|MST3K: The Sword and the Dragon (1994)|
|Starring:||Mike Nelson, Trace Beaulieu, and Kevin Murphy.|
|The Plot: In the not-too-distant future, Mike Nelson is a regular worker at the Gizmonic Institute until being abducted by his boss and shot into outer space. His boss, Dr. Forrester, then sends the very worst movies that he can find in order to document his reactions. Mike teams up with the two robots on board, Crow and Tom Servo, and they do their best to improve this bad situation by having a good time and riffing on the movies. In this episode, Dr. Forrester forces Mike to watch The Sword and the Dragon. A fantasy film imported from Russia, The Sword and the Dragon follows Ilya Muromets who begins our story as being crippled. Sitting in his home, his wife is kidnapped by a group of Asiatic roughians and Muromets is left with no course of vengeance. However, when a magic potion and sword is given unto him, he gains tremendous strength and is no longer crippled. Now, with all of his faculties in order, Ilya begins a quest to bring his wife back home!|
Although I won’t try and convince readers that Ilya Muromets is apparently some kind of brilliant piece of unseen fantasy fiction that we are all doomed for having never seen, but the fact that this movie turns out as lame as it does probably isn’t the fault of the original production. Indeed, Corman likely didn’t show a great deal of respect for these titles. At the height of the Cold War, he may have even felt it necessary to remove the Soviet fingerprints that were found on the original film. However, as time has went on, this sort of treatment has been shown to hinder these films more than anything. In the modern age, audiences can do research with a much greater ease, and the film comes off as being far more interesting when you do just a basic amount of research. Thankfully, we have something like Mystery Science Theater to point out how utterly ridiculous this movie turns out to be. Going back to Roger Corman for a minute, it is slightly surprising that he and his company did not attempt to transform this film into a Hercules story. Considering the epic strength that our leading man seems to have, and the way in which Corman created his Sinbad story which took place in a very Russian landscape, I wouldn’t be surprised if this idea did in fact come up at some point.
The special effects in the movie may be the one area where it still, even after all of this time, manages to stand out from the crowd. There is a character named the Wind Demon in the film, previously mentioned up above, who has cheeks that puff out as he unleashes a giant torrent of wind in the direction of anyone who tries to pass him by. It appears that this effect, which see his cheeks inflating as if they were stuffed with two softballs, appears to have been done using a bladder system, which was impressively ahead of its time. The wind demon is only the first of many impressive creatures that pop up during the movie, and there are numerous other technically efficient practical FX sequences that pop up along the way. The makeup used on the Asiatic villains that are in the movie turn out to be a bit weak, but for the time and era that this movie was made they still look fairly well done. In comparison to the makeup used on John Wayne for his role as Genghis Khan, I have to say that the Asian-izing of the actors in this movie looks slightly better. It may not have a “realistic” look to it, but it has a distinctive style that I find enjoyable.
The Roger Corman version of this film seems to do so many things wrong that I’m hard pressed to find many things that I truly like about this translation of the movie. Everything that I do end up liking is more thanks to the original feature. The visuals within the movie are incredible. It is actually a shame that such a movie, made in 1956, hasn’t made a larger mark on the world of genre cinema. The special effects, the wild set design, and the fun atmosphere are all visible within even this version of the movie. Unfortunately, the original performances can not be felt, nor can this movie’s plot truly be trusted. The language that our characters speak within Roger Corman’s version of the movie sound as if the script was written in the King James form of speech. Due to this, much of the dialogue comes across as ridiculously pretentious. The snooty dialogue seems far from casual, and at times this becomes heavily distracting. This dialogue becomes an area of contention for Mike and the bots, as the movie at times seems as if it is unintelligible because of the silly dubbing. Yet, despite the ridiculous dialogue, the movie remains relatively easy to navigate. This is likely due to the simplistic nature of the actual plot.