd-pleasing moments and seeing as how I watched it by myself, I loved it. Ator (Eric Allan Kramer, Thor in the TV movie The Incredible Hulk Returns and Little John in Robin Hood: Men In Tights) looks like Giant Jeff Daniels and his fighting skills are, at best, clumsy. But he battles a siamese twin robot that shoots sparks, a goopy fire breathing lizard man who he slices to pieces and oh yeah, totally murks that troll/ghome who turned out his mom.

This is the kind of movie where Donald O’Brien and Laura Gemser play brother and sister and nobody says, “How?” You’ll be too busy saying, “Is that Marisa Mell?” and “I can’t believe D’Amato stole the cantina scene!” and “What the hell is going on with this synth soundtrack?”

Here’s even more confusion: D’Amato’s The Crawlers was also released as Troll 3. Then again, it was also called Creepers (it has nothing to Phenomena) and Contamination .7, yet has no connection with Contamination.

Only Joe D’Amato could make two sequels to a movie that has nothing to do with the movie that inspired it and raise the stakes by having nothing to do with the original film or the sequel times two.

Watch this on YouTube.

Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis (1961)

Known elsewhere as Hercules and the Conquest of Atlantis, this is the film debut of Reg Park as Hercules, or Ercole as he’s referred to in the Italian title (Ercole alla Conquista di Atlantide).

Directed by Vittorio Cottafavi, this had a complete retitle, re-edit and rescore* — as well as a title design by Filmation — before playing in America.

Strange things are happening in Greece, but Hercules — now married to Deianira with a son named Hylas — is content and comfortable with his family life. However, his son feels the call to adventure that his father once did.

That means that Androcles must take matters into his own hands, drug Hercules and take him on his ship as Hylas stows away. After refusing to take part in heroics, Hercules finally consents and battles a god named Proteus and rescues a princess of Atlantis.

But man, Atlantis is messed up. They plan on murdering the princess to keep the fog that hides them from the rest of the world. They also have this weird ritual where children are taken from their parents and forced to touch a stone made from the blood of Uranus that either transforms them into blonde-haired superhumans or makes them mutants that are cast into the pit. With an army of these Aryan-looking demigods, Queen Antinea (Fay Spain, who somehow has shown up in both this movie and William Gréfe’s The Naked Zoo) plans on conquering the universe.

The only way to stop all of this? Hercules has to tear the top of a cave off and blow up Atlantis real good. Of course, none of this has anything to do with the real myth of Hercules, but such is Italian cinema.

I read that Hercules exemplifies the characteristics of sprezzatura, or studied carelessness, or even the ability to do something extremely well without showing that it took any effort. That’s an intriguing way to look at him, especially as until midway through this, he really wants nothing to do with anything, but by the end, he’s willing to die for the men he has journeyed with and his son, who has found his way to the pit filled with the castoffs of Atlantis’ Faustian bargain with the gods.

You can download this from the Internet Archive or watch it on YouTube. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 version is also available on Tubi.

*There is a noticeable steal from Creature of the Black Lagoon in the American music.

 

Jack and the Beanstalk (1970)

Barry Mahon was shot down over Germany and escaped — and was recaptured — at Stalag Luft III before being freed by Patton’s 3rd Army. Once he got back to the U.S., he became the personal pilot and later the manager for Errol Flynn. Then, he learned how to use computers to predict the future box office for films, which does not explain how he made movies like Cuban Rebel GirlsFanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico, The Wonderful Land of Oz and Santa’s Christmas Elf (Named Calvin).

Have you ever gone to an amusement park and they put on plays for the kids that are too worn out or too young for the rides? Yeah, this is like watching one of those for over an hour, with special effects that live up to neither of those two words. This is what I do with my free time. I sit and watch these movies and laugh like a maniac, then tell an uncaring and oh so cold world why they should be as passionate about total junk as I am.

Depending on how lucky — or unlucky — you were, you would have seen either Thumbelina or this movie within perhaps the most maniacal film ever made, 1972’s Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny. Why? What does Jack or Thumbelina have to do with the holidays? More to the point, what does a bunny? Perhaps even more pressing is this question: What is an ice cream bunny?

This was a movie for kids, which leads to so many more questions. Why does it have hip 1970’s slang? Why is it set in the present instead of the past, like every other version of this story? Why is Jack’s family more like Cinderella’s? Why does the giant sing the same song at least three — or a billion, it seems — times?

They used to let kids go to all day matinees of movies exactly like this, which some parents must have thought was some kind of reward. Imagine working hard all week at school and being gifted the magical wonder of this movie, which probably made no sense fifty years ago and even less today.

That said, I’ve thought about this movie way more than I will any film that will be released in 2020. Barry Mahon is kind of that way, equally fraught with wonder and madness, pain and pleasure. I’m brave enough to attempt to watch everything he ever made, so if you’re stupid as well, I hope you’ll join me.

The Barbarians (1987)

EDITOR’S NOTE: We originally wrote about this movie on January 30, 2019. However, with a new blu ray coming from Kino Lorber, we felt it’d be a good idea to bring this movie back to our readers’ attention.

Ruggero Deodato has been celebrated on this site, not just for Cannibal Holocaust, but for movies like Live Like a Cop, Die Like a ManConcorde Affaire ’79House On the End of the ParkRaiders of AtlantisCut and RunBody CountThe Washing Machine and Dial Help. From those movies, you can tell that Deodato has hit nearly every genre. Now, with this one, he returns to his peblum roots — Hercules, Prisoner of Evil was the first movie he directed — and enters the post-Arnold Italian barbarian boom with not one but two American swordsmen who look like living and breathing He-Man toys, David and Peter Paul, better known as The Barbarian Brothers.

I honestly can’t be impartial about this movie, as it’s packed with so much that I love. I mean, just from the voiced over credits, when the names Golan, Globus and Deodato come up, I can’t help but cheer. This is the kind of feel good junk food movie that I love, a film that completely rips off Conan the Barbarian in all the best of ways — times two.

Instead of reciting the script over again — the old review does a decent enough job of that — let me extol the reasons why I love this movie so much.

It’s got an amazing cast. And the Barbarian Brothers. Perhaps realizing that the Brothers may look like a 1983 first wave Masters of the Universe figure but have the acting skills of, well, a 1983 first wave Masters of the Universe figure, Deodato wisely fills the film with all manner of amazing people. There’s Michael Berryman as the Dirtmaster, the henchman tasked with running The Pit, or the place where slaves do manual labor. George Eastman shows up for a few seconds to arm wrestle in a cantina scene. Eva LaRue — who somehow is both of the third installments of RoboCop and Ghoulies — as the long-lost adopted sister of the brothers. And perhaps, most importantly, Richard Lynch, who as always turns in a game performance despite the absolute silliness of the proceedings. I mean, the dude has hair extensions and fake fingers after the young brothers bite his fingers off.

It’s got the Barbarian Brothers. For two guys who look like they should be serious warriors — or barbarians, if the title has anything to say about it — they spend much of the movie making fun of one another. They seem to screw up everything they touch and mostly only escape from situations by being bulls in a proverbial China shop. You have to love that despite the movie being set in what seems to be the distant past — unless Deodato is pulling a Yor Hunter from the Future fakeout on us — they speak as if it were 1987, calling one another bonehead repeatedly.

It’s got a great score. Pino Donaggio has written music for everything from Don’t Look Now and Tourist Trap to Dressed to KillThe Howling and Body Double (and yes, Giallo In Venice and Gor II), so you know that when you hear his music, it’s going to elevate anything it plays behind.

It’s got fun effects and sets. One of the craziest thing about the new blu ray of this is that it’s so crystal clear that you can see the strings moving a dragon’s mouth up and down, which is rather disconcerting. That said, the swamp set — where most of the film takes place — looks awesome otherwise. This is also a movie with magical belly button jewelry, which is a sentence I’ve never written before.

It’s got Mad Max wrapped up in its sword and sorcery. Despite — again — being set in the past, most of Kadar’s warriors look like they should be in the employ of Immorten Joe. Also, Kutchek and Gore — our heroes — live with a band of traveling circus performers who use their skills to throw knives and blow fire at their attackers. It’s like the hard-driving armanda of — again! — Immorten Joe, but only 28 years earlier.

If you ever want to sit down and have me talk over a movie and extol its virtues — of which many would say there are none — then let it be this movie. I even have the great new blu ray from Kino Lorber, so it looks fabulous!

You can get a copy of your own right here. This has my highest recommendation.

Red Sonja (1985)

I am sorry, Red Sonja. For years, I have doubted you. Surely you cannot be as good as Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer. You have to be a weaker sister, I always thought, so I avoided you.

I was wrong. So wrong.

Today, dear reader, I am here to tell you that while this film is not as good as the first two Conan romps, it’s still an astounding sword and sorcery adventure filled with plenty of great effects, well-shot battles and a cast of some of my favorite actors.

Oddly enough, Red Sonja may be owned by the Robert E. Howard estate, but the character itself was really created by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith, who used Howard’s Red Sonya of Rogatino as inspiration. But man, those 70’s Conan comics were monsters and people fell in love with the idea that Sonja could be as tough as Conan and had promised the goddess Scáthach that in exchange for heightened strength, stamina, agility and fighting skills that she would never lie with a man until he could defeat her in fair combat.

Let’s not debate how the survivor of sexual assault must pretty much get beat up to enjoy lovemaking, because that’s the kind of complex argument that won’t be solved inside a movie that’s really about stabbing people. I’m not saying it’s an important discussion to have, but I’m an expert in exploitation movies, not humanity.

Directed by Richard Fleischer, whose career goes from the heights of Soylent Green and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to the depths of The Jazz Singer and Amityville 3-D — not to mention Mandingo — this moves quick, looks good and is just plain fun.

After surviving the death of her family and being attacked by the soldiers of Queen Gedren (Sandahl Bergman*, who seems to relish the opportunity to play a villain instead of the female sidekick), Sonja trains to become a legendary warrior.

Meanwhile, her sister Varna (Janet Agren, Hands of SteelCity of the Living Dead) has become a priestess in an order of women who plan on banishing the Talisman, which created the world but could now destroy it. If any man touches it, he disappears, so of course Gedren wants to use it for her own ends. Led by Ikol (Ronald Lacey, Toht from Raiders of the Lost Ark), her army kills the priestesses and takes the Talisman for their queen.

Lord Kalidor** (Arnold Schwarzenegger) finds Varna and brings Sonja to her, where she learns of the Talisman and how she can kill two birds with one stone by destroying it and Gedren. Her adventures take her to meet Prince Tarn (Ernie Reyes, Jr.), a young king of a land destroyed by Gedren, and his bodyguard Falkon (Paul L. Smith, who the handyman in Pieces and Bluto in Popeye). She also defeats the ominous Lord Brytag (Pat Roach, the former pro wrestler who shows up as a major bad guy in so many movies, from the mechanic that Indiana Jones knocks into a Flying Wing in Raiders of the Lost Ark to Hephaestus in Clash of the Titans, Toth-Amon in Conan the Destroyer and General Kael in Willow) before an awesome duel with Kalidor for the right to aardvark*** and then another battle against Gedren as her castle explodes with lava flowing everywhere.

Speaking of that great cast, this also has a third Indiana Jones alumni, Terry Richards, who played the Arabian swordsman that Indy so memorable shot after a long flourish of sword swinging. Plus, Tutte Lemkow, best known as the Fiddler on the Roof is a wizard and The Swordmaster that trains Sonja is Tad Horino, who was also Confucius in Bill and Red’s Bogus Journey. Erik Holmey, who played the soldier who asked “What is best in life?”, and replied, “The open steppe, fleet horse, falcons at your wrist, and the wind in your hair!” is in this. And of course, Arnold’s buddy Sven-Ole Thorsen shows up.

Plus, how can you be let down by an Ennio Morricone score?

Again, I’m sorry, Red Sonja. You’re actually pretty darn good.

*Bergman was offered the role of Red Sonja, but turned it down, choosing instead to play Queen Gedren. Producer Dino De Laurentiis met with actress Laurene Landon and was set to offer her the role until he learned that she had pretty much already played the same part in Hundra. He spent a year looking for an actress who looked like an Amazon, almost picking Eileen Davidson (The House On Sorority Row) before discovering Brigitte Nielsen on the cover of a magazine.

**There’s a fan theory that Kalidor is really Conan, as some heroes would use “adventuring names” while they were in other counties, like how Gandalf was also known as Mithrandir. De Laurentiis didn’t have the rights to use Conan again, which explains this financially. Speaking of money, Arnold signed up for a cameo as a favor to the producer, but one week turned into four and when he saw a rough cut of the movie, he realized that he was really a co-star. This is why he terminated his 10-year deal with De Laurentiis.

***They totally did, for real, according to Arnold in his book Total Recall – My Unbelievably True Life Story. Neilsen confirmed this in her book You Only Get One Life, saying that they had “no restrictions” in their lovemaking. You know, while some of us debated whether Stallone or Schwarzenegger was the best action hero, Neisen had Biblical knowledge.