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3.0 out of 5 stars
The Dungeonmaster (1984), 25 April 2003
The mid-eighties marked the advent of the "mosaic novel". Not quite an anthology, not quite a standard novel, it usually featured a group of writers who each told a little bit of a story about a mythical city, a group of people, a world-shattering event, etc., in such a way that the stories had an actual plot progression to them. (Examples are the Wildcards novels, Thieves' World, and countless others that have faded into oblivion.)
Leave it to Charles Band to try and bring the concept to movies.
Paul Bradford (Jeffrey Byron, previously star of Band's Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn) is a computer whiz, which means that he spends his time poking around in TRS-80's with dot matrix printers. He's got his own nifty computer called X-CALBR8 (aka "Cal") with a tinny voice synthesizer, and apparently he's got the ability to link up with computers. This is demonstrated by the fact that, when he touches his glasses, he can change the traffic signals or make an ATM give him a $20. Remember this fact, because the idea that he can link up is NEVER GIVEN ANY NOTICE IN THE PLOT WHATSOEVER. So why do I want you to remember it? Shucks, I'd hate for all that work establishing the fact to go to waste.
Paul also has a girlfriend, Gwen, who feels more than a bit jealous of Paul's relationship with Cal, to the point that she turns down his wedding proposal. She still sleeps with him, though, and in the middle of the night Paul wakes from a nightmare to find her gone. He rushes into the living room, which is filled with smoke, and promptly vanishes into...
...A desert location at night, lit with torches. Gwen is chained to a rock, and leering over her is Mestema (Richard Moll, who was also in Metalstorm -- in fact, it was while his head was shaved as the leader of the Cyclops people that he auditioned and won his role on Night Court), an evil demon that Cal informed Paul is synonymous with "Satan."
Ah yes, Cal. Paul has a gauntlet in this armor of his with a computer display panel; it appears the Mestema has miniaturized Cal for Paul to use in a series of challenges, Mestema having grown terribly bored in his millennia of wandering the stars; intrigued by this "new magic," he dubs Paul "Excalibrate" (get it? X-CALBR8? get it?) and puts Paul and his technological wazardry to the test.
The credits don't actually inform us of who directed this introductory material or the other bits of the framing story we'll see, though my guess is Charles Band himself; but from here out we have different credited writer/directors each giving us one of Paul's challenges.
#1: Dave Allen (special effects supervisor on a whole bunch of Full Moon movies, and director of Puppet Master 2) pits Paul against a huge stop-motion statue in Thailand. It's here that we discover that Cal can shoot laser beams (perpendicular to Paul's forearm, which is terrible for aim); we also confirm that, linkup or not, Paul has to tap the panels a whole buncha times for Cal to do anything.
#2: Special effects guy John Carl Buechler places Paul in a subterranean realm of the dead, where Paul banters with a handpuppet named Ratspit and basically ignores a bunch of zombies, including one which is him after Mestema gets done with him. Includes the godawful line from Paul, "I reject your reality and I substitute my own!" (By the way, one of the zombie actors went on to be Arnold Schwarzenegger's permanent stunt double. Who says you go nowhere after working for Charles Band?)
In between, at the torchlit desert, Mestema summons an animated wyvern to fight him, so Paul summons his own with three clicks on Cal. There's a bad animated fight, then back to the real challenges.
#3: Charles Band himself directs what could have been a video for WASP's "Tormentor." It's a heavy metal concert, and there's WASP in stage, with Blackie Lawless making faces and screaming like a neutered weasel. (Apparently, Blackie was recognizeable enough at the time that his face got the video cover.) Oh yeah, the band members can also shoot sparks at Paul. Just before they use Gwen as an onstage human sacrifice, Paul and Cal destroy them with ultrasonic rays. Or something.
#4: Rosemary Turko (the only other thing she directed was the previous year's Scarred) puts Paul and Gwen in an ice cave with a bunch of wax museum-like figures of great monsters and killers. (And what the hell is Einstein doing there?) Then the cave heats up, and naturally all the baddies come to life.
#5: Director Steven Ford (yes, son of Gerald Ford)directs Byron's on script for this segment: Paul appears in an alley at night, with a slashes body beside him and a copy of tomorrow's paper saying that Gwen is going to be the slasher's next victim. He's got one hour to save him, and things aren't helped by the sudden appearance of the cops.
#6: Peter Mannogian (who went on to direct another four films for Band) places Paul in a red-hot cave, where he fights a little dog-faced troll amidst exploding crystals. No, it's really not better than it sounds.
#7: Ted Nicolau (who went on to direct all of the Subspecies movies, among other things) puts Paul and Gwen in a post-apocalyptic world, complete with armored dune buggies.
Finally, Mestema having grown as bored as we have, Paul challenges him to a man-to-man fight -- no magic, no computers.