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  Devil's Sword, The Kicking crocodile butt
Year: 1984
Director: Ratno Timoer
Stars: Barry Prima, Gudhi Sintara, Advent Bangun, Enny Christina, Rita Zahara, Kusno Sudjawadi, Kandar Sinyo, H.I.M. Damsyik, Atut Agusman, Yos Santo, Rasjid Subadi, Hadisjam Tahax, Sutrisno Wijaya, Dijair, Frederick Abels
Genre: Horror, Action, Weirdo, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sometime in the distant past a strange meteorite crashes to Earth. An old wizard promptly forges it into - dum-dum-dah! - the Devil's Sword, a magic weapon of unparalleled power that can only be wielded by a truly exceptional warrior. Meanwhile the inhabitants of a small village send the latest in a string of studly young men to an underwater palace where the sexy, silver-bikini clad sorceress the Crocodile Queen (Gudhi Sintara) seduces them into endless orgies that prolong her youth. Nice work if you can get it. Unfortunately the insatiable queen then tries to steal the newlywed husband of the village princess (Enny Christina). When she refuses to hand him over, the queen's muscular minion Banyujaga (Advent Bangun) trashes the villagers to a bloody pulp. Whereupon wandering warrior Mandala (Barry Prima) heroically intervenes, kicking ass for justice. Determined to save the princess' captive husband, avenge the attack on his martial arts master by treacherous former pupil Banyujaga and end evil's reign, Mandala sets after the Devil's sword in a crazy quest that sees him battle wacky warriors, a cave-dwelling cyclops and disposable stuntmen in rubber crocodile costumes.

Barry Prima, Indonesia's leading action star of the 1980s, rose to fame as Jaka Sembung the titular hero of The Warrior (1981) which, along with its sequels The Warrior and the Blind Swordsman (1983) and The Warrior and the Ninja (1985), was based on a popular comic book series. The same creative team behind that franchise - producer Gope T. Samtani, screenwriter Imam Tantowi and art director El. Bardrun - swiftly reunited for The Devil's Sword, a thematically similar but wildly psychedelic sword and sorcery romp. All but unknown outside Indonesia the film's cult profile got a boost when detailed by author Pete Tombs in his indispensable cult film tome 'Mondo Macabro.' Tombs subsequently released the film on his like-named DVD label including as an extra an awkward interview with tetchy star Barry Prima that further fueled its notoriety.

Cleaned up for its digital release The Devil's Sword looks slick and vivid and arguably ranks in retrospect among the decade's more imaginative sword and sorcery romps. More entertaining than the majority of Italian-made Conan the Barbarian rip-offs then lurking in video stores. Both the production design and special effects, while undeniably primitive, exhibit a certain low-budget flair and weave a genuine hallucinatory atmosphere. Enhancing the delirious effect is a vaguely John Carpenter-esque score mixing eerie synths with off-kilter sci-fi noises. The action sequences feature the sort of frenetic wire fu, characters surfing on flying rocks or zapping each other with cel animated laser beams familiar from the Hong Kong New Wave of wu xia fantasies then wildly popular throughout Asia. While not quite up to the standard of Eighties HK fare the choreography is enthusiastic and features the kind of charming, casually bat-shit crazy moments welcomed by fans familiar with the likes of Buddha's Palm (1982), Wolf Devil Woman (1982), Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983) or Magic of Spell (1988).

Interestingly the plot evokes Riccardo Freda's underrated fusion of gothic horror with Italian sword and sandal tropes, The Witch's Curse (1962) which also features an altruistic muscleman stepping in to save imperiled newlyweds from supernatural forces and eventually braving a trip to Hell. The Devil's Sword also lifts elements from the Indonesian erotic horror-fantasy sub-genre of Crocodile Queen movies. Indonesian horror icon Suzzanna made several films, notably 1983's The Queen of Black Magic, portraying a sexually rapacious, morally ambiguous witch-goddess, feared, desired and respected in equally measure. By comparison The Devil's Sword refashions this stock character as a clear-cut villainess and equates a female desire with pure evil. Not that this keeps noble warrior-hero Mandala from getting it on with the scantily-clad sexpot in her disco-styled boudoir, surrounded by spandex-clad dancers in the spectacularly camp climax. However the film is also notable for breaking from the stock horror formula and having the male half of the married couple imprisoned by the 'monster', prompting his two-fisted wife to take arms and fight for her man. On the downside the storytelling is very choppy. After establishing the main thrust of the plot the film inexplicably jumps back in time to dwell on some unnecessary back-story then indulges in other dull detours that sap further momentum. Such as the lengthy stand-off between Banyujaga and four rival martial arts oddballs that at least serves up some priceless banter. What the film lacks in pacing consistency it makes up for in psychedelic intensity, a facet that extends to its surrealistic sex scenes including an underwater coupling and one inside of a cauldron engulfed by flames that looks decidedly uncomfortable (ouch!).

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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