Masters of the Universe (1987)

Director: Gary Goddard

Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Frank Langella, Courtney Cox, James Tolkan, Christina Pickles, Meg Foster

Screenplay: David Odell

106 mins. Rated PG.

 

So there’s going to be a new Masters of the Universe film in a few years. With that, I figured it was time to revisit the infamous 1980s incarnation starring Dolph Lundgren (Rocky IV, Aquaman). There are a lot of films that you can revisit years later and find a silver lining to. This will not be one of those reviews.

On the planet of Eternia, the villainous Skeletor (Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon, TV’s Kidding) have kidnapped the Sorceress of Castle Grayskull (Christina Pickles, The Wedding Singer, TV’s Break a Hip). He-Man (Lundgren) and his friends have a plan to save her, but when they fail to rescue the Sorceress, they escape using the Cosmic Key to a mystical place…called Earth. Now, they must recover the Key, return to Eternia, and defeat Skeletor once and for all.

This is not a good movie. It’s not good at all. Let’s start with literally the only thing that I think works in the film: Skeletor and Evil-Lyn. The two villains are pretty solid, even if they don’t get much to do. Langella is terrifically cheesy as Skeletor (his makeup effects are terrible, though) and Meg Foster (They Live, Overlord) is menacing as hell when adorned in her Evil-Lyn costume. I felt something almost Shakespearean in their portrayals, and in fact, they both site Shakespearean influences: Richard III for Langella and Lady Macbeth for Foster. While they both don’t have enough compelling dialogue or really much of anything to do in the film, I believe that they both put forth a solid amount of effort in elevating the material.

Now, onto the bad. First of all, I hate stories like this, where we take fantasy characters and remove the world, throwing them at Earth instead. Earth is boring, that’s why we go to the movies. Outside of Thor, this idea of traveling to Earth never works. It seems, for most of the film, that screenwriter David Odell (The Dark Crystal, Supergirl) knows nothing of the mythology of He-Man, and so removing Eternia from the equation makes us not have to worry about the mythology. Nothing that happens on Earth is interesting, whereas at least the stuff on Eternia has the ability to be engaging.

Then, there are distinct portions of the story that just don’t work. One of those elements is Gwildor, who replaces Orko from the source material. I just don’t understand why Orko is missing and this new incredibly annoying character has entered the mix. Gwildor is flat-out terrible.

The same can be said of this cosmic key device. Why is it necessary to the story to have the cosmic key played like a shitty synth musical instrument by everyone in the film? Why is this part of the story? It’s dumb and boring and serves no purpose.

I’d like to tell you that Dolph Lundgren plays He-Man well, but that’s not the case, and he’s the poster child for the lesson that you can look the part but you can’t always play the part. Lundgren survived most of the 1980s without any acting lessons, and if he’d taken the time to learn to perform, I think it would have served his career so much more than the brooding and the fighting.

Yes, just about everything in this film doesn’t work outside of Langella and Foster, and they’re doing their best. The studio had great faith in this film, and they had already prepped a sequel before this film under-performed. That sequel became the 1989 film Cyborg, but don’t ask me how that film was originally a Masters of the Universe sequel. This is a forgettable 80s film that should stay forgotten. Here’s hoping the new Masters of the Universe looks to this film for a case study of how not to handle the IP. Here’s hoping.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 28 – Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood (1996)

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Director: Gilbert Adler

Cast: Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak, Angie Everhart, Chris Sarandon, Corey Feldman, Aubrey Morris, Phil Fondacaro, Juliet Reagh, John Kassir

Screenplay: AL Katz, Gilbert Adler

87 mins. Rated R for horror violence and gore, sexuality, nudity, and strong language.

 

I grew up on Tales from the Crypt, from watching old episodes of the HBO series, cut for content, on Sci-Fi at 3 in the morning to actually reading old issues when I could get my hands on them at the used book store/comic book shop in my hometown. Horror has always been important to me, and Tales from the Crypt holds an important piece of my childhood. Tonight, we look at the second in a series of Tales from the Crypt films: Bordello of Blood.

Katherine Verdoux (Erika Eleniak, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Dracula 3000) is concerned for the safety of her brother Caleb (Corey Feldman, Stand By Men, Lost Boys: The Thirst), who went missing a few days ago. But the local law enforcement has numerous other missing persons to find, and out of desperation, she hires private detective Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller, Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, The Campaign) to help find him. His search leads him to brothel hidden underneath a mortuary inhabited by the undead and led my the mother of all vampires, Lilith (Angie Everhart, Last Action Hero, Take Me Home Tonight), who discovers that Rafe’s blood type is incredibly rare and seeks him out. As the blood and body party start to fly, it is clear that Rafe is in for the fright of his life in a story presented to us by the one and only Crypt Keeper (John Kassir, Pete’s Dragon, The Secret Life of Pets).

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First of all, I’m going to drop a truth bomb: I know that this film isn’t great, but I love it anyway, and I think if you switch off for a bit, you’ll like it too. Each time I view it, I see plot-holes and dialogue that doesn’t really work and moments of sheer stupidity, but it’s the very nature of Tales from the Crypt to be goofy, and in that sense, it comes off no different than the tone and style of much of the HBO series.

Now, for the things I don’t like. As I said before, there are plot-holes about the very nature of the brothel and how it works. The dialogue is very slap-stick and silly. But my biggest issue with the film is the opening Crypt Keeper segment. For fans of the series, this opening is practically identical to an episode of the series entitled “The Assassin” in which William Sadler plays the Grim Reaper from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and challenges the Crypt Keeper to a friendly little game. It is recreated, I’m assuming for rights issues, here, for no apparent reason. Could they not have conjured up a more interesting and new opening? It bothers me to no end, and I actually really like the recreated version more, but I wasn’t asking for it.

The things I loved here? First off, let’s talk about the connection to Demon Knight. The key which holds power over Lilith is an actual previous from the previous year’s Demon Knight, the last of seven keys that held the blood of Christ. The idea of this key popping up here again sets up a lot of mythos. For example, is this the same exact key or another of the seven? Does each key have a tale behind it and, if so, what are the stories of the other five? This would’ve been an interesting direction to take this series if this film had done better at the box office. In fact, I’ve always felt that the Tales from the Crypt tales exist in the same world for the most part and should occasionally intersect, and this idea only adds fuel to the fire.

Or, perhaps they just wanted to cut costs.

And I would be angry if I missed the chance to talk about the best use of Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” ever. But I won’t spoil it for you.

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Bordello of Blood is just plain fun. I can understand the detractors; trust me, at this point, I’ve seen them. But this is a rollicking and unique take on the vampire mythos and a damn fun time even if it doesn’t necessarily pack the scares in.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Ernest R. Dickerson’s Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight, click here.

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