Indonesian genre movies are not what I would call an acquired taste - you're not going to turn into a fan simply because you've sat through a dozen (In fact, the opposite is likely true, and a murderous hatred could be born). Though always incredibly low-budget,they retain the cheery charm of a bunch of friends coming together to make a movie with a Super 8 camera - they can be called "professional" only because someone bought tickets to see them at some point (in Indonesia). But if you try to compare them to mega-budget Hollywood fare, of course they're going to suffer. But fans of low-budget entertainment are a hardy lot - and we know what we like.
The Devil's Sword was made at the height of the Indonesian movie industry; its obvious inspiration was the glut of barbarian movies following Milius' Conan the Barbarian. But you're going to go way, way down that list to find a movie cheesier than The Devil's Sword.
The title instrument is a fancy sword forged from a meteorite. This apparently qualifies it for Ultimate Weapon status, so it is hidden away in a magic cave. Enter the Invisible Crocodile Queen (invisible for, like three seconds), who has forged an alliance with all the Evil Warriors in the world (all four of them) to find the Devil's Sword. This is while her Crocodile Men are out kidnapping studly young men to share her bed. That Crocodile Queen, she's a reeeeeal party girl.
Our hero, Mandala (Barry Prima, probably the closest Indonesia came to a superstar), will of course come into possession of a map to the magic cave and set out to obtain the Devil's Sword, which comes equipped with its own cheap cel animation, a bunch of little Jason of Star Command-type stars . Accompanied by a kung fu fightin' bride whose new bridegroom is the Queen's new boy toy, Mandala enters the Queen's underwater lair, braving her magic, her laser-shooting crocodile idol, and her nymphomania to bring peace to the land. the end.
O, that it were as interesting as it sounds.
The fight scenes are all of the bad kung fu variety, full of jump cuts and undercranking. The story doesn't meander, but it's nothing special, either - and ten minutes could have been excised by cutting down on the Queen's makeout scenes. A very beautiful actress, but hotter scenes can easily be found on prime time TV - the preponderance of slow-dissolve snogging will strain the patience of the most dedicated crap cineaste.
I am going to have to say that the print of The Devil's Sword Mondo Macabro obtained is breathtaking. Almost flawless, the colors are bright and luscious, blacks solid. There is some odd solarizing during an early fight scene, and the red-tinted scenes inside the booby-trapped magic cave show a strange reticulated overlay, but overall, the picture quality is a serious WOW. The audio is clear but unexceptional,probably the best the workmanlike dubbing and droning faux Tangerine Dream soundtrack could hope for.
We've apparently run through all the Mondo Macabro TV series on other discs, and MM is apparently unwilling to double-dip on its extras. That is laudable, I suppose - I remember grousing about the extras overlap on the Ray Harryhausen discs, for instance - but on the other hand, it's a bit of a shame. Those documentaries were so packed with information, they gave a much-needed context for the movies on the disc.
But enough about what's not on the disc, what about what's on it? About the Film is a short text piece by Pete Tombs giving an inkling of the context I mentioned earlier - enough to get by on, surely. An Encounter with Barry Prima begins with text piece detailing how difficult it was to find Prima, who became a bit of a recluse since the film industry cratered in the 90s. Prima still looks great, but he doesn't seem very happy to have been found. Giving the lie to that, however, is Tombs' Barry Prima Biog, excerpted from Anatomy of an Action Man, which reveals that Prima recently returned to film as... a comedian. In a drag role. And has been quite well-received! As Tombs says, "To reinvent your screen persona so radically takes wit, courage, and real imagination."
Tombs returns with Heavenly Swords, a nice text-based exploration of meteor swards and their place in the cinematic landscape (with his focus on foreign film, he mentions Excalibur but neglects The Iron Mistress, which posits that Jim Bowie's famous knife was forged from a meteor, but oh well...) There is also the mandatory theatrical trailer, which is a bit soft and blurry, obviously taken from a video source.
The usual montage of outrageous scenes from other Mondo Macabro offerings round out the disc, and bless 'em - that montage gets just a little longer, every time.
Dr. Freex, 2/18/2007