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Tales of an Ancient Empire

If Synnibar was a movie…

Let’s get in the wayback machine and set the dial to the early 1980s. Reagan was just elected president, the Rubik’s Cube is all the rage, and Great Britain goes to war over a few sheep-filled islands in the south Atlantic.

And one of the awesomest fantasy films ever is released: The Sword and the Sorcerer [1]. (Yes, it’s the one with the three-bladed rocket powered sword, with “Bull” from Night Court as the Sorcerer, and Our Hero getting crucified over dinner.) This enthusiastic first effort by director Albert Pyun is considered by many to be his finest work, and lead actor Lee Horsley turns in what is surely his manliest big-screen performance.

Okay, that’s admittedly not saying very much, but this film was a bit of a diamond in the rough. It had all the necessary elements (humor, violence, muscles, breasts, etc), and delivered them at just the right pace. It didn’t take itself too seriously (Dragonslayer), it didn’t aspire to be a “made for Cinemax” film (Deathstalker), it wasn’t so bad as to have a sequel on MST3K (Hawk the Slayer), and it didn’t compel me to explain over and fucking over what a real glaive actually is (Krull). Did I mention that it was the most profitable independent film of 1982, grossing over $40 million?

Oh sure, Conan was a nice little high-class art film, but it was written by that conspiracy fan and political junkie Oliver Stone, and directed by Oscar-nominated John Milius.  Too rich for my blood.

And The Beastmaster was a lot of fun, too, but his story is well-documented. A bit too well documented, if you ask me. (My condolences if you happened to watch the sequel [2].)

Did someone say sequel? My only disappointment with The Sword and the Sorcerer comes at the very end of the film, just before the credits start to roll, a prophecy is made.  “Watch for Talon’s next adventure in Tales of an Ancient Empire.”

This being fantasy, all prophecies must be fulfilled. And twenty seven years later, Tales of an Ancient Empire is being filmed [3]. By Albert Pyun, the original director. And it still has Lee Horsley, although in more of a “passing the torch” role. And for those of us who appreciate B-movies, the cast reads like a blacklist for the Academy Awards: Christopher Lambert, Kevin Sorbo, Ralf Moeller, Olivier Gruner, etc.

“OMFG!” you say. “I’m so excited, I’m talking in acronyms! What could be more exciting than this?”

How about Pictures [4]!

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "Tales of an Ancient Empire"

#1 Comment By amp108 On January 31, 2009 @ 9:10 pm

Fine and well that, but when is Buckaroo Banzai vs. the World Crime Syndicate coming out?

#2 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On January 31, 2009 @ 11:51 pm

[5] – About the same time as Duke Nukem Forever.

#3 Comment By Jack Crow On February 1, 2009 @ 2:13 am

You might be the only person I have ever come across who thinks this film is as awesome as I think it is. I agree with you 100% and really appreciate the link to the sequel. Many thanks dude.

#4 Comment By Aramax On February 1, 2009 @ 11:36 am

I LOVE this movie! I saw it many times at the Drive-in…and I actually WATCHED it.TALON TALON TALON TALON TALON!

#5 Comment By Peter K. On February 1, 2009 @ 10:38 pm

Hey! What’s with ragging on Dragonslayer? That movie had pathos.

#6 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On February 2, 2009 @ 1:24 am

[6] – Don’t get me wrong; I like Dragonslayer. But if you can accurately describe it in terms of ancient Greek theater, then it definitely falls under the category of “takes itself too seriously”. 😉

#7 Comment By deadlytoque On February 2, 2009 @ 10:45 am

[7] – ‘f you can accurately describe it in terms of ancient Greek theater, then it definitely falls under the category of “takes itself too seriously”’

I hereby nominate this is the funniest thing I will encounter today… and it’s not yet 10 am. I am sadly set up for failure.

I actually recently found Dragonslayer in a clearance bin for $4, and when I brought it home was floored to find out that none of my friends had ever even heard of it! I remember being totally stoked by the effects when I was a kid, and it did not disappoint my memories.

I also loved The Sword and the Sorcerer, but I seem to recall my parents making me watch it on the black & white TV because of excessive gore (that was their compromise: I was allowed to watch violent movies starting around 7 or 8, but only in B&W until I was 10ish, so that it didn’t -look- as bloody). I haven’t seen it since (so, in at least 18 years) and don’t know if it would hold up… might just have to check Amazon..

Given that Albert Pyun’s directing credits on IMDB read like a list of movies nobody in their right mind should ever see, I can’t say I’m holding out a lot of hope.

#8 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On February 2, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

[8] – I’m looking like a self-serve fanboy by replying so much to my own article…

** Looks slowly at the camera for a beat. Looks back. **

…but I actually enjoyed the first Nemesis. There was a scene where a huge black guy with a flat-top toted a .50 caliber M2 (the kind of gun that gets mounted on tanks), and just unloads in a small hotel room. Brought tears to my eyes, it did.

#9 Comment By DocRyder On February 6, 2009 @ 1:21 am

I had just graduated high school when that movie came out, and I too was disappointed when there was no sequel.

However, I thought it was a bit cheesy, and really not that much better than most of the other ’80’s Fantasy you rag on here. 🙂 (Although I don’t think I ever saw Deathstalker. That or my old memory has forgotten it.) I *liked* Hawk the Slayer, no matter how bad it was. It had some great ideas (can anybody say “multi-missile”?)

Guess I’ll have to go see this sequel now. 🙂

#10 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On October 21, 2009 @ 11:17 pm

UPDATE: TSatS and ToaAE director Albert Pyun saw this article and sent an email for Martin to forward to me. In it, he expressed his appreciation of Gnome Stew in general and this article in particular, and included a link to this clip of Our Heroes in an interesting negotiation:


Gnome Stew – Hollywood directors read our stuff.

#11 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On October 27, 2009 @ 8:00 pm

There are more clips posted at the above link. Most of them are unfinished, and still have some visual balancing to go through (so the colors and brightness match from shot to shot), and the final soundtrack and sound editing done. In other words, the finished product should look a lot cleaner and have a more powerful vibe.

This looks like a fun romp.