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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Ironmaster (1982)



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Italian filmmakers have always been ones for sand epics and cheesy fantasy flicks since the fifties. Although a few are all right, most of them aren't any good at all, more so now than ever. Ironmaster is one of the worst. It features a tribe of dirty men (and well manicured women) that, under the rule of the corrupt leader Vuud (at several points, the men shout "Vuud! Vuud!" and you're not sure if they're proclaiming their leader or they're just hungry), go out and kill everybody they can find. The film's budget was just big enough to buy a bunch of stock volcano footage, fake a lot of battle casualties, and outfit several cast members with ape costumes (so fake you can see inside the mask around the eyes). In a terrifically pointless scene, Vuud and his tribe chase the apes, smoke them out, kill every last one of them, and leave. Something ventured, but nothing gained.

People in this movie scream a lot. They sneak up on wild boar and scream a hunting cry or something, scaring it away. Then one of them kills the boar, and he screams. Then everybody screams back. This was as smart as the dialogue ever got. One of my favorite screams was from a woman who encountered a lion in a tree. She screams an ear-piercing howl, in spite of the fact that the lion doesn't seem to be paying any attention. Then, to show how the ferocious lion is leaping down to pursue her, the movie cuts to a shot of it falling out of the tree, tail first. That was the best they could do?

But the absolute worst part of the movie was what the movie was all about in the first place. The basic idea is, Vuud got kicked out of the tribe for the crime of murder, so he goes wandering to the base of an erupting volcano and discovers that some molten iron has conveniently hardened into the shape of a staff. He burns himself trying to pick it up, but he hammers it a couple times with a rock, and then, inexplicably, it's cool enough to pick up. He whacks the thing against boulders (wouldn't the vibrations be a little hard to take?) and realizes that this would be a great weapon. So he goes back and attacks the guy who exiled him from the tribe. Now that he has this iron stick (apparently sharp enough to cut through the old wooden weapons), he takes over the tribe, and everybody supports him.

I learned how to forge swords from this movie. First, you melt the iron over a wood fire, then pour it into a mold and wait three seconds for it to harden. Then you dunk it in water to cool it, and then you shape it into a sword by hitting it with a rock three times in the exact same spot. Huh? I know absolutely nothing about forging swords, but the smallest amount of common sense can find all kinds of reasons why doing this wouldn't work. It boggles my mind that not one member of the film crew or cast ever figured something might be amiss.

Then there's the great grain grinding scene. A woman puts grain in a bowl, grinds up a part of the bowl where there isn't any grain, then puts the unground grain into a dish she's making. I love the attention to detail.

The most pathetic part of the movie was its unbelievably ineffective attempt at a moralistic theme. It was supposed to be an anti-weapons message of some sort, but the message that comes across is, "Weapons are bad, so after you've killed all your enemies, get rid of them."

This is a good movie to watch if you're a bad movie lover, and I suspect even bad movie lovers would be hard pressed to find a movie worse than this one. But if you go into this thing in any other mindset, you may never recover.