Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Top Five Craptacular Fantasy Films (and one Sci-Fi film)

For some reason I just felt the urge to do another list. As always, this list is based on my own opinions and experiences. YMMV.

These movies are the ones that I enjoy immensely, despite their cheesy effects, low production values and often sub-standard acting. Many of these I still watch on a regular basis, just because I enjoy them. I’ve been told I have very low standards for what makes a movie enjoyable, and that I am way too forgiving when it comes to bad films.

So what? I like what I like. So here they are, in no particular order…

The Beastmaster (1982) –My second favorite S&S movie after Conan the Barbarian. Marc Singer’s Dar is at once a tragic figure and a hero. Cut from his mother’s womb, this son of a king is meant to be sacrificed, but instead is saved and raised by warrior-chief of a small village. Through the circumstances of his “birth” Dar has the ability to speak telepathically with animals. When his village is destroyed by a barbarian horde, he sets out on a quest for revenge, and finds himself saving the kingdom of his father.

Does it get any better than that? The sword work is excellent, the dialogue, though cheesy at times, it still pretty good, and Rip Torn is brilliant as the psychotic sorcerer-priest, Maax. And of course, John Amos. Love that guy.

The Scorpion King (2002) – Over the top action with a heavy metal soundtrack, and some serious over-acting, this movie is huge fun. When a warrior-king conquers the known world, the last rebels hire a group of assassins to take out the sorceress who is responsible for the conqueror’s success. But betrayal foils the plan, and the surviving assassin must rise above his station to avenge his brothers, save the life of the sorceress he has fallen in love with, and free the world from a tyrant.

I am a big fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and in his first outing as a headliner, he delivers a pretty good performance, all things considered. Fight scenes that are well-done, an excellent cast (including Kelly Hu *drool*), and story that is at once campy and serious, this movie makes me feel good inside.

Krull (1983) – It’s like Star Wars and D&D combined. An alien known as The Beast invades the pastoral planet of Krull, and kidnaps the princess whose marriage to the son of her father’s rival will unite the lands in peace for the first time in generations. The prince sets off on a quest to rescue her, with the help of an old sage, a band of misfits, and a legendary weapon.

What can I say? This movie is campy and cheesy, yet at the same time brilliant and entertaining. The special effects are dated, yet still hold up. The villain and his minions are evil to the core, and quite frankly, very scary. And it has a young Liam Neeson! Oh, and the princess is freaking HAWT!

Hercules (1983) – The mythological hero is brought to life by the humongous Lou Ferrigno. Cinematically, this movie is by far the worst on this list. Crappy special effects (even for the day), badly dubbed dialogue, and a storyline that kind of meanders in places, the only saving grace is that Lou is the most convincing looking Hercules since Steve Reeves. I’m of the opinion that with a bigger budget, and better writers, this could have been the greatest retelling of Hercules ever filmed. As it is, it’s horrible fun to watch. Just not too often.  And don't even bother with the sequel.

Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983) –Futuristic bounty hunter Wolff (Peter Strauss) takes it upon himself to rescue three women who have crash-landed on a Road Warrior-esque planet, ravaged with a plague, and ruled by a cybernetic dictator called Overdog (Michael Ironside). With the help of Niki (Molly Ringwald), a castaway young survivor, and Washington (Ernie Hudson), fellow bounty hunter, and oftentimes rival, Wolff not only rescues the women, but saves a girl, and deposes the dictator.

This movie deserved much more attention than it got. Originally released in 3D, it had an underwhelming showing, and most people simply never saw it, or just forgot about it. To me, this movie was the standard for gritty space opera adventure, and inspired a few games of Star Frontiers. The dialogue is great, the acting is not so bad, considering the script, and the special effects are perfectly fine. Best verbal exchange:

Amazon: I bet mating with us would kill him.
Wolff: I’ll take that bet!

So there you go. Yes, I also noticed that, with the exception of The Scorpion King, they were all made in 1982-1983. Those were formative years for my sensibilities. Which probably goes a long ways towards explaining why I have the tastes I do.


Charles Gramlich said...

Krull is one of my faves. Love the weird weapon. and the scenes with the red haired woman running through the skull. Also liked Beastmaster a lot. Another one that you didn't mention that I like very much is Legend.

Tom Doolan said...

I've come to the conclusion that I may have to do a Part II to this list.