Friday, January 20, 2012

The Dungeonmaster

  This is one of those films that I saw as a kid and it stuck with me.  I rented the video from Video Paradise (our little Mom & Pop shop on Main St. in the town I grew up in.) which sadly no longer exists.  I must have rented it about 2 dozen times, much to the chagrin of my poor father who would beg and plead with me to rent something different.  Now remember....this was in the 80's when it cost about $80 to buy a movie, so just buying me a copy certainly wasn't an option at that point.

The movie appealed to everything that I loved as a kid:  Monsters, magic, computers, sci-fi, was all in there, rolled into one cassette tape.  To me it was the greatest movie ever made.  Ya know what?  I still love it just as much.  Sure I can see it's flaws now, but it for me it didn't lose any of it's charm.

The film is about a nerd (Paul) who's girlfriend (Gwen) is jealous of him and his computer (XCaliBR8.....Excalibrate....or EXCALIBUR?!?!??!?!?   Hhhmmmmmmm.....) which Paul seems to like to spend more time with.  It doesn't help that Paul has given his machine a smokey, sultry female voice.  Not that Cal (XCaliBR8's nickname) is anything to sneeze at.  She can help Paul swindle money out of ATM's, change traffic lights and scan equipment for defects.  Where can I get one?!  Anywhoo....after Paul has some strange dreams, he wakes up to find Gwen gone.  After searching around the apartment for her he's transported to another realm that is presided over by Mestema (Played by Richard Moll!  Yep!!!  Bull from Night Court!).  Or as you and I may know him...Beelzibub, Satan, etc, etc. He's the devil, and he is curious about Paul's computer.  Surely this magical machine that he wields makes Paul a worthy opponent for Mestema and therefor, dubbed Exalibrate!  Not only that, but Mestemo transfigures his rather large desktop computer into a super compact wristband computer.

Paul is then given the chance to free himself and Gwen.  All he has to do is complete the seven challenges that Mestema sets before him.  You'd think that Satan would give him like 6 tests.....or 13.....but nope.  Lucky Number 7.  I dunno.  Anywhoo...this is where stuff, because though this is a Charles Band film, it boasts 7 different directors in total.  One for each challenge....except for the Heavy Metal Challenge....which Band directed.  Okay let's go for it kids!

Challenge #1:  Stone Canyon Giant (Directed by David Allen) - Paul is sent to a mountainous environment inhabited by little dwarfs that are called Cliffdwellers.  They steal Cal off his arm and run as fast as their little legs will take them.  Paul gives chase and gets Cal back just in time to face off against an awesome stop motion Stone Giant.  Using Cal's new found laser beam application (There WAS an app for that!) he calculates the exact trajectory needed...blah blah blah (in other words, he had Cal AIM) to hit the gemstone on the Giant's head.  Which makes the Giant blow up.  

Challenge #2:  Demons of the Dead (Directed by John Buechler) - Paul is next sent to a cave full of undead warriors and zombies.  They don't seem to offer much of a challenge for Paul as he easily pushes past them and knocks them down.  The Undead Cave is ruled by Ratspit.....a strange little creature that Paul comes across.  As more zombies flank him, he destroys them all by hitting the gemstone on top of Ratspit's staff.   (Hhhh.....I  think i might see a pattern emerging here....).  Mestema tells Paul that in a future reality he is dead.  Paul then retorts with the now popular meme "I reject your reality and substitute my own!"  Apparently this is enough for Paul to win this Challenge.

Challenge #3:  Heavy Metal (Directed by Charles Band) - This is probably the weirdest of Paul's Challenges.  Gwen is being held hostage by a satanic heavy metal group (played by real group WASP!).  Gwen is going to be massacred on stage unless Paul can somehow stop the evil musicians.  Once again, Paul relies on Cal to find the right frequency to overpower and destroy the band.  

Challenge #4:  Ice Gallery (Directed by Rosemarie Turko) - This Challenge is another weird one.  Paul and Gwen are transported to a cave full of frozen figures including The Wolfman, an African Head Hunter, A Mummy, Jack the Ripper......there's some other guys in there I don't remember....there might have been a samurai.....but in the middle of all this is Albert Einstein.  Naturally, all the figures come to life and close in on Paul and Gwen.  This is one of the few times that Paul doesn't use Cal.  He takes a crystal that Einstein is holding and smashes it and wins the challenge.

Challenge #5: Slasher (Directed by Steve Ford) - This is the most "realistic" challenge that Paul must face.  He's dropped into a city and given a time limit to find Gwen before she becomes the next victim of a serial killer.  Paul starts to navigate the streets and ends up getting arrested by two of the most retarded cops I've ever seen.  He escapes police custody and manages to find Gwen just in the nick of time.  Giving the serial killer a zap from good ol' trusty Cal.  

Challenge #6:  Cave Beast (Directed by Peter Manoogian) - This one is a mind boggler.  Paul enters a cave.  A troll like monster starts to throw explosive crystal shards at him.  Before he and Cal can figure out the best way to deal with the Cave Beast, it accidentally mortally wounding itself.  It then turns onto an angel-ish woman who tells Paul that Mestema captured her and transformed her into the hideous Cave Beast.  Challenge over.  Man.....that was easy.  Along the same lines as getting points on your SAT just for writing your name on it!

Challenge #7:  Desert Persuit (Directed by Ted Nicolaou) -   Complete and total Mad Max rip-off.  I don't really remember a whole lot about this one, because frankly I thought this challenge sucked.  The friggin' suicidal Cave Beast was more exciting!  It's basically a Road Warrior-esque vehicle chase....and then Mestema decides to cheat and crashes his vehicle into Pauls....or something like that.

Well, now that Paul has "lost" the final challenge, it would seem that Paul and Gwen must forfeit their souls to Mestema.  However, Paul challenges him to a fair physical fight.  No computers, no magic.  Mestema accepts and against all odds, Paul manages to overcome his adversary.

So there you have it.  That is The Dungeonmaster in a nutshell.  This is another great Friday night Pizza Movie.  If you think this sounds like a fun time (and it is!) you can check it out streaming on Netflix!  Plunk down in front of your computer or even better yet on your couch and stream through your game console.

Speaking of game consoles, I think that this would have made an awesome NES game!  The different challenges would work out perfectly as stages!  And while we're on the subject of games, here's a little trivia for you:  When the film was retitled The Dungeonmaster (no doubt to cash in on the popularity of AD&D) it actually carried a disclaimer in it's print ads which read:  "This film is not endorsed by, or associated with T.S.R. Inc., publishers of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game."!!!

Some other interesting tidbits for ya....the film has three different English language titles:  

The Dungeonmaster (US Title)
RageWar (UK title)
Digital Knights (Alternative Title)

And some interesting foreign titles....

Il demone delle galassie infernali (The Demon of Hell Galaxies)
O Mestre do Jogo (The Game Master)
Saatanan lunnaat (Satan's Ransom)
Wladca podziemi (Lord of the Underworld)

Personally, I like the title, The Demon of Hell Galaxies!  Sounds so badass!

One final treat for's the trailer!  Enjoy!

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