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The Blade Master (1984)

(aka: Cave Dwellers)



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"It is everything...and nothing. It is life...and death. Goodness, riches, poverty...and evil."

The above quotation is the answer a wise man (or whatever he was supposed to be -- all I could gather was that he was a respected person) gives to a woman who asks what a glowing thing is. He responds, and of course no one in the audience has any better idea what it is than before.

Let me start at the beginning. The movie opens with a primitive tribe of people sitting around a campfire eating raw meat. They grunt a lot and have crud all over their bodies -- by bad fantasy movie convention, this means that they are badguys. But no, the movie has a surprise in store for us. The narrator tells us that there is a more intelligent tribe of men. The movie cuts to them, and we can well appreciate the narrator's praise of them, for they grunt louder. They go and attack the first tribe. Except for brief confused appearances later on and a scene where the heroine is captured, none of these people have anything further to do with the movie.

Then the wise man recaps all of the events in the previous film, Ator, the Fighting Eagle, (The Blade Master is the second of four films in the Ator series) accompanied by clips from it. It's wholly unnecessary. Nothing from the first movie has any bearing on this one. Curiously, however, the recap does a better job of explaining the plot to the first movie than the movie itself did.

It turns out that there's a badguy who is determined to do something evil -- if only we knew what it was. For no particular reason, he develops an obsession with killing Ator, and at one point the failure of his men to do so causes him to remark about how much time he's lost in the execution of his master plan. What master plan? It isn't until the end of the movie that we find out what he wants. He wants everything...and nothing, life...and death. He knew where the thing was all along -- why didn't he just go get it?

But I digress. The wise man sends the heroine, Mila, out to fetch Ator. On the way, she gets shot in the heart, but she manages to stumble through the wilderness to the other end of the world before collapsing. Ator performs delicate surgery on her (he rips the arrow out) for which he is later complimented. His buddy soothes her by putting a giant cabbage leaf on her face.

When she is well, Ator makes her prove her identity in a very bizarre fashion, making use of all-too-conveniently arranged circumstances. She passes the test, and Ator confirms that she realizes why he had to test her identity. She understands, but I don't.

A lot of the rest of the movie consists of the journey back from whence she came. Along the way, grunting badguys (who shout "Rawr!" when they jump from behind bushes) attack them, and each of these attacks is foiled. These scenes are intercut with the badguys reporting their failure to the main badguy, who spends most of the movie trading inexplicable dialogue with the wise man. My question is, how can these minions zip back and forth between the goodguys and their destination in the blink of an eye, when it takes the goodguys days just to make the journey once?

The goodguys trudge onward. They meet two inexplicably invisible people who are foiled by having cloaks thrown on them. The invisible men flail around for what seems like an hour trying to get the cloaks off until the goodguys finally kill them.

The goodguys are captured when trying to rescue a village from oppression. ("No one's life is more important than another's," Ator wisely reminds Mila.) They are brought to the evil badguy, who is very mean to them. "It's obvious you are not cut out for good deeds," Mila retorts.

They kill the Serpent King Guy (the first movie had spiders; this movie has snakes) and set out for the evil badguy's castle. They walk almost all the way up to its walls, and then Ator decides he's going to hangglide in. The camera cuts to Ator hanggliding, and he sails for miles before he reaches the castle. (Apparently he hiked way far away again so the camera could pick up some sweeping scenery shots.) Once inside the castle, there are some boring fight scenes. It culminates in a cheesy fight with the evil badguy, which ends with Ator disarming him -- but Ator can't kill a disarmed man, so he turns his back on the guy to let him retrieve his weapon and stab Ator in the back. All is saved by the Sidekick Who Comes Out Of Nowhere. Then, to prevent anyone from using the Everything And Nothing in an evil manner, Ator destroys it with a nuclear weapon. Ator and Mila part ways in a conversation that assumes it was obvious the two were falling in love the whole time, even though no scene ever even hinted at it. What happened to his true love from the previous film? Your guess is as good as mine.

This review is way more entertaining than the movie is. It makes Ator, the Fighting Eagle look like a masterpiece, because at least that movie had a plot that sort of made sense. The Blade Master was not only incomprehensible but boring and repetitive. The assortment of fight scenes illustrate the dynamics of this movie. Every time Ator killed somebody, it was with the same basic move. He carried two swords: he'd block a swing to the head with one, then swipe the guy's gut with the other. The plethora of sword fights consisted of mechanical repetitions of this single tactic against dozens of enemies in turn. This kind of internal diversity makes for a long hour and a half.

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