East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Raiders of the Lost Franchise: The Sword and the Sorcerer


Back in the early ’80s, a number of “barbarian movies” came out hot on the heels of John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian, and were considered shameless rip-offs. Of the lot, three remain today with a sort of cult status, to share the dubious title of “best of the crop”. And in fact one of the three was not a Conan rip-off at all, as it came out one year before the John Milius movie.
We’ll save that for last, and tonight (hey, it’s night here as I write this) we start with the one that is arguably the best of the three – the one that was so rushed, it hit the theaters before Conan.

And yes, I mean Albert Pyun’s The Sword and the Sorcerer, from 1982.
Dig that poster…

I call your attention to the poster for one very specific reason – the tag line:

A lusty epic of revenge and magic…of dungeons and dragons, of wizards and witches, of damsels and desire…and of a warrior caught between them all.

Notice the alliterations. Funny it does not also mentions Powers & Perils (this one’s really for connoisseurs) and Tunnels & Trolls.
And what I mean is, the flood of sword & sorcery movies in the early ’80s was maybe more closely connected with the increasing popularity of Dungeons & Dragons than with the popularity of Schwarzenegger’s Conan.
Just saying.

Now, the general wisdom is, the overall quality of Albert Pyun’s movies steadily decreased throughout his career.
Case in point: The Sword & the Sorcerer was his first movie, and it is considered the best in his production.

And really, for its low budget, its cast of TV regulars and its overly complicated plot, The Sword & the Sorcerer is a fine B movie, the sort one enjoys on a hot summer night, with a bowl of ice-cream and not much attention; one that shows its roots in old Weird Tales sort of stories.
While not Howard-grade, this is a fine Henry Kuttner-grade sword & sorcery. Beggars can’t be choosers, and back in the day this was the closest thing we had to good old sword & sorcery stories up there on the big screen.

A mercenary with a three-bladed sword rediscovers his royal heritage’s dangerous future when he is recruited to help a princess foil the designs of a brutal tyrant and a powerful sorcerer in conquering a land.

Summing up the plot beyond this is pretty useless – there’s a number of subplots going, betrayals and reversals of fortune, and the action is relentless, and quite fun overall. The dialog sucks pretty badly, but admittedly one does not watch a movie like this for the dialog.

Come now, let’s be off. There’s a battle in the offing! We’ve got kingdoms to save and women to love!

Prince Talon

But at least the bad guys are really bad (in the good sense), the hero is almost Errol Flynn-is in his swashbuckling (actor Lee Horseley really gives his 101% to the part) and we also get the required princess in skimpy dress, that was one of the big attractions of the genre at the time.

And of course there’s the three-bladed sword – the world’s most unwieldy weapon, that was impressive enough to cause the movie to be called The Three-Bladed Sword in my country: La Spada a Tre Lame.
Which is incorrect, of course, because the three-bladed sword is actually four-bladed. Aha!
In France it was called The Savage Sword instead – any reference to a certain comic book is of course coincidental.

The film was panned by all critics and reviewers, but in the end was the most successful indie movie of 1982. So much so that it was set to become the first of a franchise – complete with a call for the next feature at the end of the film, James Bond-style.

Watch for Talon’s Next Adventure “Tales of the Ancient Empire” coming soon.

It did not, and when it did, it was unwatchable. It was after all Albert Pyun’s 43rd movie – remember that thing about the quality? It’s true.
But we don’t talk about those things.
Let’s just say this was a franchise that never happened – and when it did try to, it was a disaster.
As a bonus, check out Marshall Harvey (the movie editor) as he talks about the film in Trailers from Hell:

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

9 thoughts on “Raiders of the Lost Franchise: The Sword and the Sorcerer

  1. Ah, yes. THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER. D’you know, I actually enjoyed that back in the day? Partly because of the heroine’s scanty attire (I was forty years younger then) and also because of the genuinely hideous and vile sorcerer. He reminded me a bit of Septegundus, the Amir of Evil Upon Earth, in John Jakes’ “Brak” series. I groaned a little at the sword with multiple blades, but I groaned a lot more at one of the goodies being called “King Richard” and the usurping villain who makes a deal with the sorcerer being called “Cromwell.” It was Titus Cromwell, as I remember, not Oliver or Thomas, but still, that would normally have been enough to send me out of the cinema retching.

    Instead I stayed and quite enjoyed the show — me, that usually gets uptight to a notable degree when liberties are taken with history. But I liked it.

    (You should’ve heard me on the BS aspects of BRAVEHEART and THE UNTOUCHABLES.)


    • I usually explain Richard and Cromwell away telling myself it’s some kind of parallel universe/alternate reality.
      I agree on all the points you mention – and yes, there’s a Brak vibe going in the movie.
      And let’s stay away from Braveheart, thank you 😀


  2. How did I miss this???! I saw them all! Red Sonja, Krull, Legend…. but I missed this?


  3. One of the most unusable swords of all time, but it was funny as Hell to see that poor actor doing his best to use it.


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