The Dungeonmaster (1984)

Rating: **
Review Date: 12/31/17
Alternate Title: Ragewar
Music: Richard Band
Cast: Jeffrey Byron, Richard Moll, Leslie Wing

Few movies can sum up the 1980s as well as "The Dungeonmaster." It has just about everything you could ever want in a movie: wizards, magic, murder, mystery, romance, rubber monster masks, puppets, stop-motion animation, dwarves, dancing girls, naked girls, girls bathing in waterfalls, car chases, lasers, a cop eating a doughnut, animated dragons, samurai warriors, a heavy metal concert, post-apocalyptic desert combat, melting faces, explosions, computer hacking, and a wax model of Albert Einstein. Sounds amazing, right?

The actual plot is complete nonsense and revolves around a computer genius named Paul Bradford (Jeffrey Byron). We know his name is Paul because the vast majority of his girlfriend's lines consist of her calling out his name. Actually, he's not really much of a genius. Some unexplained research accident allows him to telepathically link with his computer, which has a decidedly feminine personality and goes by the name of "Cal." Naturally, his girlfriend Gwen (Leslie Wing) is jealous of Cal and considers Paul's obsession with his computer to be a major roadblock in their relationship. Then out of nowhere, Paul and Gwen get whisked away to another dimension, and Cal gets embedded in a gauntlet on Paul's arm. A sorcerer called Mestema (Richard Moll) considers Paul to be a worthy contender for a set of seven challenges that he places before him. If Paul wins, he and Gwen will be returned safely home. But if he loses, Mestema claims their souls forever. Mestema is also identified as Satan in the film, but he doesn't really exhibit any behaviors that support that notion. So Paul has to rescue Gwen seven different times in various different scenarios that are all written and directed by different people. Paul uses Cal's technology to defeat Mestema's magic, and even has to battle W.A.S.P. during a heavy metal concert. Blackie Lawless actually has Gwen tied up on stage to serve as a human sacrifice, unless Paul can free her in time.

It's definitely a low budget production, and the segmented aspect of it makes it feel like an anthology of short horror vignettes. The film looks decent, the soundtrack is good, and the lighting and cinematography are competent and attractive. On the other hand, the special effects are pretty terrible, but they have a certain amount of tacky charm that complements the film's absurd premise. One of the most exciting segments is a futuristic vehicular battle, featuring repurposed cars from "Metalstorm: The Destruction Of Jared-Syn" (1983). The dune buggy is especially hilarious, because it's clearly made of canvas and plywood. The dialog is cringe-worthy, and the romantic sub-plot made me squirm uncomfortably. The film was made during a time when Richard Moll was slumming around as a generic B-movie villain, and he makes the most of his silly and overly dramatic dialog. The film moves at a fairly brisk pace and the various set pieces are stylistically different enough to keep you from getting bored. It never attempts to be anything other than cheap and mindless entertainment, and viewed from that perspective, it actually succeeds.