Movies Till Dawn: The Saturday Morning Strange – “The Sword and the Claw” (1975)

Delirious costume adventure with prolific Turkish action star Cuneyt Arkin in two roles: as Suleyman/Solomon, wise and exceptionally well-coiffured Ottoman ruler, and his son Aslan, who avenges his father’s death at the hands of his second-in-command, Antoine (Lee Van Cleef-lookalike Yildrim Gencer), a double agent in cahoots with the Byzantine Empire. Antoine murders the king and his court, but an adviser spirits the infant Aslan away to the woods, where a pride of lions (!) raise him as their own. Aslan eventually grows into Arkin, clad in caveman loincloth but also sporting superb hair, who upon learning of his father’s death, launches a relentless campaign to usurp Antoine by (quite literally) punching every single one of his soldiers in the face, a task that becomes exponentially more grisly when Aslan claps on a pair of metal lion paws; I could tell you how he acquires them, but in the words of Michael Weldon, you wouldn’t believe me. I will say this about “The Sword and the Claw,” which is presented in a 4K restoration on this Blu-ray from AGFA: though it struggles with budgetary limitations (threadbare costumes and sets) and an English-language dub track dominated by very uninterested performers (save for whoever created Aslan’s battle cry -“WOAH-OW-AH-OW!”), the film is never dull, which is something I can’t say about a lot of Hollywood action films. Arkin is constantly in motion, whether bouncing from unseen trampolines into the arms of enemy soldiers, or bashing the red paint-smeared faces of (what appears to be) the same ten stuntmen with almost assembly-line precision. All this, and his hair stays perfect, too.

With its ceaseless fight sequences, morally rigid characters and needlessly complicated plot, the whole thing plays like a World War II-era American serial (which were reporteldy very popular in Turkey), albeit one steeped in stage blood; if that cranks up your Saturday morning nostalgia engine, then you’ll enjoy this without reserve. AGFA’s Blu-ray includes trailers for other international superhero adventures like “Fantastic Argoman,” as well as a second feature, “Brawl Busters” (1978), which played in the States with “The Sword and the Claw” on the grindhouse circuit in the early ’80s. Though the American title and advertising for this South Korean martial arts film suggests that its star – someone named Black Jack Chan – spends its running time kicking his co-stars in the groin, nothing of the sort happens (well, once), and its primary hero is actually a woman seeking revenge for her murdered father. Very little is explained or makes sense, though there is one jaw-dropping fight in which the secondary hero (Black Jack Chan, perhaps?) is stuck to the floor with something like glue while a quartet of villains fling whirring buzzsaw blades at him. It’s ingenious and ridiculous at the same time, and as such, probably worth a few moments of your time.

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About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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