Monday, January 24, 2011

Ironmaster (1983)

How am I gonna put in words how fantastic Ironmaster are? I’m not sure, and if I manage to do that I know a lot of people never would agree with me. But that’s part of the charm with being a man with great taste in movies. What I really enjoy here is that Umberto Lenzi and his staff obviously more took their inspiration from Quest for Fire than rather just ripping of Conan the Barbarian like all other Italian did during this time. The poster might fool people that it’s a fantasy movie, but it’s more based in that “reality” that creates a world inside movies. I also understand that some folks might have a problem looking beyond the small budget, the silly wigs (from Rocchetti & Carboni as usual) and the sometimes uneven acting and corny dialogue…

…but you know, that’s just small details. Look at the whole picture, not the flaws. No movie is flawless, and a movie with out beauty marks is just so damn boring to watch. I watched Ironmaster the first time as a teenager and it stayed with me since then. I would like to examine why it stayed with me, except the obvious fact that it has a lot of very scantily clad men. The plot is basic, we follow a cave tribe. The leader is old and weak and the next up on the ladder is either heroic and decent Ela (Sam Pasco) or the aggressive and greedy Vood (Luigi Montefiori). During an attack from a hostile nearby tribe Vood is killing the leader and blames it on the enemy, but Ela sees him and ban him from the tribe. Filled with anger Vood leaves, but get trapped in the mountains during a volcano eruption and discovers… iron. He forge a new sword and with that as his secret weapon he comes back and gathers men who want to follow him and be the new leader – something he will gain thru violence and war…

The funny thing is that it’s not our hero, Ela, who is “the ironmaster”, but the main protagonist Vood! But that is also one of the cool things with Ironmaster, it’s clearly anti-violence. Ela is brave enough to use his fists or just a wooden stick, and not some fancy iron-rod. He just knows better. But Ironmaster is also, once again, a great example of Lenzi’s directing style. Its fast and razor sharp, with excellent editing and a fine use of music (by De Angelis-brothers). The pacing is fantastic, with no dead spots or drawn out melodrama. This is full speed ahead and it never stops until the final showdown. I just love the use of old-school effects like matte paintings and foreground-miniatures, which looks stunning – especially in the new DVD from Njuta Films. It’s like watching something out of a dream, something that looks completely alien for us. The only time when this illusion is broken is when the metal fence shows up in the background, very quickly in one scene. Except that it feels like something extraordinary. It also has a lot of stunning exteriors from Custer Park in South Dakota, which truly looks amazing.

Ironmaster is filled with fights and has a quite big body count (it even has some minor gore) and one stylish slow-mo scene with people fighting, but what really make a difference is the horror-elements that is visible during several sequences. The meeting with the ape people feels a lot like something from a cannibal movie for example. Primitives out to kill and hunt humans. But the best scene is when our heroes takes shelter in a cave and runs into something that looks exactly like rotten zombies! They of course have some illness, but the gory make-up and the music and tension in this scene could be directly from an Italian zombie movie.

Acting-wise its ok, with Luigi Montefiori in one of his best parts ever. He truly gives fascism a face with his obsessive hunt for power. A fantastic role for an awesome actor. Ela is played by the mysterious Sam Pasco, an American body builder who only has this movie on his resumé – well, almost… watch out for my article about his life and career tomorrow! He’s not bad, but he looks a bit confused sometime and even a bit funny with his absurdly fit body. But he handles the action scenes great and it’s a pity he couldn’t continue to do more movies for Italian producers.

Ironmaster is one of the most solid “fantasy” movies from Italy from this time. What it lacks in budget it gains in energy, action and just how well-told it really are. I might be wrong person to write about a movie by Lenzi, because I consider him one of the best and interesting directors ever, especially in the Italian genre cinema. If you should see a real Lenzi-movie, stay away from Eaten Alive and Cannibal Ferox, watch Ironmaster or any of his other forays into exploitation cinema. If a movie has action and Lenzi is behind the wheel, that’s the movie to watch.

And yes, the new DVD from Njuta Films looks good. I was first afraid when I saw the first minutes of the movie, where the quality felt weak and lifeless. But after the pre-credits, the nice anamorphic widescreen finally showed its strength. Uncut of course, but I shouldn’t even mention something that silly. This is 2011, yeah - movies should be uncut! The only thing I missed with this DVD is something extra, an article, interview – even just in text. I would love to read that (or to write that…). The selection of trailers is strange too, only sexploitation-trailers! But the movie is what you’re gonna buy this movie for, and you won’t regret it!

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