The Sword and the Claw
It can be hard for a dedicated cult film fan to keep up with the tidal wave of reissued cult movies that had previously only been experienced on scratchy third generation VHS tapes. How is a fan supposed to know which titles are worth buying?
There are a few companies who have dedicated themselves to releasing the best prints possible of these cinematic outliers no matter how befuddling or borderline unwatchable the film might be. One of those companies is the American Genre Film Archive, whose recently released Turkish action/fantasy flick The Sword and the Claw continues their winning streak.
The press release describes the movie as a cross between Dolemite,, Conan the Barbarian, and the Three Stooges, which would of course be the greatest movie ever made. And while the film might not reach those lofty heights (what could?), The Sword and the Claw is a bloody, messy, sprawling would-be epic that deserves to be watched and rewatched.
After King Solomon is assassinated, Princess Almunia escapes giving birth to a child before dying. The child is raised by lions, eventually growing into Lionman, a kind of Turkish Tarzan out for revenge against an evil usurper king. Towards the end of the film, Lionman has his hands burnt off with acid and enlists a blacksmith to forge him a pair of hand/claws that enable him to bust through walls and claw up a bunch of goatee’d guys faces.
Turkish action star Cuneyt Arkin is simply great in the role of Lionman. Whether jumping off hidden trampolines, gleefully smashing heads, or climbing castle walls, Arkin gives a spirited performance. Sure, his kiai sounds a bit more Jackie Gleason than Bruce Lee or Jim Kelly, but we can blame that one on the dubbing. The film has an endearingly low budget look, and the action scenes are well-staged. Sure, there are some odd pacing decisions (In a Chinese kung fu movie, Lionman would get his claws in the first 20 minutes or so, rather than the last 15), but the overall exuberance makes up for these flaws.
As usual AGFA packs the blu-ray with extras, including a South Korean kung fu flick Brawl Busters, which, if it might not make anyone forget the Shaw Brothers films, it is entertaining and almost as cheaply enthusiastic as The Sword and the Claw. Recommended for those wishing to begin investigating the wild and somewhat confusing world of Turkish action fims, or just fans of cheap and exciting action, The Sword and the Claw is a fantastic, messy explosion of an action flick, and a worthy addition to any collection of offbeat films.