Seeing as the 80s was my favorite decade there aren’t a lot of movies from it I either haven’t seen, or at the very least weren’t aware of, The Dungeonmaster (1984, aka Ragewar) while technically being a memory movie, it was one I never saw, but have a vivid memory of seeing it’s trailer one afternoon on TV.
This was back when Dungeons & Dragons was at its zenith; I used to play it in high school with my best friend, Gerry, and on occasions with a few other friends. There was even a D&D cartoon in existence back then too that aired on Saturday mornings, so seeing a movie advertised called, The Dungeonmaster, it was easy to presume it had something to do with the role playing game. Alas it never came to a theater near me and I don’t ever remember it airing on cable either, otherwise I certainly would have seen it. Over the decades it’s become a movie I’ve always wanted to see, but those type of flicks come with risks. I’ve built up so much in my mind about what to expect and naturally because of that I expected it to be good, and rarely has a movie I’ve known about from that era and never seen until decades later disappointed me. This one, unfortunately, did. The only other time a never seen 80s flick disappointed me was 1993’s Contamination 7 (aka The Crawlers). The Dungeonmaster wasn’t as bad as Troll 2 (1990), the pinnacle against which I judge unwatchable movies now, but bad enough where its short running time felt like a 2-hour endurance test.
The movie is a weird combination of Tron and D&D inspiration that centers on Paul Bradford, played by Jeffery Byron, who I’ll always associate with Metalstorm: The Destruction Of Jared-Syn (1983), a scientist who’s had some kind of “experimental implantation” that allows him to access computers via his glasses. That reminded me of where Doctor Who is now. He no longer has his sonic screwdriver but has upgraded to putting on these sunglasses that allows him to do everything his screwdriver did. I wonder if anyone got that idea from seeing this movie? Anyhow, at home he has what could amount to as an A.I. based home computer he calls X-CaliBR8. He also has a hot girlfriend, Gwen (Leslie Wing) is her name, and she seems almost jealous of X-CaliBR8. Out of the blue one night as they sleep both of them are beemed inside the computer into this wasteland type setting where Gwen is chained to a rock and clothed in 13th century type attire. Overseeing their capture is Richard Moll (Night Court, The Sword & The Sorcerer) in the role of Mestema, our “dungeonmaster,” a role similar to the one he played in The Sword And The Sorcerer (1982), where he was Xusia (pronounced Zoo-shu), the evil sorcerer of that flick, except there Xusia was more entertaining to watch since Moll was covered extensively in prosthetic effects giving the character some eye candy attraction.
He puts Bradford through seven trials, each trial being a vignette directed by seven different directors: Rosemarie Turko, John Buechler, Charles Band, David Allen, Steve Ford, Peter Manoogian and Ted Nicolauo. If you’re a fan of Empire Pictures you’ll recognize Band, Allen, Buechler and Nicolauo’s names. For the uneducated Band is the studio head honcho, Allen and Buechler are FX artists and Nicolauo’s is a long time friend of Band who’s also directed a few movies for his Empire Pictures, my favorite being Terrorvision (1986). Allen and Buechler’s segments features creatures, in Allen’s it’s a giant stop-motion statue, and a troll/goblin thing in Buechler’s (FYI, he also directed Empire’s Troll movie, another favorite of mine).
Visually, I enjoyed the movie and had I seen it when it first came out I probably would have loved every bit of it, but seeing it now, in my mid-forties, it comes off way too cartoonish. Even the dialogue was at cartoon level; very much so on Richard Moll’s part. I don’t know, maybe that was the intent. All I can tell you is it simply did nothing for me other than entertain me on an aesthetic level.
I’m the kind of DVD collector that likes double features to make a kind of sense and initially when this double was announced I thought it made no sense at all, that is until I finally saw Eliminators last night and now it makes perfect sense. There’s even a line Andrew Prine’s Harry Fontana character utters late in the show, “What is this a comic book?! We have robots, ninja and cavemen!” But long before he gets fed up and utters that line I already knew it had been wisely chosen for this double feature. Eliminators feels like a movie that could have been based on a graphic novel or comic book series, but the story and cartoony elements fit together better than they did in The Dungeonmaster, thus succeeding in living up to that vague memory I have of it. And speaking of those vague memories just like with The Dungeonmaster I remember seeing a trailer for it, but I can’t recall if it was on TV or on cable. For a three to four year period (’88-’91), around the time I was working at K-Mart in the stockroom, I used to record a lot of movie late at night, setting the timer since there were more than a few that came on in the wee hours, then getting up in the morning, and watching them before I got ready for the day and work. I remember Eliminators was one of those movies I saw in the morning.
Even though the movie is about a team, four members, Scientist Nora Hunter (Pre-Star Trek: The Next Generation Denise Crosby), Boat Captain/Guide Harry Fontana (Andrew Prine), John/Mandroid (Patrick Reynolds) and Ninja Kuji (Conan Lee), its main focus is on the Mandroid as the story starts out establishing that it works for our evil scientist Abbott Reeves (Roy Dotrice) who’s perfected time travel and is sending the mandroid back in time to retrieve certain artifacts pertaining to Ancient Rome where he plans on changing time by becoming Rome’s new ruler. After the Mandroid has served its usefulness Reeves orders scientist Takada (Tad Horino) to scrap the cyborg but a frienshdip has grown between the two. He gives the mandroid a heads up and allows it to try and escape but Reeves intervenes and Takada is killed. John vows revenge as he escapes damaged by the gunfire of Reeves’ guards. He seeks out military scientist Hunter to fix him and there we learn a lot of her tech is being used inside the mandroid and that she knows who Reeves is.
This now starts out to be a revenge mission where John wants to go back to that hidden base in the jungle and ice Reeves, which is how Fontana comes into the group. He’s kind of the comic relief, and the guide they need to get them there, and well played by Prine (Grizzly, The Evil). Kuji the Ninja joins the team in the final act as they encounter him in the jungle. He’s Takada’s son and he hasn’t heard from his father in days. John tells him Reeves had him killed. So now we have a double revenge mission.
The mandroid creation isn’t badly executed for an Empire Pictures budget. The main thing I always remembered about this movie was that tank-like vehicle he hooked himself into making him look like some kind of military centaur. The rotoscope FX are pretty well integrated into the movie too. This flick always felt like an origin tale and even though I have no proof I’m sure Charles Band had plans to do Eliminators 2 I wish he had.
The Dungeonmaster and Eliminators have had DVD releases prior to this blu, but separately and they’re still in print. The Dungeonmaster can be found on Scream Factory’s All Night Horror Marathon, Vol. 2, with Cellar Dweller, Catacombs and Contamination 7 and Eliminators can be found on Scream’s SciFi Movie Marathon along with America 3000, Arena and The Time Guardians. On December 15th Shout! Factory’s horror/scifi sub-label, Scream Factory, finally releases these two on double feature blu-ray!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English subs only.
The original title of The Dungeonmaster was called, Ragewar, and that’s the title this print and the one on Scream’s DVD set sports. I was very impressed with the remastering on both of these films. Colors pop and detail is incredibly good.
- Interview With Patrick Manoogian (32:30)
- Theatrical Trailer
There are no extras for Eliminators.
Since Manoogian worked on both of these movies his interview covers talk of each flick. If you’re a fan of either of these and have gone blu this double feature is a must have, especially since Eliminators is now widescreen. The DVD set has the movie in full frame only, which never worked for me.