Mondo Macabro presents
The Devil's Sword (Golok setan) (1983)
"There is room for only one tiger in this jungle. There is only one sword, and I must be the one to possess it."- Banyu-Jaga (Advent Bangun)
Stars: Barry Prima, Gudhy Sintara, Advent Bangun, Enny Christina
Other Stars: Rita Zahara, Kusnar Sudjarwadi, Kandar Sinyo
Director: Ratno Timoer
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, gore)
Run Time: 01h:41m:03s
Release Date: 2006-06-27
DVD ReviewDuring the sword and sorcery craze of the early 1980s, there were any number of cheap knockoffs of such pictures as The Sword and the Sorcerer and Conan the Barbarian. That phenomenon wasn't limited to the United States, either. Such tales of the mystic inevitably appealed to the Eastern imagination as well, and one result, among many others, was this Indonesian combination of sword, sorcery and martial arts. It's frequently inept and by turns appalling and quaint, but if you're looking for something really...unusual, Mondo Macabro has just the ticket for you.
The Invisible Crocodile Queen (Gudhy Sintara) is brought forth from the water by her wicked worshippers. The Queen is a lusty wench, and she has her eyes set on Sanjaya, the betrothed of Pitaloca (Enny Christina). The Queen sends her minion Banyu-Jaga (Advent Bangun) to seize him at their wedding ceremony, resulting in an all-out brawl, finally resolved by wandering warrior Mandala (martial arts star Barry Prima), but not before Banyu-Jaga makes off with the would-be husband. It seems Mandala and Banyu-Jaga shared a master, Abi-Rama (Kandar Sinyo), who warns that his former pupil and other evil warriors have banded together to kill all good warriors, and that the only hope is the titular hidden sword, crafted from the ore of a meteorite. Mandala sets off on a quest to obtain the sword and foil the plans of the Crocodile Queen, while Pitaloca tags along to win Sanjaya back from the evil clutches of the Queen.
The proceedings are fairly amateurish, with unconvincing special effects and even less convincing martial arts wirework. It does, however, manage to be creative in a couple spots, such as when Banyu-Jaga throws one wedding guest high up into a tree, then kicks a spear to impale him. The weapons are quite fake (the swords look like painted wood most of the time) and the chop-socky action is laughably clumsy. Prima manages to carry the lead role with some charisma, and Bangun makes a good foil for him, sharing a resemblance to some extent, which emphasizes their common heritage. Although there are no doubt deeper mythic roots, elements of the story seem to be derived from Dr. Strange comic books, such as the good and evil students of the aged mentor, and firing mystic bolts at one another (a power that comes out of nowhere and is never mentioned again). On the positive side, the female leads are all quite strong, with Sintara making a coldly tempestuous Crocodile Queen. Enny Christina is plenty of fun to watch as she kicks around the men who attack her, often doing so while she's unarmed. There's also a comic witch in the band of evil warriors who is fairly entertaining, especially when she continues to cause trouble even after being cut in two.
You might get the idea that the blood and gore are plentiful, and you'd be right. But it's all pretty cartoonish, with big outlandish sprays of red stuff rather than realistic wounds. There is a fairly hard to take double amputation sequence, however, that the sensitive may want to turn away from. Mondo Macabro really sells the sex angle of the story, mentioning it on both the front and back covers. That's a bit of a stretch, unless your definition of "sex" comprises "lots of fully-clothed kissing." Of that, there's plenty, but there's nothing resembling nudity or actual sexuality anywhere in the picture; if not for the copious gore this could have passed for a kiddie fantasy.
The Crocodile Queen appears to be a variant on the South Seas Queen legend of Java. Her minions, the crocodile men, are rather ambiguous in their nature; they have a mystical aspect since they seem able to erupt out of the ground at times, but they're really just guys wearing fake crocodile heads that flop about with unwieldy abandon. They're certainly no match for Mandala, in any event. The story is less than transparent; it's not clear whether the evil warriors are acting at the command of the Crocodile Queen or if they're on their own, and she seems to have little interest in anything besides her male harem. The throne room of the Queen is a decadent place where scantily-clad young ladies lounge about and a handful of buff young men minister to her every need. On the whole, it's an okay time-waster that has plenty of high camp value. But if it's actually "one of the triumphs of Indonesian fantasy cinema" as the keepcase proclaims, I don't think I want to be exposed to the dregs.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The anamorphic widescreen transfer makes this look much better than it really should. Other than a little bit of ringing on the titles, little artifacting is visible. The picture is frequently very detailed (the closeups of the queen in particular are often stunning and look HD in quality). Color is solid and lacking in noise, though it does seem a bit subdued. Black levels and shadow detail are more than acceptable. Mondo Macabro has come a very long way in its transfers from a few years ago.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: Although the case states that the presentation is stereo, in fact it's 1.0 mono English. There's mild pop and an occasional crackle, and modest hiss is audible throughout, but on the whole the sound quality is reasonably good. The electronic score has fine presence, and the wind and other sound effects come across plausibly enough (though the traditional martial arts swish still sounds ridiculous). No original language track is available.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Layers Switch: 01h:02m:56s
- Essay on Heavenly Swords
Other goodies include a fine set of production notes by Pete Tombs, a substantial biography of Prima, an anamorphic widescreen trailer that is pretty blurry and makes the feature look even better, and an essay on Heavenly Swords. The latter is quite interesting, discussing the powers attributed to meteorite ore and the prized nature of swords made from it in both literature and reality. It also ties the concept in to the Indonesian Kris, a nasty-looking long dagger that makes a frequent appearance in such pictures.
Extras Grade: B-
Final CommentsA nice transfer and some interesting extras can't save this silly and inept Indonesian fantasy picture from collapsing under its own goofiness.
Mark Zimmer 2006-06-28