A Bad Movie PSA

Posted: December 8, 2016 in Entertainment, Movies, Needless Things

The Sequel You Never Knew Existed and Will Wish Didn’t


The year was 1982, and television’s favorite upper-class, well to do P.I. Matt Houston (Lee Horsley) traded in his tailored suits, fancy cars, and quality time with Pamela Hensley for a scruffy look, a large horse, and Kathleen Beller on the big screen. It may have been a step down all the way around; particularly that last one. But, hey, at least he got to play with a really wicked sword with three blades and spring-loaded blade shooting action. I speak, of course, of 1982’s The Sword and the Sorcerer.

It was low budget, it wasn’t blessed with the best writers- two of the three writers involved with it never wrote another movie -or director, and, well, the acting could get a little scenery chewing. But, damn, for kids of a certain age it became one of the vital building blocks in having a love of darker edged fantasy and sword and sorcery cinema. Like a lot of movies coming out at that time, it even teased a sequel film during the end credits; complete with a title already worked out. We were told to watch for the —Coming soon!— continuing adventures of Talon in Tales of the Ancient Empire.

Their definition of “coming soon” turned out to be a little… well… not quite so soonish. How not quite so soonish? It took them just shy of thirty years to get this film to see the light of day.

Was it at least worth the wait? Hell no. How not worth the wait was it? Holy mother of god-awful is this movie mind-staggeringly bad to absolutely gloriously obscene levels of horrendous filmmaking. This film redefines bad almost to the degree of turning it into an art form unique in and of itself. 

So, in order to spare you suffering or encourage a bad movie night in your home depending on your level of mental instability, I present to you Tales of an Ancient Empire. It has a few other variant names and one that packs several of the individual names into one long name.

Abelar: Tales of an Ancient Empire (AKA The Sword and the Sorcerer 2)



There are basically only two uses for director Albert Pyun’s film. You can use it to torture prisoners of war with or you can attempt the most painful DIY RiffTrax/MST3K night ever. But, be warned, this is a film you are probably best served by seeing drunk or in an illegally impaired state via reality altering substances not available over the counter from your local CVS. Not that this will make it any better or make it seem to make any more sense because it won’t. You just may find the altered state these things create to be the safest way to expose yourself to the film.

For a film that was almost three decades in the making, you’d think they could have scraped up a budget for it. Just loose pocket change dumped daily into a jar over that time would have probably outdone what this film looks like it was made for. I’m pretty sure the budget was around $13.76 and the entire affair filmed over a single weekend in the kitchen at Albert Pyun’s house. I also wouldn’t be surprised to learn that almost everyone involved in it only worked on it because they lost a football bet with Pyun and had to do it. But even they wouldn’t shell out a few extra nickels and dimes to cover better sets and FX. There are entire scenes in this thing that look and sound like they filmed the actors doing a dry reading of the script off of cue cards in front of a green bedsheet in the director’s bathroom while wearing costumes they got at the local Halloween thrift store’s post Halloween liquidation sale, and then the director just slapped a background into the shot behind the actors and called it a finished scene. That vibe was apparently not that far off the mark either.


They don’t even deliver on good, basic action or FX in between the dry script reads in front of the green bedsheet in the director’s spare bedroom. They certainly promise some bits of action coming up any moment now time and time again, but when the time comes for the action to play out on the screen at last? That’s when we cut to a woman that I’ll simply call Narration Chick telling us what happened as we watch the camera pan over a poor man’s Larry Elmore pen & ink illustration of a scene being described by Narration Chick. Well, that or you just get a shot of Narration Chick’s face as she talks. Then it’s back to the kitchen, bathroom, or spare bedroom green sheet set or that one tiny actual set they built in the director’s basement and used for way too many scenes for it not to be noticeable that it’s the same small set with furniture swap-outs over and over again. Seriously, classic era Doctor Who didn’t reuse some of its corridor sets in a single story as much as they reused that set for this film. But, anyhow, back to being shortchanged on anything even remotely close to passable action scenes in a FREAKING SWORD & SORCERY MOVIE.

I mean, look at some of the names in the cast. Kevin Sorbo, Sasha Mitchell, Matthew Willig, Ralf Moeller, Michael Paré… We should at least get some good fist fights and sword fights, right? Maybe even a good action scene with a warrior to warrior fight here and there in the director’s backyard, right? Wrong. Given that at least some of the cast involved had movie and television experience that in fact does include sword fighting experience and a past history of doing their own fight scenes and minor stunts, you’d think at least a couple of fights would be on the menu to be served up to action-hungry viewers and maybe even look kind of good. But, nooooo. Once again, it looks like they were filmed doing a first-time dry run read through in the director’s kitchen. Or, you know, Narration Chick explains to you what an epic fight it was that you didn’t get to actually see anywhere on or near the screen.

I’m pretty sure the number of people- both in front of and behind the camera -who did not phone it in while working on this can be counted on one hand while still having enough fingers left over to flash the hand sign of the greatest faction to ever grace the history of pro wrestling. Hint- This was a four-man faction, and they were named after a certain set of apocalyptic horsemen.

I’m amazed that ANYONE acting in this or working on this outside of director Albert Pyun allowed their real names to be used in the credits. When the end theme started playing, I was fully expecting every credit on the thing except for his to read “Alan Smithee” over and over again. I mean, look at this acting and tell me what she’s feeling. Terror? Madness? Anger? The wrong speed setting? Who knows? Not the viewer and possibly not even the actress. Hell, I’m not sure even Pyun was sure what that was supposed to be as he was filming the scene.

My Acting

Actually, I will say there was one shining light moment in the film. Lee Horsley shows up in a tavern scene, delivers a few lines to a young lady, and while doing so displays a better skill set as an actor than anyone else connected to the project.  Interestingly, he’s not appearing as Talon in the film, but rather credited as The Stranger. So, outside of the director, the only connection the film has to the original film it’s supposedly a sequel to doesn’t even connect the films by virtue of having the actor actually playing the same character.

Despite my attempts to do so here, words cannot truly describe the horribleness and the depths of bad filmmaking plunged into on almost every level by the people making this thing. Yes, I called it a thing, because it should be illegal to call it a film. There are first-week film students doing better and more competent films than this thing while hungover from a weekend party and high as a kite from their… uhm… morning’s treatment of medicinal herbs. Frankly, it’s so bad that I think even John Dimes would have a hard time claiming that “there are no bad movies” after watching this.

Just how bad is this film and Pyun’s filmmaking in general? There are people who have compared Albert Pyun to the late, great master of bad movie making, Edward D. Wood, Jr. Those people need to be beaten senseless with a 2X4 for so vilely insulting Ed Wood like that. Even at his rock-bottom lowest, his most drunken, drugged out days of doing bad porn short films, Ed Wood displayed a greater ability as a filmmaker than Albert Pyun does here. Abelar: Tales of an Ancient Empire makes even the lowest of Ed Wood’s works feel like a collaboration between Shakespeare and Cecil B. DeMille.

If you choose- perhaps out of some sense of curiosity, masochism, or insanity -to seek this thing out and watch it, just know that you have been warned as best I can warn you. Abelar: Tales of an Ancient Empire is often found on Amazon or Netflix streaming, so it can be watched without any great additional out of pocket cost. However, the copious amounts of alcohol you will likely have to consume in order to make it all the way through it and the PTSD therapy you’ll need to enter into afterward in order to recover from the experience may set you back a wee bit more than a paycheck or two.

Who could have possibly known way back then that this was a damning, painful curse put upon the audience and not the promise of cheesy delight to come?

Coming Soon

Jerry Chandler follows geek stuff. When not found writing here he can be found writing for Gruesome Magazine and his own blog. He has a Twitter. He can also occasionally be heard talking pro wrestling with the amazingly talented crew at of the ESO Pro: The Pro-Wrestling Roundtable podcast.

  1. Sean says:

    Gives me a plan for the afternoon.

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