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The Blade Master
1984 - PG - 92 Mins.
Director: Joe D'Amato
Written By: Joe D'Amato
Starring: Miles O'Keeffe, Lisa Foster, David Brandon, Donald Hudson and Chen Wong as Thong
Review by: John Ulmer
I'm not sure how to go about reviewing "Cave Dwellers." Should I review the film itself, or its "Mystery Science Theater 3000" counterpart? I suppose both.

For what it's worth, our good ol' "MST3K" pals do a fine job ridiculing the film, but even with their help it can be a pain to sit through. Unlike "Hercules in New York" and "Pod People," this movie isn't so bad it's good. It's so bad it's worse.

I was surprised to see during the film's opening "shoebox credits" that it was produced and released by New Line Cinema, which has brought us "Austin Powers" and "The Lord of the Rings," just to name a few well-known flicks. This must have been their starting point and most shameful production of all time.

Ator (a very greased Miles O'Keeffe) is on a quest to save an old wise man from the clutches of Lord John Saxon-lookalike, and to prevent world destruction. How, you ask? Who cares?

The only thing more shameful than the film itself is the fact that it is a sequel to another film. Yes, you read that right, this follows "Ator: The Fighting Eagle," the 1981 film starring Miles O'Keeffe. Why New Line Cinema opted to release a sequel after I can only assume the first catasrophic disaster flopped is about as puzzling as why there were more than two sequels to "Police Academy." Why Miles O'Keeffe reprised his role is about as confusing as why Steve Guttenberg appeared in four "Academy" movies. Well, okay, I suppose neither of those questions are all that difficult to answer, actually.

Miles O'Keeffe's Ator is a shameless rip-off of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Conan, and the film itself is an uncredited sequel to "Conan the Barbarian" in parts. It's the Italian version, dubbed over in English and wholly screwed up. The evil villain of the film wears some sort of large idiotic metal hat that is so obviously a prop left lying around it is more comical than intimidating. The acting is far from ensemble--in one scene, the villain laughs a hearty chucke, and I heard one of those robots on the lower portion of the screen quip, "Observational humor! God, I love 'Seinfeld.'" It's embarrasingly fake, even for the viewers. Later on, the villain asks an old man if it is Ator flying the hang glider. "Yes, I taught him the secrets of flight," the man replies. Hold on here! Since when was flight invented circa The Middle Ages? They must have employed burger flippers at McDonald's to write this thing! I mean, this is perhaps the most low budget film I have ever seen, give or take "Pod People's" atrocities. If you thought "Conan the Barbarian" was campy, wait till you see this--it's cornier than unpopped popcorn. I've used that analogy before, haven't I? Oh, yes. Well, I like it.

The plot is one that J.R.R. Tolkien would be unable to coherently follow. Scenes during the initial setup are just haphazard and all over the place. The Old Wise Man of the story dictates to his daughter, the Hot Babe, Ator's background, which is all spliced scenes from the predecessor (or so I can only assume). Problem is, they're basically thrown into a blender and mashed about. It's the worst flashback sequence I've seen in my entire lifetime as a filmgoer and critic.

The film also uses a lot of cheap sound and visual effects. Ator battles a giant snake at one point but it looks like a bunch of bedsheets thrown into a giant condom. Co-stars are introduced with such a nonchalant will to die that it is amazing (at one point, women--and a man who vaguely resembles Fred Flintstone--are thrown into a snake pit with as little as, "Ooh!" Of course, when it's Ator's turn to be thrown in, he manages to kill all ten guards and rescue the babe from the pit).

Watching "Cave Dwellers," a.k.a. "The Blade Master," is painful. "MST3K" opens your mind to many questions you may not ask, such as, Why is the heroine wearing a car hubcap as a breastplate? How about, Why is the sidekick named Thong? And most confusing is this: How in the world did Ator manage to create a hang glider in about five minutes, when aerodynamics and flight were still being set aside to make room for the world's first wheel? Eh, forget it.

Not to mean any disrespect to Leonard Maltin (well, maybe just a little), I'd like to bring something up. Leonard Maltin gave this film 1 1/2 stars out of 4, the same rating as he gave Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" (1982). He gave "Taxi Driver" (1976) and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (1987) 2 1/2 stars, the same rating he gave to "Batman and Robin" (1997). Do I sense a problem here, Mr. Maltin? Also, viewers of Jonathan Ross' UK television show recently voted "Titanic" as the worst film of all time, closely followed by Steven Spielberg's "A.I." If they thought "Titanic" was bad, they've got another thing coming.
Movie Guru Rating
Unwatchable.  One of the worst of the year.  Skip it.
  0.5 out of 5 stars

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