Dungeonmaster, The / Eliminators
Released by: Shout! Factory
Released on: December 15th, 2015.
Director: Various/Peter Manoogian
Cast: Jeffrey Bryon, Richard Moll, Denise Crosby, Andrew Prine
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Two eighties-era Empire Pictures cult oddities together on Blu-ray for the first time!
Up first is 1984’s The Dungeonmaster (also known as Ragewar), an odd film that almost plays out like an anthology linked together by some bookend style segments. The main plot follows a computer expert named Paul Bradford (Jeffrey Bryon) who proposes to his girlfriend, Gwen (Leslie Wing). She’s flattered by the proposal and she does love him, but she’s not sure she can accept because she knows Paul is obsessed with his computer, Cal. All of this changes when Gwen winds up the captive of the devilish Mestema (Richard Moll) who will only release her if Paul can best him in a series of challenges.
Armed with a wrist-mounted device that lets him use CAL to help him, Paul has no choice but to agree to Mestema’s terms and from there we see them go at it – each challenge set piece handled by a different director. Rosemarie Turko directs the Ice Gallery segment wherein Paul has to take on a gallery of infamous maniacs and murderers as they thaw out (one of whom is Albert Einstein?). Peter Manoogian directs the Cave Beast scene where Paul… fights a cave beast. In the Charles Band directed Heavy Metal Paul has to storm a W.A.S.P. concert to save Gwen from certain doom (Blackie Lawless mugs it up for the camera in a big way but doesn’t throw any raw meat at the crowd unfortunately) while in David Allen’s Stone Canyon Giant we get a neat Harryhausen style stop motion set piece where Paul fights a giant made of stone who lives in a canyon. John Carl Buechler handles the zombie inspired Demons Of The Dead while Steve Ford sees Paul chase down a serial killer in Slasher. Last but not least is the Mad Max inspired Desert Pursuit where a midget in a tricked out dune buggy tries to stop Paul and Gwen from getting back to safety.
If not particularly highbrow, The Dungeonmaster is still a lot of fun. Richard Moll, under a lot of makeup, makes for a pretty great devil here and he cackles and overacts his way through all of his scenes with a lot of enthusiasm. Bryon isn’t the most dashing of heroes but he gets the job done while Leslie Wing is fine, if unremarkable, as the damsel in nearly constant distress. What really makes the movie work are the different set pieces. They give the movie a quick pace and never overstay their welcome and as the movie shifts in tone every few minutes, it keeps things surprising and fun. Seeing W.A.S.P. pop up at the height of their eighties craziness is also fun, and the effects and set design in the movie are, if low budget, at least full of quirk, character and color.
Note that this version of The Dungeonmaster (which is presented with the Ragewar title card) contains an opening scene with some full frontal female nudity in it that was not present in the PG cut of the movie.
The second feature, directed solely by Peter Manoogian two years later, begins when a pilot is (Patrick Reynolds) is mortally wounded in a plane crash over a jungle. After that crash, he’s brought back to life by Abbott Reeves (Roy Dotrice), a scientist who turns him into a Mandroid! Abbott sends his Mandroid back in time to get him a shield from ancient Rome. With that out of the way, it looks like Abbott is going to have his latest creation taken apart with some help from his assistant, Dr. Takawa (Tad Horino), but Takawa isn’t such a bad guy and so he helps Mandroid escape!
Soon enough he meets up with foxy scientist Nora Hunter (Denise Crosby), the same scientist who came up with the technology Reeves stole to create Mandroid. They decide, with some help from her tiny flying robot companion named SPOT, to go get Reeves and stop him from doing whatever it is exactly that he does, and to help them with this they hire a boatsman named Harry Fontana (Andrew Prine) and team up with a ninja named Kuji (Conan Lee)! Kuji also happens to be on a quest to find his father but is unaware that his pappy has got ties to Reeves. Meanwhile, a woman named Bayou Betty (Peggy Mannix) is out to get them because Fontana scooped the sweet Nora Hunter boat job out from under her all while Reeves prepares himself for the inevitable showdown that we all know is coming.
A pretty zany movie, Eliminators has a few sluggish spots and some minor pacing issues but it does offer up a Mandroid, a ninja and some neat scientists. The story sort of plods along, the characters are often more interesting than the situations that they find themselves in, but it’s entertaining enough. Anytime things get too slow someone will shoot a missile or something will blow up or someone will say something dumb enough to grab your attention. The performances are fun though. Roy Dotrice is maybe slumming it a bit here given his filmography but he’s good in the part as the mad scientist/villain. Patrick Reynolds isn’t the most enthusiastic guy to ever light up the screen but he does the distant android thing well enough. Denise Crosby’s character isn’t very well written but she’s cute and fun to look at while Andrew Prine plays his rascally boatman with a fair bit of enthusiasm. Conan Lee is also fun as the ninja, just sort of thrown into the movie probably just so there could be a ninja in it.
Really though, this is a movie to watch because it features a guy built into a tank tread thing, and that in and of itself is pretty rad. It was also clearly a huge influence on Astron 6’s Manborg.
Both features are presented in AVC encoded 1080p framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and they look pretty good, definitely better than the previous DVD releases that came out a while ago. Colors in particular really get a nice boost, especially in The Dungeonmaster where a lot of lighting gels are used in various scenes to create the otherworldly atmosphere that much of the film takes place in. Detail isn’t reference quality as some shots do look soft but the picture on both transfers is quite clean and clear and it definitely takes advantage of the format quite nicely. There’s reasonable depth here and solid black levels and the images are free of any noise reduction or edge enhancement.
English language DTS-HD options are provided for both features. There are no issues here, dialogue is clean, clear and properly balanced against the films’ respective scores and sound effects. Depth is reasonable and clarity is just fine. Optional subtitles are included in English only.
There are no extras for Eliminators but The Dungeonmaster gets a theatrical trailer as well as an interview with director Peter Manoogian who speaks for roughly half an hour about working on both of the feature included on this disc, his relationship with Charles Band, the contributions of the different cast and crew members involved in the productions, his thoughts on the films and quite a bit more. It’s an interesting look back at the glory days of Empire Pictures through the eyes of somebody who lived it.
The Final Word:
Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release of The Dungeonmaster / Eliminators may not be stacked with supplements but the interview with Manoogian is an interesting addition and the movie both look and sound quite good. The features themselves are definitely products of their time but that’s part of their charm – fans of eighties B-movies should have a really good time with this pairing.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!
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