Friday, January 1, 2016

THE DUNGEONMASTER (1985) / ELIMINATORS (1986) DOUBLE FEATURE (Blu-ray Review)

THE DUNGEONMASTER (1985) / ELIMINATORS (1986) 

THE DUNGEONMASTER (aka RAGEWAR) (1985) 
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 77 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Rosemarie Turko, Steve Ford, Ted Nicolaou, Charles Band, David Allen, John Carl Buechler, Peter Manoogian
Cast: Jeffrey Byron, Leslie Wing, Richard Moll

Synopsis: Paul, a young computer ace, is forced to pit his physical and mental skills against unimaginable odds when a hulking wizard looking for formidable opponents picks Paul as his next challenger. Paul faces a series of seven spectacular and death-defying challenges and must survive not only to save his life but that of his girlfriend's too! Jeffrey Byron (Metalstorm: The Destruction Of Jared-Syn) and Richard Moll (Night Court) star in this eye-popping thriller featuring an appearance by W.A.S.P.!

This version of The Dungeonmaster is unrated and different from the PG-13 version shown theatrically and released by Scream Factory as part of the All Night Horror Marathon Volume 2 DVD. It includes an additional scene with some nudity, which is always fun for lover's of b-movies, nudity certainly never hurt a movie. I love this slice of '80s b-movie schlock, we have computer whiz Paul Bradford (Jeffrey Byron) who wears the 80's version of Google Glass that links him into his home computer, the X-Cal-BR8, which allows him to do such nifty things as turn traffic lights green when it suits his needs... AWESOME!  At night Paul is plagued by nightmares, one of which comes true when a demonic wizard named Mastema (Richard Moll, Night Train to Terror) whisks Paul and his girlfriend Gwen (Leslie Wing) away to a netherworld, where Paul is forced to complete seven challenges or lose Gwen to the devilish demon. Each of these challenge sequences are directed by a different director working for Empire Pictures at the time, making this a strange anthology of sorts. Directors Rosemarie Turko, Steve Ford, Ted Nicolaou, Charles Band, David Allen, John Carl Buechler and Peter Manoogian do their best to keep this thing afloat on a limited budget and for the most part they succeed, creating an entertaining series of connected vignettes, each with it's own flavor


In "Ice Gallery" from director Rosemarie Turko Gwen and Paul must face off against a rogue's gallery of Mastema's former challengers, ranging from Jack the Ripper to Einstein! Next up is John Carl Buechler "Demons of the Dead" which takes place in a cave where Paul is made to battle the undead and contend with the pint-sized demon Ratspit, looking a bit like a reject from Ghoulies. My favorite of the bunch has to be "Heavy Metal" which is directed by Charles band and pits the couple against the band W.A.S.P. and their maniacal lead singer Blackie Lawless as the band tears through their song "Tormentor", the short is basically the band's stage show with poor Gwen being the centerpiece, it's truly not anything of substance, I just love the vintage W.A.S.P. performance. 

I am a fan of anything David Allen did, he was Empire Pictures king of stop-motion stuff, his entry  "Stone Canyon Giant" pits Paul against a stone giant and is a fun change up, while Steven Ford's "Slasher" has Paul on the run to stop Gwen from becoming a next victim of a serial killer stalking the street of Los Angeles. We're back in a cave for Peter Manoogian's "Cave Beast" and we finish strong with Ted Nicolaou's "Desert Bandit", a cheap Mad Max knock-off with armor-plated golf carts in place of muscle machines, which brought to mind the Roger Corman production Battle Truck, only shorter and therefore less painful. 



The movie has a definitive '80's sheen to it, Paul's short shorts are proof of that, as is his fantasy-based Tron-esque costuming, which also smacks of cheapness. The Dungeonmaster (aka Ragewar) may not be a great movie but it is certainly entertaining in a bad '80s sort of way. I cannot imagine my kids watching this and enjoying it, I think you need to have a certain amount of '80s nostalgia and reverence for the era to fully appreciate it, which I have plenty of, so this went down quite smoothly with a few brews and a head full of youthful nostalgia. 

ELIMINATORS (1986) 

Region Code: A
Duration: 99 Minutes 
Rating: PG-13
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Peter Manoogian
Cast: Andrew Prine, Conan Lee, Denise Crosby, Patrick Reynolds, Roy Dotrice


Synopsis: A mandroid – part man and part machine – seeks revenge on the evil scientist who created him. Enlisting the help of a beautiful woman and a mysterious ninja, he pursues the scientist in hopes of stopping him before he can further harm humanity. Andrew Prine (The Town That Dreaded Sundown) and Denise Crosby (Star Trek: The Next Generation) star.

Up next on this double feature is the Eliminators, which Scream Factory have previously issued on DVD as part of the SciFi Movie Marathon collection, and to my knowledge this is the exact same version only with a new HD transfer. The movie starts with reclusive inventor Abbott Reeves (Roy Dotrice, Amadeus) hard at work on perfecting time-travel for nefarious reasons, sending his half-human, half-robot "mandroid" (Patrick Reynolds) back to Ancient Rome, which is successful. No longer requiring the "mandroid" he orders his assistant Dr. Takada (Tad Horino) to destroy his creation, however, Takada has compassion for the "mandroid" and helps him escape from the compound, with Takada dying in the ensuing fire-fight with Reeve's henchmen. 

In the aftermath the Mandroid is damaged and he seeks the aid of Colonel Nora Hunter (Denise Crosby) who helped design some of his parts. From here Hunter and Mandroid, dubbed John by Hunter, head back to Mexico to put an end to Reeve's diabolical time-travelling plans. The duo enlist the help of a river guide named Harry Fontana (Andrew Prine, The Town That Dreaded Sundown) who guides them down the river to the mad scientists laboratory, along the way they must fend off Fontana's own personal rogues gallery, including a butch rival river guide named Bayou Betty (Peggy Mannix)

I found it hard to watch this and not think of the Astron-6 movie Manborg, obviously the guys drew a lot of influence from this one, just look at the design similarities, I found this a ton of fun, again I don't think this is good cinema, but its fun and entertaining, and further proof that Empire Pictures knew how to stretch a dollar bill to the breaking point. Bringing Andrew Prine into the cast was an inspired idea, the guy is a blast and by far my favorite part of the movie, as is the tiny scout bot named SPOT. The special effects are done by John Carl Buchler and David Allen, a team that deserves a lot of credit for what they were able to achieve on what was likely a small budget, loves the Madroid's mobile unit and overall design, somewhat cheeseball but '80s awesome at the same time. 

Both films arrive on Blu-ray from Scream Factory on a single disc. the 1080p HD framed in 1.78 widescreen, and looking good for the most part. The image can be a bit soft and some of the optical special effects show some grit, but not bad at all.  The English DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo 2.0 does the job, not the most dynamic but a solid stereo track with optional English subtitles. 

Extras on the disc include a brand new interview with director Peter Manoogian who recalls is early years at New World Pictures and working for Charles Band at Empire Pictures, going into the production of Eliminators. There's also a trailer for The Dungeonmaster.

Scream Factory have done a fine job bringing these two junk-food slices of '80s cheese to Blu-ray for the first time, I give them a proper tip of the hat for making the longer and more explicit version of The Dungeonmaster to fans, and while I would have loved new interviews from Richard Moll or Denise Crosby or a director commentary from John Carl Buechler or Ted Nicolau, there are only so many resources you can throw at these movies, they're not even cult-classic, they're video obscurities and just having them on Blu-ray might seem like overkill to some. 2.5/5

 

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