A sword-and-sorcery flick that has long eluded me, I finally caved and got myself an imported German DVD of The Archer and The Sorceress aka The Archer: Fugitive from The Empire (aka Der Zauberbogen).
The poster art, by Les Edwards, that had so stirred my youthful imagination, had always suggested that I was missing out out on another Deathstalker or The Warrior and The Sorceress, but sadly The Archer is a family-friendly, Certificate 12, failed TV pilot.
This kind of explains the lethargic set-up and anticlimactic denouement, but doesn't excuse the messily over-complicated plot and the occasionally nonsensical dialogue.
The land of Malveel, home to a disparate group of feuding nomadic tribes, is under threat of invasion by the Draikian empire (known, confusingly, as The Dynasty) and its snakemen allies.
The nomads have been united under the rule of King Brakus (George Kennedy), but behind-the-scenes shenanigans see him murdered and his son, Toran (Lane Caudell), framed.
With his dying breath, Brakus tells Toran to seek the wizard Lazar-Sa, to assist him in regaining his rightful position as the tribal leader.
Toran escapes with his mentor, Mak (George Innes), but Mak soon dies as well (for reasons) and in doing so bequeaths the magical Heartbow, known as Elbe, to Toran.
On his journey, Toran teams up with the slippery rogue Slant (Victor Campos) and the sultry sorceress Estra (Belinda Bauer). Having had a previous run-in with Toran, she is also seeking Lazar-Sa, but to kill him in revenge for the death of her mother.
All the while, they are being chased by Gar (Kabir Bedi), the leader of the Draikians (I think) and his warband of nine snake-people.
Like the handful of other creatures and species shown in this hour-and-ahalf flick, the snakepeople, ultimately, are little more than set dressing.
When our 'heroes' arrive in the town of Kamal, they end up saving the locals from someone claiming to be Lazar-Sa.
Nevertheless, Gar and his snakeboys pursue Toran and co into the misty valley for a final showdown.
There's definitely potential in The Archer, but the ragged script (written and directed by TV stalwart Nicholas Corea) comes nowhere close to realising it, despite the best efforts of Victor Campos's duplicitous - but ultimately good-natured - scoundrel and Belinda Bauer, who smoulders extremely well in an Eva Green style.
Clearly a lot of worldbuilding had gone into the backstory, the film opens with a fleeting shot of a map of the area, people swear by different gods depending on where they hail from, and it's implied - more than once - that Elbe is not the only Heartbow.
But none of this, or any of the other setting nuggets the script is sprinkled with, really go anywhere because this wasn't written as a self-contained movie, but rather the start of an on-going serial.
Sadly, we will never know the full depth of Toran and Estra's world.
The Archer still has a few interesting moments, but its bloodless combat, lack of casual nudity, and bland lead mean it really should turn in its swords-and-sorcery genre membership card.
I don't know if I'm getting slow in my old age, but, for me, one of the main areas where the story fell down was my inability to keep track of who was on whose side, and really why Gar was bothering with Toran in the first place (having already successfully engineered his fall from grace).
My problem with following the narrative was heightened by the mumbly dialogue, made worse by the fact that more than once - when I could understand what was being said - it didn't make a lot of sense anyway.
For instance, the town leaders in Kamal, when thanking our heroes for their rescue, seemed to be riffing off the script they had been given, talking over each other, and generally behaving rather peculiarly.
The Archer and The Sorceress isn't so bad that it's good (cf. Deathstalker) and it obviously isn't particularly good.
Instead, it's horribly mediocre, one of the worst sins a film can inflict upon an audience.
A solid bow, carved from the finest ivory and set with a magical red gem in its grip.
Elbe, The Heartbow
The bow is enchanted so that only its current owner can use it. To attune the bow to a new owner, the previous owner must willingly surrender it (or be already dead).
The attuning process causes red lightning to shoot from the previous owner through the bow to the new owner, leaving them a arrow brand mark over their heart. The mark on the person giving up the bow will simultaneously disappear.
This process, which takes only a round, causes 3d6 damage to all involved (save to half).
Anyone not attuned to the Heartbow, who tries to use it, will be blasted by magical energy for 2d10 damage, throwing them backwards (4+1d6) feet.
Elbe can fire arrows up to 333ft with no penalty, and its maximum range is a 1,000ft.
Any arrow fired from this bow rolls to hit at +2, and if it strikes its target will explode in a cloud of red magical energy (the arrows are not magical per se, they are granted a magical charge by the bow) that causes 3d6 damage to the main target and 2d6 damage to any other foes within a five foot radius of the target.
The explosion of energy also throws any target (which fails a STR save) 10ft backwards from the source of the blast.
Note: the explosive nature of the magic means any fired arrow will be lost.
If the bow is used as a melee weapon, its explosive strike causes 1d10 damage, and the person struck must make a STR save or be hurled back 10ft.
Spirit Animal Necklace
The wearer only has to grasp one of the figures and the animal represented will magically appear 10ft in front of her.
Despite their occasionally rather unusual colouring, these are perfectly normal, non-magical, creatures but (a) the necklace wearer is able to see through the creature's eyes if she so desires, and (b) she is able to control the creature telepathically.
The necklace wearer may call more than one of the creatures at once (although only ever one of each type), but then her control is limited to a single simple command when they first appear and she cannot look their eyes.
She may dispel any of her summoned creatures at will, but each one may only be called once per day, and, unless dispelled, will only stay for an hour.
Except for the horse, which will stand for eight hours.
If any of these creatures are, for some reason, attacked by the necklace wearer - or anyone she considers an ally - the creature will vanish and the necklace will turn to powder.
|Animals summoned by the necklace|