Friday, February 20, 2009

The Claudes: Studio System Edition

I don't know much about the old Hollywood Studio System. All I learned about it is from Barton Fink and The Kid Stays in the Picture--bio pick about turtle neck enthusiast Robert Evans. I highly recommend both movies. They are waaaay better than the double dose of crap that Claude Endorsed this week.

Full Disclosure: I watched exactly 1 of these movies--The Magic Sword. I have an squidgy feeling about bashing this movie. It can't help being schlock from a bygone era. And the poor actors were probably forced into it somehow. But, there are still women appearing alongside Steven Seagal so who really knows.
This movie is bad in a way movies from 1962 are bad. The hair, she is large. The belly buttons, they are covered. The makeup, he is applied with a trowel. The stereotypes, they are abundant.

We open on a skull on a table an Endora like woman minces around with her princely monkey and wierdo Siamese twin...helper? Our magical lady is named Sybil. Her boy-child, apparently, isn't as focused on her and learning a trade like sorcery. She flits around her eeeevil abode and "magically" turns a candle on and off for the amusement of her monkey. This monkey spends the entire movie dressed like Little Lord Fauntleroy and sitting in a throne. I think he fetches Sybil a drink once.

It seems that this young man is in looooove. We learned this through the two-voiced duclet tones of the Bon Tempi twins. I think they're faces were blue. Sure, go with that. Sybil ain't havin it and is pretty peeved that "a boy of twenty" isn't focused on other things.

Let's cut to the rogue in question. Meet George, played by this guy. He's gazing into the magic pond. "Magic pond," he moans, "show me my love." We are treated to some of those 1962 squiggle reflection visions. First to the throne room, where a belly dancer (complete with some very complicated sparkly belly cover to hide her navel) dances for the heavily made up king. "No, you dumb pond, try the pond," Our hero demands. Ah, there she is! Our princess is swimming in a moat, keeping her extremely complicated 1962 beauty-queen do dry.

She drys herself off and whines to her maidservant about not every getting to talk to a man or fall in love. Boo freaking hoo. [Aside: Also, the logical part of my brain wonders how George met our fine Princess Helene. He probably has been stalking her through his magic pond. What a creep.] So Helene shoos off her maidservant to get dressed on her own.

We then move to the throne room where poor, poor, slumming Basil Rathbone is shown to Helene's father the pancake king. He is seriously the color of baked goods, with a bad beard glued on for that extra-special fatherly look. Basil, here, is playing Lodac an eeevil sorcerer with a golden turban. He menacingly lifts his arms above his head, "I totally have taken your daughter as a complex revenge plot because your father killed my sister when she was only 18. Your kid's 18 now and haha she's going to be Dragon poop in 8 days (cause Ima totally feed her to my dragon in 7 days). Nobody will get through my totally predictable 7 curses one of which includes a monkey-ogre and some dry ice." I was impressed with his arm raising antics as Basil was 70 years old when they made this movie. Go Basil! Lodac then changes to a bird and disappears, the house lights then come back up.

"Nu-uh, I'm awesome and I will stop this," commands Sir Branton, the lame-o, "You're majesty, me and my will-be-important-later ring will get Helene Back!"

Meanwhile at Chez Sybil, George is mooning about over Helene because he watched the whole scene with Lodac in the stalker pond. Sybil doesn't want him to leave, but he needs to save her! George pretty much throws himself on the floor and pouts about it. "Tell me about love when your 420 years old," smugs Sybil. "20 years is pretty old if you are a mortal," pouts George.

All this leads to the basement where Sybil shows George all the awesome stuff he'll get on his 21st birthday! There's a white horse (in the basement, animal rights!). A Magic Sword and Armor! A suite of stereotypes--I mean knights. George manages to trick a 420 year old sorceress into a cave so he can get away to save his woooman. George is kind of single minded.

We next see our intrepid, toolish hero in the throne room. He will save the princess, he shouts at the pancake king! Oh, but Sir Branton, the conniving butthead whose symbol is a star on his tunic, ain't having it. George can do nothing but introduce his fleet of steroknights. There's the French one, the German one, The Italian one, The Spanish one, The Scottish one, and The Irish one. For some reason the Irish one gets the most lines after the french one. His Irish accent is so bad, like Kevin Costner does an accent bad. I always forget how un-pc the world used to be. Sir Branton sees the plus side of a bunch of sacrificial lambs and they embark. Pancake King throws his daughter in as a prize for who gets her back! Progressive!

Can we talk about the costumes for a minute? Good. There are a lot of tights in this movie. All the dudes have color coordinate shields and tights. The symbols on the tunic are equally bad, they're just the 20th century flags of the stereotypes country. Except for Branton's star and Georges Lancelot-style cross. We were very clearly in the pointy bra stage of our country's undergarment history.

Back to the action!

Princess Helene is stuck in Lodac's castle. She has to watch some blond princesses get eaten by dragon. There's a scene where she's menaced by some little people. (I felt uncomfortable during that scene because I'm sure the Director's notes were something like, "Paint some dwarfs green, Have them laugh and open and close their hand's at Helene.") There are two types of Lodac's servants, the blue mimes and the coneheads. They are both poorly executed, and they eat little elves they keep in cages.

This review is a bit long. so I'll sum it up for you, mostly since I fell asleep during watching and only saw snippets. The saviors ride up to the castle. George defeats every threat by riding in circles really fast (it confuses the threat!). Frenchy is seduced by a Frere Jacque singing troll because the French are such cads. In his defense, the troll looked pretty at first. Also, she was played by Vampira! Cool! Sir Branton is in League with Lodac, sort of. There's some ring involved.

They all arrive at the castle. Even Sybil is there after getting herself out of the cave and a refreshing fog-drink delivered by Little Lord Monkey. George and Helene face-mash that = kissing in 1962. Sir Branton gives Lodac his ring but then get's taxidermed to the wall! Lodac tortures George, but George is saved by the little escaped Elf people. His sword has lost his magic (Viagra commercial!) because Sybil doesn't remember the chant. What could possibly rhyme with Black? (hint: attack)

They tie Helene up, the dragon comes out of it's pond. George kills it. I cannot in good conscious make fun of this dragon. I saw Ed Wood, I know what pre-CGI effects look like. I do like, however, the effects masters back in the day compensated for fakeness with glitter. Sybil steals Lodac's ring. The end! Happiness abounds!

FYI, at one point Sir Branton runs away from a fight and the Dirty Fisherman says, "Did they just have the French one run away? They totally did! (laughs) Stupid French." I then smacked him for all my french brethren.

Holy Crap! They had this movie on MST3K! I have to get that! (If I have to explain MST3K to you, well, sorry.)

I will not be reviewing The Sword of Lancelot. no. Look foward to Merlin and Legend, though.

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