Sunday, February 18, 2007

Oscars, Schmoscars: The Devil's Sword rules!

So here it is, the week before the Academy Awards. You'd think I'd be analyzing some of the members of this year's filmic Winner's Circle in acknowledgement.

But no. Instead, I'm watching The Devil's Sword for the third time. And with each successive minute of re-watching I become more convinced--in all sincerity--that it's a perfect moviegoing experience. Not in some staid conventional sense a la your typical Oscar bait, mind you, but by that most all-important film viewing standard: This 1983 Indonesian action/fantasy promises you the moon, then delivers that big glowing orb on a platter--with arterial sprays of blood, beheadings, crocodile men, kung fu and all-around dementia to spare.

The Devil's Sword stars Barry Prima (Indonesia's greatest movie action hero) as Mandala, an ancient warrior who offers to rescue a beleaguered bride's candy-assed husband from the clutches of the Evil Crocodile Queen. The biggest thorn in Mandala's side is Banyu Jaga, an evil warrior who once studied alongside Mandala at the feet of their mutual kung fu master. Mandala and Jaga emerge as the front runners in the race for The Devil's Sword (a super-powered blade forged from a meteorite by Mandala's mentor). The lusty sequins-and-spangles-clad Croc Monarch and a gaggle of oddball bad guys, meanwhile, hunt for the enchanted piece of cutlery as well.

This, friends, is but the most meager of jumping-off points--truth be told, no linear plot summary can begin to do The Devil's Sword justice. Even if you've been around the cult cinema pike several times, nothing--nothing--can prepare you for the rattle-trap craziness that ensues herein. Director Ratno Timoer pilfers pieces from martial arts films, Conan the Barbarian, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ray Harryhausen movies, various strains of Asian mythology, and God knows what else, then hurls all of those elements into a very cheap high-speed blender set to maximum frappe. Yeah, by convergent mainstream standards this is very, um, amateurish filmmaking. But there's also an innocence, an utterly blithe disregard for budgetary limitations--and a palpable love of movies--that renders the whole hyperactive, gaudily-colored swirl totally irresistible, and the outstanding Mondo Macabro DVD (replete with eye-poppingly beautiful transfer and fun extras) provides the icing on the cake. Dear Lord in silk jammies, I love this movie.

Lest my flowery prose fail to induce you into RUNNING AT TOP SPEED to your nearest video store to snap up The Devil's Sword DVD, perhaps it's best to contrast a laundry list of the movie's many joys--scorecard-style--and to graphically demonstrate how a random sampling of some of this year's Oscar contenders measure up.

Beheadings, Arm-Choppings, and Leg Amputations:
The Devil's Sword-- Approximately 19.
Little Miss Sunshine--None.

Number of Male Slaves Engaged in Fully-Clothed Groping of the Local Female Ruler in a Fully-Clothed Orgy Scene: The Devil's Sword--Eight.
The Queen--None.

Minutes of Running Time Devoted to Gravity-Defying Kung Fu Battles:The Devil's Sword--Approximately 57.
Letters from Iwo Jima--None

Number of Rubber-Headed, Kung-Fu-Practitioning Crocodile Men: The Devil's Sword--Twelve.
The Departed--None.

Number of Scaly Cyclops Monsters who Get a Blade in the Eyeball from Their Film's Lead Actor:The Devil's Sword--One.

Key Male Lead Performances:

The Devil's Sword--Barry Prima, a muscular and mulleted hero who lops heads off Crocodile Men, beats up at least two dozen guys, shoots laser beams from his hands, and hacks his surrogate father's legs off to save the old duffer from gangrene.

Blood Diamond--Leonardo DiCaprio, a baby-faced Hollywood ponce who jabbers out his dialogue in a crappy South African accent.

Key Female Lead Performances:

The Devil's Sword--Pida Loca, a bereaved bride who nonetheless manages to use kung fu on Crocodile Men and thugs, and umbrella fu (don't ask--just watch) on evil Banyu Jaga.

Notes on A Scandal, The Queen, and Little Children--Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and Kate Winslet respectively; three prissy English women, none of whom practice kung fu OR umbrella fu.

Key Male Supporting Performances:

The Devil's Sword--Banyu Jaga, who kicks boulders and rides them like surfboards, hacks guys' hands and heads off, and eviscerates a Guillotine Hat-throwing Gallagher lookalike.

The Departed--Mark Walberg, a lumpy-faced ex-rapper who scowls a lot.

Key Female Supporting Performances:

The Devil's Sword--A Black-Toothed Whip-Wielding Kung Fu Hag who reconnects her body after being chopped in half, and is affectionately dubbed "Polluted Bitch-Hound" by her fighting rivals.

Dreamgirls--Jennifer Hudson, who sings real good but possesses no whip-wielding or kung fu skills; ability to regenerate after being chopped in half also doubtful.

So, Cinema Snobs of the world, you can have your high-brow British movies, your multi-layered examinations of the human condition, your earnest World War II dramas, your sharply-observed family drama-dies, and your mean-street-trolling Scorsese thrillers. I'll take The Devil's Sword over all of 'em--unless Helen Mirren perfects a serious kung fu kick.

1 comment:

Mish said...

I'm a lifelong devotee of any film that gives me post-thoracic disection regeneration AND water-bound beheadings of crocodile men!