AN INTERVIEW WITH ALBERT PYUN, DIRECTOR OF THE SWORD & THE SORCERER (1982)
A couple days ago I received an email from director Albert Pyun in regards to a review I did last October on his wonderful Sword & Sorcery fantasy film, THE SWORD & THE SORCERER (1982). I was both shocked and overjoyed to receive an email from a cinema personality. I asked Mr. Pyun if it would be possible for an email interview and he kindly agreed. I was quite ecstatic as I have never performed an interview of any kind. I sent my questions to Mr. Pyun and he quickly answered much to my delight for receiving such a speedy response from him.
Below is the interview with one of the most interesting and modest directors working in genre cinema today. You may not enjoy some of his films, but even his lesser pictures contain entertaining qualities. He has kept himself busy and has delivered several memorable action films such as CYBORG (1989), the hugely entertaining NEMESIS (1992) and BRAINSMASHER: A LOVE STORY starring Andrew Dice Clay.
Now, Albert Pyun is currently filming the sequel to THE SWORD & THE SORCERER which was promised during the closing credits of the 1982 film. Entitled TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE, the film has something of a SEVEN SAMURAI vibe about it. It's about a beautiful princess who recruits a number of formidable swordmasters in an effort to free her kingdom from an evil sorceress.
The new movie stars Kevin Sorbo as the lead hero, the alluring Melissa Ordway as Tanis and the Highlander himself, Christopher Lambert. Lee Horsley also returns as Talon. After the interview, I have provided links to pictures and video clips for the new film. In addition, pics from the first film are sprinkled throughout this post.
Venoms5: How did you initially become attached to direct THE SWORD & THE SORCERER?
Albert Pyun: SWORD & THE SORCERER was my conception. It took me 4 years to attach an investor. The same is true for most of my films.
Was there any reservations at directing such an ambitious film?
None. After spending a year on the storyboards, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
Did producer, Brandon Chase direct any of the film? I notice it says during the opening credits, 'A Brandon Chase Film'.
No, he did not direct any portion of the film. Brandon Chase's company put up the money which gave them control. I was too young to know better.
Despite CONAN being very different, was Milius's film ever an intimidating factor during the production of TS&TS?
No intimidation. Communication about who was making what and how was slim in those days, compared to now. I knew the Conan film was in the works and held admiration for Milius. I personally hoped the film would be tremendous and did not realize SWORD & SORCERER was in competition until later.
What are your memories of working with Lee Horsley? Judging by his performance, he seems to have enjoyed himself as the lead, Talon.
Horsley was terrific. However, the wig gave him a scalp infection. There was too much blood and he hated being put on that cross. When I asked him to be in TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE, he said, "Only if you don't crucify me again."
A wide shot showing Talon crucified (the sequence noted in the above response) during the wedding sequence between Cromwell and Princess AlanaRichard Lynch is an icon in genre cinema and one of the screens most memorable villains. Was it a pleasurable experience working with him?
Yes, pleasurable and intense. He was a very complex actor for a first time director to collaborate with.
The opening resurrection scene in the tomb of Xusia, the demonic sorcerer as played by Richard Moll, who had a career in genre cinema playing evil characters such as EVILSPEAK (1981) and THE DUNGEONMASTER (1985)
What are your memories of Richard Moll? Judging by his propensity for doing comedy, was he a cut up on set?
No, he was not comfortable with the makeup and contact lenses. His cornea got scratched when he emerged from the tomb and he was taken to hospital.
Was there a moment that you, or any of the production crew considered not completing the film after the tragedy that befell stuntman, Jack Tyree? I can only imagine what that must have been like.
We were all terribly shaken and upset. I was not involved in the discussion of what would happen next. I waited with the crew while the decisions were made. It was tragic and it taught me a lesson. I never had another death on one of my sets.
Did Kathleen Bellar have reservations about her characters (tastefully done) nude scene? I am assuming it was a double during the shot where the camera slowly pans over her body as she is being massaged.
Yes, she had a body double. I don't remember any discussions or reservations.
Were there any problems attaining an R rating? The film is rather gruesome at times.
Not that I'm aware of.
What was the initial critical reaction to the film overall? The public seemed very receptive to the film.
Gene Siskel loved it and Roger Ebert hated it. That's indicative of the overall critical reception. Fan reception was very enthusiastic and long lasting.
Looking back at the movie now, what are your thoughts about the picture and is there anything you would change about it given the opportunity to go back and do so?
I have my opportunity now with TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE. In a sense that's why I'm making this film at this time. I want to bring forth the version of SWORD & THE SORCERER closer to the version I wanted to do in 1981.
Are there any memories, good or bad, while shooting the picture, that you would like to share?
I enjoyed the cast very much. As my first experience directing seasoned actors, it was really fun and magical to see them bring the characters to life.
Why was there such a huge gap between the first film and its sequel? The original was a surprise success, so the amount of time that has passed between the two is a surprise in itself.
The world of 1981 and '82 after SWORD came out there was a proliferation of cheesy and cheesier fantasy films and the audience got burned out. At the time I didn't feel I had anything more to say on the subject. It's just that it's taken me this long to come up with the ideas and approach to the S&S genre and to make it vital again. Now I know I'm in competition with the upcoming CONAN, CLASH OF THE TITANS, PRINCE OF PERSIA and more and I'm enjoying it.
How is the new production coming along and are you generally satisfied with its progress?
I'm thrilled with the project, but the process as most indy films are experiencing these days, is very difficult.
Compared with the first film, do you have more resources at your disposal in terms of time and budget?
Less time, less money, but more experience and resources. I have relationships that have built up over the last 27 years that give great support. I like to think that I am a slightly better director than back then (most people may not agree).
What can the numerous fans of the first film expect from this upcoming sequel?
I think all fans of S&S movies will welcome this return to the spirit of high adventure when the worlds are still bloody, gory and rife with evil, but we can all have a good time, cleaving our way through it.
Are there any sequences in the new film that you are particularly proud of and would like to share?
I can't really speak to that yet, because we're in the middle of the visual and action effects and there's still time for plenty to go wrong. TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE is the culmination of everything I've wanted to do in film. It benefits from all I've learned through my many filmmaking experiences.
An immense thanks to Mr. Pyun for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer questions regarding one of my favorite movies, THE SWORD & THE SORCERER and its eagerly awaited sequel, TALES OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE. The best of luck to you and your crew on this new production. I'm sure all fans of the original that are reading this are just as anxious to check out the sequel to one of the best fantasy films of the 1980's.
Below are links to filmed footage as well as pics taken from the set of the new film...
Various pics from the set including Horsley as Talon...
Albert Pyun Facebook, twitter and Myspace pages. There are two clips from the film as well as interesting information about the director on these pages....
And finally, for those interested, or anyone new to the site, below is a link to the review posted last October for THE SWORD & THE SORCERER (1982) found here on coolasscinema.com....