Opens with an old man sending a young archer on his adventuring way, all double exposed on a beach with a Goblin soundtrack, and I’m afraid my story description from here on isn’t going to make much sense. Nicely summed up (in a positive review!) on lboxd: “every scene is clouded in iridescent fumes & I don’t know why anybody does anything.”

Wolf-suited tax collectors rip a girl apart so their snakey nudist leader can gobble her brains. Is she then killed by an arrow of light shot by our faceless archer or was that a vision? Our hero Elias is armed with a bow and four arrows, but is attacked by fourteen dudes, then rescued by an animal-loving stone-nunchuck warrior called Mace with lipstick runes on his forehead. Mace won’t kill animals so he steals all his food, keeps a cavegirl nearby until her head is smashed in by dog soldiers in the next scene.

Obsessively backlit – both this and Conan‘s best parts are their music, but this one is better for being wildly unpredictable. “Birds flying towards the water… that’s not good.”


The kid gets poisoned by a barrage of film-scratch darts coming from the weeds, and Fulci finds a way to get zombies into the movie as Mace braves a horde to collect a poison-healing herb. Then Mace gets attacked by his shadow self (Cactus-faced Zora in disguise) and it’s his turn to be captured by cobwebbed cave muppets, and the kid has to rescue him.

Somehow the kid keeps finding arrows in a land that’s never seen a bow before – have I mentioned this? – but finally he starts shooting blanks and letting the effects team add bolts of light. Mace is rescued by dolphins then attacked by powervaulting cave furries… the villains behead the kid but the nude woman can’t devour his brain because he opens his eyes… I dunno anymore.

Fulci in his heyday (The Beyond was the year before) ripping off Conan – even titled so they’d sit together alphabetically in video stores, good move. The kid’s career path was a Howard Hawks film -> this -> Werewolf with Joe Estevez. Stonechuck warrior Andrea Occhipinti had just starred in Fulci’s New York Ripper, and the nude girl Sabrina Siani specialized in playing the nude girl in this sort of movie. Like Conan this won no oscars. Big congrats to Oppenheimer but in another 40 years we’ll see which of these movies people are still watching.

On Oscars night I thought we should watch something that never* won an award, and so, Conan.

Painted-up horseback killers arrive and destroy young Conan’s town, kill his dad first, then James Earl Jones (with beautiful long hair and named Salsa Doom) beheads Conan’s mom and takes all the town’s kids to be millwheel slaves. Our kid grows into Arnold whilst pushing the millwheel, then gets thrown into gladiator battle where he caves in the other guy’s head, leading to a montage of him killing a lot of guys and “realizing his sense of worth,” haha. After the one-on-one fights in Universal Soldier 6, the chaotic action mishmash of this was bound to disappoint. Impressed, his slavemasters send him to fighting school but some redbeard randomly frees him then he immediately finds a kickass Earth God sword.

The Empty Man, Earth God:

Arnold doesn’t know how to socialize properly, so he has sex with a sorceress while she’s in the middle of reciting his prophecy, then hurls her into the fireplace. He meets Gerry Lopez (thief, archer, and surfer in Milius’s Big Wednesday) and they run around Spain to the lovely adventure music of Basil Poledouris (later a Verhoeven accomplice). Soon after he punches a camel, they meet a cute lady thief (Sandahl Bergman of Hell Comes to Frogtown) and together rob a snake-cult tower and behead the snake god within.

King Max von Sydow congratulates them and sends them on a mission to unkidnap his daughter from the snake cult. Conan ditches the others and runs the rescue mission solo for some reason, asking directions from some hippies, and meeting wizard Mako (The Bird People in China) who lends him a camel, which he learns should be ridden, not punched. Arriving in snaketown, Arnold seduces some guy to steal his cult robes, but he’s not very sneaky and Salsa Doom’s men crucify him on the tree of woe. Really shouldn’t have come alone.

His buddies arrive belatedly and Mako kwaidans him back to life. They sneak in and massacre the palace guards, getting green soup everywhere, while Salsa Doom transforms into a snake and crawls off. The cute girl thief dies of snake wounds before Arnold can find a fireplace to hurl her into. Arnold heals up and goes back to slash his way through more guys, with help from buddies Gerry and Mako and the ghost of his dead girlfriend, beheads Salsa Jones and all the cultists go home. Ends slowly, with a sequel setup, but instead of Conan the Destroyer (a Richard Fleischer/Jack Cardiff joint, shorter, with Grace Jones) I think I’m supposed to watch the Lucio Fulci ripoff Conquest.

*This lost Saturn awards to Star Trek II, Tron, E.T., The Dark Crystal, and Poltergeist, a pretty good lot, but in 2001 it won a DVD commentary award. I listened to a couple minutes of commentary around the camel-punching scene, and nah, I would’ve gone with Charlie’s Angels.

Guess this was technically a rewatch since I remember catching it on cable at Brad’s house in 1983… now that it’s fresh in my mind, bring on the new Mandico version. Milius had recently cowritten Apocalypse Now and 1941, I guess he was into warfare in every era. Producer Dino de Laurentiis also made Halloween III and Amityville II this year, and Edward Pressman and Oliver Stone had just made The Hand.

narration: Swan > Henry > Rat > Poison
visuals: Henry > Rat > Swan > Poison
story: Henry > Rat > Poison > Swan

The Swan:


Richard Brody:

Anderson has long mastered the lesson that Godard delivered from Breathless onward: that viewers can remain deeply engaged in the events of a drama even while being pulled outside of that drama by fillips of form or fourth-wall-breaking winks and nods. Here he stands that notion on its head; he never breaks the framework of classically realistic drama because he never establishes it in the first place. It is not a question of characters breaking the action to address the camera but the reverse, and, for this reason, the direct address comes off as natural and central, and the acted-out drama as strange and supplementary. Ever since Rushmore, Anderson’s work has been an ongoing reproach to the unquestioned dramatic realism of even most of the great filmmakers of the time, and these four new shorts both heighten the audacious inventiveness of his wondrous artifices and sharpen their powers of critical discernment to a stinging point.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar:

The Rat Catcher:

Onscreen text, no narrator, the music all howling wind and doom tones. I thought this might be the coolest feature at the Ann Arbor fest – and so far I’m right – but it wasn’t part of their online program so I had to find it separately.

Uranium factoids, then settles into a kinda observational doc about a gigantic nuclear plant being dismantled in Lithuania, but keeps distracting itself with colors and artworks and models and the snake from the movie poster. Where’d they get the underwater mine photography, wow. The archive footage is all credited at the end, but I can’t tell if that was archival – the director was also production designer and swimmer in one awesome wide shot, and the new footage is seamlessly blended with the borrowed stuff.

Talked with Joe about this briefly, and so I’m not crazy for thinking the story “ends” differently in the initial flash-forward. I guess we get to choose whether we want to stick with that fantasy hero ending, or embrace the New Hollywood bummer death ending. Along the way every flashback to the driver’s earlier life and racing career ends portentously in a crash. The driver’s goal is San Francisco, takes a bunch of speed and intends to break every estimate, at the expense of the condition of the car he’s supposed to drop off. We spend some time with a blind DJ, who takes up the driver’s cause before getting beat down by the anti-freedom local boys. As for the driver, immediately after jumping onto a divided highway going the wrong way then back again to shake two cop cars, he uses the turn signal to change lanes – good movie.

The country’s got West Side Story Remake fever, but we’ve stayed home, trying to avoid catching any other kinds of fever – and after pulling the plug on The Terror, I need a new exercise-bike show to watch, so I gave this a try, in two parts. What better way to encourage movement than to watch a propulsive road movie?

Dennis Weaver (TV’s McCloud) is chased and terrorized by a big-ass truck. His thoughts via voiceover try to apply reason to the situation, but there’s no reason to be found – the truck is dangerously toying with him. It tries to push him into a train, drives right through a phone booth where he’s calling the cops (and some roadside snake aquariums), tailgates him at dangerous speeds. Will this emasculated modern man outdrive and outsmart the giant machine? Yes! Not without difficulty – the movie is partly a PSA for proper automotive maintenance, per the advice of your mechanic, so I feel pretty good that I changed both my air filters the day before viewing.

Written by Twilight Zone vet Richard Matheson, and I thought of the Zone a few times, when the world seems to be stacked against Weaver, diner locals and schoolbus children all making fun of him, and only he senses the danger, or is maybe imagining it, and directed to hell and back by young Spielberg.

“Intelligence can be dangerous” – is this a quote from the movie, or something I wrote while watching it? A plague is going around, both within and without the movie, so I watched at home and took cryptic notes.

Benedetta’s dad pays for both his daughter and a beaten incest girl named Bartolomea to enter a convent under abbess Charlotte Rampling. Bene dreams that a cartoon superhero Jesus saves her from violent rapists then attacks her, also sees dodgy CG snakes and other miracles on the regular. The higher-ups decide she’s faking but keep that to themselves and make Bene the new abbess. She invites Bartolo to her bed, but sexual pleasure is not allowed in historical times, so both nuns must be tortured, per church leader Lambert Wilson.

The plague takes Rampling, and suicide takes her daughter/spy Louise Chevillotte (Synonyms and the last couple Garrels). Bene (Sibyl star Virginie Efira) lives out the rest of her days at the convent in a postscript title, and I already can’t remember if Daphne Patakia (the mimic of Nimic) lives or what. Fun movie with witty writing, but it’s still a nun drama, one of my least favorite genres.

Extremely fun movie, opening with a powerful monk capturing an evil old man who’d been training for 100 years to ascend to human form, and I don’t know a whole lot about Chinese mythology but supermonk (Vincent Zhao, who took over the Once Upon a Time in China series after part 3) seems kinda like the bad guy. This is confirmed towards the end when he’s singlemindedly pursuing his enemies while carelessly destroying temples and drowning monks as collateral damage.

Green and Supermonk:

Supermonk has a tentative alliance with two snake sisters. White Snake (Joey Wong, lost in the huge cast of Eagle Shooting Heroes, also in the Chinese Ghost Story trilogy) is older and more powerful, while Green Snake (Maggie Cheung, at the tail end of her period of starring in ten films per year) is more bold and curious. They seduce some local guy (Wu Hsing-Guo), who will die along with White in the climactic supermonk-caused catastrophe.

Meantime we get colorful sets, giant snake tails, ludicrous side plots, tons of flying, great staging and action.

Wu Hsing-Guo, resurrected:

Previous stories and films based on this folktale have been named White Snake, so the titular focus on the younger sister indicate Tsui’s and Farewell My Concubine writer Lillian Lee’s intention to turn tradition on its head.

“To die so that the god may live is a privilege, Kevin”

British dude casually finds some 1700-year-old coins in the backyard, and an elongated skull – I thought this was Hugh Grant for a while until the real Hugh Grant appears a couple minutes later and I realized I had no idea what Peter Capaldi looked like prior to The Thick of It. They meet at a white worm party – with a white worm costume and a band playing a rowdy white worm folk song – along with the Trent sisters. Grant is out with Sammi Davis of Hope and Glory, and her sister Eve is Catherine Oxenberg of the Yugoslavian royal family, who started her career playing princess Diana on a TV movie, and most recently appeared in Ratpocalypse and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf.

Our fearless foursome:

Everyone is talking like they’re on a sitcom, but a few short minutes later, Lady Sylvia Marsh is introduced sucking on the leg of constable Ernie (Return of the Jedi‘s rancor keeper) and the movie gets good ‘n’ crazy, and stays that way. It’s cool that Grant and Capaldi are here, but Amanda Donohoe is the movie. Looks like I can see her with Sammi Davis and Glenda Jackson in Russell’s The Rainbow, and I probably should.

Lady Marsh takes a boy scout home and feeds him to the worm-god in her basement, and Eve is taken captive next. Sylvia is excessively horny during these scenes, while the others are eating damp sandwiches, searching for signs of the long-missing Trent parents. Grant gets the Stendhal Syndrome and climbs inside a painting. Snake imagery abounds, the script is all entendres, and the visuals flit between ace makeup/lighting and insane greenscreen dream-mayhem. Most horror filmmakers are content to make normal-looking movies with a few crazy visual bits – Russell isn’t happy unless the crazy bits completely overwhelm the normal stuff.

After my second reference this month to a christian order building atop pagan grounds, Grant steps up to his destiny, and plays snake-charming music on a PA system while the team attacks the castle with help from a worm-hunting mongoose. Mary is accosted by her undead mum, then by the possessed cop, but Capaldi saves the day with snake-luring bagpipes and drops a hand grenade down the worm-god’s throat. This plan obviously took some prep, but it’s also an emergency rescue mission, so was it necessary to change into the kilt?

There’s an Oscar Wilde quote – Russell made a Wilde movie the same year. Grant appears here the year after starring in a James Ivory film, Capaldi five years after Local Hero. Partly based on a Bram Stoker novel, partly on the legend of the Lambton Worm, and I guess largely made up by Russell.