DVD Review: Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Sword and Sorcery Collection

The ‘80s were a time when magic and muscles ruled the geek kingdom. The movie screens were filled with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan. Cable TV endlessly repeated Beastmaster. Basements were clogged with high schoolers in weekend long marathons of Dungeons and Dragons. People’s fantasy lives took place on pieces of paper and not on the internet. It was a glorious time for 98 pound weaklings dreaming of being a muscle bound barbarian. Roger Corman’s Cult Classics All-Night Marathon Sword and Sorcery Collection packs four of his legendary tales when men wore loin clothes and women wore even less.

Deathstalker (1983 – 80 minutes) set the tone for these Corman low budget entries into the Muscles and Magic genre. He sent crews down to a studio in Argentina to capture the action at a studio that had built numerous sets with the big fake stone walls. All four films in this collection were made there. Deathstalker‘s story resembled a junior high student’s D&D adventure. Deathstalker (Rick Hill) accepts a mission to collect three enchanted objects before an evil sorcerer uncovers them. What nearly screws up his task isn’t the evil magician, but hot actresses Barbi Benton (Playboy and Hee Haw) and Lana Clarkson (Amazon Women on the Moon). Deathstalker has those primal needs of a barbarian.

David Carradine had fun with his with his Kung Fu legacy in The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984 – 81 minutes). He played a warrior-priest roaming a desert wasteland by name of Kain. He also played a warrior-priest roaming a desert wasteland in Kung Fu, but that character was called Caine. See the difference? In Warrior, Kain roams in to a town where two rival factions fight over the water well. He plays the factions against each other in a Yojimba plot. There’s lots of freaky magic moments in the action.

Barbarian Queen (1985 – 71 minutes) gives Lana Clarkson the lead. Her tribe has been raided by evil Romans. She and a few female warriors must liberate her husband and sister. Even though this is a female oriented adventure, there remains a severe lack of wardrobe on the screen. Roger Corman has called this his Xena, but at no point did Lucy Lawless get this skimpy in the role. Clarkson went beyond what’s allowed on broadcast TV. If her name sounds familiar, it’s because Phil Spector was convicted of shooting Clarkson to death.

Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans (1987 – 77 minutes) brings to an end the Argentine primitive fun. It’s a bit of a parody of the original Deathstalker under the direction of Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall). They recast Deathstalker with John Terkesky as the barbarian on a mission. He has to battle another evil sorcerer played by John Lazar. He’s mugs up the fun like his time as Z Man on Russ Meyer’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Monique Gabrielle spices up the screen in her ‘80s glory. This is a good way to wrap up the night long marathon with a goofy jigglefest.

The biggest special effect that Corman used to insure these films would appeal to D&D players was posters and VHS movie boxes with Boris Vallejo’s artwork. It added a legitimacy to the productions. Back in the ‘80s, your local video store didn’t have hundreds of copies of Conan the on the shelf. If you were in the mood for Conan and the tape was gone; you’d be tempted by other boxes on the Fantasy shelf that had macho Boris covers. Now with Roger Corman’s Cult Classics All-Night Marathon Sword and Sorcery Collection, the whole video shelf is tucked inside one box.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. All four movies are in fine enough viewing shape for low budget productions from Argentina. You won’t miss any of the carnal action. The details will come out in the constantly reused walls. The audio is Stereo 2.0. The levels are fine for the clanking of metal and the slapping of flesh.

Extras include a number of commentary tracks and other odds and ends.

Deathstalker Commentary includes director James Sbardellati, special effects make-up artist John Buecheler and actor Richard Brooker.

Deathstalker 2 commentary has Director Jim Wynorski along with actors Toni Naples and John Terlesky. Jim is a ball of energy. He admits this was the last film using the sets in Argentina. They all love exposing the movie magic.

Photo Gallery includes dozens of shots from the Deathstalker films.

Barbarian Queen Deleted & Extended Scenes (9:58) include more violent moments like throat slashing.

Trailers for Deathstalker (2:02), Deathstalker 2 (1:44), The Warrior and the Sorceress (2:02) and Barbarian Queen (1:44). They tease with both the fighting and topless moments.

Roger Corman’s Cult Classics All-Night Marathon Sword and Sorcery Collection brings together the finest of Roger’s attempts to draft on Conan the Barbarian‘s cool. The four films brought are much more entertaining as a marathon. You should enjoy them with a few cups of mead or grog. The only thing missing from the boxset is a pair of 20-sided dice.

Shout! Factory presents Roger Corman’s Cult Classics All-Night Marathon Sword and Sorcery Collection. Starring: David Carradine, Barbi Benton, Lana Clarkson and Monique Gabrielle. Boxset Contents: 4 movies on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: August 23, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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