= Highest Rating
Indonesian Islamic martial arts mayhem!
date I've seen only a handful of Indonesian exploitation films,
but they've all been wild, wacked-out mamajamas
The Devil's Sword
(1983) and Lady
Terminator (1988) being the hands-down nuttiest. 1981's
The Warrior, newly released on
DVD by the obscure cinema specialists at Mondo Macabro, really
gives 'em some competition in the bat-shit crazy action movie
The island of Java,
in the 19th Century... A Dutch colonial regime rules the natives
with an iron hand, exploiting them mercilessly. Strapping young
patriot Jaka Sembung (Barry Prima)
AKA Parmen, alias "The Warrior"
openly defies the cruel European overlords, inspiring the masses
with his calm but implacable resistance. Renowned as a mystical
fighter, Jaka is nonetheless in chains at the beginning of the
movie, sentenced to slave labor in a quarry, but he quickly
escapes during a prisoner riot and goes into hiding. The evil
Dutch commandant, Van Schramm, orders a crackdown. Nobody will
give Jaka up, though, so the colonials turn to less orthodox
methods. A bounty is posted for Jaka's head, which puts superhuman
fighter Kobar on the fugitive's trail. Immune to bullets, able
to breathe fire like a dragon (!), the bald, perpetually amused
Kobar accosts Jaka's devoted girlfriend (Eva Arnez), thus forcing
The Warrior to take action. The
two square off but Jaka makes quick work of the seemingly invincible
mercenary, discovering Kobar's only vulnerability.
In desperation the Dutch turn to a leathery old "voodoo
master" with hilariously enormous buck teeth for help. Van
Schramm is initially skeptical of the man's claims (which is
damned odd, considering that earlier he witnessed Kobar being
shot point blank multiple times with no effect) but a demonstration
of the sorcerer's powers soon convinces him he's legit. So Voodoo
Guy, in a black magic ritual that involves shooting mini-meteorites
(or rather, bottle rockets) out of his palms, resurrects the
corpse of Jaka's greatest enemy by reuniting the dead man's
body and severed head. The reanimated Ki-item (W.D. Mochtar)
wants nothing more than to inflict pain and suffering on Jaka,
which he then proceeds to do. Jaka is defeated by the undead
Ki, who is himself a powerful wizard able to instantly heal
severed limbs and even use the disembodied parts as long-range
weapons! (When Jaka's blade slices off a leg, Ki merely laughs
and sends the limb flying through the air to kick his opponent
in the face before returning, boomerang-like, to reattach itself.)
Captured, Jaka is thrown in a dungeon where Van Schramm orders
his hands nailed to the wall and then personally gouges his
eyes out. Now crippled and blind, his days as a heroic freedom
fighter would seem to be over.
You can't keep the
People's Champion down, though. Despite his wounds, Jaka manages
to escape the dungeon... only to get immediately captured again.
Instead of being executed, however, he is turned into a pig
when Ki casts a spell on him! (Not exactly a popular animal
to be in a Muslim country.) Ki thinks this is an amusing fate
for his enemy and allows the pig to run off. Big mistake. Jaka
is returned to human form by a kindly old shaman, whose white
magic also restores his sight. (Via supernatural eye transplant,
no less!) As our hero
recovers his strength the shaman provides vital tips and training
on how to defeat his nemesis. Time for the inevitable showdown...
Ki must be returned to the grave once and for all, and the colonial
troops made to pay for their crimes against the people. Allah
willing, of course.
That all this craziness
is played earnestly straight only magnifies The
Warrior's so-bad-it's-good appeal. The English dialog/dubbing
is spectacularly awful, i.e., hilarious, one of the most entertaining
aspects of the film. Even goofier is the fact that the main
Van Schramm, his daughter and the captain of the guard
are played by Indonesians. They look about as Dutch as
Barack Obama, something the commandant's glued-on ginger muttonchops
and guard captain's dyed blond beard can't do much to dispel.
(There are a couple of white guys in the cast, albeit
just hovering in the background.) It doesn't matter in the slightest
that star Barry Prima has about as much charisma as a cinderblock;
one need only wait a minute or two for another zany "WTF?"
moment to propel things along. In keeping with Islamic culture
there isn't any sexual content, not even the mildest of titillation,
but violence is an entirely different story
brutality and carnage obviously didn't bother the censors. Yet
the numerous gore effects are quite cheap and presented in such
a silly manner that I can't imagine anyone not laughing at them.
And don't expect any great martial artistry. Slow and stiff
in comparison to Hong Kong or Taiwanese kung fu flicks, the
action scenes are like just about everything else in this movie:
bad, but often uproariously funny.
having sampled any of Mondo Macabro's offerings since the For
Your Height Only/Challenge of the Tiger and Devil's
Sword discs, I was pleased to see that the company is still
going strong and releasing high quality product. The
Warrior considering its origin and obscurity looks
and sounds terrific on this new DVD. The 2.35:1 transfer is anamorphic,
boasting strong colors and good detail, marred only by fleeting
instances of print damage consisting mainly of blink-and-you'll-miss-'em
green splotches. All the ridiculous dialog and sound effects come
through loud and clear. (I really wasn't expecting this movie
to be in this good a shape.) Extras:
Two interview featurettes, the original trailer (also anamorphic),
onscreen text bios (of Barry Prima and Eva Arnez), an essay on
the film's history by Pete Toombs, and trailers for three modern
Indonesian horror films produced by the same company, Rapi Films.
with producer Gope Samtani and writer Imam Tamtowi, respectively
cover not only the making of The Warrior
but provide a good deal of info on Rapi Films and the Indonesian
movie industry in general.