The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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--Matt

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ator l'invincibile 2 aka The Blade Master aka Cave Dwellers (1984)

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When I decided to do an MST3K themed week, I knew I had to have Cave Dwellers, but when I started watching it, I was like "wow, this has too many memories to not be a milestone post. maybe I should save it for something like 750." But then I realized that it wouldn't be an MST3K week without this, so I decided to split the difference and make this the size of a milestone post. Hopefully that does it justice.

Cave Dwellers (also known as The Blade Master on the US video market) is the sequel to Ator the Fighting Eagle, and picks up sometime after that one left off. Some wise, dull, sage-like dude has invented a very powerful weapon called the geometric nucleus, and if it falls into the wrong hands-- say, like the Evil Long-Haired John Saxon-Type Guy who just invaded the castle-- it could be very bad for humanity. So the old dude sends his daughter to find Ator, so he can defeat the John Saxon-Type Guy and destroy the nucleus.

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Without Joel and The 'Bots, The Blade Master (I believe Cave Dwellers is the US TV title) takes some chops to handle, but if you think you have the stuff, it can be a lot of fun. According to imdb, the dialog was almost entirely improvised, and in a lot of instances, it shows, which can be very tedious-- especially when the dull old guy is talking. On the other hand, the list of great things is long and fantastic. Ator hang glides. Everyone wears household items or swag they picked up shopping at antique stores for their medieval garb and armor. There's a growling snake puppet, a warrior mime, and a 70s era gigolo as a high priest. There are tons of gaffs, like ATV tire tracks, and a dude rocking Ray-Bans. If you're looking for a bad movie, you've found a doozey here.

The biggest difference between the MST3K version and the one on VHS (and probably DVD), is the opening and closing credits, because The Blade Warrior, which I watched for this review, had a credit sequence that was part of the film, not some footage from a random movie like Joel and The 'Bots had. As far as the actual riff job goes, I'm not sure if this is their best, but for me, this is the best movie/riff combination, if that makes sense. The movie itself is pretty funny, but their jokes on top of that make it hilarious, plus the host segments were great, especially the ones with TV's Frank. Whenever I introduce someone to MST3K, I go with this one. (As an aside, a friend in college, who grew up without cable and had never seen MST3K, rented The Blade Master from his local video store when he was in high school. When I showed him the MST3K version, he was like "Oh my God, I've seen this!" He's the only person I know who's seen the non-MST3K version first.)

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I was trying to think how many lines from this have crossed over into my everyday life with my friends. It's either this one or Mitchell that have the most, but as I was watching it, I think this one might have more. "I like it, make it shorter I'll buy it" is a line I still use all the time, whether the people I'm around get it or not. I'll put on a pair of goggles, just so when someone asks "what are the goggles for?" I can answer "eye protection." Then there's "wait for it, wait for it" from the invention exchange sketch with the Mads, plus "if you had your druthers..." from the opening sketch. And you can't forget "No!" Whenever we watch a Miles O'Keeffe movie, someone always says "how much Keeffe is in this film?" and whenever someone is arrested in a movie, we say "I'll bake you a [rice] cake with a file in it." I know there are more, I just can't think of them off the top of my head.

One great Cave Dwellers line usage that we still talk about among my buddies came about five years ago, when a friend and I were in Harvard Square. He was spending about $300 at the Games Workshop store on Warhammer stuff, and about ten minutes before that we had stopped at Urban Outfitters, and I saw a pair of Diesels for $150. The guy ringing my buddy up at Games Workshop was this big doughy dorky guy with a greasy beard and the "I review Transformers on YouTube" voice, and he's telling my buddy how he spends like $1500 a month on Warhammer stuff, even with his employee discount. Anyway, so my buddy's stuff is rung up, and the total is around $300, and I remark that that's the same cost as two pairs of jeans at Urban Outfitters. The guy behind the counter is like "you spent $300 on two pairs of jeans?" and we explained about the Diesels we'd just saw, and he says "oh, good, I was gonna say, if you spent $300 on two pairs of jeans, I'd have lost all respect for you." Almost on instinct, I say to my buddy "and you know how important... is my esteem." The guy didn't get it, but that's been our joke ever since, whenever anyone says anything similar.

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This is the film where Miles O'Keeffe's legend was born, and though it alone didn't get him his spot as an inaugural Hall of Famer, it was our need to find more of his movies in VHS bargain bins afterwards that did it. Recently I noticed that I have been misspelling his name all this time, calling him "O'Keefe" instead of "O'Keeffe". I should probably go back and fix the tags and the posts, considering it's kind of not fair to him, but I figured I'd take this opportunity here to formerly apologize. Mr. O'Keeffe, I'm sincerely sorry for misspelling your name. I'm sure your too sweet pecs won't mind too much though. ("Too sweet pecs", another line from this one I go to a lot.)

Lisa Foster plays the daughter, and in watching it without Joel and The 'Bots, I noticed how she had a very 1960s/1970s aesthetic, with her hair and her big eyes, that really made this movie feel like it was made back then, and not 1984. There's a whole Barbarella-style vibe with her, that kind of borders on exploitation-flick, and adds another level of camp to the film-- as if it needed it. I should also point out to my shirtless male bondage fans, this might be the motherload. "No!"

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I'm sure if you've been rockin' with the DTVC for some time, you know one of my hobbies is hiking, which is something I've only picked up since the summer of 2008, meaning after I started the blog. Anyway, I hadn't seen this since before I started hiking, and as such, hadn't noticed the great mountains in the scenery. This time around though, I'm like "wow, how awesome it must've been to shoot around here, between the great castle, and these amazing mountains." Except, all the mountains and castle scenes from above were taken from When Eagles Dare-- filmed in anamorphic widescreen, as Tom Servo pointed out. They were still amazing though.

This is not the easiest find, but it is available cheap on both VHS and DVD. Before you see it, I'd go with the MST3K version, because that really is a rite of passage for a bad movie honk, and it's available on Netflix Instant Watch as of me writing this post. It really is the perfect combination of bad movie and great riffing, an out-and-out classic.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086972/

7 comments:

  1. Great Review! The MST3K version is one of the funniest ever! When O'Keefe is hang-gliding and the bots say: "Yay I'm flying!", that cracked me up.

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  2. Oh yeah, the whole thing, with the music in the background and the Where Eagles Dare landscape, absolutely hilarious. I agree, I think this is the funniest ever too.

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  3. Yep I need to see this. I watched the 4th Ator...titled Quest for the Mighty Sword the other day. It's on Instant as well...if you really dare to watch it.

    It has its moments though.

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  4. I'd love to watch this one for the laughs! Dont know if I've recommended it to you, but I think you'd enjoy Lucio Fulci's Conquest! The pics and your review reminded me of it.

    I've always wanted to watch this one, some dvd company should pick up all these ultra cheesy Italian movies and release them properly, Im sure people would get a kick out of them, I know I would!

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  5. Oh yeah, I'll have to hit part 4 eventually, painfest or no. The Instant Watch factor is a definite bonus.

    And I remember you mentioning Conquest. It sounds intriguing, so I'll have to give it a look. And I agree that it would be great if some company got a lot of these greats, whether it be Italian, or Filipino, and just put them out there on the cheap. I mean, how much could it be to get the rights to them for that?

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  6. I've been loving the MST3K-related reviews. It's hard to watch and review these films without keeping the riffing in mind or finding it odd that there isn't a black silhouette filling up the bottom portion of the screen. So kudos for being able to look at the films on their own as well as looking at them from the MST standpoint.

    Like you, I still to this day use that "how much Keefe is in the movie...Miles O'Keefe" line. An all-time classic.

    This film was my first introduction to Joel and The Bots way back in 1991 so it definitely holds a special place in my heart. My brothers and I recorded it off of Comedy Central and watched it to the point of memorizing it. Which reminds me it's about time to throw the DVD in and watch it again. Ah, good times.

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  7. I came up with the idea of doing the double review when I saw Warrior of the Lost World was on Netflix Instant Watch, along with the MST3K version; then I was looking for more Reb Brown to do after RoboWar, and saw Space Mutiny listed as available on DVD from Netflix, and the whole MST3K week thing just kind of clicked from there. As I said in the post, and for the same nostalgic reasons you listed, about ten minutes in I was like "this should've been a milestone post", but I think it still worked out this way. Monster A Go-Go was my first experience with them, but I've used Cave Dwellers many times as the first MST3K I show people, because it is that good. Glad you liked it.

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