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Some recent Albert Pyun movies have fallen short of his "low budget guilty pleasure" niche. Amid pressure to deliver in what seems to be his highest profile film in years, "Tales of an Ancient Empire" is a dense and stylish start to what Pyun clearly envisions as a series that offers many lusty and very guilty pleasures pleasures head and shoulders above the dreg that is Syfy or Asylum fare. It starts on a rocky shoal of imagery and quality. Its almost as if the first four minutes belonged in an alternate universe of movies. But after, Pyun finds his footing. Coarse, initially convoluted and densely populated by roguish characters, it's an intriguing world that hews closer to "Richard the 3rd" than "The Sword and the Sorcerer" with all the expected back stories that propel the plot. After watching this Part One of these "Tales", I'm hooked, with the disclaimer that this ambitious venture requires a no-reading- the computer screen-while-watching commitment. It's not easy to track and is not meant to be. Above all Tales is about family and the deep wounds that can fester in a child or jilted lover and how that can drive the wounded party to despicable acts. Kevin Sorbo shines best as he perfectly balances the pathos of being a abandoned bastard and the charm of a greedy rogue. Whitney Able (a breathtaking sorceress vampire) and Melissa Ordway (the ravishing Princess Tanis) also provide strong characters and performances. Victoria Maurette struggles a bit with her Kara, a half human, half vampire creature who is never quite as unabashedly sensual as the role calls for. As with most Pyun efforts, Tales is beautifully shot with rich compositions, although degraded somewhat by spotty editing and some dodgy low budget special effects. Cynthia Curnan's script is more literate and clever than is found in this sub- genre. Indeed, its the use of language that distinguishes the film. Certainly, Tales is destined to capture a smaller audience than it's hackneyed sword and sorcery predecessor but it carries a higher ambition and creative verve. I can see fan boys with ADD turning against this but for those who enjoy a rich tapestry of colorful characters and plot lines, Tales is perfectly in your wheelhouse.