Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Boy Magician On A Fabulous Adventure

Roger Corman was at his laziest during the mid-1980s, when he appeared to recycle James Horner’s BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS and Christopher Young’s DEATHSTALKER scores and tons of stock footage into half the films he made. His Concorde Pictures was very busy churning out sword-and-sorcery quickies in the aftermath of CONAN THE BARBARIAN and THE BEASTMASTER, and the 1985 release WIZARDS OF THE LOST KINGDOM is packed with scenes ripped straight out of Corman’s DEATHSTALKER and SORCERESS. The stock footage isn’t even used well; it’s often just tossed in at random with narration poured over it to fill gaps in the narrative.

Like Corman's BARBARIAN QUEEN, WIZARDS OF THE LOST KINGDOM was shot in Argentina by native director Hector Olivera. The PG picture also aims at a family-friendly audience, which surely disappointed fans looking for the blood and boobs common to the genre. At least there’s plenty of unintentional humor to be found in its incompetence and hammy performances.

The plot by Ed Naha (TROLL), who wrote a book about Corman, finds evil sorcerer Shurka (soap actor Thom Christopher, just off the BUCK ROGERS TV series) conspiring with Queen Udea (luscious Barbara Stock, who moved from this to SPENSER: FOR HIRE) to bump off the King of Axholm and take his throne. Trying to stop him are young magician Simon (Vidal Peterson, the young star of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES), whose father was also murdered by Shurka; his large white furry companion Gulfax (Edward Murrow wearing the silliest Chewbacca costume you’ve ever seen); and Kor the Conqueror, lazily played by Bo Svenson in an amusing lark of a performance.

Maria Socas, whose nude acting was the highlight of Corman’s lame THE WARRIOR AND THE SORCERESS, pops up just long enough to introduce clips from SORCERESS’ climax and turn into a woman-sized rubber insect. For sure, WIZARDS OF THE LOST KINGDOM moves. It may not make any sense, but it throws one clumsy action scene after another at the audience at a rapid clip. One of them has Svenson hacking up zombies, even though he was obviously never on the same set with them (nor is he present during the big climax—just close-ups of him on a black set waving a sword over his head). Another swordfight between Svenson and a giant uses no special effects; the camera is placed on the ground pointing up to make Svenson’s opponent look huge.

Given that Naha was probably assigned to write the screenplay around the stock footage, it’s no surprise that the story is illogical. The American stars, recognizing this, let their hair down and gave loose performances. Svenson even sings something like an Irish folk song during a battle with ghosts. Christopher camps it up big time, zapping his midget minions with poorly animated rays and turning soldiers into mice. WIZARDS OF THE LOST KINGDOM is terrible, but also one of the most entertaining Corman fantasies of the ‘80s. It also made some money, since the related-in-title-only WIZARDS OF THE LOST KINGDOM II followed four years later.


Brandon L. Summers said...

Superb. I love reading niche film histories by genuine, non-pretentious enthusiasts. This site is always rich with wry and well-written history.

This article will be especially invaluable to newcomers. ulismsh!

Tony Brubaker said...

"Wizards of the Lost Kingdom" may be appalling but its still 1000 times better than anything the British film industry has ever produced, just to put things into the proper perspective.