There are bad movies out there. There are some truly awful pieces of celluloid in existence. The fact that these things keep getting produced shows that someone, somewhere, is watching them. Paul ‘Logan Blaze’ Anderson is one such person, who tends to find something ANYTHING of merit in some of the most despised pieces of film history. Except Picnic at Hanging Rock. Never bring up Picnic at Hanging Rock. Join Logan as he tries to convince you that a questionable film deserves some attention. Yes, Logan Blaze is…….
The Bad Movie Apologist
The plot is not one of these precious stones. It is a generic fantasy romp, melding a classic feud between two brothers with the innocents in peril scenario. Indeed, take away the sword and sorcery trappings and you would effectively have many of the tropes of a western. Which is a little fortuitous when the main villain is played by classic western villain Jack Palance. The opening scenes of the film finds Jack as Voltan storming into an armed fortress. We know he is evil because he is dressed all in black and has half a Darth Vader mask on
You see the film is subtle like that .
Voltan attacks his father in the fortress, demanding he hand over the ‘ultimate secret’ and killing father dear when he refuses. He scampers off when his brother, Hawk, bursts in. Seeing to his dying father, Hawk is given the secret - the last elven mindstone. With his dying breath, the father shows Hawk how to combine the stone with a handy sword to give him a magic blade which moves with his thoughts. As daddykins slumps dead, Hawk swears on his new bling that Voltan will die.
In the opening minutes you get everything you need to know about the film - the tone, the effects, the acting. Its like the opening of a Bond film. It;s quite conscientious really as it allows you to get out now before going any deeper. In this case you learn that the effects have been done on the same budget as an episode of classic Flash Gordon, the side characters are all super ernest and are delivering their lines as if they are auditioning for RADA. Oh, and Jack Palance is nuttier than a family sized bar of Snickers. William Shatner would watch his performance and wince a little.
It is GLORIOUSLY over the top.
Which is a shame, as Voltan’s brother Hawk is played by newcomer (at the time) John Terry. John is not bad, but heavily subdued, It might have been a conscious decision, to balance against the excess of Palance, but when nearly everyone else is so earnest, it stands out, Hawk is not stoic, He is just dull.
It is a bit of a blessing then that we soon go to the rather unlucky Ranulf, played by the permanently aged and cantankerous W Morgan Shepard. Ranulf has been attacked by Voltan’s forces and stumbles upon a convent where he is treated by nuns. Voltan arrives and kidnaps the Abbess, demanding a ransom for his return, The Abbot dispatches Ranulf to find a hero who can help them in their hour of need - Hawk,
However, before Ranulf meets up with him, Hawk saves a white witch who pledges to repay his good deed. This is quite fortuitous as this one act of kindness basically saves the day. Its also worth noting that in doing this review I found something out - the witch is played by Patricia Quinn who while doing mostly stage acting was also in the film version of Rocky Horror Picture Show as Magenta. She is unrecognisable as the witch which is a shame as Magenta was….always a favorite of mine.
Once Ranulf meets up with Hawk, the witch uses two mystic hulahoops to teleport him around the British countryside to secure the rest of his band needed to take on Voltan. this entourage includes a sneaky and mischievous dwarf (Baldin), Crow, a stoic elf sharpshooter and a kind hearted noble giant. called Gort.Each of the actors play the role to the general D&D tropes of the species. However, what does stick out is that the giant is played by Bernard Breslaw, who was very likely just coming off the set of the latest Carry On Film. It is not often that an actor's previous roles brings me out of the film, but I did expect the giant to oggle more women and Kenneth Williams to turn up as the big bad at some point. Breslaw must have liked the taste of fantasy though as soon after he was a giant again, but under more prosthetics for a pivotal role in Krull.
Now things get a little bogged down in ‘the quest’. Rather than attack Voltan direct, the gan and the nuns agree that the ransom will be paid to lure Voltan out, which Hawk’s gang steal from a local slave trader. While there are stealing from an immoral source, freeing slaves in the process, this is still theft and always felt odd and a little like padding. Indeed, Hawk himself says the act is futile as Voltan is likely to break the deal and kill the Abbess anyway, as he treacherously killed his wife as well.
CUE FLASHBACK. Here we see the happy Hawk and the jealous Voltan fight over a woman. Voltan’s face is burnt and disfigured and he shoots that woman in the back and she dies in the arms of the badly wounded Hawk As you can see, this family has some issues. It also fills in why Voltan currently looks like a Sith lord.
Back in the present, and Hawk’s gang gets impatient and try to rescue the Abbess directly. They fail but they do end up killing Drogo, Voltan’s son. It’s OK - he was not the potentially redeemable spawn of evil - he was plainly a bastard who even his father had trouble controlling. Regardless, this does wind up Voltan, who attacks the convent, killing the dwarf and capturing the rest of the gang. The group is spared briefly as Voltan needs to deal with his aggravated face wound.
- EXCEPT his dead body is taken by satanic Florence Nightingale, who promises to resurrect him in the service of evil Meanwhile the good witch encourages the remainder of Hawk’s troop to continue their fight against evil.
Oh lord, where to start. The plot is an easy target. As mentioned it is highly generic. Worse, it is borderline boring, mostly due to the pacing. One person or another spends a lot of the film traveling from one location to another. WOrse, when they arrive at the location, they are given a brief bit of dialogue or generally inconsequential action scene before being sent off to another location. It feels like padding as we don’t really get much character development beyond knowing most of the rest of the country are devious and corrupt and our heroes are good at dealing with them.
The film settles down a little when we get to the actual quest, but even then the cast lurch from one battle to the next, with the old quip to give at least the semblance of character development. However, ultimately, there really is no character arc beyond the revenge plot between Hawk and Voltan. We wait the full film for the epic resolution to this feud, and it's over in less than a minute.
The casting of Hawk is also a problem. As mentioned, he is dull. So much so that Crow, with little lines and a restrained delivery still provides more character and emotion than our lead. The man has improved since then, but it is a shame to see such a plainly weak link among the cast being given the lead.
With such key elements of the film virtually crippling it, why is it worth a look - well….
One of the key draws to this film is the score Harry Robertson decided against the full orchestra style of music for fantasy which was and still is a common trope. Instead, with it being the 80’s we get a joyous synth soundtrack and it IS mostly joyous. It lifts you up, taking some of the sting out of its use when we ride from one location to the next. The musical cue for Hawk is one step away from the Good, Bad and Ugly whistle, which again brings up the western, but also has an element of mischief. Indeed, if you close your eyes, the music would also not sound out of place in a porno…. not that I know what they sound like.
Another major draw is the effects. While there might have been a low budget, they do wonderful things with it. I do not mean wonderfully GOOD things. I mean very bad things, but things which put huge grins on your face.
For one, both Crow and Ranulf use bow based weapons. Crow has a longbow while Ranulf uses a crossbow. They are also shown to be very fast wielders of these weapons, with both bolts and arrows loosed in quick succession. Neither actor, we assume, is a master of these weapons, so the film shows this skill through replaying the same shot of them firing, again and again. When you first see it you think the film is skipping somehow but no. This is the most low-fi method of special effects I have seen and it is glorious.
The witch gets the rest of the budget and it seems the special effects department raided a novelty shop for their goods. Two fluorescent hula hoops are used for her teleporter. Meanwhile, she uses copious amounts of silly string as a magic cocoon. Finally, a wind machine, packing material and ping pong balls are used to generate a magic storm. Weirdly, these poor special effects still look better than many of the CGI effects used in later films.
Both the effects and the score fully save this film for me. They take a dull film and make it fun. Still, they do not stop this film getting a relatively low….
Two Elven Mindswords out of Five
Paul "Logan Blaze" "Sugar Bear" Anderson has mined the best and worst of geekery for many years. He hosted Shut Up and Watch This, has worked for the Nerdsphere Network, and been a regular on The Underbase podcasts and owns more truly strange movies than you or I could ever do.
He is also the single greatest man bear pimp to have walked the planet.