Indonesia | 1981
Directed by Sisworo Gautama Putra
Barry Prima
Eva Arnez

W.D. Mochtar
| 94 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD(R0 - NTSC)
Mondo Macabro
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
    7   10 = Highest Rating  
Indonesian Islamic martial arts mayhem!
To 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 department.
    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 Dutch characters 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.

Not 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. The featurettes 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. 12/04/08