The Bad Movie Report


The video box for Sorceress claims it to be "An epic adventure of swords and sorcery in the ultimate cosmic struggle!"

True enough, especially if for each adjective you substitute the word "Crap".

Sorceress starts with your typical wizardly despot, Traigon (Roberto Ballesteros) tracking down his wife in the wilderness. Seems that Traigon needs his firstborn child to sacrifice to the god Caligara to keep up the equity on his soul or something, so wifey split immediately after the birth. Adding to Traigon's trepidition is the fact that he's the father of twins, and it's important that he figure out which one was the firstborn while the planets are still in alignment. Thus, one of his men gets out "the talon" and proceeds to "Make sure you will never birth another!"

The video box wouldn't lie to us - would it?
The video box wouldn't lie to us - would it?
The video box wouldn't lie to us - would it?
The video box wouldn't lie to us - would it?

The lady is made of sterner stuff, however, and the torture only causes her to cry out to her god, Vitahl (spellings of all crap fantasy god names approximate) until an unarmed man appears: the legendary warrior Krona (Martin LaSalle). So legendary that he doesn't need to carry a weapon... he simply kills the first soldier Traigon lobs at him, takes his weapon, and proceeds to slaughter the rest of Traigon's troops.

Gosh, that sounds exciting, doesn't it? If the choreography were more skillful and not accompanied by Hanna-Barbera sound effects, it might have been.

Traigon uses his power of illusion (meaning green glowing cartoon eyes are superimposed over his) and the mighty Krona might be doomed, if not for Traigon's dying wife, who skewers the sorcerer with a spear. One catch: Traigon has three lives, and will return in twenty years. The mortally wounded woman makes Krona swear to protect her children, which he does gladly, swearing to teach them warrior ways so they may kick daddy's ass when he comes back. "But..." gasps the expiring mom, "They are girl children!"

Ignoring such sexist blather, Krona lays his hand upon the children, causing them to glow blue. This has the effect of:

  • Magically teaching them all his martial arts
  • Linking them psychically, making them "The Two Who Are One"
  • Causing the viewer to think, "Just when I thought the green eye thing was cheesy.."

Krona then drops the twins off at the hut of a disciple, asking the man and his wife (who was already rocking a cradle) to bring up the girls. "Certainly," boasts the woman, "I am so full... I can nurse three as well as one!" And then Krona is off, to do, um, legendary warrior things.

Twenty years later ... it's always twenty years later in these things, isn't it? Blame mythology... Twenty years later, Traigon does the Bad Penny thing and returns to our picture in a cheap cartoon effect, greeted by his faithful minions: Princess Hottie (Never truly caught her name, but if she's not played by Ana De Sade, that's a travesty of justice), soldier types who look like they were costumed by Ming the Merciless, and a guy in an ape suit. Traigon immediately gives them their homework: "Bring me The Two Who Are One!"

Almost immediately, your brain is strangling itself with questions:

  • Given that Traigon has been gone for two decades, what have these minions been doing in the meantime? As usual, one may assume they have been grinding the faces of the poor, but the ringleaders don't look much over twenty themselves... particularly Princess Hottie. How has this cult a) remained in power; b) even know who Traigon is, anymore?
  • How does Traigon know that his errant daughters were dubbed The Two Who Are One by Krona? Does cable in the Great Beyond only get The Sorceress Channel?
  • Why am I still watching this?

"Baaaa?"The answer to the last question is fortunately quick in coming, as we discover that The Two Who Are One have grown up into twin Playmates Lynette and Leigh Harris, and they are skinny dipping. Well, they're supposed to be, but the bathing suits are pretty obvious through much of this sequence, until they pause to contemplate the person on the shore, at which point their nay-nays are on full display.

This person on shore is nothing less than a satyr... Pando the Goat Boy (David Millbern), who communicates in nothing but bleats. The Two Who Are One urge him to join them in the drink, an offer which Pando seems to appreciate. The Two Who Are One grow puzzled at a certain portion of Pando's anatomy, wondering what use that thing between his legs might be. "Perhaps it's a horn!" one decides, with the other inquiring, "How would he attack with it?" Taking no chances, they get out of the water and kick Pando's ass. Talk about mixed messages...

After Pando goes crying - well, more appropriately bleating - into the woods, The Two Who Are One get dressed in what is supposed to be men's clothing, but would not fool even the least observant Shakespearean extra. The dressing part is good, as the head of the Ming Cavalry is currently demanding their foster father hand over The Two Who Are One while his troops kill Mom and Sis, torch the farm... you know, bad guy stuff. What they call a number 7. Foster Dad responds by whipping out a set of nunchaku (exactly where are we again?) and whacking bad guys, until he too is cut down. The Two Who Are One run to the farm in slow motion and glow blue again. Significance? Perhaps they had another couple of bucks left over in the FX budget.

Everyone get back!  The Maxfield Parrish painting is attacking!The head of the Ming army, Khrakannon (Tony Stevens) , seeing two glowing people running toward the carnage, makes the logical leap that these might actually be The Two Who Are One and shouts, "Get them! And a slow death to the one that harms them!" proving that he may be able to put two and two together, but his tactical skills suck. After The Two Who Are One waste the first wave of soldiers (which they now know are not allowed to harm them - thanks a lot, Cap'n Shouts-too-much), and an arrow whizzes past the shark fin on his helmet, Khrakannon immediately screams, "Kill them!", a dramatic about-face which spotlights his anger management issues, which will prove to be the character's defining trait.

The major result of this is that The Two Who Are One proceed to kick even more stunt man butt, and Khrakannon, beating a bad guy retreat, gets an arrow in the back. But as he is a Featured Bad Guy, he is only winged, and plays possum in the grass while the next astounding thing happens.

The Next Astounding Thing is the Viking that comes out of the woods, followed by Pando. This fellow is Baldar of the Mark (Bruno Rey), whose first line, "Good fight, lads!" proves him to not only be the worst dubbed character in the movie (and the competition is quit stiff), but also nearsighted (or maybe he is a Shakespearean extra) and a total wuss. The way his entrance is shot, it looks like he was hiding behind a shrub the entire time the family was massacred and the The Two Who Are One were playing Extreme Hacky-sack with the bad guys.

Of course, this sets off another whole list of questions:

  • What is a Viking doing in what appears to be a Middle Eastern Bronze Age milieu? We know he is a Viking, because has that horned helmet and he says things like, "Done, by Ragnarok!" Which is an odd thing to say, even for a displaced Viking. I mean, I get rather purlple when I speak, but I don't end sentences with sayings like "by Doomsday!" or "by the bodacious ta-tas of Michelle Bauer!"
  • Though I may start.
  • And what is a satyr, a Greco-roman mythical being, doing in what appears to be a Middle Eastern Bronze Age milieu?
  • For that matter, what is a Viking doing traveling with a satyr in what appears to be a Middle Eastern Bronze Age milieu?
  • Wouldn’t a movie about how a Viking and a satyr came to be traveling companions in a Middle Eastern Bronze Age milieu be much more interesting than the tripe we are watching?
  • Answer: it would not have the Harris Twin’s exposed nay-nays in it, so it would never get made.

Look at them.  Just look at them.And who should crop up at this point...The Two Who Are One were apparently hiding in the Middle Eastern Bronze Age equivalent of Grand Central Station... but Krona, who has had an encounter with several cans of Streaks-n-Tips™ since the last time we saw him. He apologizes for arriving late, fills in The Two Who Are One on their backstory, gives them their Deus-Ex-Machina codeword "Vitahl", and then jumps into the family’s funeral pyre. Lucky bastard. He gets to leave the movie. Baldar and Pando, having been given no other purpose in life by the writers, decide to aid the twins in their quest for vengeance.

To this end, they wind up in a Middle Eastern Bronze Age city where they witness a thief having his hands cut off. "It’s Traigon’s law," says whoever is doing Baldar’s dubbing, causing The Two Who Are One to fly into a rage. Baldar urges calm, and tells them he needs to find a friend of his who can give them the lowdown on what's happening in Traigonland. And he knows just where to find this friend.

Cut to the interior of a den of vice (wow... more scantily clad women! Who could have predicted this?) where Baldar’s friend, Erlik the Naked (okay, he’s just known as Erlik the Barbarian, but Barbarians aren’t exactly known for their sartorial splendor) is cheating at dice. This of course leads to a barroom brawl, after which our heroes retire to Erlik’s room so the "lads" can wash up (Erlik is at least as blind as Baldar). This, one assumes, is because we haven’t seen the Harris Twins’ nay-nays in fifteen minutes or so.

If the writing in this travesty has any claim to fame at all, it’s in scenes like this. For some reason, The Two Who Are One’s foster parents took Krona's warning that the Ming army would be looking for two girls rather to heart, and never even talked with them about the birds and the bees, or, more cogently, the difference between boys and girls. When the increasingly uncomfortable Baldar and Erlik assure them that they are girls because "You’re certainly not boys," the naked women innocently ask, "Are you sure?"

The hilarious "You're not boys."  "Are you sure?" scene

The subject is tabled for later discussion while the menfolk (and Pando) go out to troll for information. Unfortunately, one of the scantily-clad babes from Erlik’s favorite place lures The Two Who Are One out with the old "Your friends need help!" ploy (didn’t that idiot foster father teach them anything?) and Khrakannon’s troops capture them with a large net. This leads up to a sequence where the bad guys cost-effectively figure out which twin is which by dropping some Wooshing Powder™ (now in convenient liquid form!) into a brazier and then shoving one of the twins’ face into it. When the patently empty brazier does no harm, this one is identified as the firstborn, and a collar is locked around her neck.

So just when I think I finally have a way to tell one twin from another, Baldar and Erlik hop in and rescue them. Their retreat is covered by Pando, whose bleating panics every horse that even thinks of pursuing them (and I know how they feel). Our heroes then decide to hide in The Forbidden Forest, because no one will follow them in there, it being Forbidden and all.

"My agent says if i make a good impression, I got a shot at King Kong Lives!"Traigon is not without resources, however. Princess Hottie’s pal, the Ape Suit, offers to bring in The Two Who Are One if he can have the non-sacrificial one. Meanwhile, in the Forbidden Forest, Baldar is clumsily trying to explain the Facts of Life to The Two Who Are One. "Do you know where babies come from?" "Yes, we were left at our parent's home by Krona." Pause. "You know where baby goats come from, right?" "Yes, but those are animals!" Heavy sigh.

This komedy is interrupted by the arrival of an entire herd of Ape Suits, who assault the camp with coconuts full of laughing gas. (I cannot make up stuff like this) While everyone is making with the ha-ha, Ape Suits carry off The Two Who Are One and (for some reason) Erlik. Baldar manages to put an arrow in the butt of the Ape Suit carrying the non-sacrificial Twin, but that just leads to more helpless laughter.

So. The score thus far: Traigon has his firstborn and Erlik. Baldar and the secondborn are outside the city trying to figure out how to rescue them. And Pando... ah, who cares. Pando is likely off doing something disgusting.

Traigon employs his spin doctor skills with the Firstborn, claiming she’s been fed a pack of lies, and man, is he glad to see her. While she is being pampered, Khrakannon reveals to Traigon that a pair of loaded dice were found in Erlik’s stuff. Traigon’s Law, as we have seen earlier, is the envy of many a government that only claims to be tough on crime. The penalty for cheating at dice? Impalement.

I'll be damned if I'm going to be the ONLY one with this picture seared into his mind!This is the scene that most people carry with them from this movie. Well, that and the disturbing Goat Boy, but this is, um, memorable, to say the least. Erlik, even more naked than usual, is tied around a greased pole above a newly whittled stake, which is pointed right up his cat flap. When the tiny platform he is standing on is kicked away, he begins a slow slide down the pole to lasting unpleasantness.

Fortunately for those of us squirming in our seats, Ape Suit notices a necklace in Erlik’s discarded effects that marks him as a member of some particularly old royal family (to be fair, the script actually alluded to this earlier). By a remarkable stroke of luck, if the Firstborn mates with Erlik, the sacrifice will produce added bonuses, like frequent flyer miles or an electronic organizer. So Erlik is spared the indignity of some white pine way up the bum.

The Firstborn and Erlik are given "Soma... the nectar of the gods", which not only makes them remarkably malleable to commands, but also extremely horny. While Erlik and firstborn do the wild thing, of course, the second born, back at the camp with Baldar and Pando, starts writhing and moaning, because they are, after all, The Two Who Are One. "It’s my sister!" "What’s wrong? Is she being tortured?" More moaning and writhing. "No," muses the Viking, "She’s not being tortured..." Moaning and writhing reaches a crescendo. "Why, it must Erlik!" After things reach an *ahem* climax, there is peace for a minute, and some palpable relief on the part of Baldar (and the audience). Then she moans once more, "Oh, not again!" "Now I know it’s Erlik," quips Baldar.

  • Disturbingly enough, this begs the question of exactly how Baldar knows this is Erlik. We’ll settle for a simple "Because it is komedically appropriate", because the alternative is just too unsettling to contemplate. Speaking of which...

Pando decides he wants to join in the party, but Baldar intercedes, saying "She is under my protection!" (Baldar says this a lot, though he never seemed to officially offer, nor be asked for this protection) The distraught Goat Boy kicks dirt on the writhing Secondborn and sulks off into the woods. "Let me know if you find a cold river," says Baldar, as the girl continues to, yes, writhe and moan.

Erlick the Naked (he's the one on the left) Things... praise the Bad Movie Gods... move on from there, as Baldar and #2 infiltrate Traigon’s lair, only to be confronted by the hyp-mo-tized Erlik and #1, who refuse to help their friends, and Traigon, who drops the Viking and extra twin down a hole and drops a boulder on them. This ticks off Ape Suit, who, as you recall, was promised #2 in exchange for capturing the Firstborn. Traigon, being the Bad Guy, is particularly unsympathetic to Ape Suit’s plight, so the cheated chimp picks up Baldar’s dropped sword (actually, I think it was originally Erlik’s) and heads out into the night.

Pay attention, because this is going to get complicated. Baldar and #2 find themselves wandering through the catacombs beneath Castle Traigon. Erlik prepares to sacrifice the Firstborn, with the Soma insuring that both of them are really into it, if you catch my drift. A flock of "sacrificial virgins" appear to drop huge urns of Wooshing Powder™ into some fires. And somewhere, somehow, Pando is frolicking with three nereids (or at least women wearing Greek garb, equally out of place in this Middle Eastern Bronze Age etc.), only to be interrupted by Ape Suit presenting him with Erlik’s sword. Marshalling both of his neurons, Pando begins marching through the countryside, Erlik’s sword held high. I think we are supposed to believe that this somehow rouses the countryside to rebellion, but in truth, it just looks like all the livestock in the region start following Pando and the herdsmen come after, curious as to exactly where their flock may be going.

In the catacombs, Baldar and #2 are assaulted by zombie warriors, and only #2 remembering the sacred codeword saves the day. Chanting "Vitahl! Vitahl!" not only breaks the spell holding Erlik and her sister in thrall, but also causes Vitahl to manifest itself. And Vitahl... is a Muppet.

No, that is doing a serious disservice to Muppets in general. Vitahl is, however, definitely a lion puppet with bat wings and an almost expressive face. Not about to be left out of the Crappy Gods sweepstakes, Traigon sacrifices Princess Hottie instead of the Firstborn, causing Caligara to crop up. So, if just any attractive woman would have done, what’s with the decades-long search for The Two Who Are One? Oh, right. The electronic organizer. I forgot.

Behold the gods of Planet Suck!

Caligara is represented by a floating head; some uncredited woman, half of whose face is covered by makeup. Caligara immediately starts spitting green cartoon beams at the ground. We are not sure why, except to tear open a hole so Baldar and #2 can climb out and join their firends. They are followed by the hordes of zombies, who do not prove to be a problem, since they all immediately light on the heretofore superfluous sacrificial virgins and carry them off. Baldar quips again, "Been buried for a thousand years... you know?" (yet another cinematic scar inflicted on anyone who has seen this movie).

It’s still four against Traigon’s army (who number at least ten), - who should enter but Pando, flocks of goats, and a bunch of peasants who then proceed to mill aimlessly about the courtyard. Perhaps one thinks to bop a passing soldier on his helmet with one of those wooden rake things, but I wouldn’t be willing to bet on that. The Muppet God lays some cartoon lightning on the Bobblehead God, who blows up like the Death Star, only crappily.

So it’s time for Traigon to run crying into his sanctum, where Erlik and Khrakannon have a final sword fight. It’s pretty short, as Erlik plays on Khrakannon’s anger issues by doing his imitation of Fin-Head’s mother: "Arf! Arf arf!" Oh, that wily Barbarian! Exit Khrakannon, still overacting magnificently.

Traigon does his usual (and refreshingly under-employed) green-eyed illusion bit, but before he can slay Erlik, gets two arrows in the back from The Two Who Are One. Traigon actually appears to be rather proud of his daughters as he expires (but it remains unsaid that he’s got one life left, and will be back in another twenty years... apparently no one was under any illusion that there would be a sequel).

HA haha haaaa!  Kill me now, please!Outside, the peasants have apparently bored the soldiers to death. The zombies are not an issue, having simply been written out of the script. Erlik appears, an arm around either twin. "Isn’t one enough for you?" asks the Viking. "Hey, Baldar!" responds Erlik the Naked, "These two are one!" Hearty Laughter! The End! Praise Vitahl!

I realize there are those of you who will say, "I have to see this." Well, more power to you, I suppose. It's not the worst movie I've seen. The acting is frequently credible, if not outstanding. The Harris twins are better than they need to be, Erlik and Hottie are okay, Khrakannon chews every piece of scenery twenty times before he swallows, and Pando... well, I guess Pando is pretty much the perfect oversexed Goat Boy. All in all, though, they are still in a movie that should have the end credit "Filmed entirely on location on Planet Suck". Even the sound works against them, as the purloined score starts and stops fitfully, as if a phonograph needle were dropped on a record at random, then immediately jerked off because it was the wrong spot in the music. And the dubbing makes the imported 60s Hercules peplum movies look like they were filmed in America with flawless sync sound.

Oooh, yes, it goes down hard. This is the kind of movie that leaves you acutely aware that you just ground away 90 minutes of your life watching it. What goes down even harder is the fact that the director was one Jack Hill. You know, Jack Hill. Coffy. Foxy Brown. Spider Baby. Swinging Cheerleaders. Switchblade Sisters. The man makes good exploitation movies, the type that makes you want to search out more. What happened here?

The madness of filmmakers in the early 80s is well-documented. In 1977, Star Wars had proven that genre pictures could make big, big money, but there was also a general suspicion that science fiction was just about played out, and the search was on for the next big magic money-making genre blockbuster. A fair amount of cash was bet on John Milius' production of Conan the Barbarian. Enough that a lot of studios followed suit, and the floods came: Beastmaster , Sword and the Sorcerer, Deathstalker, The Barbarians... and far be it for Roger Corman to sit out a possibly lucrative trend.

Hill was lured to the project by the promise of vast infusions of money, necessary for a spectacle described as "An epic adventure of swords and sorcery in the ultimate cosmic struggle!" There were problems with this, however: it was, after all, the early 80s, and something called home video was really starting to whittle into the theatrical dollars. The budget for Sorceress kept getting slashed, the locations moved to Mexico, absolutely no name actors were employed (and when, in 1982, you couldn't afford Jack Palance for a day or two, you know the money ain't there). And hey. Roger Corman was the producer. The man's parsimony is the stuff of legend. He had already recycled the space dogfight scenes from Battle Beyond the Stars in a half-dozen movies, and since he couldn't use them here, he recycled the film score instead.

Industrial Light & Magic saves another movie!Hill was already on a downhill track; his previous movie, Switchblade Sisters had been a box office disappointment, and seeing what became of Sorceress, he removed his name from the credits (except in the capacity of producer) and quietly retired from the film trade, to concentrate on writing and meditation.

As you likely know, Quentin Tarentino is a great fan of Hill's, and his Rolling Thunder Pictures brought Switchblade Sisters back in a very real way; Hill is getting more respect now, and is apparently about to embark on another movie project. I wish him luck... Sorceress should not be any man's swan song, by the bodacious ta-tas of Michelle Bauer!

Okay, maybe I won't start saying that.


And no - there isn't a sorceress. Anywhere.

- July 31, 2002