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Swords & Sorcery's Answer To Plan 9 From Outer Space
In the Italian/American production Kingdom Of Gladiators the sword and sorcery genre has found its own Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Starring a trio of pro-wrestlers (Matt Polinsky, Leroy Kincaid and Annie Social) as its ad hoc heroes, a supporting cast of LARPers (I don't know they were LARPers, I'm just guessing) and an Italian tourist castle as its main location, this movie is a laugh-a-minute from its opening spiel to its closing rainbow (yes, it ends with a rainbow!) Although the acting is uniformly dreadful across the board (not helped by an overwrought script from Marco Viloa and director Stefano Milla that randomly pads out sentences with meaningless portentous wordage), special mention has to go to the dead-pan "comedy" stylings of Bryan Murphy as King Wolfkahn - who pretty much steals the show with his monotonous, emotion-free delivery.
If you're not already crying with laughter by the time you spot Matt Polinsky's distinctive bomb-shaped neck tattoo then you haven't entered into the right spirit - and surely the impromptu wrestling match between him and Leroy when they're searching for the magic sword with their magic sunglasses should have tipped you off that this isn't Shakespeare.
What passes for a story in Kingdom Of Gladiators is the aftermath of a secret pact between Wolfkahn and agents of the Dark Lord to secure peace in his kingdom, Keemok, at the cost of his offspring (we later discover the demons aren't particularly on the ball here), but after ten years the demon Hel returns with some vague plan of wiping out humanity by resurrecting a giant earth elemental creature called Guano (or something).
Hel shows up in the form of Wolfkahn's superhot missing daughter Luna (Suzi Lorraine), the movie's main eye candy, and at the start of The Grand Tournament (to choose Wolfkahn's heir); a slight misnomer as a succession of stunt men (and women) in ragged armour fighting in a castle courtyard in front of an audience of about 50 peasants isn't exactly what I'd call "grand".
There's some mutterings about the demon needing a blood sacrifice, but that doesn't stop Wolfkahn from continuing with the tournament - and it has to be said that there is, at least, one cool kill during the fighting. However, most of it unfolds at a lamentably slow pace that totally lacks the trendy "bullet-time" slo-mo I suspect they were trying to emulate.
Every so often, odd things occur that are completely unexplained - the strangest of which is when one audience member suddenly stabs another and no-one takes any notice. I wondered if it was part of the demon's great scheme, but it was never referenced again.
People wander around, talking heads pop up every now-and-again with a new bit of exposition to move the plot on, Annie actually wears a chainmail bikini, there's some titillation (although no nudity), people die and the storyline hangs together with the barest of threads, but ultimately it doesn't matter.
Twisted genius that would make Ed Wood proud, Kingdom Of Gladiators is truly so awful it has to be seen to be believed - possibly with the aid of large quantities of alcohol - because although played straight it is actually one of the greatest comedies of the year.
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