Fantasy films of today, with their epic scope and amazing visual effects, bear little resemblance to the Sword & Sorcery movies of the 80’s that I grew up with, still they were vastly entertaining and I will always have a soft spot for them, but today’s entry is one that I completely missed…until now.
Upon seeing Conan the Barbarian with Arnold Schwarzenegger; low budget movie making master Roger Corman knew there be gold in them their sandals and quickly gave staff writer Jim Wynorski the directive to go home and bring back a barbarian fuelled script in a weeks’ time with the only caveat being that it star two women. Thus 1982’s Sorceress was born. With long time Corman veteran Jack Hill at the helm, Playboy Playmate twins sisters to star and a deal to film it in Mexico for obvious budgetary reasons, greatness awaited.
The movie begins with your standard fantasy opening, evil wizard Traigon (Roberto Ballesteros), to attain even greater power, must sacrifice his firstborn to the dark god Caligara. But not surprisingly his wife is not too keen on this idea and flees after giving birth. Traigon and his minions catch up to her but just as he is about to take away the baby for sacrificing he discovers that his wife gave birth to twins, and even under torture she will not reveal which of the babies was born first. Enter mystic warrior Krona (Martin LaSalle) who distracts Krona long enough for the wife to stab Traigon in the back with her dying breath. Traigon gives a dying declaration that he will return and then fades away in sparkly blue light.
Krona vows to gift these twins with his powers and abilities as a warrior and is only briefly put out when he is told that they are “girl children.” Now one would expect a montage of these two growing up and being trained to be great warriors who will one day avenge their murdered mother but no, Krona places his hands on the twin babies and we get some more “sparkly blue light” and thus they are now going to become awesome warriors in the twenty year jump cut without the pesky need for training. Krona then drops the babes off with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru with strict instructions to raise them as boys because when Traigon returns he will be looking for twin girls. Brilliant plan, I like it.
We first see the now grown-up twin warriors Mira (Leigh Harris) and Mara (Lynette Harris) as they bathe nude in a stream while being spied upon by a satyr named Pando (David Millbern). Pando is armed with a reed flute and an apparently very noticeable penis as Mira and Mara mistake the thing between his legs for a weapon and punch him in the face. You see apparently the only way Mira and Mara could be raised as boys is to not tell them about the Birds and the Bees and to have them actually believe they are boys despite them having lady parts. The result is that as heroes Mira and Mara do not come off as the sharpest tools in the shed.
Followers of Traigon arrive at the home of the kindly farmers that raised our “heroes” and demand that they be told where they can find “The Two Who are One.” Which is fantasy speak for “Where are the twins that Traigon needs?” The farmer refuses to cough up the information and not only is he and his wife brutally killed but the minions also rape their natural daughter before killing her as well. So in the first ten minutes of the movie we get a woman tortured to death, a nude scene with twin sisters and a horny satyr, the murder of their adoptive family and a rape. Roger Corman does not mess around.
Mira and Mara arrive too late to save anyone but with their blue light infused powers they are able to defeat the villains easily. On hand to watch their remarkable fighting skills is Valdar (Bruno Rey) a Viking and our favorite satyr Pando, and why a satyr is hanging around with a Viking is one of the great untold mysteries of this film. Valdar is so impressed by the twins warrior abilities that he vows to protect them and aid them on their quest. They never ask for his aid or even really seem to need it, but hey you’re getting a Viking’s help so suck it up.
What follows is your standard fantasy quest as our “heroes” must face great adversity as they make their way to fulfill the prophecy or some such nonsense. At one point they hook up with a barbarian prince named Erlick (Roberto Nelson) who is introduced to us cheating at dice to show his roguish character, but barbarian Han Solo this guy is not. He immediately has less than pure thoughts about Mira and Mara but is hampered by not only the fact that the girls they still think they are boys, but that they have no idea what the difference between boys and girls are let alone how babies are made. This makes for an awkward and very creepy situation.
Traigon hasn’t just been sitting around twiddling his thumbs all this time as he has his super-hot priestess Delissia (Ana De Sade) and her ape sidekick to help track down “The Two Who are One.” The sheer goofiness of the ape Hunnu (Douglas Sanders) beggar’s description and when he and his ape army bombard our heroes with laughing gas filled exploding coconuts it is cinematic joy.
So Mira and Erlick are captured and with some fast talking and a little mind altering drinks Traigon convinces Mira that he is a victim of nasty propaganda and that all he wants is what is best for his daughter. Meanwhile Delissia seduces the drugged Erlick, convincing him that it is in everyone’s benefit that he have sex with Mira and then later sacrifice her to Caligara. He seems cool with that. What is really not cool is that Mira and Mara are psychically linked so that they always feel what the other is experiencing so that when Erlick proceeds to have sex with the drugged Mira we are treated to Mara writhing around on the ground in coital bliss. Valdar realizes what is happening and when Mara proceeds to go onto a second earth-shattering orgasm Valdar concludes it’s all good as that means it must be Erlick providing the lovin. *sigh*
Will Mira and Mara be reunited? Can Erlick shake off his drugged stupor and save Mira from the dark god Caligara? Can Traigon be defeated in time? Will someone please shoot Pando? All these questions and more are answered in the exciting conclusion of Sorceress. This is really one of those “seeing is believing” type movies as anything I write down here pales in comparison to the awesomeness that is put up on screen. The comedy goes from goofy to outright weird. When Traigon calls forth an army of the dead the zombies rise out of the ground and proceed to attack the vestal virgins but their intent is more amorous than flesh eating, Valdar wittily comments, “Been buried a thousand years, ya know.” Because nothing is funnier than rape jokes.
The movie should have had a disclaimer “No actors were used in the making of this picture” as everyone in it is pretty awful. Now some of that can be attributed to the poor dubbing of the Mexican actors but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the Mexican actors probably sucked even in their native language. The effects are laughable even by Roger Corman film standards, and the final clash between the forces of good and evil is a ridiculous looking winged lion centaur-thing that shoots lightning out of its eyes up against a disembodied head of a woman with half her face messed up. What is fascinating is that this was not in the script but something Corman asked his effects guy to come up with for the trailer, apparently the trailer needed more oomph, and if it looked good enough he could put it into the movie. Artistic integrity takes a back seat when it comes between Roger Corman and making a buck.
But he was right, the movie may be god awful mess but damn is it fun, and it was successful as well making some series cash for such a low budgeted cheesy film. Even Roger Corman was shocked to see how many people lined up in the snowy cold to see his picture. The sad part of the chapter is the falling out between long-time friends Jack Hill and Roger Corman that resulted in Hill demanding his name be taken off the picture. From what I’ve heard is that the Jack Hill version was two hours long, focused on a new religion that Hill espoused, and had at least two ballet numbers. It would certainly be interesting to see that version but sight unseen I’ll have to side with Roger on this one because the end result is a gloriously goofy movie that I just love despite and because of its flaws.
Roger Corman brings us a Sword and Sorcery epic of staggering goofiness. It’s horrible acting and budget effects just add charm to this thoroughly entertaining yarn.