Review: The Dungeonmaster (1984)

Behold, the low budget/high concept majesty of Charles Band's Empire Pictures! The Dungeonmaster, aka Ragewar, really packs 200 pounds of ambition in a 100 pound sack; behind the "computers are magic" aesthetic lies an early-80s charm that disarms the viewer and prevents us from being more critical of just how cheesy this movie actually is. The plot is just an excuse to employ a series of segments in different genres: a supernatural bad guy (Richard Moll with a ton of hair) kidnaps the aerobics instructor girlfriend of our computer whiz hero who must battle for her across a series of challenges, each of which feels like the premise of an Atari game, i.e. the ice maze, the giant statue come to life, and so on. Each challenge is a unique segment that's written and directed by a different person, making this adventure akin to an anthology film, albeit with the same cast throughout. Employing hand-drawn animation, stop-motion, and even puppetry, these segments never last longer than 10 minutes and keep the movie chugging along before we can get bored. Is it science fiction? Fantasy? Horror? All of the above. I absolutely adore this movie, which exists in no less than three different cuts. My preferred cut is the pre-release cut of Ragewar which features a dream prologue that makes very little sense in terms of plot, but adds some extra exploitation goodness to what is already a very short feature film. This movie is an absolute riot and feels like a cousin to the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons (if Saturday morning cartoons had bits of nudity). 1980s B-movies don't get much better than this.

More Empire Pictures Reviews:

Dolls (1987)

Cellar Dweller (1988)

Arena (1989)

Robot Jox (1989)


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