When is a movie so bad that it is good, leading it to become a cult classic? When it is part of the early to mid-1980s set of commonly themed films portraying various aspects of medieval life and the battles fought over kingdoms and land. If you are thinking of Excalibur or Conan the Barbarian, you would certainly be on the right track but just slightly off. The film to which I refer is 1982's The Sword and the Sorcerer. Cheesy and cringeworthy, the movie is being released in 4K for the first time ever. This combo pack, available on March 15th, is a product of Scream Factory (an offshoot of Shout! Factory) in honor of the film's 40th anniversary.
King Richard (Christopher Cary; The Wild, Wild West) has the richest land in all the world, which, of course, is going to spark jealousy. King Cromwell (Richard Lynch; Halloween) fits that bill perfectly and seeks out the help of a dangerous sorcerer named Xusia (Richard Moll; Scary Movie 2) in order to defeat Richard and take control of the lands. With Xusia's help, Cromwell succeeds and Prince Talon (Lee Horsley; Django Unchained) watches as Cromwell executes King and Queen but manages to escape before he suffers the same fate. Fast forward eleven years and Talon returns to his homeland, Ehdan, to avenge his parents' death.
Before we discuss Scream Factory's 4K presentation of the film, we need to talk about the movie itself. The Sword and the Sorcerer starts off simple enough and, with the exceptions of the supernatural elements, could be a very plausible story. However, the script is not very strong, and the visual effects are mediocre at best. The story gets confusing and muddled in the middle and the viewer needs a scorecard to try and figure out who/what every character is and how they relate to the story.
As for the 4K presentation, it is an improvement from the 2001 DVD version but still has some obvious issues. There is a graininess to the picture quality that, while unsurprising, does take away from the overall appearance of the film. Some of the visual effects are ok but the viewer is reminded that this movie was released in the early Eighties.
The DTS-HD master audio 2.1 and 5.1 tracks are laden with quality issues. In fact, Scream Factory put an advisory message before the movie starts explaining that they did the best they could but some of the audio was just too damaged to offer a clean restoration. See a portion of the message here:
"When getting access to the film elements for The Sword and the Sorcerer, there was almost nothing for audio. We have transferred a lone optical track for the stereo sound. There is some damage we could not fix..."
The hidden gem of this release is the approximately two hours of extras. Made up of various interviews with cast and crew remembering the process of bringing the story to the screen, there are numerous, unintentionally funny moments as each describes the tension between writer/director Albert Pyun and the producers. Pyun's interview is especially insightful and especially "politically incorrect" by Hollywood standards. Housed on the Blu-ray disc, the extras are:
- Audio Commentary featuring Albert Pyun and moderated by John Charles
- Tales of the Ancient Empire - Interview with Albert Pyun
- A Princess' Tale - Interview with Kathleen Beller
- Mightier Than the Sword - Interview with John Stuckmeyer
- Master of the Blade - Interview with Marshall Harvey
- The Specialist and the Effects - Interview with Allan Apone
- Dedicated to Jack Tyree, Stuntman
- Brothers in Arms - Interview with The Chiodo Brothers
- Trailers from Hell - Marshall Harvey on The Sword and the Sorcerer
- Theatrical Trailers
- TV Spot
- Still Gallery
If you happen to be a part of the "cult" that follows and praises The Sword and the Sorcerer, then this 40th-anniversary combo pack is right up your alley. You should buy it, invite some friends over and revel in the brilliant awfulness of it all, especially the extras.