• The Devil’s Sword (Mondo Macabro) DVD Review

    Released by: Mondo Macabro
    Released on: June 27th, 2006.
    Director: Ratno Timoer
    Cast: Barry Prima, Advent Bangun, Gudhy Sintara, Eni Christina, Rita Zahara
    Year: 1983
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    The Devil’s Sword – Movie Review:

    Few people are as instantly identifiable with Indonesian cult movies as Barry Prima, and few movies are as instantly identifiable as Barry Prima vehicles as The Devil's Sword (except maybe his The Warrior films). An absolutely fantastic blend of sex, violence, crocodile men and laser beams, The Devil's Sword is a tasty cocktail full of trash movie goodness as only the Indonesian's seem to be able to do it. It's not particularly deep, it doesn't always make sense, but it throws in enough high flying adventure and off the wall set pieces that it's easy to overlook those details in favor of appreciating the bigger picture.

    When the movie begins, a meteorite crashes to the Earth and a wise looking old man who is apparently some sort of wizard manages to extract some metal out of it with which he makes a magic sword. This isn't just any magic sword, however - it's a super duper magic sword and it's better than all the other magic swords in the land and it gives to its possessor powers untold of in this world.

    Meanwhile, under the sea, a nymphomaniac Crocodile Queen holds court over an army of crocodile men who wear rubbery looking crocodile masks and wield saw toothed crocodile swords at whoever would harm their sultry mistress. The Crocodile Queen isn't above lying with a man in the Biblical sense to get what she wants out of him, the catch being that once you've had a taste of the Crocodile Queen's poontang, you become one of her zombie soldiers. At any rate, The Crocodile Queen decides that she wants the super duper magic sword and that it doesn't matter who gets killed in the process as long as she is able to get it. How does she decide to get it? She sends out her right hand man to a wedding where he crashes the party by riding into the ceremony on top of a flying rock only to chop the heads off of a few of the guests using his two swords. He whisks off the groom and brings him back to the Crocodile Queen who is sure that he will be able to get her the sword.

    This leaves the bride to be in a bit of an awkward spot - good thing for her that a long warrior strides into the picture, oily muscles glistening in the sunlight, a big red headband keeping his mane of black hair out of his eyes, his mighty steed thundering across the landscape. This man, going be the name of Mandala, is the only one powerful enough to get the groom back in one piece from the deadly Crocodile Queen and her minions, for he controls the super duper magic sword that we saw the wizard make in the opening scene. Mandala soon squares off against the Crocodile Queen's chosen warrior and it's revealed that these two mighty titans are cut from the same cloth - they were both students of the same master some time ago - on now serves the forces of good, one the forces of evil.

    Unfortunately for Mandala, there's considerably more to his quest than simply defeating his former classmate. There's an army of the aforementioned Crocodile Men with their dastardly swords and ability to jump out of the water really quickly (giving them the element of surprise), there's a one eyed rock monster thing that lives underground, and there are all manner of odd supporting characters that he'll have to square off against on the way to the Crocodile Queen's under sea lair. And once he gets there, will he be able to save his friend's husband to be or will he be too late? What if he's already completely under the Queen's sexy spell? Good thing he can shoot lasers out of his hands!

    There's a whole lot of crazy going on in this one. Not only are the fight scenes as over the top as anything in The Master Of The Flying Guillotine (there are a few fight scenes in this movie that feel like they would have been right at home in that Wang Yu classic), but the bad guys all have seriously nutty outfits and Mandala himself looks like a sort of Conan inspired rock star. The Crocodile Queen spends a fair bit of her time in clothed orgies with her man servants and Mandala's master, in once gnarly scene, has to have his legs chopped off in order to survive. The plot jumps around a lot but the effects work has a really nice primitive charm to it that makes everything sort of work even when there's no way that it really should.

    One of the coolest aspects of the movie is the set design. The Crocodile Queen's under sea lair is a pretty boss cave complete with crocodile statues and toothy stalactites hanging from the ceiling so that it almost looks like she lives inside a giant crocodile's mouth. A lot of the decor inside appears to be gilded, or at least painted with gold spray paint, and it's all tacky in the best sense of the word.

    Of course, with Barry Prima top-billed it's no surprise to see he is the star of the show. From the very moment he appears on screen, the camera loves him. He's muscley and tough and hammy enough to make for a fun lead but he's got the skills when it comes to delivering in the combat scenes. His martial arts training gives him just enough believability that he really does make for a good hero. Though almost all of the fight scenes are sped up a fair bit, most times obviously so, he's still got that certain kind of screen presence that makes for a good b-movie action hero. While he gets more screen time in The Warrior, he's still in The Devil's Sword enough that we learn to respect his formidable powers!

    If Prima's powers aren't enough to keep you involved, be on the lookout for numerous violent set pieces. A woman is cut in half, heads are lobbed off numerous times, arterial spray is plentiful and bright, bloody red while a Flying Guillotine hatbox style weapon kills a couple of unimportant characters in one fantastic fight scene. The story really does get very, very muddled along the way but that doesn't diminish the fun factor that The Devil's Sword brings home in spades.

    It would be wrong to call it a good movie but it certainly is a good time movie. Have a few friends over, grab a case of beer, and sit back. This one is the very definition of the 'party movie' and the sheer amount of 'wow, did I really just see that' moments in the movie give it plenty of replay value too, which is a nice added bonus.

    The Devil’s Sword – DVD Review:

    Mondo Macabro presents The Devil's Sword in a pretty impressive, for its time, 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that has been restored from the original negative. While there is some damage to the elements that obviously couldn't be completely eliminated, this remains an insanely impressive transfer and it puts all other home video releases of this film to shame. The first thing that you'll notice is how good the colors look, they're very bright and almost jump off the screen at you, giving the movie a completely appropriate 'comic book' look.

    There's a little bit of mpeg compression in some of the darker scenes but it's really minor and unless you're looking for it, it isn't likely to be a problem. Even the scenes that are shot underwater or that involve a lot of smoke look pretty solid, they don't break up much at all. There's a really nice level of both foreground and background detail present in the image (just look at the cave scenes, you can almost see the moisture on the rocks) and there aren't any problems with heavy edge enhancement or aliasing to complain about. Skin tones look life like and natural and black levels stay pretty strong throughout. Those who were impressed with the video transfer on Mondo Macabro's recent Virgins From Hell DVD, a similar Indonesian pop cinema/genre title, should be pleased to note that this transfer is even better.

    The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track gets things done. The dubbing adds to the deliriousness of the whole experience and while it sometimes doesn't synch up perfectly with the actors and actresses on screen, it's close enough and it fits the tone of the movie nicely. The score comes through with a sufficient amount of punch and there are no problems with the levels or with hiss or distortion on this release.

    The biggest and best of the extra features on this release comes in the form of an interview with the one and only Barry Prima that, quite frankly, borders on the surreal. Aptly titled An Encounter With Barry Prima, this discussion with the star of The Devil's Sword and many other fine, Indonesian classics, is an informative and completely delirious interview that stands up there with Abel Ferrara's Driller Killer commentary as one of those DVD extras that really shouldn't exist but at the same time you're so thankful to have in your library.

    Barry talks about the types of movies that he made before he retired and who he made them for and while his accent is tough to decipher in spots, his answers to questions like how he got into action movie making are pretty out there, partially because of the language barrier and partially because Barry doesn't really seem to be paying attention. He also complains a lot that he's tired and that he hates cameras. The interviewers try to get him to open up about his martial arts training and his influences but when they ask him if his first film, Primitif, was a big success he responds by saying 'I dunno, that's not my job.' This featurette runs for just under twenty minutes in length.

    Also included on the disc is an essay about the history and cultural significance of the feature from Mondo Macabro head honcho Pete Tombs. Tombs also contributes a piece called Anatomy Of An Action Man - The Barry Prima Story, a lengthy biographical essay on Barry Prima's contributions to world cinema that makes a whole lot more sense than the interview does. A beaten up but thankfully widescreen trailer for The Devil's Sword is also included. A third essay, also from Pete Tombs, is entitled Heavenly Swords and it explains the significance of magical bladed weapons in Indonesian culture and the effect that that significance has had in their movies and comic books.

    Of course, the ever present Mondo Macabro trailer reel, recently updated to include some of their newer releases, is also included on the DVD as are some fine animated menus and chapter stops for the feature itself.

    The Devil’s Sword – The Final Word:

    Mondo Macabro continues to dig up some of the wildest, wackiest, and just plain out there movies from around the world, delivering them to DVD devotees in fantastic fan friendly versions. Their release of The Devil's Sword continues that tradition - this one is a keeper!