DirectorRosemarie Turko/John Carl Buechler/Charles Band/David Allen/Steve Ford/Peter Manoogian/Ted Nicolaou & Peter Manoogian
Release Date(s)1985/1986 (December 15, 2015)
Studio(s)Empire Pictures/Orion Pictures/MGM (Shout!/Scream Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: D-
Empire Pictures certainly put out their fair share of schlock during the 1980’s and 1990’s, much of which has gone on to be highly heralded cult titles: Ghoulies, Re-Animator, From Beyond, etc. They also managed to squeeze out a string of less successful cult movies, two of which are in Scream Factory’s Double Feature Blu-ray release: The Dungeonmaster and Eliminators.
The Dungeonmaster, released in 1985, tells the story of a computer genius named Paul (Jeffrey Byron), a computer genius who is having relationship problems because of his obsession with his computer. When he and his girlfriend are suddenly whisked away to other worlds by an evil wizard (Richard Moll), it’s up to Paul and his technological skills to defeat the challenges that the wizard sets forth or they will never return to their own dimension.
The Dungeonmaster is a mostly mediocre movie, but more than makes up for it with imagination (like much of Empire Pictures’ output during this era). It’s also a little bit unique in that it features various sequences directed by different directors, including Charles Band himself, John Carl Buechler, and Ted Nicolaou, amongst others. It carries heavy sci-fi and horror elements (as well as an appearance by the band W.A.S.P.), but it winds up feeling a little bland in the long run. It was due to have a sequel, but the movie was never finished or released due to the eventual downfall of Empire Pictures. It has some fun elements and is at least worth checking out once, but fans of 80’s schlock will get the most out of it.
Eliminators, released in 1986, is a great slice of schlocky sci-fi action by comparison. It tells the story of a scientist gone mad named Reeves who builds a “mandroid” (Patrick Reynolds), a man crossed with a machine whose life ended after a plane crash. He escapes from Reeves and is later aided by a computer scientist (Denise Crosby), a low-life boat captain (Andrew Prine), and a mysterious ninja. Along the way, there are explosions, Neanderthals, Roman soldiers, and cheap effects galore as the motley crew make their way back to Reeves’ compound to stop him from carrying out his evil plans.
Eliminators certainly vies for being a movie that’s so bad that it’s good. Yet, at the same time, I give it a lot of credit as it tries to do a lot with its meager budget, and even though the seams reveal themselves most of the time, I still find it quite charming. It doesn’t have as much variety as The Dungeonmaster, but after watching them back-to-back, I found it be the more entertaining of the two. I laughed out loud several times, but also enjoyed the adventure aspect and actually gave a shit about the outcome. It also throws lots of things into the mix that don’t make a whole lot of sense, but certainly keep you interested without knowing what’s coming next. I’m making it sound better than it actually is, of course, but it’s still the more engaging movie of the two.
It’s also worth noting that the version of The Dungeonmaster presented here is the unrated version. The original U.S. theatrical version removed an opening scene containing a bit of nudity, but for everywhere else in the world, the scene remained and was given a different title: Ragewar. The film was previously released on Scream Factory’s All Night Horror Marathon Volume 2 DVD set and erroneously touted as being rated PG-13, but was actually the unrated version. It’s a bit of a confusing error, but my guess is that the only version of the film available at that time was the unrated Ragewar version, but Scream Factory might have had artwork printed up already. Again, just a guess.
For The Dungeonmaster’s transfer, I’m guessing that it was taken from the same elements used for Scream Factory’s DVD release as they look similar, but it’s only a guess. It’s very organic-looking with a strong field of grain, but a bit on the soft side – mainly due to the opticals being used. Color reproduction is pretty good with some decent skin tones, while blacks are mostly deep, occasionally lighting up the frame due to the grain. Contrast levels are acceptable, but it appears a little too bright overall. There are no signs of excessive DNR and there are only minor film artifacts leftover, such as black and white flecks, as well as some minor cracks from wear on the print. There are also some very minor instability issues, but they are mostly apparent during the opening scene and credit sequence. After that, it evens out pretty well. The transfer for the Eliminators exhibits much of the same qualities, with some key differences. It seems to be a little bit sharper (most likely due to less opticals), and appears to be a bit dirtier in places, with some occasional lines running through the frame. There was also one instance during an explosion where the frame was completely out of register. Otherwise, much of the same.
The soundtrack for The Dungeonmaster, which is an English 2.0 DTS-HD track, is a little flat for a stereo presentation. The dialogue is clear and there’s some nice presence to the score, but the sound effects sound a bit on the cheap side and there just isn’t much in terms of dynamics. The soundtrack for Eliminators, again, is much of the same, but with an English 1.0 DTS-HD track instead. It’s obviously flatter, but more understandably so. Dialogue, score, and sound effects still have some quality to them, but nothing spatially intriguing. There are also subtitles in English for both movies and the only extras available are for The Dungeonmaster, which includes a new interview segment Peter Manoogian: Evolution of a Director and the film’s original theatrical trailer.
THE DUNGEONMASTER (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C/B/B-
ELIMINATORS (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): B-/B/B
While it’s difficult to champion movies of this caliber, I absolutely recommend them for schlock value alone. They’re exactly the kind of movies you would expect them to be, but at the same time, they still wind up being entertaining despite themselves. The Dungeonmaster and Eliminators ;make for a terrific double feature, and Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release should have you covered.
- Tim Salmons