The Song of the Sword (1986)

There’s a place down by the Pittsburgh Zoo where the USS Potemkin (a Star Trek fan club) used to volunteer to clean the road in costume, where firefighters burn a fake building for practice, the Shuman Center used to hold the worst yinzer teenagers and the Society for Creative Anachronism would do fake swordfights. For some time, if you looked this place up on Google maps street view, you’d see this microcosm all coming together as one.

It’s this kind of magic that led Abraxas Productions to make this movie all over Kansas — mostly in Lawrence — and it’s a sword and sorcery film without even the budget of a Joe D’Amato production. I’ve tried looking up director J. Stanley Haehl and there’s nothing on IMDB. There’s no entry on Letterboxd. This is literally undiscovered territory and even crazier, it feels like Gor on a less than paperback budget.

Imagine, if you will, LARPers — Live Action Role Playing — but on a much larger scale, filmed by video camera, fuzzy drained video colors coalescing to give us wanderers with walking sticks in the woods, primitive video effects in the place of computer generation magic and best of all, everyone is so serious about it. Like, serious enough to get out amongst the jagger bushes — my Pittsburgh is showing, you know, those trees that catch on to you in the woods — and mosquitos in a loin cloth of all things.

You ever pore over that old Monster Manual and have a Hook Horror LJN figure? Then you’re going to get this. Maybe you’d like to see ladies in Renaissance Faire garb sword fight one another in the hometown of William Burroughs, possibly behind a mall? Do you like dialogue like, “Do mine eyes deceive me or is it Shan-Ra?” And people bowing and saying, “My lady, I beseech you for protection?”

This movie makes me feel like everyone in this is really into symphonic metal, BDSM, polyamory or painting miniatures. Maybe and instead of or. And look, I could make some jokes about Charisma rolls and doing 3d6 damage and knowing that TSR stood for Tactical Studies Rules but the last time I started talking like this, well, my wife still hasn’t slept with me. So yeah, in another time and place, I would have totally been part of a movie like this. I’ve worn a ST:TNG costume in public. I mean, I have no shame any longer. So I really can’t make fun of this. I mean, you totally will.

I’m also totally thinking part of this was shot at the Coronado Heights Castle, a place where Francisco Vásquez de Coronado gave up his search for the seven cities of gold and went back to Mexico. In 1936, to celebrate this, the Works Progress Administration built a stone shelter that looks like a castle. But no, it was shot in Kanopolis State Park and Douglas County.

Man, by the end, the video effects get wild and some dude has a rune on his forehead and the synth and howling woods kick in as the dialogue gets thick and the good guy looks like he could be in a hair band that no one knows like Shark Island or the Sea Hags. Or Banshee from Kansas City, but those guys were on Metal Blade and more power metal.

There’s also totally a big fight scene with a dude who looks like he could alternatively be in The Scorpions or a VCA movie fighting dudes with lit torches while a shirtless Shan-Ra poses above a castle.

If you drink every time someone says thou or thee, well, you’re going to die. I love the character names as well, like Grimwald Graelie (Ry Brown, who also wrote and produced this), Kalydia (Maria Anothont, who wrote and produced too) and Death itself! Oh yeah — Ry and Maria also designed the costumes and fabricated them, so my SCA theory holds up.

Also: Merlin shows up!

Also also: Dudes totally look like Manowar.

There’s also an accommodations consultant in the credits, so I assume that’s the guy who knew where the hotel was.

Please drink every time Ry and Maria’s names are in the credits.

I want to know. everything there is to know about this movie, so if you were in it or have a story about it, get in touch now. Please. I’m dying to know more. I know I’ve made fun of it for around seven hundred fifty words now, but Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that I need to know facts about The Song of the Sword. That’s what’s important! Trivia pleases you, Crom… so grant me one request. Grant me knowledge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!

You can watch this thanks to Demolition Kitchen Video on the Internet Archive.

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