The Sword and the Sorcerer Collector's Edition 4K UHD/ Blu-rayReview

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

Directed by Albert Pyun
Written by Tom Karnowski, John Stuckmeyer and Albert Pyun
1982, 99 minutes, Rated R
Released on March 15th, 2022

Lee Horsley as Talon
Kathleen Beller as Alana
Richard Lynch as Cromwell
Simon MacCorkindale as Mikah
George Maharis as Machelli
Richard Moll as Xusia



Once upon a time, the evil King Cromwell waged war against the benevolent King Richard. To aid in his battles, Cromwell resurrected Xusia of Delos, a powerful and evil sorcerer; but once the vile king got what he wanted, he betrayed the sorcerer. Now, years later, Cromwell remains power-hungry and cruel, but there are stories circulating of a rogue warrior who seeks to end his reign. This man is Talon, son of Richard, who liberates kingdoms from tyranny. When the heir apparent, Lord Mikah, is locked in a dungeon and his sister Alana ordered to marry Cromwell, Talon must rise up with the local resistance to rescue the princess and save the day. There is an added layer of danger as the exiled sorcerer lurking in the shadows readies his own plans for revenge.

Let me begin by stating the obvious. When a film becomes a runaway hit at the box office, opportunistic producers and studios race to cash in with a wave of similar products. For example, following the release of the wildly successful Mad Max (1979), global cinemas were bombarded with low-budget dystopian action movies for years to follow. Similarly, Excalibur (1981) ushered in a wave of sword-and-sandals fantasy/adventure films, most famously Conan the Barbarian (1982), followed by countless others throughout the decade. But a few weeks before Conan, a low-budget production hit theatres first and became the biggest independent movie of the year; The Sword and the Sorcerer.

The Sword and the Sorcerer has everything an impressionable teenager could ask for: sword fights, damsels in distress, cool weapons, spooky dungeons, blood and guts, witches, magic and even a little nudity! Talon is a classic rugged hero archetype, traveling the land saving kingdoms from evil. As a boy, his father bestowed upon him a truly amazing three-bladed sword capable of launching the outer blades at advancing enemies. The sword truly kicks all kinds of ass, but is highly impractical. It doesn’t get much screen time but leaves quite an impression for its unique design.

There are no marquee names in the picture to speak of, but the cast is rock solid, starting with Lee Horsley (The Hateful Eight) as Talon. He is a tough guy who can handle himself in a fight but also has a wry sense of humor. The lovely Kathleen Beller (Are You in the House Alone?) co-stars as Princess Alana, who is stronger than she looks and more than capable of defending herself. Beller and Horsley work well together, as their characters share an uneasy relationship. Talon has no aspirations of claiming the throne and is happy to assist Lord Mikah (Simon MacCorkindale, Jaws-3D), Alana’s brother. The always-watchable Richard Lynch (Bad Dreams, Trancers II) is terrific as the evil King Cromwell, a man with zero redeeming qualities destined for a head-on collision with Talon. The king’s magistrate Machelli (George Maharis, Exodus) carries a dark secret and viewers are not always certain where his loyalties lie. Under heavy make-up, Richard Moll (House, Evilspeak) is pretty terrifying as the sorcerer Xusia.


Working from a script he co-wrote with Tom Karnowski and John Stuckmeyer, first-time director Albert Pyun (Cyborg, Nemesis) faced incredible pressure from his meddling producer (Brandon Chase, Alligator) and some of his more seasoned crew. On his audio commentary, Pyun reveals he was frequently undermined on set and says he always worked quickly fully expecting to be fired every day. He grudgingly won over most of his crew and got the shots he wanted, and Joseph Mangine’s (Alone in the Dark, Squirm) lavish cinematography makes the film look bigger than it is, bringing George Costello’s (The Terminator, Night of the Creeps) gorgeous sets to life. The movie also benefits from a rousing score by David Whitaker (Dominque, Scream and Scream Again) and tight editing by Marshall Harvey (Lake Placid, Matinee).

Chase got the last laugh, leaving Pyun locked out of the editing room and adding the opening title card: “A Brandon Chase film”, suggesting he contributed more than the director. A closing title card appears at the end that reads: “Watch for Talon’s next adventure: TALES OF THE ANCIENT EMPIRE coming soon.” This promise would go unfulfilled for nearly thirty years until Pyun returned to the material in 2010 with Kevin Sorbo (TV’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) taking the lead. Lee Horsley has a small role simply billed as “The Stranger” but sadly, this is not the sequel we waited for so patiently.

The Sword and the Sorcerer did surprisingly well at the box office and later got a boost when it hit the quickly-growing home video market and also found steady rotation on cable TV. Pyun infuses flashes of comedy to offset the gloom and peril and everyone plays it straight. There are of course plenty of plot holes and some lapses in logic – and don’t pay too close attention to the accents either – but the film remains highly entertaining and comes easily recommended.


Video and Audio:

This film has a history of receiving soft and muddy transfers on home video, but Scream Factory lifts the curse with a stunning new 4K scan of the original camera negative presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Image quality has never been stronger, as the bold color palette is given new life. Black levels are rock-solid and there is now an elevated level of small-object detail allowing for close scrutiny of the well-designed sets. There is a healthy level of film grain throughout and the accompanying 4K UHD disc features Dolby Vision HDR.

The movie is preceded by a notice from Scream Factory:
“When getting access to the film elements for The Sword and the Sorcerer, there was almost nothing for audio. We have transferred a lone optical track for the stereo sound. There is some damage we could not fix. The 5.1 track was created by another label and has some directional errors. We think, even with some static, the stereo track is the strongest audio option.”

Indeed the DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track gets the job done with only minor hiccups. Dialogue is always understandable and sound effects are engaging, particularly during the numerous sword fights. Music cues are lively without ever becoming intrusive. The inclusion of the 5.1 mix is solely for completists, since it appeared on the DVD, but as it is problematic, the track is not listed on the packaging as a selling point. Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.


Special Features:

Director Albert Pyun is joined by Video Watchdog’s John Charles for a newly-recorded audio commentary celebrating the film’s fortieth anniversary. Pyun is very direct in his detailing of what works and what doesn’t in this film and more interestingly – why. He opens with a brief history of how he got this movie started despite having little knowledge of how film production works. He talks freely about his run-ins with producer Brad Chase and his cinematographer. There is a fun story about bringing in Oliver Reed to do the opening narration that became a nightmare. Pyun is an excellent storyteller and has a lot to say making this a conversation well worth hearing.

Pyun sits down for the interview segment Tales of the Ancient Empire (33 minutes) where he tells of his endless series of pitch meetings and the troubles that followed once production began. He goes on to talk about the daily challenges he faced on set without having the full support of certain key members of the crew and later of being locked out of the editing room. As the segment closes with discussion of his later career, he talks openly of having dementia.

A Princess’ Tale (24 minutes) is a video conference interview with actress Kathleen Beller, who opens with memories of her early TV career before being offered this film. She has fond memories of her co-stars, especially a giant snake she adored. Of the director, she says his inexperience was obvious but she appreciates his dedication and vision. There is a story about shooting her nude scene and another of defending an actress being pressured by the producers into a nude scene against her wishes.

In Mightier than the Sword (20 minutes), co-writer/co-producer John Stuckmeyer admits the script is 90% Pyun’s with some outside input. He was more involved with the budget and script breakdowns. He talks about the challenges Pyun faced and gives his own take on the producer. He admits being surprised by how well the film did at the box office and is proud of its legacy.

Editor Marshall Harvey is painted as something of an adversary in the audio commentary, but in the segment Master of the Blade (14 minutes) he has nothing but kind words for Pyun. He talks about his long working relationship with the producer and how impressive and effective the score is in keeping the energy high. He too is surprised by the box office and credits it largely to beating Conan to the screen.

The Specialist and the Effects (12 minutes) finds make-up artist Allan Apone (Deadly Eyes) looking back on his contributions to the film. He starts by saying the lead effects work was handled by future Oscar winners Ve Neill (Edward Scissorhands) and Greg Cannom (Bram Stoker’s Dracula). He shares a story of actor Richard Moll being rushed to the hospital following blood getting into his contact lenses causing injury. Apone did a lot of second unit work, including the chest-bursting heart rip accomplished via a powerful mortar, the split-head effect and other gory inserts during the numerous sword-fight sequences and designed breakaway swords.

The lovable Chiodo Brothers – Charles, Edward and Stephen (Killer Klowns from Outer Space) – are on hand for Brothers in Arms (10 minutes) in which they remember working on this, their first studio film. Their involvement was creating the sarcophagus lined with human heads that come to life during the prologue. They show the original model and then reveal how they accomplished the effect. They are proud of their work and of the film’s success.

Dedicated to Jack Tyree (12 minutes) is the most powerful segment on this disc, remembering the 37-year old stuntman who died performing a high-fall stunt on camera. Participants of all the other interview segments above share the story of what happened on that tragic day.

There are two theatrical trailers, including an R-rated version and a PG edit sans nudity. These are joined by a TV spot.

Editor Marshall Harvey shares his thoughts on the marketing campaign during Trailers from Hell (3 minutes).

A still gallery (109 images) provides a selection of international poster art, lobby cards, newspaper ads, soundtrack and home video art, books and other promotional items as well as newspaper clippings about Jack Tyree’s death.



Movie: Cover
Overall: 4 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
Other articles by this writer


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