We've all undergone tests of endurance in our lives, be it long plane flights or the grimy purgatory of a DMV. Last night I faced a test from 1987 called Gor. Based loosely on John Norman's series of notoriously sexist fantasy novels, the film, while sexist, is slightly less so than the source material, not boosting a culture where the rights of women are dependent on the will of men, instead relying on more standard forms of cinematic sexism such as relegating women to one-dimensional, stereotypical roles either dimly lusting for or hectoring the bland male hero.
This is not Outlaw of Gor, the movie featured in a classic episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Outlaw of Gor is a sequel to this film and, sadly, there seems to be no Rifftrax or MST3k episode for it. Why do they waste time riffing on good films like Empire Strikes Back when turkeys like this are so thoroughly deserving of attention? I've spoken to some Gor fans who've told me the first film is better than the second. It must be a pretty fine distinction. Maybe Gor fans just hate Jack Palance's goofy hat in the second film.
This film features poor Oliver Reed in a goofy hat, playing the film's villain, Sarm. I saw recently Al Pacino admitted in an interview to doing bad films with the intension of single-handedly elevating the production with his performance. I wonder how many actors have adopted this strategy. Reed seems to be phoning it in here but his peculiar, whispery intonations are at least more interesting than everyone else in the film.
Well, Rebecca Ferratti as the female lead, Talena, is pretty bodacious and she actually does some decent stunt work, including a leap onto a horse early in the film. Her swordplay is awkward but that's to be expected with limited rehearsal time and swords like these.
But nothing can prepare the viewer for the epic blandness of Urbano Barberini as nerdy professor instantly turned beefcake warrior Tarl Cabot. Talena falls in love with him by the end, I guess. Everything seems so vague in this movie. A dwarf named Hup (Nigel Chipps) begs to join the party at one point, arguing he can get them into Sarm's fortress, but the film completely forgets to give him any kind of motivation for doing this. He seems to be doing it just because it's what new companion characters tend to do at that point in this kind of film. The veneration Cabot receives as a hero warrior feels just as default--everything he manages to do seems to be by luck, as when he accidentally kills Sarm's brother at the beginning of the film, or because his enemy is weirdly sloppy, as when Sarm hands Cabot a branding iron, inexplicably expecting him to use it on Talena.
Sarm started the film wanting to take vengeance for his brother's death but the film completely forgets this motive halfway through, switching to a plot where Sarm is trying to convert Cabot to his side. Why? It just seems to be the done thing.
Gor is available on Amazon Prime.
Twitter Sonnet #1348
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