In a time when the world was young, sorcery thrived and wild adventure was forever in the offing, the story begins, on Tomb Island where a rocky crag perches at the edge of the land. Inside a lightless cave, a squadron of armored warriors comes upon a witch who brings a coffin alive with squirming faces and burning red dust to resurrect a hellbound demon, Xusia (Richard Moll) to aid King Titus Cromwell (Richard Lynch) of Aragon. The tyrannous king wishes to conquer Aedan, the richest kingdom in the world, ruled by kind and just leader Richard (Christopher Cary). But with the help of the powerful sorcerer Xusia, Cromwell cannot be stopped, bringing plague and death to the dwindling armies of Aedan. (This introduction and opening sequence also features the most humorously engaging scene, in which Xusia rips a still beating heart from the witch to demonstrate his powers.)When the cherished country is finally defeated by Cromwell, Richard’s son Talon (Lee Horsley) watches his father and mother die and must flee, pursued by Cromwell’s men for many years. His existence becomes the stuff of legends as he grows into a man and a powerful general and chieftain of the black tribes, while Prince Mikah (Simon MacCorkindale) strikes up a rebellion against Cromwell to prevent him from marrying Princess Alana (Kathleen Beller). The wicked monster Xusia is also revealed to have been betrayed, and sits recovering in the black pits of the underworld until he can avenge the treachery. Meanwhile, Cromwell’s right hand man Machelli (George Maharis) plots to triple-cross everyone he encounters in an effort to rise to power, while Talon is propositioned by Alana to fight for the rebellion.
David Whitaker composes boisterously stirring trumpets and clashing cymbals for the action sequences and expectedly flute-heavy tunes for the bordering Dark Ages merriment. The theme music isn’t half bad either, although it isn’t used enough. Director Albert Pyun, most notable for his generally direct-to-DVD Nemesis films and cheesy, futuristic, science-fiction/fantasy works, is comfortable with the subject matter and B-grade materials for his feature debut. Damsels in distress, sword-wielding knights, shielded troops, wild-eyed witches and grimacing humanoid demons are his weapons of choice, and The Sword and the Sorcerer takes them all seriously, even when several scenes fail to uphold the tone of valiance. There’s also a significant amount of violence, outside of the usual, less severe swordplay.
At least the costumes (consisting of lengthy flowing furs and polished chainmail), practical makeup (including many scenes of transformation and gore), foggy castle and steaming dungeon sets, and medieval weaponry (although Talon’s technologically advanced three-pronged sword dispenses spear-like blades) are fun and appropriate, even if the acting is a tad overdramatic and amateurish and the sound effects are too loudly pronounced. The villains all sport permanent scowls and speak with low, grizzled voices, the women have spotless faces and favor kneeing men in the groins for defense, and the fight choreography involves lots of high swings and slow strikes that give the hero plenty of room to maneuver (he manages to swordfight quite skillfully, even after being crucified with nails through his hands – a scene edited down for TV). A generic, movie-trailer-voiced narrator presides over the lapses in time for a finishing touch.
Oddly enough, it seems Pyun had plans for a sequel, “Tales of the Ancient Empire,” mentioned in the end credits, which was eventually slated for a 2010 opening (but not yet released), marking a 28 year gap between films.
– Mike Massie